Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from July 13–17 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
Monday, July 13th
Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
Franzen follows Freedom (2010) with Purity, a novel in which his signature qualities converge in a new, commanding fluidity, from his inquiry into damaged families to his awed respect for nature, brainy drollery, and precise, resonant detail. Pip is a lonely and floundering young woman burdened with massive student debt and living with odd roommates in a derelict mansion in Oakland, California.
Tuesday, July 14th
The Hired Girl, by Laura Amy Schlitz
Growing up on a hardscrabble farm, Joan learned to avoid her cruel father, but she adored her mother, who encouraged her to work hard, study her lessons, and earn her own way in the world. In 1911, after Ma’s death, 14-year-old Joan clashes with her father and flees to Baltimore. Representing herself as 18, she is taken into the household of a wealthy Jewish family as a hired girl.
Wednesday, July 15th
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
Jean Louise Finch is back home in Maycomb, Alabama, for a visit, after living in New York City just long enough to gain a new perspective on her past and her future. At 26, she is self-deprecating, impulsive, argumentative, sensitive, and conflicted. Called Scout as a motherless girl, she was a “howling tomboy,” “juvenile desperado, hell-raiser extraordinary.”
Thursday, July 16th
Fear of Dying, by Erica Jong
Fear of Flying (1973), Jong’s sexually candid first novel starring the intrepid Isadora Wing, rocked the zeitgeist. Two dozen books later, Jong presents a new erotically forthright and slyly philosophical novel about an irreverent sexpot New Yorker struggling to adjust to turning 60 while caring for her beloved aging poodle, seriously ailing parents, and older billionaire husband (her fourth) turned cardiac patient.
Friday, July 17th
The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Steven’s parents just had a baby, Theo, but there’s something wrong with him, and a pall of worry and sadness falls over his family. Meanwhile, a papery wasp’s nest appears under the eaves of the house, just outside Theo’s room, and Steven starts to dream of an angelic wasp who promises to fix whatever’s wrong with the baby. At first, Steven is comforted by the wasp’s soft assurances.