After the Bloom.
By Leslie Shimotakahara.
Apr. 2017. 328p. Dundurn, paper, $22.99
From a young age, Lily Takemitsu has experienced blackouts in her memory tied to
traumatic experiences. Shielding her from
sexual abuse early on, they became more
frequent during the time she spent at an
internment camp for Japanese Americans
during WWII. Later in
life, these blackouts have
become deletions of entire
years of her life, including
her time at the camp. ;en,
one day, Lily vanishes. Lily’s
daughter, Rita, has never
known much of her mother’s past. When pressed for
information, Lily would become dreamy
and confused, a never-ending annoyance to
Rita’s quest for answers about her own family history. Once Lily disappears, Rita must
put together the pieces of her mother’s past
in the hope that it will lead her to Lily. Split
between Lily’s and Rita’s alternating points
of view, Shimotakahara’s (;e Reading List,
2012) ;rst novel is a compelling work of
historical ;ction that scrutinizes how the experience and conditions of internment had a
shattering cultural e;ect on Japanese Americans. Shimotakahara’s writing is personal
and entrancing, un;inchingly shining a light
on this di;cult part of history. —Stacy Shaw
Before We Sleep.
By Jeffrey Lent.
May 2017. 400p. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781620404997).
One night in 1960, teenager Katey Snow
steals the family pickup and slips away to
seek her father’s former army buddy, a man
she hopes can shed light on half-buried
family secrets. Interspersed with Katey’s
experiences are those of her parents, Ruth
and Oliver, as they are forever changed by
WWII. Lent (A Slant of Light, 2015) returns
to familiar territory here: complicated familial relationships and the e;ects of war.
In third-person, stream-of-consciousness
prose, he combines exacting descriptions of
the everyday with a realism that alternates
between illuminating and mundane. ;e
Vermont setting is well realized, especially
as contrasted with Virginia, where Katey’s
road trip ends, a journey that includes both
revelation and unforeseen violence. Lent’s
characterization rings true, from minor
players, such as a German organic food-store owner, to Katey and her naive lack
of insight into her mother’s temperament.
Lent has been compared to Faulkner, and
the parallels between the cultural divides
of the 1960s and current events make this
a solid choice for readers of literary ;ction.
YA: Older teens who love literary ;ction
may relate to 17-year-old Katey and her
restless desire to leave small-town roots
behind in search of a larger world. BL.
Confessions of a Domestic Failure.
By Bunmi Laditan.
May 2017. 336p. MIRA, paper, $15.99 (9780778330684).
Ashley Keller is just trying to get by as a
stay-at-home mom to her eight-month-old
daughter. Ashley hates cooking, crafting, In-stagramming, and (particularly) Pinterest, so
she is lonely and left feeling like a failure as
a mom. When her “momspiration,” Emily
Walker—mom of ;ve, blogger extraordinaire,
and TV-show host—o;ers
Motherhood Better, a six-week boot-camp challenge
to become a better mom,
Ashley can’t help but apply.
;us begins her quest to be
crafty, popular, and perfect.
Laditan does not disappoint
in her debut ;ction novel
that is chock full of laugh-out-loud moments
that moms everywhere will relate to. Laditan
keeps the story ;owing as Ashley tries with
all of her might to move herself up the mom
ladder, from lying to her La Lait group about
breastfeeding, to mooning the contestants of
the boot camp on their ;rst video chat, to
staking out her babysitter (and getting picked
up by the police), to doing a brief stint as a
phone-sex operator. Readers will fall in love
with Ashley and all of her ;aws quicker than
they can click like on an Instagram pic. Perfect for readers looking for a funny, realistic
look at motherhood. —Erin Holt
Every Other Wednesday.
By Susan Kietzman.
May 2017. 352p. Kensington, paper, $15
Ellie, Alice, and Joan vaguely know one other
from volunteering at their local high school,
but a tragic shooting brings the three women
closer together when a spontaneous lunch date
evolves into a surprising friendship. ;ey are
all recent empty nesters, and having a safe and
supportive place to discuss the next chapter of
their lives is invaluable. Commonalities aside,
the women quickly ;nd that they don’t see eye
to eye on everything. ;eir lively conversations
often touch on sensitive subjects, as each of
the three women o;ers her own perspective
on gun control, child-rearing, and marital is-
sues. When one of the members of the group is
senselessly attacked, they ;nd that their shared
strength is worth a million lunch dates. Author
Kietzman focuses on an age group that is often
overlooked in contemporary women’s ;ction:
the empty nesters. By emphasizing the late-in-
life challenges of women who devoted their
lives to the needs of husbands and children,
Kietzman paints a sympathetic and support-
ive portrait of those unsure of their next steps.
Fans of Mary Kay Andrews and Holly Cham-
berlin will enjoy this heartfelt and courageous
novel. —Stephanie Turza
A Good Country.
By Laleh Khadivi.
May 2017. 256p. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781632865847).
How is it possible for a young man or wom-
an raised by loving parents in a ;nancially
stable or even prosperous home to become
radicalized? ;is is the question Khadivi (;e
Walking, 2013) posits in her engrossing third
novel, which centers on
Reza Courdee, an Iranian-
American boy growing up
in a posh Southern Califor-
nia beach town. Smart and
studious Reza’s ;rst set of
friends in high school are
white stoners who introduce
him to pot, girls, and surf-
ing. But after a jaunt to Mexico goes awry,
all but one of the boys shuns Reza, who is
then befriended by a charismatic Muslim boy
named Arash. When the brother of one of
Reza’s former friends is injured in the 2013
Boston Marathon attack, Reza and Arash
;nd themselves isolated and targeted by their
classmates. Arash turns to his faith, while
Reza falls for Fatima, a beautiful friend of
Arash’s who is also becoming more devout.
Reza’s skepticism towards religion begins to
crumble in the face of the everyday prejudice
he is forced to battle. Khadivi’s carefully craft-
ed, masterful novel illustrates how the perfect
storm of teenage cruelty, racism, and tragedy
can create an extremist. —Kristine Huntley
YA: ;e complexities of teenage
friendships and betrayals will ring true
for YAs, who will also be intrigued by the
cultural contrasts. KH.
How to Be Human.
By Paula Cocozza.
May 2017. 288p. Holt/Metropolitan, $26
A chance encounter with a fox in her garden
marks the beginning of Mary’s increasing entanglement with the bewitching visitor. After
breaking up with her ;ancé, Mary lives alone
in the house they had shared. She is regularly
tardy for her human-resources job at a local
university, and her social calendar is largely
empty except for an occasional night of baby-sitting for her neighbors. But when the fox
appears in the neighborhood, where others see
vermin to be eradicated, Mary sees a kindred
spirit and, in time, a friend. Cocozza writes immersive scenes, registering the experiences of all
the senses. Smell, in particular, plays an important role as Mary tries to perceive the world as
the fox does, although it often seems she misinterprets his perspective. As their relationship
grows, so does Mary’s erratic behavior, until she
is driven to extremes in her e;orts to save the
fox from extermination. Besieged by her ex and