16 Booklist October 15, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
Accidentally in Love.
By Cathy Woodman.
Nov. 2016. 448p. Pegasus, paper, $15.95
A model of efficiency, kindness, and tact,
veterinary nurse Shannon has no problem
dealing with the rabbits, snakes, cats, and
dogs that come to Devon’s Otter House
clinic for everything from routine nail trims
to emergency surgery. She can even sweet-talk the grouchiest village elder into doing
what’s best for his or her beloved pet. But
when newly hired Dr. Ross rolls into the village of Talyton St. George on his motorcycle
and swaps his leathers for surgical scrubs,
Shannon is less-than-thrilled to work with
this hot-shot upstart, no matter how good-looking he is. Their working relationship
gets off to a rocky start but quickly evolves
into an abiding friendship and an even more
promising romantic liaison. When a freak
accident caused by Ross’ beloved dog, Bart,
disfigures Shannon for life, she doubts the
sincerity of Ross’ true feelings for her. Fans
of Woodman’s English country vet series,
including Vets in Love (2012), will enjoy revisiting favorite characters and welcome new
charmers into the fold in this winsome, frolicsome tale. —Carol Haggas
By Gary Reilly.
Oct. 2016. 300p. Running Meter, paper, $16.95
In his eighth appearance, Brendan Murphy,
or “Murph,” the Denver cab driver and struggling novelist who aspires to go nowhere, do
nothing, and work as little as possible, once
again violates his cardinal rule: never get involved in the life of a fare. It all starts in late
October when he ferries four teenagers to a
haunted house out of town. What seems like
a minor judgment call has major implications
as one of the teens falls prey to a con man.
Murph, who, despite his inclination toward
disengagement, possesses a “heart of gold”
(and he would definitely use ironic quotes),
ends up missing a lot of Gilligan’s Island reruns as he tries to straighten things out. The
backstory of the Murph series is fascinating:
Reilly, who died in 2011, left behind a trunk
of unpublished manuscripts his friends vowed
to publish. But these books are worth reading in their own right. The plots are thin but
excellent excuses to spend time with Murph,
the idiosyncratic, overanalytical, and ever-quotable asphalt philosopher. —Keir Graff
By Victoria Helen Stone.
Nov. 2016. 270p. Amazon/Lake Union, paper, $14.95
When awakened by a late-night phone call
and summoned to help her husband out of a
ditch, Evelyn realizes she has been sleepwalk-
ing through her life. She finds out that her
husband, a respected psychiatrist, has been
having an affair with a patient and that, that
night, the two were in a hit-and-run accident
that left a young woman dead. Though she
agrees to help him cover up the affair and the
accident, Evelyn becomes consumed with
her husband’s mistress, Juliette. She begins
spending time at Juliette’s husband Noah’s
art gallery, and he remains clueless about the
secrets she keeps as they grow close. Stone (a
nom de plume of romance writer Victoria
Dahl) flashes back to Evelyn’s breakdown af-
ter the accident as she becomes more deeply
embroiled with Noah. Here, the author ably
switches to darker suspense in a compelling
story exploring what lurks behind a seemingly
perfect life. —Aleksandra Walker
Everything Love Is.
By Claire King.
Dec. 2016. 384p. Bloomsbury, $26 (9781632865380).
Living in his beloved houseboat, Candice,
off the coast of France, Baptiste Molino has
all the trappings of a happy life. He even
counsels clients on how to find happiness,
using Candice as a discreet meeting place to
help uplift the downtrodden from all walks
of life. Baptiste doesn’t advertise his ability
to uncover pockets of discontent in his clients, but word of his gift spreads throughout
the close-knit town of Toulouse. Despite his
therapeutic talents, Baptiste remains obsessed
with the mysterious circumstances surrounding his own upbringing, constantly wishing
he could meet the birth mother he never
knew. With the help of a local waitress and
a very important client, Baptiste learns that
the happiness he’s always longed for may be
more unattainable than he realized. King’s
elegant and poignant second novel (after The
Night Rainbow, 2013) focuses on the utter
fragility of passion, partnership, and memory.
Admirably, King treats Baptiste’s descent into
dementia with the utmost respect as she combines themes reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks’
The Notebook and Lisa Genova’s Still Alice with
lilting and lyrical prose. —Stephanie Turza
Gods & Angels.
By David Park.
Dec. 2016. 304p. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781408866078).
Confident storytelling and assured prose
draw readers into the disquieting worlds and
uncomfortable situations found in Park’s
(The Poet’s Wives, 2014) collection. In the
lead story, a university adjunct takes up with
a rough group of men at the gym where he
is learning to swim, and that leads to an unsettling outcome. In “Boxing Day,” a teen is
forced by his father to pay his annual holiday
visit to his estranged, mentally ill mother.
Technology crops up as a theme throughout.
In the funniest story, a couple’s marriage is
saved when they divorce and each take up
blogging. In another, a retired teacher from
a desolate, northern island Skypes with his
daughter, who, like all the island’s youth, has
left. Loneliness and the importance of individuals connecting with each other—classic
terrain for the short story—is made new
again in Park’s deft hands. Park, a Northern Irish author who has frequently written
about the Troubles, seems newly energized
here. —Brian Kenney
The Gun Room.
By Georgina Harding.
Nov. 2016. 224p. Bloomsbury, $26 (9781632864369).
A young English photographer’s life is
forever altered by bearing witness, particularly to the aftermath of a U.S. raid on a
village during the Vietnam War. There, he
captures an image of an American soldier
that becomes a powerful war photograph,
intentionally symbolizing the agony of war
and unintentionally exposing how photojournalism is also wounding. Jonathan
escapes his rural English upbringing and
ends up in Tokyo, but he is still trapped in
the past. Memories of his WWII veteran father as he observes that war’s lasting effects
on his Japanese girlfriend’s grandfather provoke questions about truth, repercussions,
and accountability. Harding’s (Painter of
Silence, 2012) direct but lyrical prose (think
Hemingway meets Camus) draws readers into the photographer’s mind and eyes,
second by second, photograph after photograph, and vividly recreates the experience of
seeing, everywhere, composition, frame, and
subject. Harding is a compelling, precise,
and concise writer, who knows how to deftly establish time and setting. Here she has
structured a captivating story, in which history, memory, and normal lives poignantly
intersect. —Janet St. John
Homesick for Another World.
By Ottessa Moshfegh.
Jan. 2017. 304p. Penguin, $26 (9780399562884).
Man Booker Prize finalist for Eileen (2015),
Moshfegh now presents a collection of short
stories exploring aspects of the human ex-
perience from which we usually avert our
eyes, lives which we would
rather not acknowledge. A
barely functioning alcoholic
teacher at an NYC Catholic
school, a pimple-pinching
violinist in a locked room,
an old man trying to ma-
nipulate his young female
neighbor, and a girl con-
vinced that killing another person will take
her to the better world she came from—these
are among the evocatively drawn characters
Moshfegh animates to provide glimpses of
our collective human psyche. Success, fail-
ure, belonging, isolation, connections, and
nostalgia all are recalibrated in the ways these
individuals live and think and feel. Plot twists