Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and/or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from April 17 through 21 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.
Monday, April 17
There Your Heart Lies, by Mary Gordon
Gordon performs another astute and powerful variation on the Jamesian theme of American innocents abroad. A student at Vassar in 1936, Marian Taylor breaks the bonds to her wealthy, harshly conservative family in the wake of her father’s disastrous reaction to her brother Johnny’s homosexuality, sailing off to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War with Johnny’s lover. Gordon’s masterful pairing of passionately descriptive, stunningly revelatory action scenes with Marian and granddaughter Amelia’s interior monologues convey with arresting insights and startling immediacy the intersection of brutality and faith, the “appeal of tyranny,” the infectious nature of fear and hate, and the lifesaving courage of love.
Tuesday, April 18
The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship, by Philip Pullman
Rescued from drowning by a time-traveling ghost ship, Christina Henderson makes the acquaintance of young John Blake, swept up by the currents of time when he was an unintentional participant in a secret, ocean-based experiment. Pullman threads this complicated plot with measures of awe and menace, and for his first expedition into the graphic novel format, he proves an expert visual storyteller. Fordham animates with characters who have the detail and agility of a Studio Ghibli cast.
Wednesday, April 19
The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve
After the wettest spring in memory, the summer of 1947 is dry and scorching in coastal Maine. Grace welcomes the long days that allow her to get out with her two young children, but at home, they only heighten the turbulence in her struggling marriage. Life changes overnight when wildfires sweep down the coast, destroying everything in their path. Though the characters lack dimension, best-selling Shreve’s (Stella Bain, 2013) portrayal of a community in a natural disaster is on point, and Grace’s self-discovery in her time of need is genuine. Ultimately, this is a suspenseful and heartwarming story of not just overcoming but also growing in the face of great difficulty.
Thursday, April 20
Real Friends, by Shannon Hale
At its best, friendship is breezy and affirming, but getting there isn’t always so easy. Best-seller Hale knows this firsthand, and in this winsome graphic memoir, dynamically illustrated with Pham’s lively artwork, she gives readers insight into her own, sometimes rocky relationships. Pham’s brightly colored panels are the perfect complement to Hale’s nuanced story, particularly when she zooms in on reactions, subtle gestures, and facial expressions that add captivating emotional depth. A wistful, affecting, and utterly charming exploration of the realities of childhood friendship.
Friday, April 21
The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, by Susan Bordo
Millions of people were disappointed by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election. Women of Hillary’s age understood viscerally how difficult and uncharted the societal journey had been for women growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, and their support for Hillary had been combined with admiration for one of their own who kept fighting. Writing personally and precisely, Bordo describes the frustrations she and others felt when younger women dismissed Clinton as “establishment” without knowing her history. Hillary haters will find little to agree with here, but this perceptive, thoroughly readable book will strike a chord with her supporters and prove enlightening to many others hoping to make sense of a contentious election.