The books we love coming out this week include new titles by Hannah Howard, Terry M. Wildman, and Ginny Myers Sain.
Food writer Howard (Feast) offers up a delectable account of her quest to discover female role models and self-acceptance. Her trek is both geographical and psychological as she travels the globe in search of strong female mentors in the male-dominated world of food, and recalls her personal war with anorexia. “My love for food was profound and profoundly complicated,” she writes, “a point of passion and connection... love and commitment.” From her home in New York City to Oslo to Italy, she recounts encounters with women who had sought to change an industry where misogyny is deeply ingrained. She joins her former coworker Jenise, a chef and pesto aficionado, on a revelatory trip to Orcas Island, and swaps stories with Italian chef Paola Martinenghi, a kindred spirit who—after working as the only woman in a Michelin-starred restaurant—left the business for a Skype cooking school, where she teaches aspiring chefs from her own kitchen. Along the way, Howard recounts her struggles to have a baby with a refreshing candidness that inspires hope, even when recalling her most desperate moments. Readers will fall in love with Howard’s astute perspective on food, love, and the richness both bring to life.
In this excellent work, Ojibwe storyteller Wildman (Sign Language) translates the New Testament into the “way of speaking” and worldview of “English-speaking First Nations people of North America.” The result is a stimulating rendering of the life of Creator Sets Free (Jesus) and his Good Road (Gospel). Familiar characters, teachings, and stories are given new life and new meaning, including the letters of Small Man (Paul), churches in the Land of Pale Skins (Galatia), the concept of “bad hearts and broken ways” (sin), or when Creator’s Mighty One (the angel Gabriel) visits Bitter Tears (Mary) to tell her she “will be with child and give birth to a son. You will name him Creator Sets Free.” While Wildman recasts the New Testament in a distinctly Indigenous image, he remains faithful to evangelical interpretations of Christian scripture, typified in the many italicized explanations that appear throughout and are meant to add “reasonably implied” clarifications and cultural notes, such as explication on ancient festivals like the Pentecost. This remarkable retelling offers plenty of rewards and will especially pique those open to a novel interpretation of the religious text.
Art historian Fossi (Art in Florence) and photographers De Marco and Dondero trace how Vincent van Gogh’s travels inspired his art in this perceptive, richly illustrated work. Fossi maps out van Gogh’s life in chronological order, weaving together letters, paintings, and images, along with contemporary photographs from De Marco and Dondero, who set out on a trip across Europe to photograph the geography and places that inspired his works. In doing so, van Gogh emerges as an irrepressible man “whose wild and restless wandering... propelled him to the forefront of Western art.” Born in 1853, van Gogh learned to draw in his hometown in Zundert in the Netherlands before moving to Ramsgate, England, where he found inspiration in the town’s houses, rendered in a yellow hue that struck him as “both physical and psychological.” After failing at teaching and the ministry, van Gogh committed to art, moving to Paris in 1886 to live with his brother Theo and finding edification in his friendships with post-impressionists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. His move to Provence deepened his obsession with nature and color, even as his “ruthless introspection” overwhelmed him and inspired his most iconic work, The Starry Night (1889). Insightful and illuminating, this poetic work will entrance historians, artists, and art lovers.
Green-eyed Grey, 17, returns every summer to La Cachette, La., the “Psychic Capital of the World,” to help run her grandmother’s spiritualist bookstore. One of 10 Summer Children born in one year, most assumed white, Grey is determined to uncover what happened to best friend and fellow Summer Child Elora, who’s been missing for several months. Though many suspect Dempsey Fontenot, believed to have killed four-year-old twins and Summer Children Ember and Orli years ago, others think a rougarou, or werewolf, is to blame. When a mysterious blue-eyed stranger begins asking questions about the twins’ suspected killer, Grey’s latent psychic abilities activate—but though she experiences flashes through Elora’s eyes, she cannot decode them, or understand why the other Summer Children want her to leave. With a hurricane barreling toward La Cachette, Grey’s investigation into Elora’s disappearance soon turns deadly. Infused with Creole and Cajun legends and language, Myers Sain’s dreamy prose conjures a mythical Southern Gothic atmosphere, mixing violence with a Byronic characterization of Elora’s stepbrother Hart. Taut pacing builds sustained terror on the page with each successive suspect in this formidable debut. Ages 14–up.
The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory
Dutch lawyer and novelist van Iperen weaves a spellbinding story of resistance and survival during WWII. Lien Brilleslijper, a dancer, and her younger sister Janny, who was newly married and pregnant when war broke out in 1939, became active members of the Dutch resistance, printing an underground newspaper, hiding political refugees, and making fake identity cards for Dutch Jews trying to avoid deportation. In the summer of 1941, with both sisters’ families facing arrest, they fled their respective homes for a house in the forest near the village of Naarden that became a resistance center and refuge for Jews fleeing the Nazis. Betrayed by an informer in 1944, they were arrested and transported to Auschwitz and then Bergen-Belsen with Anne Frank and her family. Tens of thousands of prisoners, including Anne and her sister Margot, died before British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen in April 1945, but Janny and Lien survived. Van Iperen’s prose is poetic without lapsing into sentimentality, and she maintains suspense from the first page to the last. Offering fascinating insights into Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, the fate of the Frank family, and the bonds of sisterly devotion, this standout history isn’t to be missed.
Theoretical physicist Alexander (The Jazz of Physics) searches the far reaches of the cosmos while addressing the experiences of marginalized people in STEM fields in his refreshing survey. He begins by outlining three principles that underlie humans’ knowledge of the universe—invariance (about the speed of light and relativity), the quantum principle (about subatomic forces), and the principle of emergence (about how life comes from elements)—before considering more mysterious aspects of the universe such as dark matter and the cosmic biosphere. As he describes different theories, Alexander adds personal anecdotes about his experience as a Black man in science (“Though I had the same technical training as my postdoc peers,” he writes, “my social isolation enabled me to... embrace ideas on the fringes of established knowledge”), his friendships with other scientists, and how he became interested in physics. He argues that one should “never be afraid of even the most absurd ideas, and even to embrace them,” and that minority voices ought be elevated because of the “outsider’s perspective” they bring. Diversity in science, he writes, “is not simply a social justice concern...it enhances the quality of the science we accomplish.” The result is both an excellent work of advocacy and a welcoming introduction to physics.
These 32 superior stories from Lambda Award winner Brenchley (Bitter Waters) represent a tiny fraction of the gifted, prolific author’s output, but nevertheless showcase his ability to craft impactful shorts. Even the flash fiction pieces, among them “White Tea for the Tiller Man” and “Quinquereme of Nineveh,” pack considerable punch. Brenchley’s radiant prose is one reason: “Another Chart of the Silences” begins: “Some people think that a breathless hush is the natural state of the universe, as darkness is: that sound is like light, a rebellion of angels, a thin and fierce and ultimately doomed attempt to hold back the crushing weight of utter stillness.” The narrator of this standout entry pushes back against that belief, maintaining instead that white noise is a universal constant. What follows is a surprising encounter with a boy who’s drawn into the narrator’s efforts to chart the possibly haunted, shipwrecking rocks known as the Silences. The sea also figures in another of the more memorable tales, the fun “Keep the Aspidochelone Floating,” which features Brenchley’s recurring character Sailor Martin. Every entry enhances creative plots and plausible characterizations with outstanding writing. This sampler of Brenchley’s work makes clear his mastery.
In James’s excellent 14th Cat in the Stacks mystery (after 2020’s Cat Me If You Can), librarian Charlie Harris is surprised to find himself the owner of his grandfather Robert Harris’s farmhouse in Athena, Miss. Robert died in a nursing home over 40 years earlier, and Charlie believed the property was sold shortly before his death. Charlie’s son, Sean, who’s also his lawyer, reveals Robert only leased the home to Martin Hale for the duration of Hale’s own life. With Hale having just died, ownership reverts to Charlie, a shock as well to Hale’s grandson, also named Martin, who expected to inherit it. After Charlie visits the farmhouse, his cat, Diesel, finds a human skull and bones in the attic. Meanwhile, the body of grandson Martin turns up on the property, and the timing of the murder leads Charlie to suspect a connection to the remains in the attic. The solution’s both fair and satisfying, and Charlie is a plausible investigator and the supporting cast realistic. This entry reinforces James’s place in the top rank of cozy authors.