Category: The Shelf

Barkskins

From the Pulitzer Prize-­­winning author of The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain,” comes the New York Times bestselling epic about the demise of the world’s forests: “Barkskins is grand entertainment in the tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy…the crowning achievement of Annie Proulx’s distinguished career, but also perhaps the greatest environmental novel ever written” (San Francisco Chronicle).

In the late seventeenth century two young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a native woman and their descendants live trapped between two cultures. But Duquet runs away, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Annie Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

“A stunning, bracing, full-tilt ride through three hundred years of US and Canadian history…with the type of full-immersion plot that keeps you curled in your chair, reluctant to stop reading” (Elle), Barkskins showcases Proulx’s inimitable genius of creating characters who are so vivid that we follow them with fierce attention. “This is Proulx at the height of her powers as an irreplaceable American voice” (Entertainment Weekly, Grade A), and Barkskins “is an awesome monument of a book” (The Washington Post)—“the masterpiece she was meant to write” (The Boston Globe). As Anthony Doerr says, “This magnificent novel possesses the dark humor of The Shipping News and the social awareness of ‘Brokeback Mountain.’”

The Two Lives of Miss Merryweather

In the 10 years since she arrived in London as a know-nothing college graduate with caterpillar eyebrows and her hair in a scrunchie, American Charlotte Merryweather has transformed herself into the stylish proprietress of the city’s poshest public relations firm. Charlotte (along with her faithful assistant, Beatrice) is in pursuit of a hot new client and a home for herself and her boyfriend, when a sighting on the morning commute derails her: a curly-haired young woman in a beat-up orange VW Beetle who resembles the Charlotte of 10 years earlier. On a whim, Charlotte follows her home and discovers that, through some sort of inexplicable time-bending phenomenon, the girl is in fact Charlotte’s younger self, called Lottie. Buddying up with her doppelgänger, Charlotte finds paradoxes taking a backseat to life lessons; thinking she’s got a decade of hard-won wisdom to teach Lottie, Charlotte is surprised to find herself learning from her past persona about love, passion, and trusting herself. Though the plot mechanics grind noisily, Potter (Me and Mr. Darcy) rescues her high-concept romance with charming characters, sharp dialogue, and a satisfying conclusion.

The Shack

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgment he arrives as the shack on a wintry afternoon and walk back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book.

The Witch Doctor’s Wife

A prim missionary, a sleazy executive, and a humble witch doctor are all players in Myers’ captivating debut set in the Congo in the 1950s. As the novel opens, young South Carolina missionary Amanda Brown weathers a rocky flight en route to her new post as manager of a missionary guesthouse in tiny Belle Vue. It is a harbinger of the challenges that await her. Though small and primitive, Belle Vue is populated by many larger-than-life personalities, from Amanda’s cranky housekeeper (with the wonderfully odd name, Protruding Navel) to the local witch doctor’s wife, whose limp leads people to underestimate her—at their peril. The discovery of a large uncut diamond draws out the sinister side of Belle Vue’s inhabitants, and Amanda soon finds herself caught up in the chaos. Myers, author of the Den of Antiquity and Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries, was born and raised in the Congo, and she writes vividly about her childhood home. Fans of Alexander McCall Smith are sure to relish this opportunity to learn about another intriguing area of Africa

The Blood of Flowers

In Iranian-American Anita Amirrezvani’s lushly orchestrated debut, a comet signals misfortune to the remote 17th-century Persian village where the nameless narrator lives modestly but happily with her parents, both of whom expect to see the 14-year-old married within the year. Her fascination with rug making is a pastime they indulge only for the interim, but her father’s untimely death prompts the girl to travel with her mother to the city of Isfahan, where the two live as servants in the opulent home of an uncle—a wealthy rug maker to the Shah. The only marriage proposal now in the offing is a three-month renewable contract with the son of a horse trader. Teetering on poverty and shame, the girl weaves fantasies for her temporary husband’s pleasure and exchanges tales with her beleaguered mother until, having mastered the art of making and selling carpets under her uncle’s tutelage, she undertakes to free her mother and herself. With journalistic clarity, Amirrezvani describes how to make a carpet knot by knot, and then sell it negotiation by negotiation, guiding readers through workshops and bazaars. Sumptuous imagery and a modern sensibility (despite a preponderance of flowery language and schematic female bonding and male bullying) make this a winning debut.

The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is an exquisitely written book of murder and obsession that takes the true details of the unsolved 1947 Elizabeth Short murder and creates a fictional story of a police detective determined to solve the case. The Black Dahlia is a page turning mystery novel, but it is also much more. Ellroy uses the story to delve into the dark recesses of the human psyche and force the reader to deal with obsession, evil, right and wrong.