May 1, 2017 Booklist 59 www.booklistonline.com
tions and enlists in the U.S. Army instead.
Her tour of duty in Afghanistan ends in disaster when her mission is compromised and
her commanding officer is killed. As she recovers in Walter Reed Hospital from the loss
of an eye and the resultant disfiguring facial
scars, LeAnne befriends her PTSD-stricken
hospital roommate, Marci. When Marci
dies unexpectedly, LeAnne’s grief spurs her
to embark on a cross-country road trip that
takes her to Marci’s small hometown in the
mountains of Washington State. She soon
discovers that Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has gone missing and joins the search with
the unsought but ultimately invaluable assistance of an anything-but-cuddly stray dog
with uncanny powers of perception. Though
the emotional and physical challenges confronting Quinn’s wounded warrior form the
heart of the book, readers will discover its
soul when LeAnne and her four-footed companion join forces. —Carol Haggas
River under the Road.
By Scott Spencer.
June 2017. 384p. HarperCollins, $27.99
(9780062660053); e-book (9780062660077).
Two couples’ lives tangle on a bucolic Hudson Valley estate, revealing class fissures and
anxieties about the role of art in an increasingly
fractious world. Young artists Thaddeus and
Grace buy the place, with its 50 acres and river
view, also acquiring Jennings, son of the long-time caretaker, when Thaddeus sells a movie
script. The local economy is flagging, and an
ugly new concrete plant is polarizing residents,
but it may be Thaddeus’ clumsy largesse that
brings long-simmering tensions to a boil. Or
perhaps it is Jennings’ tendency to help himself
to unattended valuables, or unhappy spouses?
Highly regarded and best-selling Spencer (Man
in the Woods, 2010) builds his narrative around
a string of parties, occurring over 14 years—
opium barbecues, New York sex-club outings,
and various celebrations at the estate—but the
mood is more foreboding than festive, as guilt
and the complications of wealth shred romance
and civility alike. While Spencer remains a perceptive and popular chronicler of complicated
relationships, there’s a bleakness to this novel’s
insistence that love is weaker than resentment,
and artists are powerless against brick-throw-ers. —Brendan Driscoll
By Laura McBride.
May 2017. 384p. Touchstone, $25.99 (9781501157783).
If McBride (We Are Called to Rise, 2014) is
trying to prove what one of her characters declares—that if you change one life, you change
the world—she succeeds magnificently. The
stories of four strong women, whose lives are
for the most part only tangentially connected
via a club in a second-rate Vegas casino, resonate with this notion. At the awakening of the
Las Vegas allure in the 1950s, Del and June
Dibb open a small casino, the El Capitan,
with mysterious funding from a definitely
shifty source. In the vernacular of the time,
he’s a white Las Vegas native and she’s a Jewish
East Coast transplant. Together, they luck out
by engaging Eddie Knox, a charismatic black
singer whose shows in the casino’s Midnight
Room are largely responsible for the casino’s
initial success. The kitschy venue is central to
June’s life and her choices that subsequently
affect the lives of the book’s three other
women. McBride powerfully addresses an important theme, namely, how much a personal
choice can impact others and even alter history. —Donna Chavez
The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr.
By Frances Maynard.
July 2017. 400p. Sourcebooks, paper, $15.99
Debut author Maynard never uses labels to
describe Elvira Carr, a “different” young woman with a social awkwardness that causes her
mother to isolate her from the rest of the community. When her mother suffers a stroke and
is moved to a nursing home, Ellie constructs a
plan for surviving on her own, creating seven
rules to help her fit into a world she doesn’t
always understand. Initially frustrated that the
rules don’t always seem to work, Ellie struggles
to find her place and convince those around
her that she can care for herself, but she soon
discovers that the people who count don’t
need her to change. Maynard paints a charming character in Ellie that will make readers
smile and occasionally want to take her under
a protective arm. Ellie’s narration grabs readers’ hearts by placing them in the middle of her
anxiety about doing the right thing. The inevitable comparisons to Graeme Simsion’s The
Rosie Project (2013) and Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me (2016) are natural, but
Ellie’s authentic voice offers a fresh perspective
on being different. —Tracy Babiasz
By Mark Sampson.
June 2017. 280p. Dundurn, paper, $15.99
Sampson (Sad Peninsula, 2014) allows Dr.
Philip Sharpe to tell his version of events in this
character- and voice-driven novel. After a harsh
row with his wife, Sharpe appears on live TV
to provide commentary opposite an ideological rival about a recent corporate implosion,
and he “slips,” framing a remark in terms so
misogynistic that the balance of Canada is,
justifiably, offended. This incident begins the
novel, which walks readers through several days
of aftermath. As Sharpe’s wife, his students, his
colleagues, and the Canadian media call for an
apology, Sharpe digs in. His refusal, however, is
misguided. Sharpe was so emotional the day of
the interview, he honestly doesn’t realize what
he said and stays ignorant by avoiding the recaps. Though a worthy read, the novel takes
too much of its tension from the disconnection
between Sharpe’s memory and his actual slip
of the tongue. The more interesting question
is what this compelling, human, and relatable
character would do if only he understood what
he said from the beginning. —Emily Dziuban
By Jennifer Kitses.
June 2017. 280p. Grand Central, $26 (9781478949763);
e-book, $13.99 (9781455598496).
Tom and Helen decided to move to Devon,
a small mill town in the Hudson Valley, to
give their twin daughters a genuine suburban
upbringing far from the Manhattan crowds.
Sure, they bought their house at the height of
the market, they’ve hurdled career upheavals,
and now they’re juggling preschool tuition
on multiple credit cards, but at least they
have each other, right? It’s far from the idyllic
suburban experience they expected, as Tom
and Helen’s long-buried secrets are threatening to rise to the surface. They have problems
much like any other couple could—an affair,
jobs in jeopardy, anger issues—but things
have never felt this heavy. The action takes
place over 24 hours, from sunrise to the last
train out of Grand Central and back again.
Kitses manages to keep her debut novel well
paced, offering heart-pounding tension and
periods of quiet reflection in equal parts.
Tom and Helen are relatable, proving that
seemingly small decisions can quickly balloon into overwhelming situations. Fans of
Matthew Norman, Sarah Dunn, and Emma
Straub will enjoy this cautiously optimistic
domestic drama full of small kindnesses and
deep betrayals. —Stephanie Turza
So Much Blue.
By Percival Everett.
June 2017. 256p. Graywolf, paper, $16
Kevin Pace, an artist living with his wife
and two children in New England, is working obsessively on a painting in his barn. It is
a massive canvas, the object of daily struggles
and inner turmoil. No one is allowed to see it,
to the vexation of his family and closest friend,
Richard, who all worry that he’s drinking again.
In alternating chapters, Everett (Half an Inch of
Water, 2015) presents Kevin in his twenties, accompanying Richard on a harrowing trip to El
Salvador to find Richard’s drug-dealing brother; in his forties, in Paris for a show and falling
in love with a young artist; and in the present,
dealing with a fragile marriage—all of it tied to
a secret that has marked his life and his art. In
his always insightful style, Everett offers a portrait of a man sensitive to the slightest nuance
of color and composition but often oblivious
to the complexities and subtleties of human
relationships, a man struggling to unite the
pieces of himself into a harmonious whole, a
man worthy of love and family. —Vanessa Bush
By Daryl Gregory.
June 2017. 416p. Knopf, $26.95 (9781524731823).
Matty Telemachus knows he comes from
an unusual lineage. As the grandson of the
Great Teddy Telemachus, he also knows he
has a gift. Famous for their magic and sleight-of-hand skills, the Telemachus family used
to be the toast of talk shows and late-night
television. With Teddy’s con-artist gifts,