Reviews of the Week with Jon Gertner, Helena Fox, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, 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.

The geological history of the world’s largest island, which is covered in ice; a poetic and painterly ode to national parks; the most revealing tell-all about the ever-tumultuous daytime show The View; a rich collection of Latina and Indigenous American female voices; a beautifully written depiction of one young woman’s experience with emotional trauma. Complex stories of women and nature illuminate this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between April 8–April 12, below.

Monday, April 8

The Ice at the End of the World: Greenland’s Secret Past and Earth’s Perilous Future, by Jon Gertner

Best-selling author and accomplished science journalist Gertner (The Idea Factory, 2012) divides his vivid and dramatic chronicle of 130 years of expeditions to Greenland’s vast ice sheet into two sections: “Explorations” and “Investigations.” The first presents beyond-belief tales of daring journeys across Greenland’s immense and treacherous frozen desert by men of courage and conviction, hubris and vision, each keenly portrayed, from Fridtjof Nansen to Robert Peary, Knud Rasmussen, Peter Freuchen, and Alfred Wegener. Gertner entrances with tales of dogsleds, cold, hunger, isolation, disasters, death, and the against-all-odds collection of invaluable scientific data. Technology and military might enabled post-WWII scientists (women and men), similarly devoted to solving the “mysteries above, around, and within” that million-year-old, miles-thick “white expanse,” to conduct far more sophisticated inquires, including drilling for and analyzing ice cores which reveal the unnerving fact that the climate can “change quickly and drastically.”

Tuesday, April 9

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks, by Evan Turk

This love letter to America’s national treasures is an important, informative invitation to experience and explore. Author-illustrator Turk (Heartbeat, 2018) offers spreads of well-known parks (Yosemite, Yellow Stone, Mesa Verde) and some lesser-known parks (Biscayne Bay, Olympic, Big Bend). Animals such as bison, bobcat, chipmunk, and elk, as well as physical features of the land (glaciers, mountains, rivers, volcanoes) are pictured. Lyrical free verse tells readers that the national parks are preserved for everyone, and when we visit them, we are home. Home, Turk says, is “a memory / of footsteps and wingbeats, / of sunrise and sunset . . . /  a memory carried / through wind and rain, / echoing in canyons / carved way down deep / in the heart of the earth / and in our hearts alike.”

Wednesday, April 10

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View, by Ramin Setoodeh

And you thought the The View could get crazy on-screen (Joy Behar and Meghan McCain, we’re looking at you). This pull-back-the-curtain story of almost two decades of the groundbreaking talk show delivers. Setoodeh was able to get interviews with almost all the former hosts, as well as View creators Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie; only Whoopi Goldberg declined, but that just leaves more room for her nemesis, Rosie O’Donnell, to tell her side of the story, which she does with relish. All of the big moments are here: Star Jones, aka Bridezilla, taking over the show for almost a year with her wedding plans; Rosie and Elisabeth Hasselbeck having a split-screen fight that was so personal the audience was frightened; Walters’ long goodbye, after hanging onto the show into her 80s. But this also gets into the women’s psyches; their strengths and their insecurities; the reasons they joined, stayed, and left; their relationships with one another; and their complicated relationship with Walters, who was alternately an icon and mother figure as well as a fierce supporter and duplicitous detractor.

Thursday, April 11

Sabrina and Corina, by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Latina and Indigenous American women who long to be seen—and see themselves—are the beating heart of the stories in Fajardo-Anstine’s rich and radiant debut. Many of their parents aren’t around, and the pleas of their elders to go to church once in a while are mostly ignored, but they lean on one another. Dead or dying loved ones people many of these tales; the dazzling title story launches with woozy velocity as a makeup artist heeds her grandmother’s wish that she beautify her dead cousin for funeral viewing. In “Sugar Babies,” a class assignment to parent a bag of sugar as if it’s a human baby makes a girl question what she’s inherited from her own young mother. After her release from prison, a woman tries to stop messing up and earns the respect of her young nephew in “Tomi.” “Galapago” finds a woman, forced by crime to leave her longtime home in a gentrifying neighborhood, feeling “ashamed that even in her old age, she wanted to live more than die.”

Friday, April 12

How It Feels to Float, by Helena Fox

Biz shouldn’t be able to talk to her dad—he died when she was still a small child—but when he comes to sit on the end of her bed, Biz is comforted by the stories he tells of their time together. At first this seems like the only disquieting thing about Biz’s relationship with reality. She has friends, she does well in school, her family loves her. But after a mixed-up sexual encounter on the beach one night, Biz finds herself standing in the waves, floating out of her body. This is not the first or last time she has disconnected in this way, but this is the time that jolts her life off course. Biz is rejected by her friends, drops out of school, and can barely get out of bed. When at last she finds a purposeful mission—to travel to her father’s childhood home—it’s strange and riddled with hallucinations. 

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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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