Kathryn Justice Leache

Three summer thrillers obliterate the boundaries of what can rightfully be chalked up to “all in a day’s work.”


Captain Catherine Wells, commander of the spacecraft Sagittarius, perished on the wrong side of a wormhole in deep space. Or so NASA believed. Vessel, Lisa A. Nichols’ debut thriller, opens nine years after the mission launched. Houston has just received a signal from the Sagittarius and makes contact with Catherine, who has few memories of her years in space and even fewer answers about what led her to this point. Soon she’s back helping to oversee the launch of Sagittarius II, which will attempt the same fateful voyage on which Catherine lost her crew. NASA prodigy Cal Morganson is desperate to keep the upcoming mission safe and is sure Catherine is hiding something. He’s right—but will exposing her secrets be enough? Vessel is a deliciously creepy dive through the wormhole. 

 

Layne Fargo’s addictive Temper centers on the artists of the Chicago theater scene for a wildly different take on a job gone very wrong. Following struggling actress Kira Rascher and repressed director Joanna Cuyler, Temper begins at the audition for a play of the same name, an intense marital drama with a cast of only two. Malcolm Mercer, a towering figure in the community and Joanna’s creative partner, plays the lead in all of their productions. Being cast opposite Malcolm—a genius method actor or a gaslighting sociopath, depending on whom you ask—spikes Kira’s deep artistic ambitions like nothing before. Joanna has worked with Malcolm for years, quietly swallowing her own ambition and agency in order to remain in his orbit. The novel’s violently sensuous suspense careens toward a chilling conclusion you’ll never see coming.

 

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager is a nightmarish thriller set against the backdrop of a Manhattan fairy tale. Jules Larsen has no living family, recently lost her job and just discovered her live-in boyfriend is cheating on her. So she swallows her better judgment and accepts an offer to apartment-sit in the legendary Bartholomew building. Within a day of starting, she begins to notice that many aspects of her new digs are off. She can’t have visitors, and she must spend every night in the apartment. She isn’t allowed to speak to the other residents. Most disturbingly, the other apartment sitters are as alone in the world as she is. The more she starts digging into the Bartholomew’s history, the harder it is to dismiss the rumors that the building is cursed by some very disturbing magic. Readers who enjoy a touch of horror mixed with their suspense will love Lock Every Door.

Three summer thrillers obliterate the boundaries of what can rightfully be chalked up to “all in a day’s work.”

For readers in the mood for murder and mayhem with a light touch come two laugh-out-loud mysteries from Lynne Truss and Susan Isaacs.

In the first entry of Truss’ mystery series, 2018’s A Shot in the Dark, the year was 1957, and 22-year-old Constable Twitten, an upper-crust know-it-all whose father was a famous criminal psychologist, had just joined the Brighton police force. His arrival came not a moment too soon, as his boss, Inspector Steine, and senior officer Sergeant Brunswick had (through their sheer blundering obliviousness) nurtured a thriving community of thieves, murderers and con men in Brighton. The majority of these lawbreakers report to the police station’s charlady, Mrs. Groynes, who leads a double life as the mastermind of Brighton’s seething criminal element—but only Twitten knows the truth about their Cockney compatriot.

When The Man That Got Away begins, Twitten is reading Noblesse Oblige by Nancy Mitford, a real book that addressed vocabulary differences between English social classes, albeit in a somewhat satirical way. The bestseller becomes a running motif of the novel: “It’s been quite controversial,” Twitten tells Inspector Steine, who has clearly not personally caught a whiff of the controversy. “And I’m sure the whole field of socio-linguistics has practical applications for policework, you see, but people keep getting annoyed when I talk about it, so I should probably bally well belt up about it, sir.”

When a bright young civil servant, Peter Dupont, has his throat slit in broad daylight, Constable Twitten launches an investigation, despite Inspector Steine’s boneheaded insistence that Peter died by suicide. Mrs. Groynes claims she can help—but can straight arrow Twitten bring himself to partner with a cold-blooded criminal, no matter how nice her cakes and cuppas are?

Truss expertly mines this slapstick absurdity for maximum amusement. When a couple of “Brighton Belles” encounter a strange old man on the pier trying to pass himself off as nobility-in-exile and trying to fence gold bricks for 25 pounds apiece, “the two women exchanged glances. They’d been warned about con men, but they’d somehow imagined that a con man would be a little bit harder to spot.” At one point, Mrs. Groynes absent-mindedly reveals a familiarity with the criminal underworld no charlady should have, and “Twitten watched as the ghost of a question crossed Brunswick’s face, but (as usual) didn’t settle.”

The Man That Got Away is a dark, screwball crime novel in the vein of the 1955 British film The Ladykillers that will also appeal to fans of Truss’ runaway bestselling grammar guide, Eats, Shoots & Leaves—as well as Anglophiles in general. Chock full of clues, criss-crossing subplots and wry dialogue, Truss’ latest is a pleasure from start to finish.

The inimitable Susan Isaacs, master of sardonically witty observation and genre-bending suspense, is back with Takes One to Know One, her first standalone novel since 2012. Thirty-five-year-old FBI agent Corie Geller has traded in her badge for the chi-chi enclave of Shorehaven, Long Island: “When I married Joshua Geller and adopted Eliza a year later, I had such a bubbly version of suburban life. Ah, normality! I pictured a racially and ethnically diverse group of friends holding Starbucks cups, dressed like a Ralph Lauren ad, each demanding to know if I thought Naguib Mahfouz deserved to win the Nobel Prize.”

Josh and Eliza provide the cozy stability that Corie has always craved, and life as an agent was never really part of her plan anyway. After 9/11, Corie ended up being using her degree in Arabic to follow her dad into law enforcement in the counterterrorism division of the FBI. But when Corie becomes a mom and moves to the ’burbs, leaving the bureau for a job “on the outskirts of publishing”—reading Arabic-language novels and evaluating them for potential translation—feels like a natural end point for her first career. “There was nothing more I thought I wanted than what Josh offered,” Corie observes. She’s happy enough to let new acquaintances assume she has always worked in publishing rather than voluntarily share details of her former career.

But Corie realizes she misses her life as a special agent when her past beckons from the strangest of places—her weekly lunch meet-up of freelancers, none of whom know the truth about Corie’s professional past. Pete Delaney, a freelance packaging designer, captures her attention by sitting in the same spot at lunch every week and keeping a watchful eye on the parking lot. Yet aside from this quirk, “truly, the only intriguing aspect of Pete—a guy so careful, so predictable—was that he was so nothing. His friendly neighbor shtick felt like an add-on, as if he recognized that he, too, needed some gear to tote around.” The FBI academy trained Corie not to ignore her gut—and her gut ends up leading her into a possibly hair-brained investigation that ensnares her retired cop dad, her college best friend and her former lover—but leaves her husband completely in the dark.

With shades of Agatha Christie and “Law & Order,” blended with the high drama of a conventional suspense thriller and a generous portion of Isaacs’ signature wry and brainy observational humor, Takes One to Know One will be catnip to longtime Isaacs fans and new readers alike.

For readers in the mood for murder and mayhem with a light touch come two laugh-out-loud mysteries from Lynne Truss and Susan Isaacs. In the first entry of Truss’ mystery series, 2018’s A Shot in the Dark, the year was 1957, and 22-year-old Constable Twitten, an upper-crust know-it-all whose father was a famous criminal psychologist, had […]

In V. E. Schwab’s genre-bending 17th novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, the reader first meets Addie as she is fleeing a life she doesn’t want, one that has been chosen for her by her parents. In the year 1714 in Villon, France, 23-year-old Addie is being forced to marry a widower from her village whose children are in want of a stepmother. Instead of submitting, Addie runs. “She doesn’t slow, doesn’t look back; she doesn’t want to see the life that stands there, waiting. Static as a drawing. Solid as a tomb. Instead, she runs.”

She also prays to the old gods, as her friend Estele, the village witch, has taught her. Estele warned her never to pray to the gods that answer after dark, but as dusk bleeds into night, Addie accidentally conjures just such a god, whom she will come to know as Luc. He promises Addie of “time without limit, freedom without rule” in exchange for her soul. Only after the deal is struck does Addie understand the secret cost of this arrangement. She can live for a thousand years if she likes, but nobody will ever remember her. Until one day, in New York City in the year 2014, she walks into a bookstore and, for the first time in 300 years, someone does. It’s a twist that changes everything she thought she knew about her future and the decisions that await her.

At the heart of this novel is a meditation on legacy, time and the values each person uses to guide their path. Freed from a life’s traditional arc of aging and transitions, the indefatigable Addie must proactively decide how she wants to spend her days and which sacrifices are worth her soul’s survival. This is a hopeful book from an author who is known for dark, violent stories, which makes it both a delightful surprise and a balm in difficult times.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Victoria Schwab discusses her “strange, hopeful book.”

Freed from a life’s traditional arc of aging and transitions, the indefatigable Addie must proactively decide how she wants to spend her days and which sacrifices are worth her soul’s survival.

“It is my belief,” writes Piranesi, the protagonist of Susanna Clarke’s new novel of the same name, “that the World (or, if you will, the House, since the two are for practical purposes identical) wishes an Inhabitant for Itself to be a witness to its Beauty and the recipient of its Mercies.” Clarke’s first novel since 2004’s wildly successful and critically acclaimed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Piranesi centers on a strange, haunting world and features a main character whose earnest goodwill is piercingly endearing.

The House, composed of hundreds of huge rooms filled with statues and wild birds and containing an ocean’s four tides, is so vast it may as well be infinite. Piranesi spends his days fishing, drying seaweed to burn for warmth, tracking the tides and cataloging the features of each room of the House in his journals. Twice a week, he meets with the Other, the only living person Piranesi has ever known. The Other is obsessed with finding and “freeing the Great and Secret Knowledge from whatever holds it captive in the World and to transfer it to ourselves,” and the guileless and devoted Piranesi has been his cheerful collaborator.

But just as Piranesi begins to lose faith in the Knowledge, a discovery leads him to question his own past. From this point, the novel is almost impossible to put down. The reader reflexively mirrors Piranesi in his quest to interpret the clues revealed to him by his beloved World. Stripping this mystery back layer by layer is a magical way to spend an afternoon, reading narrative motifs like runes and studying Piranesi’s journals as if they are the religious texts they resemble.

Piranesi hits many of the same pleasure points as Jonathan Strange—Clarke’s dazzling feats of world building, for one. But at one-third as many pages, Piranesi is more allegorical than epic in scope. With their neoclassical verve, certain passages recall ancient philosophy, but readers may also see connections between Piranesi’s account and the unique isolation of a confined life—whether as a result of a mandatory lockdown during a global pandemic, or perhaps due to the limitations caused by a chronic illness, such as Clarke’s own chronic fatigue syndrome.

Lavishly descriptive, charming, heartbreaking and imbued with a magic that will be familiar to Clarke’s devoted readers, Piranesi will satisfy lovers of Jonathan Strange and win her many new fans.

Lavishly descriptive, charming, heartbreaking and imbued with a magic that will be familiar to Clarke’s devoted readers, Piranesi will satisfy lovers of Jonathan Strange and win her many new fans.

In Drifts, Kate Zambreno ponders an early self-portrait by German artist Albrecht Dürer. Drawn from his own mirrored reflection, the portrait is realistic except for Dürer’s hand, which had been too busy sketching to model for the drawing. “Perhaps it’s impossible to record the self at the immediate moment of contemplation,” Zambreno writes. She tries it anyway: “The publishing people told me that I was writing a novel, but I was unsure.”

Zambreno is the author of six previous books, most of which defy easy categorization. Roxane Gay, in her 2012 essay “How We All Lose,” describes Zambreno’s Heroines as a “hybrid text that is part manifesto, part memoir, and part searing literary criticism” and praises its unashamed subjectivity. This description could readily apply to Drifts. The title comes from Zambreno’s experiments with a new form. Rather than combat “monkey brain,” as her yoga instructor calls the conscious mind in its chaotic, web-enabled 21st-century state, Zambreno’s “drifts” lean into it, seeking to honor and somehow capture the distracted present tense. “I wanted my novel, if that’s what it was, to be about time and the problem of time,” as well as  “the problem with dailiness—how to write the day when it escapes us.”

The cast of characters includes the writer’s partner, her dog, her neighbors and her correspondents, but also Rilke, Kafka and Dürer, to name a few. And yes—quite a lot happens, even if the action isn’t necessarily the plot. To that end, Drifts is a kind of inverted mindfulness exercise in book form, fixed on pinning moments down like so many butterflies. Zambreno has abstained from the novelist’s traditional task of keeping a story arc aloft. 

If this sounds like veiled criticism, it isn’t, though it probably should be taken as a warning to anyone hungry for more conventional fare. But for readers in the mood for an adventure, this is a giddily enjoyable read, emotionally conspiratorial in tone, full of brilliant critical observations and realistic depictions of the dramas in a modern artist’s daily life, the small ones as well as the life-altering ones.

Rather than combat “monkey brain,” as her yoga instructor calls the conscious mind in its chaotic, web-enabled 21st-century state, Zambreno’s “drifts” lean into it, seeking to honor and somehow capture the distracted present tense.

In his funny, gory new romp, Grady Hendrix conjures horror heroines out of a surprising demographic—the carpool moms of 1990s suburbia. They looked like “carpool drivers, skinned-knee kissers, errand runners, secret Santas and part-time tooth fairies, with their practical jeans and their festive sweaters. . . . But when the time came, [they] went the distance.” And how.

Life in the Old Village, Patricia Campbell’s suburban South Carolina enclave, has always been safe, if a little unstimulating. But that’s before Patricia is attacked in her yard by an elderly neighbor gone feral, and soon she finds herself driving around her neighbor’s attractive relative, James Harris, and inviting him into her house for ice cream with the family. Life is suddenly far from boring, but when Patricia’s suspicions about James begin to escalate, she takes the matter to her true crime book club. 

According to her friends, Patricia’s just projecting a titillating plot onto their ploddingly dull daily lives. But when children from the poor neighborhood across town start dying, the club is forced to grapple with the possibility that Patricia’s new friend just may be the monster she claims he is. And as if one monster isn’t enough, the women must confront another enemy at least as terrifying: the patriarchy.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires takes place in the same universe as Hendrix’s Stoker Award-winning horror novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is loosely based on his own childhood. Hendrix writes in an author’s note that his latest novel was inspired by the strength of his own mother and others like her: women easy to write off, but hard to defeat. “I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom,” Hendrix explains. “As you’ll see, it’s not a fair fight.” 

In turns heartwarming and enraging, bloody horror and social critique, this genre-bending vampire story helps cement horror as a frontier for feminist storytelling. 

In his funny, gory new romp, Grady Hendrix conjures horror heroines out of a surprising demographic—the carpool moms of 1990s suburbia.

You’ve probably seen a similar story in the news: A pretty American teenager meets a tragic end while on vacation in a tropical paradise. The 24-hour news cycle is fueled by every salacious detail of the girl’s private life, and with every new revelation, hasty conclusions are drawn. The lurid media frenzy cruelly obscures what should be obvious—that the dead girl was a real person, someone’s daughter or perhaps someone’s sister.

Alexis Schaitkin’s magnetic debut, Saint X, begins on the first day of 7-year-old Claire Thomas’ family vacation on a fictional Caribbean island. Claire’s 18-year-old sister, Alison—gorgeous, brilliant and on the sullen cusp of adulthood—disappears on the last day. When her body is found, local police make some arrests but can’t make murder charges stick, which drives her grieving parents even further around the bend. Claire, already a “reticent, prickly” child with an obsessive streak, struggles to fit into her new identity as the surviving sister: “I was an only child now, hopelessly insufficient.” 

But time does its good work. The Thomases transplant themselves from the East Coast to Pasadena, California, where Claire decides to go by Emily, her middle name. A fresh start in a sunny setting is what she and her family need to forge a manageable path through the rest of their lives. If Alison haunts her little sister throughout childhood, into college and beyond, it is more or less as a friendly ghost. 

This relative peace is upended in a moment. Emily, now an editorial assistant living in Brooklyn, has a chance encounter with an employee of the Saint X resort where her family vacationed—a man with whom Alison was seen on the night she died. Emily is yanked instantly into an obsessive web of her own making, a cold case unceremoniously reopened: Who was her sister, really? And what really happened to her?

Saint X is a nuanced examination of class, privilege and the terrible ways that tragedy can echo forward in time. Schaitkin embellishes a strong plot with psychologically complex main characters and a chorus of devastatingly incomplete narratives from peripheral characters about what really took place on Saint X. This is a must-read for fans of literary suspense.

Saint X is a nuanced examination of class, privilege and the terrible ways that tragedy can echo forward in time. Schaitkin embellishes a strong plot with psychologically complex main characters and a chorus of devastatingly incomplete narratives from peripheral characters about what really took place on Saint X. This is a must-read for fans of literary suspense.

When we meet Victor Tuchman, the patriarch of New Orleans-based novelist Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours, he’s as good as dead. Which is just as well, since everyone agrees Victor is a monster. Now he languishes in comatose purgatory while the whole family is called home. Well, not home exactly, but to Victor and his wife Barbra’s condo in New Orleans, where they’ve lived for about a year. Nobody is sure why they left Connecticut, but it probably had something to do with Victor’s criminal activity. Not that anyone knows what that activity is—except maybe Barbra.

One family member has questions. Alex, their daughter who lives in Chicago, is a tough-minded, recently divorced attorney who gave up on a relationship with her parents years ago. But news that Victor is near death stirs in Alex a primal excitement. In a rare show of optimism, Alex has convinced herself that once her father is dead, her mother will spill the tea on the Tuchmans’ secret history.

Gary, Alex’s younger brother, has been living in New Orleans for several years and has no idea why his parents stopped honoring the decades-long unspoken agreement to stick to their own corners of the country. Gary, who is going through a marital crisis, just happens to be in Los Angeles on business when he gets the call. He promises his mother he’ll find a flight home soon but can’t manage to force himself onto a plane.

Weaving together a riotous assortment of threads—the stories of three generations of Tuchmans as well as a smattering of other characters pulled into their orbit—Attenberg tenderly mines their family history and massive dysfunction not for clues as to what created the monstrous Victor but for what a monster can create in spite of himself. Her characters—flawed, defensive, overwhelmed and frequently endearing—fizz off the page. Their inner lives coalesce beautifully into a funny and heart-stirring tribute to the nutty inscrutability of belonging to a family.

When we meet Victor Tuchman, the patriarch of New Orleans-based novelist Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours, he’s as good as dead. Which is just as well, since everyone agrees Victor is a monster. Now he languishes in comatose purgatory while the whole family is called home. Well, not home exactly, but to Victor […]

In Chip Cheek’s debut novel, Cape May, the year is 1957. Young Henry and Effie from tiny Signal Creek, Georgia, are on a two-week honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey, where Effie’s uncle has a summer home. Henry “had never been north of Atlanta, and he had never seen the ocean.” Effie hadn’t understood what “off-season” meant when describing the bustling vacation spot of her childhood. It’s late September when they arrive, and as the waiter tells them at the one diner they find open that first night, “If you came to get away from it all, you came to the right place.” The newlyweds eat in silence, and are home and in bed by eight o’clock.

By the end of their first awkward week of marriage, Effie wants to go home early, and Henry, defeated, assents. But the night before they are to leave this coastal ghost town, they spot signs of life—signs of a party, no less—and decide to stop in: “They were nervous, for some reason; he could tell that she was too. Maybe it was the Rolls Royce in the driveway. Maybe, absurdly, is that they were expecting some kind of rescue and didn’t want to bungle it.” Enter brassy Clara (“she was a whirlwind, this woman,” observes Henry); her lover Max; his sullen, beautiful sister, Alma; and entirely too much gin and time to kill.

Cheek paints a graphic and sensuous portrait of an fragile marriage embattled well before its time. Henry is a brilliantly complex narrator, devastatingly naive and steadfastly assured of his own essential goodness. Sexually innocent but with a flinty edge, Effie is an enigma to her husband and to the reader.

Cape May is a besotted picnic of a novel—day-drunk and languid, shadowed by ever-threatening storm clouds.

Cape May is a besotted picnic of a novel—day-drunk and languid, shadowed by ever-threatening storm clouds.

In Leah Hager Cohen’s elegantly abbreviated family saga, Strangers and Cousins, we meet the Blumenthals as they are busy preparing their homestead and hearts for a momentous event that is to take place at their home in Rundle Junction, New York. Clem, the eldest Blumenthal child, “is planning, at the ridiculously tender age of twenty-two (never mind that Bennie was a bride at that very age), to wed her college girlfriend in four days’ time.” Amid the hubbub, she and patriarch Walter are sitting on two very big—and consequential—secrets.

Walter is bringing Bennie’s Great Aunt Glad to stay for the weekend. Glad Erland had lived in the Blumenthal home as a child, and the shiny pink scars on her face date back nearly nine decades to a horrific tragedy that struck Rundle Junction during the Spirit of Progress Grand Community Pageant. What none of the Erland-Blumenthal clan knows is that Glad has carried a tragic secret of her own since that storied disaster.

But Strangers and Cousins is framed by not one but “two pageants, eighty-seven years apart. The first scripted to fortify the myths upon which the institution of this nation was built. The second scripted to dispel the myths upon which the institution of marriage was built.” For unbeknownst to her family, theater-major Clem has planned a wedding that is as much performance art as ceremony—and has even made it her senior thesis. Like Cohen’s novel, the wedding will superimpose ultra-modern sensibilities over eons of stasis and tradition, encroached upon by both human and metaphorical intruders at the gate.

Strangers and Cousins takes place over only four days, while simultaneously spanning epochs. As crammed full as it is of family history, it nevertheless glimpses far into the Blumenthals’ future, with flights of omniscience and various existential meanderings. Cohen’s characters are familiar in their failings and lovable in their tender quirks. Her writing style and tone lend a lightweight grace to at-times heavy subject matter—a levity not flippant or callow but held aloft by a sense of time’s two-dimensional circularity and history’s Faulknerian indefatigability. Cohen’s gentle philosophizing reminds us that while the past may not even be past, and the future often feels dangerously obscure, the present—bountifully populated by both strangers and cousins—offers its own rewards, if we choose to embrace them.

In Leah Hager Cohen’s elegantly abbreviated family saga, Strangers and Cousins, we meet the Blumenthals as they are busy preparing their homestead and hearts for a momentous event that is to take place at their home in Rundle Junction, New York. Clem, the eldest Blumenthal child, “is planning, at the ridiculously tender age of twenty-two (never mind that Bennie was a bride at that very age), to wed her college girlfriend in four days’ time.” Amid the hubbub, she and patriarch Walter are sitting on two very big—and consequential—secrets.

In the first chapter of Lights All Night Long, gifted Russian teenager Ilya has just arrived in the U.S. for an academic exchange year. At the Baton Rouge airport, he refuses to speak English to his host family, the good-natured Masons: “As they waited for him to say something, their faces were so wide open, so vulnerable with hope. He knew the expression because he had imagined them having it, when he was vulnerable with hope too. But now Vladimir was in prison, and Ilya hadn’t imagined the guilt these strange, smiling faces would call up in him.”

Vladimir, Ilya’s older brother, confessed to a series of grisly murders in their small Russian hometown, a former gulag whose landscape is still marred by the Soviet Union’s collapse. But Ilya doesn’t believe drug-addicted Vladimir could have done such terrible things. Despite Ilya’s years of hard work in school and months preparing for his year in Louisiana, the polyurethane gleam of America—a place the brothers had dreamed they would take by storm together—is dulled completely for Ilya by the plight of his family left behind. With the exception of the Mason’s eldest daughter, the coltishly gorgeous Sadie, who wears her own secrets like a cloak, nothing in America interests Ilya as much as poring over internet clues each night. Ilya is trying—from a heart-bruising distance—to prove his brother’s innocence.

Lights All Night Long is that rare work of fiction that gathers page-turning momentum from its prose as much as its plot. Fitzpatrick’s writing, accessible yet exquisite, relies on surgically precise metaphors for a lot of heavy emotional lifting. As the increasingly jaded Ilya considers the price he may pay for throwing away a chance for a year in the U.S., “America burst into his brain like something held too long underwater, and with it the same huge hope.” After kissing an American girl, “he could still feel it—that happiness for him was like a dog chained to a stake, that whenever he let it run, he’d be yanked back, but still he let it run for a second and tried not to brace himself for the pull of the chain.”

Darkly beautiful, melancholic but not bleak, Lights All Night Long is storytelling at its finest. Fitzpatrick has written a compelling novel full of intimately portrayed, easy-to-love characters whose spoiled joys and resurgent hopes will linger with readers.

In the first chapter of Lights All Night Long, gifted Russian teenager Ilya has just arrived in the U.S. for an academic exchange year. At the Baton Rouge airport, he refuses to speak English to his host family, the good-natured Masons: “As they waited for him to say something, their faces were so wide open, so vulnerable with hope. He knew the expression because he had imagined them having it, when he was vulnerable with hope too. But now Vladimir was in prison, and Ilya hadn’t imagined the guilt these strange, smiling faces would call up in him.”

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