18 Booklist October 15, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
narrator must make peace with the ghosts of
his own past. A searching exploration of how
travel and storytelling can help us find our
truest selves. —Poornima Apte
By Ashley Little.
Nov. 2016. 296p. Arsenal Pulp, paper, $17.95
When 11-year-old Canadian Tucker Malone’s
narcoleptic, cataplexic, single mother lands in
a hospital in Niagara Falls, Tucker is removed
to a group home, where he meets 16-year-old,
pregnant Meredith. It’s the early 1990s, and
Tucker is convinced his father is Sam Malone,
the fictitious character on the TV show Cheers.
Meredith convinces Tucker that if his father
exists at all, he won’t be in Boston, where the
show is set, but in Hollywood, where the show
is filmed. So they hitchhike, taking rides with
some odd and unsettling people, arriving in
LA at the height of the Rodney King riots.
Little’s story recalls picaresque novels, and readers may enjoy identifying the cast of criminals
with whom Tucker and Meredith cross paths.
Though readers are asked to suspend belief in
scenes that follow an untimely birth, the author
(who also writes for young adults, most recently
Anatomy of a Girl Gang, 2014) has written a
juvenile character that is endearing and full of
pluck, and her simple prose, told in Tucker’s
voice, will draw readers in. —Joan Curbow
YA/M: Older teens will feel right at home
with Little’s language and scene setting, and
they’ll likely identify with her depiction of a
preadolescent boy’s thoughts. JC.
Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale.
By Willie Nelson and David Ritz.
Oct. 2016. 304p. Penguin/Blue Rider, $21
This charming—but, alas, fictional—memoir
takes us back to the early years of famed singer/
songwriter Willie Nelson. He was struggling
artistically and financially when he wrote the
song “Pretty Paper,” which became a big hit
for Roy Orbison in 1963. (Nelson recorded his
own version a year or so later.) According to this
stylishly written story, a collaboration between
Nelson and David Ritz, Nelson was inspired by
a homeless man who was trying to make a few
bucks selling Christmas wrapping paper during
the holiday season. The book recounts Nelson’s
attempts to learn more about the man, who inspired him when he most needed inspiration.
It’s such a touching story—moving without the
cloying sweetness that plagues so many would-be inspirational tales—that we find ourselves
wishing it had actually happened. Nelson, who
has always told wonderful stories in song form,
proves he can be just as effective in print narrative. —David Pitt
By Bill James.
Nov. 2016. 176p. Severn, $28.99 (9780727886422);
James’ latest moves away from crime fiction
but finds the veteran novelist at his satiri-
cal best, as he exposes the one-upmanship,
subtle insults, backbiting, pretentiousness,
and twisted politics of academia. For readers,
it’s difficult to know whether to squirm with
embarrassment or laugh out loud at the antics
of the self-important group
of university dons featured
in the story. Dr. Lawford
Chute, president of Sedge
University, was a belligerent
visionary who aimed to make
Sedge a dominant player in
British academia by merging
the school with Charter Mill
College, a moneymaking institution offering
courses in pop-group management, pinball,
and fruit-machine repair. But his ambition
took him down wrong paths, and his rival, Dr.
Victor Tane, president of Charter Mill, turned
the tables, forcing Chute to retire in disgrace.
Tane then orchestrated the merging of the
two schools and became president of what
grew into a respected institution. Twenty years
later, Chute’s tarnished reputation has been re-
stored, and the university has decided to erect
statues to him and Tane for their brilliance and
vision. Now, however, the real test begins, as
the Commemorative Statues Committee is
faced with the daunting task of determining
the relative size and position of the two sculp-
tures as well as choosing the model on which
the sculptor will base the two works. A droll,
delightful, skillfully written piece of academic
satire. —Emily Melton
Show Me a Mountain.
By Kerry Young.
Dec. 2016. 400p. Bloomsbury, $27 (9781408869550).
The third book in Young’s trilogy that began with Pao (2011), about the history and
politics of Jamaica, begins in the 1930s and
tells the story of Fay, a young, half-Chi-nese, half-African woman caught between
two identities and two worlds. Born into a
wealthy family, Fay is harassed by her mother
and ostracized by her peers because of her
light skin. She marries a Chinese racketeer
and possible communist and gets caught up
in the politics of the time, which lead her
into the dark underbelly of Jamaica. Fay,
a nuanced character who can aggravate at
times with her passivity, is a perfect vehicle
to highlight the intersection of the personal
and political. Readers of the first two novels will relish this third perspective, though
new readers may be frustrated by underdeveloped secondary characters. Show Me a
Mountain cracks open a world many only see
as a paradise and would pair well with other
recent fiction about Jamaica, like Nicole
Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun (2016)
and Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven
Killings (2014). —Kathy Sexton
Sisters One, Two, Three.
By Nancy Star.
Jan. 2017. 350p. Amazon/Lake Union, paper, $14.95
The four Tangle children were close, sharing
secrets and hatching plans under the watch-
ful eyes of their brutally honest mother,
Glory, and their perpetually nervous father,
Solly. But a tragic accident on a vacation
to Martha’s Vineyard killed the only Tangle
son and fractured the family forever. Gin-
ger, Mimi, and Callie all grew up to process
their brother’s accident in their own unique
ways—Ginger planned for the worst and
hoped for the best, Mimi became a heli-
copter parent to her three boys, and Callie
removed herself from the family entirely.
Decades later, Ginger, Mimi, and Callie find
themselves together again after Glory passes,
working through their shared grief and learn-
ing the truth behind their childhood tragedy.
An emotionally gripping portrait of a fam-
ily’s secrets and confessions, the novel jumps
between the 1970s and the present day. Star
brings all the members of the Tangle clan to
life—these are multifaceted, complex char-
acters with remarkable depth and nuance.
Readers will enjoy seeing childhood quirks
resurface in the Tangle adults, and fans of Ja-
mie Brenner and Elizabeth Kelly will adore
this compelling multigenerational story.
The Thunder beneath Us.
By Nicole Blades.
Nov. 2016. 320p. Dafina, paper, $15 (9781496704597).
At first glance, you’d never know that Best
Lightburn had a heartbreaking childhood and
a terrible secret. She’s a smart, witty writer at
one of New York’s top fashion magazines, and
she’s made a name for herself in the savage
Manhattan media world. Industry gossip and
romantic entanglements are decent distractions, but a cold Christmas Eve in Montreal
still weighs heavily on her conscience. Best
and her brothers decided to take a shortcut
across a frozen lake that December night, but
Best was the only one who was found alive.
Now that her glittering New York world is
threatening to collapse under the weight of
her guilt, Best has an opportunity to absolve
herself and embrace her future. Author and
journalist Blades has crafted a fast-paced,
immersive story of reinvention, hard-won
confidence, and the power of self-acceptance. Best’s journey of personal growth is
the centerpiece of this genuine and hopeful
story. Fans of Lynda Rutledge and Kimberla
Lawson Roby will enjoy the stubborn yet vulnerable heroine, the warmth of Blades’ voice,
and an insider’s glimpse into an elite industry.
By Jaimee Wriston Colbert.
Oct. 2016. 200p. BkMk, paper, $15.95 (9781943491056).
Colbert (Shark Girls, 2009) hones her
clarion vision of the interconnectedness and
vulnerability of life in this edgy, knowing, situationally complex, and emotionally intricate
short story collection. Set in the decimated
watershed of the Susquehanna River, and inspiring comparisons to Joyce Carol Oates and
Bonnie Jo Campbell, these loosely linked and