Book Review

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April showers bring May flowers, but the publishing scene this month is curiously slow; I only read two new books coming out this month. Fortunately, I have news about a local author and a review of a WWI mystery series that is worth reading. Enjoy!

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a lovely, lovable bookselling fairy tale that might have been written to encourage those folks who yearn to open a neighborhood bookstore after they retire. (A warning to those wide-eyed optimists: This book should NOT be read as a business plan!) When AJ Fikry, grieving widower and owner of a failing bookstore, finds a baby girl abandoned in his shop, he is forced to reach out to his neighbors and his sister-in-law for help. Despite his determination to hand the girl over to social services and resume drinking himself to death, he is charmed by Maya’s absolute faith in him, and finds it impossible to give her away to strangers. And thus begins his story of redemption, told in chapters whose titles are those of famous short stories; each chapter is preceded by AJ’s thoughts on that particular story, addressed to someone whose identity gradually becomes clear.  Having an adopted daughter forces AJ to become part of the community he has shunned since his wife’s death, and the community responds by supporting the bookstore. If you love reading, if you enjoy browsing in bookstores wherever you travel, if the thought of a new book is intoxicating, this is your book. But please, have a real business plan before you open your store!

Jenny Milchman is a local author whose first mystery, Cover of Snow, was published last January. Her second mystery, Ruin Falls, will be out this month. It is a fast-paced, well-plotted mystery about every parent’s worst nightmare—child abduction. Liz and Paul and their two children are on their way to visit Paul’s parents in western New York when they decide to spend a night at a hotel on the way. When Liz wakes up the next morning, the children are gone. Frantic, she calls the police, who question her and Paul closely and issue an Amber Alert. But when Paul disappears too, the case is downgraded to a domestic dispute, and Liz is on her own. Her efforts to find her children and the dramatic circumstances in which she finds them make this an exciting read. Jenny Milchman will be appearing at local bookstores towards the end of April; you can check her tour schedule at www.jennymilchman.com.

Lydia Davis is a short story writer, a translator and professor of creative writing at the University of Albany. She was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, and she has a new story collection entitled Can’t and Won’t: Stories coming out this month, just in time for her to read from it at the McKinney Writing Contest Award Ceremony at RPI on April 16.  Further information on her reading and signing can be found at the New York State Writers Institute website.  

If you, like me, are trying to read about World War One this year, the Inspector Ian Rutledge series of mysteries by Charles Todd is worth considering.  Set in post-war Britain, featuring a shell-shocked inspector from Scotland Yard haunted by his wartime actions, it is a thoughtful look at the effect the “war to end all wars” had on the people who lived through it. A Test of Wills is the first in the 16 (so far) titles in the series.

Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.
 

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