Amy Scribner

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After fleeing Cambodia during the brutal regime of Pol Pot, Chantha Nguon spent decades in increasingly desperate poverty, first in urban Vietnam, then the squalor of Thailand refugee camps and finally in the malarial jungles of Cambodia. Through it all, Nguon relied on the delicious food of her childhood for comfort. In her heartbreaking, exquisitely told memoir, Slow Noodles: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes, Nguon tells her story with co-author Kim Green.

At the end of each chapter, Nguon shares a recipe; some are delicious and intricate (sour chicken lime soup, village style), others bittersweet (silken rebellion fish fry or as Nguon’s subtitle calls it, “How to Make Unfresh Fish Taste Rather Delicious”). Most of these she learned sitting in her prosperous childhood kitchen, watching her mother and older sister create magical dishes they shared with their less wealthy neighbors.

That generosity got Nguon through her years in exile. She writes of sharing resources when she had so few, and making friends who would find and carry each other again and again. In the Thai refugee camps, where Nguon and others waited years for even an interview, they found a chosen family. “We refugees had nothing,” she writes, “but many of us drew close, and found ways to ease one another’s suffering. . . . Here in camp, we were all poor and full of loss. Often, that united us.”

Throughout Slow Noodles, Nguon returns to that theme: loss and despair giving way to strength. While this is a war memoir, it also is ultimately a story of hope. Despite the decades of horror the Khmer Rouge inflicted on millions of Cambodians, Nguon infuses her memoir with a spirit of persistence and defiance. Even in the face of evil, she continued cooking her childhood dishes, speaking her childhood language and slowly, slowly making her way home again.

“When you have nothing, weakness can destroy you,” Nguon writes. “No one would carry me out of the jungle. I would have to carry myself.”

In her memoir, Slow Noodles, Cambodian writer Chantha Nguon survives the terror of the Khmer Rouge and keeps her family recipes intact.
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As an elite college athlete, Jacqueline Alnes started experiencing mysterious, excruciating neurological episodes in which she could not speak, walk or see clearly. Finding no help from doctors and little support from her demanding running coach, Alnes was forced to quit the activity that her identity revolved around. Desperate for answers, she turned to an online community espousing the benefits of a fruit-based, raw food diet. She found herself drawn in, eschewing all other food piece by piece.

You’d be forgiven for suspecting that Alnes is about to pitch you on a life-changing wellness regimen that ends in health. But The Fruit Cure: The Story of Extreme Wellness Turned Sour is more intriguing. It’s a cautionary tale about falling prey to too-good-to-be-true solutions to complex medical issues.

Fruitarianism didn’t restore Alnes’ body to health; it led to disordered eating that gave her a sense of control when she felt powerless. This struggle is what makes The Fruit Cure a deeply compelling read: Alnes dives deep into the shame humans have felt about their imperfect bodies since ancient times. She poignantly conveys the ways in which doctors and charlatans alike have taken advantage of those desperate to meet a physical ideal or simply be released from pain and medical anxiety. “My desire for a cure,” Alnes writes, “outweighed my ability to think critically about the sources of my information.”

Alnes also explores a decidedly more modern concept: the nature of parasocial relationships, like the one she developed with the online fruitarian figureheads who called themselves Freelee and Durianrider. She obsessively watched their videos on social media, “a tilt-a-whirl of fruit-forward, anti-fat content.” Their cult of personality made it easier to believe outlandish claims, like that cooked food pollutes the body. The spell was eventually broken for Alnes when she stopped binging on social media and started reconnecting with family and friends. “The more I lived in the world, away from my screen,” she writes, “the voices saying eggs were chicken ‘menses’ and dairy was an animal ‘secretion’ grew quieter.”

Alnes, now an English professor, writes with honesty and a clear curiosity about how her own experience reflects larger societal trends. The Fruit Cure is a spellbinding reminder of how susceptible we are to quick fixes, and, ultimately, how our communities can save us.

Jacqueline Alnes’ memoir, The Fruit Cure, is a spellbinding, cautionary tale about falling prey to fad diets to resolve medical ailments.
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At age 65, she is still one of the most recognizable women in America, making news with every appearance and regularly posting to her 19.1 million Instagram followers. But Madonna in the 1980s and 1990s? It’s impossible to describe how thoroughly she dominated pop culture: groundbreaking videos like the sleek black-and-white “Vogue” and the gorgeously provocative “Like a Prayer”; the “Like a Virgin” wedding cake performance at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards; the infamous coffee table book, Sex.

In this vivid and memorable biography, journalist Mary Gabriel draws on previous interviews and reporting to paint a satisfyingly full picture of the life of Madonna Louise Ciccone. Born in 1958 to devout Catholic parents in Michigan, Madonna’s earliest years were spent in a boisterous and loving family. But her mother died of breast cancer when Madonna was only 5, and her remaining childhood was marked by deep sadness and chaos. Madonna escaped through performance—she was a serious dancer and immersed herself in the Detroit music scene.

She chased her dreams to New York City, living in apartments crawling with roaches and working dead-end jobs while pursuing music and acting. Gabriel brings 1980s New York to life: the gritty city where young talents went to find fame, and where gay men (including many of Madonna’s dear friends) were getting sick and dying of a mysterious new disease. The biography deftly sets Madonna’s story against the backdrop of the times, reflecting on how her art was influenced by religion, race, sex and women’s rights.

The artist is such a provocateur that her philanthropic work has sometimes been overshadowed. Gabriel provides a reminder of Madonna’s efforts to raise money for AIDS research and other causes. While Madonna: A Rebel Life can occasionally smack of research paper (it is chock-full of footnotes), it is still a thoroughly entertaining and deeply nostalgic look at one of the true icons of our time. Gabriel manages to tell a fresh story, even with a subject as scrutinized as Madonna. As the star once said, “There’s a lot more to me than can possibly be perceived in the beginning.”

Mary Gabriel’s vivid, memorable biography of Madonna takes a fresh look at a true icon of our time.
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Maya has it all figured out: She’s on the fast track to a promotion at her investment firm, she has a great apartment in Miami, and she’s still dating her handsome college sweetheart, a retired professional football player who will almost certainly put a ring on it sometime in the near future.

So when the producers of “Real Love”—a thinly veiled fictional version of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, in which author Rachel Lindsay starred—offer Maya the chance to be the lead on the upcoming season, she declines. Her best friend, Delilah, gets the part, and almost immediately, Maya questions her decision. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, and suddenly the life she envisioned is up in the air. As she watches Delilah have the time of her life on “Real Love,” Maya must reckon with her own path.

In 2022, Lindsay released a dishy essay collection, Miss Me With That, which included reflections on her stint as the first Black Bachelorette. (In 2019, she married the winner of her season.) Real Love is Lindsay’s first novel, and it’s pure fun, a fizzy and relatable mixture of female friendship, romance and career struggles, with a dash of behind-the-scenes reality TV. 

Lindsay perfectly captures the uncertainty and exhilaration of single life, imbuing Maya with shades of Carrie Bradshaw, another woman in her early 30s trying to solidify her identity and navigate romantic relationships with the help of her friends. Unlike Carrie’s penchant for cosmopolitans, Maya’s drink of choice is a simple Crown whisky and Coke. Also unlike Carrie, Maya is firmly in the Ann Taylor and J. Crew fashion camp, which is a source of endless chagrin for her stylish and audacious younger sister, Ella, who is a hilarious foil to Maya’s sensible personality.

Maya has doggedly pursued her career and stayed in a safe but faltering relationship for years, so the possibility of change is exciting and terrifying. Should she stay in Miami and climb the corporate ladder? Move to Seattle with a kind and hot artist? Drop everything and travel? Her ultimate decision is less important than the simple act of choosing a course based on what she wants for the first time.

Real Love is a charming and pleasurable read. I raise a glass of Crown and Coke to Lindsay.

Real Love is pure fun, a fizzy and relatable mixture of female friendship, romance and career struggles, with a dash of behind-the-scenes reality TV.
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Imagine if Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been distracted from her suffrage efforts because she fell in love, Hallmark movie-style, with a local Seneca Falls man. Or if Emily Dickinson contacted tech support but could only communicate in her trademark poetic style. Or if the Gettysburg Address had been written by “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin.

Alexandra Petri has long entertained Washington Post readers with her absurdist columns on the latest political and pop culture news. In her dazzling book of historical humor, Alexandra Petri’s US History: Important American Documents (I Made Up), she shows again why legendary humor writer Dave Barry called her “the funniest person in Washington.” Petri’s seemingly effortless ability to reimagine American history in the most bizarre ways makes this one of the most entertaining books you’ll read this year.

In an essay titled “Why the National Parks Were Set Aside,” Petri records the reasons she assumes some of our most famous landmarks were preserved: “Yellowstone: GEYSER SQUIRTS HUGE AMOUNTS OF WATER INTO AIR WITHOUT WARNING. . . . Zion: Seems steep. . . . Grand Canyon: Big hole in the ground without proper signage. Leave it as it is.” And in “John and Abigail Adams Try Sexting,” Petri imagines the Founding Father and his wife writing a series of racy (for the 1700s) letters while he is in Paris. “I am attired in a woolen gown and a cap of a stiff linen material, as well as five petticoats, my bustle, and my customary stays. I was wearing stockings, but I am not wearing them any longer,” Abigail writes. “I hope that soon you shall be wearing merely four!” John replies.

Hot stuff!

Petri’s previous book of essays, the excellent Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why, focused on current topics such as QAnon conspiracies and the Trump administration. This new collection feels somewhat sweeter and gentler, albeit still side-splittingly funny. It’s a satirical salve at a time when we need humor more than ever.

Alexandra Petri’s seemingly effortless ability to reimagine American history in the most bizarre ways makes this one of the most entertaining books you’ll read this year.
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Alex has found herself alone, without a home and penniless on the wealthy East End of Long Island. She walks along aimlessly in the hot sun, everything she owns in a small bag. When a couple pedal past her on their beach cruisers, Alex wonders idly about their story: “What sort of day lay ahead of them? Some easy waste of the afternoon. What possible worries would they have?”

It wasn’t always like this for Alex. Just a week earlier, she was the summer houseguest of Simon, who showered Alex with expensive jewelry, luxurious clothes and a buttery soft purse. All Alex had to do in return was pretend to be a demure young woman contemplating grad school and conceal her true identity: a desperate escort hiding from an unhinged ex from whom she stole a significant amount of money and drugs. 

But as much as she tried to be a perfect guest, “every once in a while, Alex took one of Simon’s painkillers to stitch the looser hours together.” When she drinks too much at a party and jumps in the pool with the host’s much younger husband, Simon tells her it’s time for her to go. For the rest of this eerily heartbreaking novel, we follow Alex as she finds ways to survive until she can earn Simon’s forgiveness. 

Author Emma Cline’s bestselling, award-winning debut novel, The Girls, was based loosely on the story of the Manson family murders, and she followed it up with a popular story collection, Daddy. The Guest is a worthy and unforgettable next step for Cline, whose style is spare yet beautiful. And while her main character is deeply flawed, Cline treats Alex with a gentleness that makes her situation all the more striking.

On its surface, The Guest is about a lost soul, a drifter who has no plan and no safety net. But this deeply felt novel also raises provocative questions about how our society treats young women. How can Alex be virtually invisible, wandering through a wealthy beach town without garnering a single second glance? She is like a ghost—never settled, never seen.

The Guest is a worthy and unforgettable next step for Emma Cline, whose style is spare yet beautiful.
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There is no institution in the United States more powerful, more mysterious, more impenetrable than the Supreme Court. It’s rare when we get to see the nine sitting justices as mere mortals—whether in moments of horror and disappointment, such as the sexual misconduct case against Brett Kavanaugh, or in moments of levity, as when Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed off during the 2015 State of the Union.

In Elizabeth L. Silver’s engrossing and thought-provoking novel The Majority, we meet Justice Sylvia Olin Bernstein, aka “the Contemptuous S.O.B.” A flinty and aging justice, she decides it’s time to tell her life story—messy relationships, heartbreak and all. While The Majority is a clear homage to Ginsburg, Silver (The Execution of Noa P. Singleton) paints a full portrait of Sylvia, whose life unfolds during some of the most consequential events in American history. 

Sylvia’s mother dies when she is young, leaving her in a loving but bleak home in New York with her devout Jewish father and a cousin who fled the Nazis after her entire family was killed. Sylvia gets her chance to move on when she’s one of only nine women admitted in 1959 to Harvard Law School. With her vast intelligence and force of will, Sylvia ascends to the highest levels of the United States legal system.

As is so often the case for trailblazers, her success comes with significant sacrifice, both personally and professionally. When she takes on a landmark case involving a woman who lost her job when she became pregnant, Sylvia realizes she has been preparing for this case for most of her life. “My mother told me when I was twelve years old that we—women—were close to being the larger group in America,” she tells the plaintiff. “Well, now women are the majority, and yet we hold almost no power at all. In some small way, perhaps this is a slight chiseling away at that. And if successful, it’s a legacy you can pass on to more than [your child]. It’s a legacy to pass on to an entire country.”

The Majority is more than an entertaining read, although it is certainly that. It’s a profound contemplation of how women are treated by the law and how they administer the law. The Contemptuous S.O.B. is both a brilliant jurist and an all-too-human woman fighting against a system stacked against her. 

While The Majority is a clear homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elizabeth L. Silver paints a full portrait of Sylvia, whose life unfolds during some of the most consequential events in American history.
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“For my first two years at Idlewild, I had no friends. I didn’t mind it much. I appreciated that no one paid attention to me, that I could move through the school unnoticed.” This is how we meet Nell Rifkin, a public school transfer on scholarship to the titular posh Quaker high school in Manhattan. Idlewild is the kind of place where wealth runs deep and silent: “Flaunting your wealth went against Quaker ideals, plus Idlewild parents tended to be shabby-chic trust fund artists, so it was often hard to tell who was really rich.”

Nell eventually befriends Fay Vasquez-Rabinowitz, a “lifer” who has been at the school since kindergarten. On 9/11, they form a bond when Fay has nowhere to go while waiting for her artist parents to answer the phone. The two become F&N, an inseparable, sarcastic duo.

F&N are into school theater and making fun of their peers. Nell is also into Fay, and although Fay suspects as much, it’s an unspoken part of their friendship. “For a year and a half, my brain merged into hers until I had no idea where she ended and I began,” Nell says. F&N befriend Theo and Christopher, fellow students who seem to have a similar kind of friendship. A lot of what they do is typical teenage stuff: They party a little and ditch school to eat waffles at the diner near campus. But then the friendships turn dark. Using the nascent medium of internet journals, the four try to dazzle each other with their cleverness, with predictably awful results.

James Frankie Thomas’ first novel, Idlewild, is a fever dream of a book, full of longing, regret and hormones. It’s reminiscent of such coming-of-age classics as Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides yet also wholly original. Chapters shift between Nell’s and Fay’s perspectives, both as estranged adults looking back on their Idlewild years, and as F&N in 2002. Nell is especially compelling as a queer, extremely smart teenager who doesn’t try to hide anything about who she is.

Set against the backdrop of a post-9/11 nation on the verge of war, Idlewild is about the consequences of choices, big and small.

James Frankie Thomas’ first novel is a fever dream of a book, full of longing, regret and hormones.
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The Polly Klaas case captured America’s attention in the fall of 1993. It was uniquely horrifying: A lovely 12-year-old girl kidnapped at knifepoint from her own bedroom while her two friends watched helplessly. Polly was missing for two months before her body was recovered near an abandoned sawmill outside of Petaluma, California. The media couldn’t get enough: A child disappeared without a trace from the safety of her home. The story was on the cover of People and featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” Petaluma native Winona Ryder offered a reward for Polly’s return. Polly’s father, Marc Klaas, a bereft man desperate to find his only daughter, made supporting families of missing children his life’s work and appeared in scores of interviews.

In this deeply compelling and carefully reported book, journalist Kim Cross examines why the Polly Klaas case struck such a chord and the lasting impact it has had on investigative techniques. Through dozens of interviews, Cross dives into the nascent use of DNA as a means of identifying and ruling out suspects, and how the Klaas case informed behavioral science used to profile unknown subjects. The case also changed how child witnesses were treated. . The two friends—who were at Polly’s house that night for a sleepover—were subjected to repeated harsh interrogations and lie detector tests in the weeks after the kidnapping. This sparked a national conversation among law enforcement officials, leading to trained child interviewers and a new set of protocols to protect children who witness crimes.

In Light of All Darkness is a fascinating and heartbreaking read as Cross captures the terror and sadness the Polly Klaas case evoked 30 years ago. In the aftermath, parents feared letting their children play outside or even leaving their windows ajar. Polly’s mother, Eve Nichol, was a follower of spiritual leader Ram Dass, and held out hope until her daughter was found, lighting a candle in the window each evening. “You can’t grow a new heart,” she said. “But when you have a big piece torn away, you can either fill it with anger and rage, or you can fill it with love. I just have to try and choose love.”

Journalist Kim Cross examines why the 1993 kidnapping of Polly Klaas struck such a chord and the lasting impact it has had on investigative techniques
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What if perfectionism isn’t a curse or a character flaw but rather a common state of being that can be harnessed for good? In her eye-opening book, The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, psychotherapist and former on-site Google therapist Katherine Morgan Schafler posits that perfectionists can live a life of joy rather than feeling perpetually disappointed by imperfection.

Schafler begins by describing the five types of perfectionists, including the classic (not spontaneous, a planner, always ready with a backup plan) and the intense (expresses anger when feeling overwhelmed, imposes standards on those around them). Indeed, this book is like a mirror for anyone who has struggled with perfectionism in any form. This reviewer identified a little uncomfortably closely with the Parisian perfectionist (wants to be liked, hides their deepest ambitions).

Schafler has treated hundreds of perfectionists in her private practice and recognizes that for many, perfectionism is rooted in a childhood of abuse, neglect or conditional love. It’s not as simple as just advising someone to lighten up. “Managing perfectionism by telling perfectionists to stop being perfectionists is like managing anger by telling people to ‘calm down,’” she writes. But the good news, according to Schafler, is that we can make perfectionism a tool in our lives by easing up on self-punishment, which she defines as hurting or denying yourself. We may think we are punishing ourselves to learn or grow, but we are actually just creating more fear and demoralization.

Schafler offers workable strategies to help perfectionists stop overthinking and overdoing and move to a joyful place. She also weaves research and suggestions with insightful vignettes from her clients’ experiences. All of it exudes warmth and empathy. “Until you can meet yourself with some compassion, you’ll reject the good in your life,” she advises.

In addition to being a fascinating look at the many influences that make a perfectionist, The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control is a welcome antidote that will help readers reframe and refocus.

The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control is a warm and welcome antidote to perfectionism that will help readers reframe and refocus.
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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who are (still) hooked on the groundbreaking reality TV series “Survivor,” the intriguing debut novel from memoirist and long-distance dog-sledder Blair Braverman will feel familiar—at first. In Small Game, five strangers are dropped off in a forest, where they must live off the land and work together to claim the prize money, and it’s all filmed for a new show called “Civilization.”

Protagonist Mara is an employee at a survival school. She can identify edible plants and build a fire. After a childhood shaped by paranoia—her off-the-grid conspiracy theorist parents worried their phones were being tapped and believed her mother’s miscarriages were due to a government conspiracy to control the population—Mara finds the “Civilization” cameras almost soothing. “She didn’t have to consider the surreality of dark figures spying, or cameras in the trees,” Braverman writes. “There was nothing to research, to doubt or to believe. The cameras were real, and everyone knew it. The eyes were always there.”

The other contestants include Kyle, an eager 19-year-old Eagle Scout from Indiana and a bit of a know-it-all; Bullfrog, a quiet and weathered carpenter who spends his time building a shelter, seemingly to avoid the others; and Ashley, a “magazine-gorgeous” competitive swimmer who’s using this opportunity as a springboard to fame. The fifth competitor, James, drops out almost immediately, sensing that something is deeply awry. 

Turns out, James’ prescience might have saved him. Within weeks, the “Civilization” production crew disappears, leaving the four remaining cast members stranded with few resources and virtually no information. They don’t know where they are, where the crew has gone and if they will return. After a grisly accident, the group sets out to find help. 

As a harrowing account of smoky, itchy, bloody wilderness survival, Small Game is extremely enjoyable. On a deeper level, it’s also a deeply satisfying exploration of how humans persevere and adapt in the era of constant intrusion, whether from cameras or social media. And ultimately, it’s a hopeful read, because even in the face of almost certain disaster, Braverman’s characters still find moments of connection and joy.

As a harrowing account of smoky, itchy, bloody wilderness survival, Small Game is extremely enjoyable. On a deeper level, it’s also a deeply satisfying exploration of how humans persevere and adapt in the era of constant intrusion.
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Many books have been written about the pressure cooker effect of working in the White House. But as chief speechwriter during some of the most pivotal days of President Barack Obama’s time in office, Cody Keenan has a unique story to tell. In Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America, Keenan recalls an unimaginably intense week and a half during which the Supreme Court issued decisions on same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act and a white supremacist murdered nine Black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Keenan’s job was to help craft remarks that met the moment. What could President Obama say on gun violence that he hadn’t said after Sandy Hook, Aurora and so many other mass shootings? How would he frame a historic court decision that either affirmed or denied LGBTQ+ individuals’ right to marry their partners? And how would he respond to the result of yet another challenge to his signature health care legislation?

Keenan divides his story into chapters, one for each day. It’s an extremely effective approach that adds tension to an already powerful story. Along the way, readers get a fascinating backstage pass to Keenan’s easy writing partnership with President Obama, an unparalleled writer and communicator in his own right who made every first draft better. Keenan also vividly describes daily life in the West Wing: a blur of meetings, emails and deadlines that started early and sometimes ended well after midnight. In particular, we spend a lot of time with Keenan as he hunches over his computer in his windowless office, where the light was “permanently neglected—a jaundiced fluorescence that never varied a wavelength.” (Most West Wing offices are anything but glamorous, as it turns out, and White House doctors actually supplied Keenan and his team with vitamin D pills to counteract the gloom of what he called “the Speechcave.”)

It’s no spoiler to say that the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the Affordable Care Act and affirmed the right to marry. (Who can forget the White House lit up in rainbow colors that night?) And of course, President Obama’s speech at the Charleston memorial will long be remembered for his impromptu performance of “Amazing Grace.” What’s fresh here is Keenan’s wry, occasionally self-deprecating recollection of his role in these historic events. No matter your political persuasion, Grace is a generous, lively and worthwhile read.

Chief speechwriter for the Obama administration Cody Keenan offers a unique perspective on 10 unimaginably intense days that shaped his boss’ legacy.
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In Frances Mayes’ sparkling new collection of essays, she ponders the meaning of home. It’s a subject about which she knows plenty, having made so many homes over her lifetime. In A Place in the World, Mayes’ fans can revisit some familiar places, such as Bramasole, the villa in the Tuscan countryside that she famously renovated in Under the Tuscan Sun, and the humid and fragrant Fitzgerald, Mayes’ Georgia hometown and the subject of her memoir Under Magnolia. Readers will also visit some new locales, namely Chatwood, the North Carolina farmhouse where she and her husband, Ed, live when they’re not in Italy.

Chatwood spoke to Mayes much like Bramasole did: It was instant love. “When the agent turned in at the lane leading to an upright farmhouse with book-end chimneys, a porch along the front, magnolia trees, and a meadow along a river, I was ready to sign the dotted line before I opened the car door,” she writes. “Ed agreed, this was Eden. Inside the house smelled like closed-up chapels I’ve come across in the Italian countryside. The kitchen fireplace had a swinging arm for hanging a pot over the coals. Copper sinks, bookcases everywhere, staircases that twist, many-paned windows splashed with green views—we are home. That fast.”

There are many such lovely descriptions of Mayes’ houses in A Place in the World, but this is not a book about buildings. It’s about the concept of home, that intangible thing to which countless magazines and blogs are dedicated. Mayes examines home from many angles. She devotes gorgeous chapters to the Chatwood garden, filled with tea-scented camellias, jasmine, honeysuckle and magnolia, not to mention an enormous veggie garden she put in at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also writes mouthwateringly about cucina povera, or the poor kitchen—the simple rustic Italian fare eaten during times of war—and how skills such as foraging, using every ounce of the pig and eating seasonally are learned at home. She even recalls temporary homes, rentals in Mexico and Capri that nourished her creativity.

My favorite essay might be “Home Thoughts: A Litany.” Here, in almost stream-of-consciousness prose, Mayes recalls the homes of her dear friends. “What an intimate act, to invite someone into your home,” she writes. And it’s true! She remembers in striking detail the sculptures, books, kitchens and fireplaces of her friends’ homes around the world. It’s a whirlwind home tour and homage to friendship in 10 pages.

Tempered by a dash of wistful examination as Mayes enters her 80s, A Place in the World is a beautiful, thought-provoking read.

A Place in the World is a beautiful meditation on home, tempered by a dash of wistful examination as author Frances Mayes enters her 80s.

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