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Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgeman
Here are our Top 5 picks for the Best Books of the Month!
As always, you can visit our Best Books of the Month page here to see all of our list.
Spotlight: In Bettyville: A Memoir, author George Hodgeman leaves Manhattan for Paris to take care of his aging mother. Amazon editor Erin Kodicek quips in her review, "Did I mention that it's Paris, Missouri?" That certainly changes things, and Hodgeman isn't exactly happy to have returned. According to Kodicek, "Paris hadn't proven to be the most hospitable place for someone coming to terms with his sexuality. This was compounded by the fact that Hodgman's parents didn't approve of who he 'turned out to be,' which was as specific as they were willing to get on the matter." Despite all this, you will fall in love with Hodgeman's mother Betty, even if Bettyville "serves as a poignant cautionary tale about the dangers of leaving difficult things unsaid."
Pick #2: Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk describes her "journey from crippling grief to something resembling grace," according to Kodicek. After her father dies, Macdonald--a naturalist and falconer--decides to occupy herself with the training of a goshawk. "Doesn't sound like your kind of thing?" Kodicek asks in her review of the book. "You'd be surprised. Macdonald's gorgeously wrought prose holds you in thrall from the first page, and provides something akin to the escape, and salvation, that nature provides her. In 'Hawk' you will also learn about the famed Arthurian novelist T.H. White, a kindred soul to Macdonald in certain ways. One of the things that endeared him to her was his 'childish delight' with all things wild, something you'll be hard-pressed not to experience as soon as you tap into this tome." This was a huge best seller in England, and it looks to be soaring here in the States as well.
Pick #3: Olen Steinhauer has made our Best of the Month list before. Editor Seira Wilson describes his latest, All the Old Knives, as having "a disarmingly quiet start"--but she goes on to write that "good spy novels are like good spies: they draw you in, earn your trust, and then grab hold with both hands." As for the story, Wilson sums it up thusly: "In Vienna during the mid-2000s Henry and Celia were intelligence agents and lovers who witnessed a terrorist hijacking as it took a shocking turn. Five years later, the two meet over dinner at a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea where Celia now lives as a civilian, to recall the events of the past. As the remembrances overlap with the present moment, tension mounts and questions of who did what to whom, and why, become increasingly urgent. By the last 100 pages Steinhauer's hook is firmly embedded and it's hard not to race to the finish."
Pick #4: Here's what I wrote for Dead Wake: "On May 1st, 1915 the Lusitania set sail on its final voyage. That it was sunk by a German U-boat will be news to few"”and Larson's challenge is to craft a historical narrative leading up to the thrilling, if known, conclusion, building anticipation in his readers along the way. To his credit, he makes the task look easy. Focusing on the politics of WWI, on nautical craftsmanship and strategy, and on key players in the eventual attack and sinking of the "fast, comfortable, and beloved" Lusitania, Larson once again illustrates his gift for seducing us with history and giving it a human face.
Pick #5: Amazon's Al Woodworth describes David Vann's Aquarium as "an elegant and fierce novel about love, betrayal, the limits of forgiveness, and 'unconscious child-joy that [can] explode like the sun.'" The novel is about a twelve year old girl who spends every afternoon at the Seattle Aquarium, where she waits for her single mother to finish her job and take her home. "At the aquarium," Woodworth writes, "an old man who loves fish as much as Caitlin, befriends her, cracking open a family secret that will change her life forever. She begins to fight with her mother, all-out confrontations that are raw, rapt and unforgettable; falls into deep young love with another twelve year old; and the joyful dream of having a bigger family threatens all that she's known. Aquarium is beautifully and patiently written, and will make you ache with remembrance and empathy. "
I'll post the rest of the Best Books of the Month next week, including our Debut Spotlight.