Monday, March 7, 2022

Three events, including one in person - Nancy Johnson with Lisa and Daniel, Kelly Barnhill at Boswell, Karen Joy Fowler with Jane Hamilton

Here's what's going on this week!

Tuesday, March 8, 7 pm
Nancy Johnson, author of The Kindest Lie
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here.

Readings from Oconomowaukee, the virtual event series that puts authors in conversation with booksellers, presents a virtual evening with Nancy Johnson. Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

I spoke to Jane Glaser about this, who named The Kindest Lie one of her top books of 2021. "Every book club should have this book on their reading list," she told me. Similarly, The Kindest Lie has taken off with the booksellers at Books and Company. It's the featured title in Ken's upcoming book club newsletter.

Perfect for fans of Tayari Jones and Brit Bennett, The Kindest Lie is a thought-provoking, page-turning debut about race, class, identity, and the pursuit of the American dream. It’s 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to - and was forced to leave behind - when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

From my recommendation: "Ruth has made it as an engineer in Chicago. She’s got a great husband in Xavier and nice condo in Bronzeville. But when Xavier starts talking about children, she can’t put out of her mind the child she gave up as a teenager so she could go to university. Desperate to unlock her past, Ruth abruptly leaves her husband and heads to Ganton, Indiana to get some answers from the grandmother who raised her. But she winds up getting involved with her Mama’s White friend Lena and her troubled grandson Midnight, and she finds herself caught in the town’s racial tensions. Told from alternating perspectives of Ruth and Midnight, it becomes clear that a lie, however kind, is not what is going to set Ruth free. You can’t help but root for Ruth in this provocative and engaging debut."

A Chicago South Side native, Nancy Johnson worked for more than a decade as an Emmy-nominated, award-winning television journalist at CBS and ABC affiliates nationwide. A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she lives in downtown Chicago and manages brand communications for a large nonprofit.

Wednesday, March 9, 6:30 pm
Kelly Barnhill, author of The Ogress and the Orphans
In-Person at Boswell Book Company
Register for this event here. Walk-ups may not be available.

Join us for a very special event when we host an evening with Newbery medalist Kelly Barnhill for her new novel, a fantasy that’s sure to be an instant classic about the power of generosity and love - and how a community suffers when they disappear. Best for readers age 10 and up. Please note that this is our first in-person, in-store, inside, middle grade event in two years!

Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are. Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House, and all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen. But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen?

From the starred Booklist review: "Barnhill's gift for storytelling immediately draws readers into this character-driven tale where dragons lurk, crows prove great friends, and an unusual narrator relays events with a unique perspective. These fairy-tale trappings cloak modern lessons and timeless ideals that readers will do well to take to heart, no matter their age."

Boswellian Tim McCarthy's review: "It’s an elaborate story, woven in great detail with dragons and ogres and loving orphans, animals who converse with people, heroes alongside a treacherous villain, and a town which, once very lovely, has fallen apart. The demise of Stone-in-the-Glen began with a fire that destroyed perhaps the most beautiful library imaginable. Everything started to crumble from there, including the will of most citizens to support and believe in one another. They do have a polished and beloved Mayor, a world renowned dragon slayer, who tells them he can fix it all, while also telling them to suspect everyone else. Most of the townspeople have become reclusive and have no desire to understand the remarkable Ogress nearby, but the struggling orphans and the Ogress will meet. Perhaps there is magic in the world, and there certainly is magic in Barnhill’s beautiful words and her thoughtful perceptions of life."

Barnhill will sign and personalize. You can also order a personalized copy if you are not able to attend.

Minnesotan Kelly Barnhill is author of four novels, most recently The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal. She is also the winner of the World Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, a Nebula Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize.

Friday, March 11, 7 pm
Karen Joy Fowler, author of Booth
in Conversation with Jane Hamilton for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here.

Boswell presents an evening of conversation with Man Booker finalist Karen Joy Fowler for a conversation about her epic new novel about the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth. In conversation with Jane Hamilton, Wisconsin-based author of novels such as A Map of the World and The Excellent Lombards.

In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth - breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one - is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war. The Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and crimical disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Great for fans of Colum McCann and Geraldine Brooks, Booth has been named a most anticipated book of 2022 by Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, The Millions, and more. Booklist says "Fowler presents an omniscient, bird’s-eye view of these lives, along with a nod to what could be apocryphal. The result is an engrossing portrayal of a nineteenth-century family living through the U.S.’ most turbulent era."
Here is my recommendation: "The first thing you should know about Karen Joy Fowler is that she’s not one to repeat herself. Coming off We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, still well known for The Jane Austen Book Club, and nominated for several Nebula short story awards earlier in her career (and winner in 2004), you probably wouldn’t have expected a historical novel that chronicles the family of John Wilkes Booth and his family, but that’s what we have. Expertly researched (including details about George Putnam, the namesake of this very novel’s imprint) but still packed with Fowler’s creative imagination to fill in the gaps with undocumented details, Booth ponders how relationships and experiences shape beliefs, and small acts, some positive, some not, can have big consequences. It’s also hard not to see parallels with the modern world. As one would say in the world of theater, bravo!"

Karen Joy Fowler is the bestselling author of six novels, including The New York Times bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club and the PEN/Faulkner winner We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. Wisconsin’s Jane Hamilton is author of The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World, both selections of Oprah's Book Club. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, and various anthologies.

Photo credits
Nancy Johnson by Nina Subin
Kelly Barnhill by Janna Fraboni
Karen Joy Fowler by Nathan Quintanilla  

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

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