In the Mail

–> Back to Wando Passo by David Payne

From Booklist

In this ambitious novel, Payne ( Gravesend Light, 2000) intertwines two troubled marriages–one contemporary and one from the 1860s–for a blend of history and suspense that deals with racism, slavery, miscegenation, incest, and voodoolike practices, as foreboding builds until the two stories intersect. At 45, former rock star Ransom “Ran” Hill, bipolar and off his meds, returns to his wife, Claire Delay, who took their children and left him five months earlier for her family home of Wando Passo, a former plantation south of Charleston. Although Ran desperately loves his wife of 19 years, Claire is making a new life with a new love, a story mirrored by the account of her ancestors that resurfaces when two skeletons are found on her property. Alternating chapters tell of Harlan Delay, who married Adie Huger to save himself from the sorrow and pain that ensued after his father brought home a black Cuban woman whom he loved but kept enslaved. Despite an occasional inconsistency or unanswered question, Payne handles this novel of love, loss, and betrayal deftly.

–> The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist (The Surrogate; The Departed) and Hollywood writer Mackel shows her screenwriting prowess in her latest suspense offering, for better and for worse. When Harvard-trained psychologist Susan Stone returns to her childhood home, a Colorado horse ranch, she has a load of emotional baggage related to her family. Her efforts to help a young man who appears to be an abuse victim play out as a local sheriff (a close childhood friend) investigates a series of bizarre murders that might involve the young man.

As a writer who has adapted two Frank Peretti novels for the screen, Mackel can pen dialogue that smoothly drives the plot forward. The downside of a Hollywood connection is the trendy preoccupation with crime scene investigations involving the sheriff and some hard-boiled forensics types. Mackel could also work on making her bad guys more convincing; the villain’s vocabulary is inexcusably cheesy. However, the Christian content is coolly subtle; when characters express faith, it flows naturally from plot, and many readers will be fascinated by the book’s underlying theme of demonic possession. With imaginative plotting, depth of detail and strong dialogue (from all but the villain), Mackel shows great promise as part of the new and improved wave of faith fiction.

–> Framed by Tonino Benacquista, Adriana Hunter (Translator)

Book Description

Antoine, a fanatic billiards player, is asked to watch over a Paris art gallery. When he scuffles with a thief a statue falls and severs his right hand. His maverick investigation leads to the discovery of a series of gruesome killings. Soon Antoine finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of a gallery owner. A game of billiards decides the outcome of this satirical tale which brilliantly captures the world of modern art and the parasites that infest it.

About the Author

Benacquista, born in France of Italian immigrants, dropped out of film studies to finance his writing career. After being a museum night watchman, a train guard and a parasite on the Paris gallery opening and cocktail circuit, he is now a successful author and screenwriter.

–> Bodies of Work by Kathy Acker

From Kirkus Reviews

With enervating experimentation but touching directness, postmodern novelist Acker (Portrait of an Eve, 1992; My Mother: Demonology, 1993; etc.) explores art, politics, and being in her first essay collection. Subjects are various, ranging from William Burroughs to Goya to San Francisco; many of the pieces have been published previously (prefaces to books, articles in Marxism Today, the Critical Quarterly, etc.). Despite the variety of subjects and sources, the collection is neatly structured: Essays are grouped agreeably by subject–“On Art and Artists,” “The City,” “Bodies of Work.”

Though Acker says she aims to “destroy” the essay form, she does more of what the form openly invites–to tinker and confess. For example, she interweaves stories into a piece on artist Nayland Blake and applies Wittgenstein’s “language games” to bodybuilding: “In a gym, verbal language or language whose purpose is meaning occurs, if at all, only at the edge of becoming lost.” But she also reveals her current weightlifting goals and describes a childhood desire to be a pirate. Not surprisingly, her most accessible works are those written for a wide audience, particularly an illuminating essay for the Village Voice on film director Peter Greenaway and a moving piece for the MMLA on copyright in the age of the Internet.

In all, these essays are serious and reflective of a discontented mind bent on deconstruction. Some may find dreary her tale of patriarchy, dualism, and linearity of time; her elliptical tales and stark sentences may lack immediate clarity. For sure, her essays aren’t casually authoritative like Updike’s or reassuringly religious like Dillard’s. Read Acker when you’re patient and don’t want to be comforted–or even satisfied. An unthreatening introduction to a vexing writer.

–> The World Before Mirrors by Joan Connor

From Publishers Weekly

Author of several collections of short stories (History Lessons) and winner of a Pushcart Prize, Connor tries her hand at creative nonfiction with essays that are part memoir, part rumination on memory. Unlucky in love (twice divorced and, she notes, never loved by any man other than her father), Connor, who has taught fiction writing for over a decade at Ohio University, explains in the title essay that she had planned to spend all her money, then kill herself (a man from her past foils her). Other essays explore the impact of being unloved and living in a place she despises. Connor has an obvious passion for language evoked in her often poetical rhyming sentences and her use of arcane words; her vignettes are thick with adjectives and metaphor. She is less crafty with self-examination, however, and the repetitive nature of her commentary wears thin: the keening turns whiny and self-indulgent. It’s easy to see how these tales could have been crafted into superb short stories, but as essays they reveal too much yet provide too little insightful context.

–> The Catholic Church in History by Keith Lewis

Book Description
How do Catholics deal with the darkest chapters in their history, such as the Holocaust, the Inquisition, and the Crusades? Keith Lewis shows ways for Catholics to use their own tradition for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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