Reviews of the Week with Einat Tsarfati, Esi Edugyan, Dhonielle Clayton, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from December 17–December 21 below.


Monday, December 17

The Neighbors, by Einat Tsarfati

A redheaded girl with a frog umbrella lives on the seventh floor of an apartment building. As she makes her way upstairs, she imagines who lives in each unit, based on clues surrounding the doors she passes. For example, the first door has so many locks because it belongs to thieves specializing in ancient Egyptian artifacts. The light shuts off by the fourth floor’s apartment door because of the fashionista vampire living there. And there could clearly be no other explanation for another door’s pickled fish scent other than that a pirate and mermaid live underwater inside. This book is one delightful, imaginative reveal after another, ending with a fabulous double-twist chuckle.


Tuesday, December 18

The New Iberia Blues, by James Lee Burke

At 82, Burke just keeps getting better, his familiar theme of an idyllic past at war with a demon-drenched present taking on more subtle levels of meaning; his storied lyricism drawing on a new range of powerfully resonant minor chords; his now-iconic characters—Cajun police detective Dave Robicheaux and Dave’s running buddy and guardian angel, Clete Purcell (“a heart as big as the world”)—feeling weighed down by the burden of age yet at the same time emboldened by the knowledge that although “we would never change the world . . . the world would never change us.” In this twenty-second Robicheaux novel, Dave is again threatened by forces from within and without, but this time, those forces interact to produce a kind of nuclear reaction on the lives of Robicheaux, his loved ones, and the inhabitants of New Iberia, Louisiana.


Wednesday, December 19

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan, Read by Dion Graham

The deeply empathetic, decisively chameleonic Graham proves himself to be an ideal aural collaborator for Edugyan’s (Half-Blood Blues, 2012) stupendous novel, shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and Man Booker Prize. George Washington Black, called “Wash,” is a young slave on Faith Plantation in 1830s Barbados. He is first owned by one brother, then stolen by another. Recognizing Wash’s intellectual and artistic gifts, rebel scientist Titch makes Wash his assistant, and the two escape the island via hot-air balloon (a literary first?), setting in motion a worldwide odyssey through North America, the Arctic, Europe, and Morocco. Graham embodies Wash in all his incarnations, from a frightened boy who grows into an accomplished young man, forced to struggle, suffer, and fight; who learns to trust, to love,  and to surrender to compassion and even forgiveness.


Thursday, December 20

Memories of the Future, by Siri Hustvedt

At the close of the 1970s, an aspiring writer from Minnesota has given herself a year to complete a novel before starting graduate school. She moves to New York, finds a grubby little apartment, copes with loneliness and hunger, and listens through the wall as her neighbor Lucy Brite darkly chants, “I’m sad.” The writer chronicles her increasingly bizarre, intermittently funny, ultimately traumatizing experiences in a journal to which we’re privy; we also read her novel about two teen sleuths, Ian (enthralled by Sherlock Holmes) and Isadora (refusing to play Watson). In the present, Hustvedt’s sixtysomething narrator muses over her past, reaching back to wounding childhood moments, and ponders, with stirring lucidity, time, memory, self, and the role stories play in this quicksilver triad.


Friday, December 21

  The Everlasting Rose, by Dhonielle Clayton

Clayton’s eagerly anticipated sequel picks up where the explosive events of The Belles (2018) left readers dangling from a well-crafted cliff. Camille’s innocence has been stripped away, and our beloved, once-naive Belle has blossomed into a gloriously ambitious and rightfully enraged young woman who is hell bent on liberating her Belle sisters, finding the missing Princess Charlotte, and ripping the throne of Orléans out of Sophia’s evil hands. But none of these goals prove easy with Sophia’s imperial forces hunting Camille, her sister Edel, and her handsome guard Rémy. When Camille learns Sophia is constructing a prison to enslave Belles and chain them to the ugly demands of the kingdom, the stakes spike higher than ever.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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