Reviews of the Week, with Rachel Kushner, Madeleine Albright, Tom McAllister, and More!

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 March 19–23 below.


Monday, March 26

 The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room is a seedy San Francisco strip club, a dark little planet where interactions are strictly cash-based, just the way Romy Hall likes it. But one regular customer plunges into obsession, and now Romy is heading to prison for life two times over. In smart, determined, and vigilant Romy, Kushner (The Flamethrowers, 2013), an acclaimed writer of exhilarating skills, has created a seductive narrator of tigerish intensity whose only vulnerability is her young son.





Tuesday, March 27

 We Are All That’s Left, by Carrie Arcos

Zara just doesn’t get her mother; the woman lives by rules that make no sense. She knows that her mother suffered greatly in her native Bosnia, where she lost her entire family. But her reticence on the subject feels like one more way to shut out her daughter. Everything changes, however, when terrorists bomb the farmer’s market, injuring Zara and leaving her mother in a coma. Desperate for connection in the wake of the attack, Zara discovers a box containing photographs and clues from her mother’s teenage years.


Wednesday, March 28

 How to be Safe, by Tom McAllister

Dozens are dead or wounded after a high-school shooting in Seldom Falls, Pennsylvania, and suspended-teacher Anna Crawford is an early suspect. Combining a deep character study, prescient satire, and an unfortunately all-too-timely evisceration of U.S. gun culture, McAllister’s (The Young Widower’s Handbook, 2017) well-voiced and remarkably observed page-turner is in almost all ways an anti-thriller—itself a comment on the current, terrifying mundanity of similar events.





Thursday, March 29

 Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

The founders of fascism—Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin—and fascism’s current practitioners—Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdogan—are profiled in former secretary of state and author Albright’s (Prague Winter, 2012) cautionary primer on what democracy’s antithesis looks like. With America’s global standing now downgraded from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy” by the Economist Intelligence Unit, this is no time for complacency. Albright outlines the warning signs of fascism and offers concrete actions for restoring America’s values and reputation.


Friday, March 30

La Frontera, by  Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva, illustrated by Claudia Navarro, translated by Mariá A. Pérez

Alfredo Alva and his family love their life in the Mexican village of La Ceja, where Papá and Abuelo gather pine nuts from trees and stack corn. When Abuelo can no longer help, Papá can’t provide enough for the family. Abuelo tells Papá he must travel somewhere with better opportunities, and soon a man called Coyote comes to receive payment to help Papá, with Alfredo in tow, cross the Frontera—­the border—into Texas.  So simple but so beautiful, the story depicts what many must go through when seeking a better life in America.



About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the former Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist.

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