Picking up Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side (Viking, Sept.) my breathing immediately slowed as I immersed myself in his glorious, musical way of arranging words and sentences then paragraphs and chapters. Barry takes quiet lives, in this instance Lilly Bere’s, adds the backdrop of political turmoil in Ireland after WWI, couples it with the expanse of 21st-century America, and ends up with a story that is both epic and intimate. Over 17 days Lilly tells us of her life, her losses, her sorrow—yet I was left with hopefulness and beauty. She writes, “I stood there, an utterly old, ruined, finished woman and the breath was taken out of me, but not by grief or human vengeance.” That is what this masterful storyteller does—take your breath away, after taking your hand and walking you through these lives, creating attachment and empathy for his characters yet leaving you with joy; appreciating light from the dark. You are safe and satisfied and enriched by his writing.