Another fabulous staff-selected recommendation for your consideration.
Heather, the Totality, the first novel by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, is a peculiar artifact. Weiner has said that the book was inspired by a moment he witnessed on Manhattan’s Upper East Side: He saw a very young, very beautiful schoolgirl step into a fancy apartment building and unwittingly receive a glance full of “sex and murder and everything all at once” from a construction worker. What, he wondered, would have transpired if the girl’s father had seen the way the workman looked at his daughter?
Mark and Karen Breakstone have constructed the idyllic life of wealth and status they always wanted, made complete by their beautiful and extraordinary daughter Heather. But they are still not quite at the top. When the new owners of the penthouse above them begin construction, an unstable stranger penetrates the security of their comfortable lives and threatens to destroy everything they’ve created.
Take this short, gripping ride with the Breakstone family that Michael Chabon calls, “a tour de force of control, tone, and razor-slash insight.” Nick Cage says, “I cringed and shuddered my way through this short, daring novel to its terrible inevitable end. Each neat, measured paragraph carpaccios its characters to get to the book’s heart-one of Boschian self-cannibalizing isolation. A stunning novel. Heather, the Totality blew me away.”
READ THIS BOOK and then read Laura Miller’s thoughtful Slate review.
#11 in our new feature that offers up staff-selected recommendations for your consideration.
An appreciation for distopian fiction seems to be on the rise these days… I wonder why…. Oh, never mind that…
But do consider Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, “American War,” which is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent.” From these incongruous ingredients, El Akkad has fashioned a surprisingly powerful, engaging and readable novel — one that creates as haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy did in “The Road” (2006), and as devastating a look at the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in “The Plot Against America” (2004).
Set in the closing decades of the 21st century and the opening ones of the 22nd, El Akkad’s novel recounts what happened during the Second American Civil War between the North and South and its catastrophic aftermath. It is a story that extrapolates the deep, partisan divisions that already plague American politics and looks at where those widening splits could lead. A story that maps the palpable consequences for the world of accelerating climate change and an unraveling United States. A story that imagines what might happen if the terrifying realities of today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — drone strikes, torture, suicide bombers — were to come home to America.
A highly compelling, somewhat disturbingly real read that makes you frame and consider the headlines of today in new ways. Highly recommended.
Read the full review from the NY Times
#10 in our new feature that offers up staff-selected recommendations for your consideration.
Yes this book is getting a lot of attention — but deservedly so. With a palpable Scandinavian tone, this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, features a grumpy yet loveable man who finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon–the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness, that Backman unfolds elegantly for us. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
A feel-good story in the spirit of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry “and “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.