(April - 2010 pub date)
Four unforgettable characters beckon you into this spellbinding new novel from Sue Miller, the author of 2008’s heralded best seller The Senator’s Wife. First among them is Wilhelmina—Billy—Gertz, small as a child, fiercely independent, powerfully committed to her work as a playwright. The story itself centers on The Lake Shore Limited—a play Billy has written about an imagined terrorist bombing of that train as it pulls into Union Station in Chicago, and about a man waiting to hear the fate of his estranged wife, who is traveling on it. Billy had waited in just such a way on 9/11 to hear whether her lover, Gus, was on one of the planes used in the attack.
The novel moves from the snow-filled woods of Vermont to the rainy brick sidewalks of Boston as the lives of the other characters intersect and interweave with Billy’s: Leslie, Gus’s sister, still driven by grief years after her brother’s death; Rafe, the actor who rises to greatness in a performance inspired by a night of incandescent lovemaking; and Sam, a man irresistibly drawn to Billy after he sees the play that so clearly displays the terrible conflicts and ambivalence of her situation.
How Billy has come to create the play out of these emotions, how it is then created anew on the stage, how the performance itself touches and changes the other characters’ lives—these form the thread that binds them all together and drives the novel compulsively forward.
A powerful love story; a mesmerizing tale of entanglements, connections, and inconsolable losses; a marvelous reflection on the meaning of grace and the uses of sorrow, in life and in art: The Lake Shore Limited is Sue Miller at her dazzling best.
Men and Dogs; Katie Crouch (April 2010)
When Hannah Legare was 11, her father went on a fishing trip in the Charleston harbor and never came back. And while most of the town and her family accepted Buzz's disappearance, Hannah remained steadfastly convinced of his imminent return.
Twenty years later Hannah's new life in San Francisco is unraveling. Her marriage is on the rocks, her business is bankrupt. After a disastrous attempt to win back her husband, she ends up back at her mother's home to "rest up", where she is once again sucked into the mystery of her missing father. Suspecting that those closest are keeping secrets--including Palmer, her emotionally closed, well-mannered brother and Warren, the beautiful boyfriend she left behind--Hannah sets out on an uproarious, dangerous quest that will test the whole family's concepts of loyalty and faith.
Settled into the Wild ; Susan Shetterly (Jan. 2010)
Starred Review. I live on land that has not surrendered the last of its wildness, Shetterly (The New Year's Owl: Encounters with Animals, People and the Land They Share) writes of her home in rural Maine. It keeps secrets, and those secrets prompt us to pay attention, to look for more. In her first essay collection in more than 20 years, she beautifully renders some of what she's learned in the decades since she and her then husband moved into an unfinished cabin—idealistic, dangerously unprepared, and, frankly, arrogant, she can see now. Most of these essays, however, focus on life after she's settled in, when she's learned to listen for the sounds of the coming spring through her open bedroom window or impulsively stands down a bobcat that's chased a baby rabbit into the middle of the road. Shetterly's eye for poetic detail is exquisite, especially in longer essays such as the story of how she nursed an injured raven back to health, after which it set up home on her roof and became best friends with her terrier. But she writes about her neighbors (even those she admits she never really knew) with equal grace and empathy. Let's hope it's not another quarter-century before her next collection arrives.
What great books did you hear about/discover this past week?