December 1, 2016 Booklist 25 www.booklistonline.com
advice, and tender reminiscences about their
close, yet separate, adolescence (each grew up
with a different parent after a divorce). Hulin’s
razor-sharp and sardonic writing propels this
page-turner to a resolution that is equal parts
happy and disturbing. Fans of recent tragicomic epistolary novels like Maria Semple’s
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2012) and Cecilia
Ahern’s Love, Rosie (2004) will find much to
enjoy here. —Magan Szwarek
Island of the Mad.
By Laurie Sheck.
Dec. 2016. 448p. Counterpoint, $26 (9781619028357).
Ambrose lives patiently with a cruel affliction
that causes his bones to easily break and that
has burdened him with a large hump, yet when
his coworker in a small basement room where
they scan books for digitization, a silent, sleepless woman, leaves him a note, asking him to
go to Venice to search for a notebook, he does
so. As in A Monster’s Notes (2009), poet and poetic novelist Sheck draws on classic works—her
characters are obsessed with Dostoevsky’s The
Idiot and Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and
Margarita—to create an exquisitely intricate
and moving literary pastiche. Ambrose, so tenderly portrayed, finds himself in a city as fragile
in its underpinnings as he is, where he is steeped
in books; assailed by ghostly voices, including
that of the painter Titian; and awash in tragic
accounts of the plague years and the scourge of
epilepsy. In concise, haunting, inquisitive, and
incantatory passages, Sheck imaginatively and
compassionately explores the mysteries of the
body and mind, of brokenness and aloneness,
while celebrating language as a lifeline across
pain, time, and space. —Donna Seaman
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.
By Kathleen Rooney.
Jan. 2017. 304p. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250113320);
e-book, $12.99 (9781250113337).
Glamorous and ambitious Lillian Boxfish
was celebrated in front-page articles in 1931 as
guage (“Solutions of style have a greater moral
force than those of obligation”), Lillian decides
to celebrate 1984’s New Year’s Eve by dining
as she does every year at a favorite restaurant,
then walking through the city to attend a party
to which she was invited by a young photog-
rapher she met in the park. On this reckless
odyssey, mink-clad Lillian is both embraced
and accosted by strangers, all while contem-
plating the changes the years have brought
to her and her beloved city. Poet and novelist
Rooney (O, Democracy! 2014) found sublime
inspiration, thanks to a librarian friend, in real-
life ad writer and poet Margaret Fishback. Her
delectably theatrical fictionalization is laced
with strands of tart poetry and emulates the
dark sparkle of Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vin-
cent Millay, and Truman Capote. Effervescent
with verve, wit, and heart, Rooney’s nimble
novel celebrates insouciance, creativity, chance,
and valor. —Donna Seaman
The Mother’s Promise.
By Sally Hepworth.
Feb. 2017. 336p. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (9781466889927).
Readers should get ready for a good, ugly
cry after reading Hepworth’s latest (after The
Things We Keep, 2015). Alice’s cancer diagnosis
sends her into a panic, not because of her uncertain prognosis but because her 15-year-old
daughter, Zoe, has a paralyzing social-anxiety disorder
that makes her dependent
on Alice. With no father
in the picture, Zoe will be
stranded if Alice isn’t there
to care for her. Alice can’t
even bring herself to tell Zoe
she’s sick. Kate, Alice’s nurse,
and Sonja, a social worker from the hospital,
want to help, but they’re keeping secrets of
their own, and only when everyone’s secrets are
revealed will they be able to help one another.
Part tearjerker, part celebration of mothers, this
story tugs at the heartstrings, guaranteeing that
readers will smile through the tears. Narration
by all four women contributes to the character
development, yet Hepworth keeps up a quick
pace that turns the story into a page-turner. All
the pieces masterfully come together at the end
to create a beautiful novel of courage and love
in the face of sorrow. — Tracy Babiasz
My (not so) Perfect Life.
By Sophie Kinsella.
Feb. 2017. 434p. Dial, $28 (9780812998269).
Katie Brenner is living the life most girls her
age dream of—she has a flat in London (
oddball flatmates), a great (hellish) commute, the
perfect job at a branding agency (junior associate, doing data entry), and an amazing boss
(quite the opposite). It’s no wonder Katie loves
going on Instagram to get a peek into the perfect lives of others, while creating the illusion
of her own. After getting fired and bombing
a potential romance, Katie goes home to her
family’s farm. Her father, an entrepreneur
whose ideas never take off, decides to use his
land to start a glamping business. Knowing a
lot about branding and business, Katie takes
the reins in the start-up. Everything is going
great, until her ex-boss shows up. Kinsella delivers yet another outstanding novel full of the
wit and charm that her fans expect and adore.
Katie’s shenanigans, from a misunderstanding
about a vibrator to being mistaken for a homeless person, will keep readers laughing out
loud. A perfect combination of fun, laughable
moments rounded out with some deep-seated
family and relationship issues. —Erin Holt
On Turpentine Lane.
By Elinor Lipman.
Feb. 2017. 320p. HMH, $24 (9780544808249).
Popular, funny Lipman returns to fiction
after her essay collection, I Can’t Complain
(2013), introducing Faith Frankel, who has
fallen in love with a doll’s house of a cottage
at 10 Turpentine Lane. Throwing caution to
the winds, she buys it without consulting her
erstwhile fiancé, Stuart, who is walking cross-country seeking the meaning of life. As his texts
and phone calls grow infrequent while his Face-book page fills with photos of reunions with
old girlfriends, Faith finally gets the courage to
unravel the cheap-but-romantic red-string engagement band frugal Stuart made her before
he left. There to help her untie the knot is Nick
Franconi, her cute and charming coworker and
confidante at the Everton Country Day School.
He’s also there for her when her job is on the
line, her parents’ seemingly solid marriage implodes, and the police show up at her door to
investigate the property’s sordid past. As loyal
Lipman readers have come to expect, there
are messages of hope, resilience, and discovery
tucked behind the frothy rom-com scenes Lipman draws oh so well. —Carol Haggas
By Kathleen Dean Moore.
Dec. 2016. 288p. Counterpoint, $25 (9781619027916).
This is award-winning naturalist, philoso-
pher, and climate activist Moore’s first foray
into fiction, and it is not only a remarkably
thoughtful and compelling
look at the threats to endan-
gered species and the willful
destruction of the environ-
ment but also a thoroughly
engaging tale featuring vivid-
ly drawn characters who grab
our interest from the very
first pages. For Moore, the
most basic question is “who is responsible for
protecting our Earth?” And each of her unique
characters living in the tiny harbor town of
Good River, Alaska, answers this question in
life-changing ways. Entrepreneur Axel intends
to “capitalize undeveloped resources.” His wife,
Rebecca, is a flower child who asks herself “in
what morally corrosive world” would people
build a dam that cut salmon off from the river.
Kenny is a Vietnam vet and the town’s moral
compass, routinely quoting Greek philosophers
As loyal Lipman readers have come to expect, there are messages
of hope, resilience, and discovery tucked behind the frothy rom-com
scenes Lipman draws oh so well.
—Carol Haggas, on On Turpentine Lane