May 15, 2016 Booklist 19 www.booklistonline.com
The 100 Year Miracle.
By Ashley Ream.
May 2016. 320p. Flatiron, $26.99 (9781250082220).
Once every 100 years, a bay in Washington State fills with tiny luminescent
creatures spawning eggs that will lie dormant for another century. A local Native
American tribe, the Olloo’et, have always
respected this phenomenon, warning that
only the shamans were allowed to partake of
the eerily glowing waters. They feared that
the water—despite supposed miraculous
healing qualities—produced frightening
hallucinations and opened a portal to the
spirit realm. Scientist Rachel Bell is eager
to break from her sanctioned research team
in order to do her own experiments, desperately hoping that the water will bring
her relief from constant, debilitating pain.
Fellow researcher John, an Olloo’et descendant, warns her that she is on a dangerous
path, but Rachel is too far under the water’s
spell. She draws in Harry, a local musician
who suffers from a degenerative disease,
and his estranged ex-wife. Tension mounts
as the couple find themselves entwined in
Rachel’s machinations, and Harry discovers
himself interacting with his dead daughter.
Vividly drawn characters and an intriguing
premise make this a good bet for readers
who like gothic novels or literary suspense.
By Jolina Petersheim.
June 2016. 400p. Tyndale, $22.99 (9781496413994);
paper, $14.99 (9781496402219).
Petersheim (The Midwife, 2014) tells a
unique, inspirational, apocalyptic tale set
in a Mennonite paradise. When an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effectively ends life
as everyone knows it, Leora Ebersole’s Mennonite community must band together with
the Englischers stranded among them, including Moses Hughes, a pilot who crashed
in Leora’s fields when the EMP hit. The two
join forces to protect her people’s land and
assets against outsiders turned desperate in
the crisis. Although their approaches could
not be more different—Leora is a pacifist
and Moses is a trained fighter—the two find
themselves answering life’s big questions
more and more similarly as they draw close.
Their bond is tested, however, when Moses
discovers a truth that could affect everything
Leora believes about her family. Petersheim
has written a novel of hope forged in unlikely circumstances and a romance sparked
in the cold of despair. Readers of faith who
have questioned their place in the world,
who wonder what they might become if society’s bounds no longer held them, will be
enthralled. —Carolyn Richard
Among Strange Victims.
By Daniel Saldana Paris. Tr. by Christina
June 2016. 240p. Coffee House, paper, $16.95
(9781566894302); e-book, $12.99 (9781566894302).
Rodrigo lives a contentedly unambitious
life: his apartment’s unremarkable; the vacant lot outside his window provides a
modicum of amusement; his desk job at a
local museum suits him. Yet when his formerly overlooked coworker Cecilia, through
a hilarious sequence of miscommunication,
agrees to marry him (unsolicited), he assents.
The wedding goes ahead flawlessly, without
any protestation by either party involved.
Such is the tone and tenor of this sauntering
novel, the first to be published in the U.S. by
Mexican author París. In an easygoing, oddly
entrancing style, París presents a meandering
plot, which sees the newlyweds relocate from
the urban sprawl of Mexico City to Rodrigo’s
dusty, rural hometown. There, they connect
with Rodrigo’s mother and meet Marcelo,
her boyfriend, but the events of the narrative
pale in comparison to the surprising pleasure of the thoroughly offbeat prose. París
has earned comparisons to Roberto Bolaño,
chiefly for layering in a subplot involving
the mysterious disappearance of a poet from
nearly a century ago. Certainly, París has
mastered the art of spinning an outlandish,
entertaining tale. —Diego Báez
By Jacqueline Woodson.
Aug. 2016. 192p. Harper, $22.99 (9780062359988).
Best-selling and acclaimed children’s au-
thor Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming, 2014)
presents an evocative adult novel. August, her
memories stirred by running into a friend after
her father’s funeral, dives headlong back into
episodes from her youth.
Suddenly, having lived only
in Tennessee, eight-year-old
August finds herself in her
father’s hometown of Brook-
lyn. Stoic young August is
bolstered by the responsibil-
ity of watching her brother
while their father works, and
by the certainty that their mother will soon
leave Tennessee, too, and join them. From
their third-floor window, August and her
brother observe the daily despair of poverty,
but more notably the world of liberated,
unsupervised youth: the skipping rope, the
uncapped hydrant, in short, the kids they wish
they were. August can’t believe her luck when
Sylvia, Angela, and Gigi—the very girls she has
longed to know—befriend her. The foursome
entertain, sustain, and strengthen one another
as they move through their early teens in the
1970s, their developing bodies just one of
many perils. The novel’s richness defies its slim
page count. In her poet’s prose, Woodson not
only shows us backward-glancing August at-
tempting to stave off growing up and the pains
that betray youth, she also wonders how we
dream of a life parallel to the one we’re living.
YA/M: Though this is absolutely a story of
childhood told from an adult perspective,
the many YAs who adore Woodson’s work
will want to follow her here, too. AB.
The Bones of Grace.
By Tahmima Anam.
June 2016. 416p. Harper, $25.99 (9780061478949).
The third in Anam’s best-selling Bengal trilogy, following A Golden Age (2008) and The
Good Muslim (2011), is written in the voice of
Zubaida Haque, a fiercely independent young
woman from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who is adopted into the same family
portrayed in the two earlier
novels. Zubaida, a paleontology grad student at Harvard,
is preparing to leave for a dig
in Pakistan to find the bones
of the “walking whale,” a
missing link in our knowledge of evolution. A week
before her departure, she meets Elijah, who has
just dropped out of a philosophy doctoral program. They are obviously kindred spirits, but
Zubaida is unofficially engaged to an old childhood friend in Dhaka, to whom she returns
after the dig ends in disaster. Anam treats issues
as varied as the constraints of traditional societies on its female members and the Bangladeshi
ship-breaking industry, which has come under
scrutiny for its violations of workers’ rights. She
writes perceptively about her homeland while
never shrinking from exposing its weaknesses.
This tale of Zubaida’s search for her true identity, and the romantic and professional choices
she makes along the way, provides a gripping
conclusion to Anam’s insightful and enlightening trilogy. —Deborah Donovan
By the Numbers.
By Jen Lancaster.
June 2016. 304p. NAL, $27 (9780451471116).
Penny Sinclair, an actuary who loves the
structure that her numbers and research provide, is just about to find that same sense
of steady reliability in her life. Her younger
daughter, Kelsey, is getting married; the other, Jessica, is making a good living as a fashion
blogger in New York. Penny has just about
gotten over the strain from her recent divorce
and is ready to list the family home—a stunner on Chicago’s tony suburban North Shore
that will net her a nice sum—and move to a
sweet condo downtown, when both girls arrive back home. Kelsey wants to be married
in the backyard, while Jessica’s real life might
not be as glamorous as her online one seems.
Add Penny’s aging parents to the mix, and
suddenly the house she was staging for sale is
taken over by clashing personalities. Lancaster’s signature snarky humor is on full display
here, and even though some of her characters
might be a bit grating (Penny’s daughters are