August2017 Booklist 27 www.booklistonline.com
longer exists. Martial law is announced during a favorite television program; Pope John
Paul II’s homecoming visit is met with great
yet anticlimactic preparation. An inkblot accident on an artwork submitted to a state-run
contest becomes the catalyst for an interrogation. Poland’s history thunders quietly on
the horizon as daily tasks give rise to myths
and fables for the female protagonist. Each
chapter is a section of canvas that depicts the
town and its inhabitants. There are rituals and
superstitions, drunkards and loving relatives,
harvested foods and sordid intentions. Long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Greg’s novel
offers a surprising perspective that challenges
the traditional bildungsroman in its brevity
and Soviet-era allure. —Michael Ruzicka
This Is How It Begins.
By Joan Dempsey.
Oct. 2017. 400p. She Writes, paper, $16.95
(9781631523083); e-book, $9.95 (9781631523090).
Massachusetts, 2009. Teacher Tommy
Zeilonka has just been fired. When 10 other
teachers from around the state are fired at the
same time—all of them gay, like Tommy—it
is obvious that some sort of organized effort
is behind these actions. Indeed, the firings are
the work of a fundamentalist church headquartered in Tommy’s hometown. Among
those leading the action against the teachers
is radio host Warren Meck, who has been
called the next Rush Limbaugh. But this is
only half of Dempsey’s ambitious story. The
other half involves Tommy’s Polish-American
grandmother, Ludka, who as a teenager in Poland during WWII saved the Jewish boy who
would become her husband. A professor of art
emerita, she is secretly involved with a missing
painting that is a masterpiece of contemporary Polish art. How these plot strands come
together is the substance of Dempsey’s fine
first novel, notable for the evenhanded way
it addresses hot-button issues. The result is a
timely and memorable story. —Michael Cart
YA: Teens will find much to discuss in this
thought-provoking novel. MC.
To Be Where You Are.
By Jan Karon.
Sept. 2017. 304p. Putnam, $28 (9780399183737).
“Old priests never retire.” Father Tim Ka-
vanagh, approaching 80 and retired for 12
years, is just starting to enjoy being away
from “the full-time drama of priesting.”
At the same time, filling in occasionally
for Father Brad at Lord’s Chapel isn’t quite
enough, and Father Tim can’t help involv-
ing himself in the lives of the citizens of the
tiny mountain town of Mitford, whether
that means keeping the local grocery store
running when the proprietor gets sick or in-
tervening (again) to help the family of his
adopted son, Dooley. Meanwhile, Dooley,
now a veterinarian, and his new wife, Lace
(their wedding was the focus of Come Rain
or Come Shine, 2015), are living at Meadow-
gate Farm, setting up the Kavanagh Animal
Wellness Clinic and adopting a son of their
own, four-year-old Jack. At the novel’s
close, Father Tim grants wife Cynthia her
“heart’s desire” by setting off with her on a
trip in an RV. This entry in Karon’s popu-
lar and long-running faith-based Mitford
series offers plenty of characters and slices
of life but little momentum. Buy it for fans.
—Mary Ellen Quinn
Uncommon Type: Some Stories.
By Tom Hanks.
Oct. 2017. 416p. illus. Knopf, $26.95 (9781101946152).
As an actor, Tom Hanks has an understated
performance style; the hard work seems to get
done under the surface, where we can’t see it.
All we see is the truth of the character. The
same goes for the 17 short stories in this thoroughly engaging book, Hanks’ fiction debut.
Here are stories about friends who become
lovers and then decide that wasn’t a good
idea; about old war buddies whose Christmas Eve conversation sparks some powerful
memories; about a movie star enduring a
press junket; about a billionaire and his assistant on the trail of acquisitions who find
in America’s heartland a humanity very different from their glass-tower world. The stories
are brief and sometimes seem abbreviated,
but they possess a real feel for character and
a slice-of-life realism that combine to deliver
considerable depth beneath the surface. A surprising and satisfying book from a first-time
fiction writer. —David Pitt
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hanks is
both much loved and often criticized as an
actor; his writing, however, may well cross
that divide with its undeniable craft and plain-spoken insight.
We Were Witches.
By Ariel Gore.
Sept. 2017. 296p. Feminist, paper, $18.95 (9781558614338).
Gore, who has written several memoirs about
motherhood, including The End of Eve (2014),
takes a fictional approach to her own coming-of-age story in the form of a “memoirist’s
novel.” In the book, as in life, Gore becomes
a single mother at age 19 to a daughter, Maia.
Combating poverty and her family’s disapproval of her sexuality, Ariel struggles to make
ends meet for herself and Maia while trying to
secure an education in a world that looks down
on just about any choice a woman makes that
defies convention. Deemed a “welfare slut” by
a violent neighbor and subjected to spontaneous and often-destructive visits from Maia’s
mercurial father, Ariel mulls over all the ways
women are judged and oppressed. When she
goes to court for a restraining order against her
ex, she’s pushed into filling out paperwork that
triggers a custody battle. Gore’s novel is a scathing indictment of a system that works against
people who are poor and female as well as a
piercing and wise look at one woman’s struggles to overcome it. —Kristine Huntley
YA/M: Sophisticated teens will empathize
with Ariel’s struggles against sexism while
she works to raise her daughter and get an
Young Jane Young.
By Gabrielle Zevin.
Aug. 2017. 320p. Algonquin, $26.95 (9781616205041).
If you’re going to have an affair with a
married congressman, don’t blog about it.
That’s one of the tough lessons young Aviva
Grossman learns in this splendid novel. As a
20-year-old intern for an up-and-coming politician in South Florida, Aviva makes a series of
poor choices that lead to a scandal, destroying
her career before it has even begun. Years later,
an event planner named Jane Young is running
for mayor in her Maine town when the specter of the Grossman affair threatens to derail
her candidacy. A witty, strongly drawn group
of female voices tells Aviva’s story, three generations exploring the ripple effect her actions
created. Zevin, whose works include several YA
and adult novels, including The Storied Life of
A. J. Fikry (2014), has created a fun and frank
tale. Her vibrant and playful writing, and the
fully realized characters taking turns as narrator, bring the story a zestful energy, even while
exploring dark themes of secrecy and betrayal.
Zevin perfectly captures the realities of the current political climate and the consequences of
youthful indiscretions in an era when the Internet never forgets. —Bridget Thoreson
YA: A gripping, entertainingly written
read for teens and new adults. BT.
All the Secret Places.
By Anna Carlisle.
Sept. 2017. 288p. Crooked Lane, $25.99
(9781683312871); e-book, $12.99 (9781683312888).
After solving her sister’s murder (Dark Road
Home, 2016), medical examiner Gin Sullivan
still hasn’t left her hometown of Trumbull,
Pennsylvania, to return to Chicago. The free
room and board and her rekindled relationship with architect Jake may have something
to do with that. Consulting with the local
county, Gin is asked to evaluate a corpse buried near a new development in which Jake
is heavily invested. The body is too decomposed for a positive ID, but if the Civil War
uniform the victim was wearing is authentic,
Jake’s project may be stalled indefinitely. Gin
begins to work closely with new Police Chief
Tuck Baxter, a single dad who makes it pretty
clear that if he weren’t so darned honorable
he’d be making a much stronger play for
Gin’s affections. Several last-minute revelations make the resolution of the crime less
compelling than the potential love triangle.
But there’s enough drama here to keep readers interested in what the next book in this
new series will hold for Gin and the men in
her life. —Karen Keefe
Best Day Ever.
By Kaira Rouda.
Sept. 2017. 352p. Graydon, $26.99 (9781525811401).
Paul Strom is driving his wife, Mia, to their
lake house for a long weekend. The Stroms
are one of those picture-perfect couples: he’s