In the Mail


Tales from the Town of Widows by James Canon

School Library Journal:

Adult/High School–In this thought-provoking Latin-American fable, the Colombia countryside has been devastated by 40 years of civil war. Leftist guerrillas, rightist paramilitaries, and government soldiers come spouting different political slogans, but leave indistinguishable horror in their wake. In the village of Mariquita, soldiers arrive to demand volunteers; when none are forthcoming, they kill or kidnap the men and traumatize the women and children. Bereft, the women flounder at first; old rivalries are indulged, the town’s infrastructure deteriorates, and Mariquita is increasingly cut off from the outside world. The inhabitants are often exasperating, but their postapocalyptic yet nonviolent village proves to be a vivid setting for human nature to be revealed and culture reinvented. Ultimately they create a way of life suited to their resources and their female realities, and it is a delight to see this process unfold. The women’s stories (and those of the few remaining males, all with unforgettable stories of their own) have the flavor of folktales–tragic, funny, rich, and magical. In briefer alternating episodes, men’s stories of their experiences in the war are related in starkly realistic, intense fashion. The theme of a world in which women and men are separated and pursue divergent paths is always intriguing, and has been explored by a number of fine writers in science fiction, fantasy, polemic, and utopian modes. This title stands among the best of them.

POSH by Lucy Jackson

Publishers Weekly:

The pseudonymous Jackson (an “acclaimed short story writer and novelist”) plumbs the lives of those who pace the halls at New York City’s exclusive Griffin School in this accomplished novel. Varied in age and income bracket, the cast is finely drawn if familiar: Julianne Coopersmith, a middle-class teen with an overprotective mother, attends Griffin on scholarship; Morgan Goldfine, Julianne’s best friend whose mother recently died, is awash in grief; Michael Avery, Julianne’s boy wonder boyfriend, is Harvard bound; and Kathryn “Lazy” Hoffman, Griffin’s headmistress, is having a professionally verboten affair with a teacher. Cracks form in Julianne and Michael’s relationship after Michael shows signs of mental instability, though Julianne’s loathe to give up on him, even when his symptoms hint at violent tendencies. Morgan mopes her way through the school year, and Julianne’s mother strikes up an unlikely friendship with Michael’s mother. Kathryn’s affair, predictably, becomes public knowledge, sparking domestic and professional upheaval. If the plot packs few surprises, Jackson’s rendering of relationships–both toxic and positive, filial and friendly–is flawlessly executed as she flits from social strata to social strata. The similarity in cover art between this novel and Prep isn’t for nothing.

New York Echoes: Short Stories by Warren Adler

From the Publisher

New Yorkers live, laugh, struggle and cope

Acclaimed author Warren Adler focuses his laser eye on New York City in these 22 deftly crafted and compelling short stories. New York, the frenetic, tough-minded, generous-hearted city, magnet for people’s hopes and aspirations, is as vividly and lovingly portrayed here as any of the characters.

As in his celebrated novels, Adler’s themes in NEW YORK ECHOES deal primarily with intimate human relationships-the mysterious nature of love and attraction, the fragile bonds between husbands and wives, and parents and children; the divide between generations; the obsessive pursuit of the creative artist and the emotional toll it exacts. In these stories, past memories collide with present realities; with first love comes first betrayal; chance encounters have unexpected consequences; and the devastating impact of 9/11 refuses to fade, wreaking havoc years after the tragedy.

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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