Megan Fishmann

Wally Lamb won readers’ hearts with his New York Times bestselling novel (and Oprah Book Club selection) She’s Come Undone. Four bestsellers later, he returns with I’ll Take You There

The novel follows film professor Felix Funicello, a divorced father who runs a Monday-night movie club for his film students. One evening, Felix encounters the ghost of Lois Weber, an American silent film actress and director. Felix follows her on the ride of his life, revisiting scenes from his past that are projected onto a movie screen. As Lois takes him back through time, Felix realizes that he has been charged with uncovering a dark secret at the heart of his family. 

Lamb’s previous work has been quite sensitive to women, painting endearing portraits of female characters who have been ignored, shamed and often mistreated. He builds on that tradition in I’ll Take You There, a love letter to feminism and to trailblazing women—real and imagined—who have graced the silver screen or stood behind the camera.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Wally Lamb won readers’ hearts with his New York Times bestselling novel (and Oprah Book Club selection) She’s Come Undone. Four bestsellers later, he returns with I’ll Take You There.

BookPage Fiction Top Pick, November 2014

Michel Faber’s phenomenal The Book of Strange New Things is primed to become a classic on space, faith and, above all, devotion.

Faber made bestseller and awards lists with his Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White, and a film adaptation of an earlier work, Under the Skin, was recently released. In his latest, readers are introduced to Christian minister/reformed addict Peter Leigh. Peter has been selected as one of the very few to travel to the newly named planet Oasis. His mission: to preach the good word to a community of native aliens (Oasans) who are surprisingly desperate to learn from “the book of strange new things” (aka the Bible).

Despite his excitement over this extraordinary opportunity, Peter struggles with having to leave his beloved wife, Bea, back home in London. They are able to communicate only via a form of email known   as The Shoot, and their messages take days to arrive. Peter immediately immerses himself in the Oasans’ community, returning to base only every five days—a timespan that equals weeks on Earth. Each time, he receives new bad news from Bea. Tsunamis have wiped out major islands, national banks have gone under, garbage men are on strike and earthquakes have wiped out small countries. With each day, Bea’s hysteria mounts, along with the public reaction to these traumas.

Peter is faced with a moral quandary: Should he return to Bea, and a potentially doomed planet? Or should he remain with the Oasans, slowly losing himself in their strange world? However, all is not what it appears in his new home, and Faber shines in examining Peter’s conflicting feelings over whether he is best suited to serve God or his wife. Those leery of science fiction should not skip this remarkable, magnetic book full of eloquent meditations on faith, devotion, commitment and humanity.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Michel Faber’s phenomenal The Book of Strange New Things is primed to become a classic on space, faith and, above all, devotion.

Fans of historical fiction will be drawn to The Miniaturist, a fantastical tale from British debut novelist Jessie Burton that takes place in 17th-century Amsterdam. The story begins as 18-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at the home of her wealthy merchant husband, Johannes Brandt. Surprisingly, though, he is nowhere to be found. In his stead is his strictly religious sister, Marin; housemaid Cornelia; and his manservant, a former slave named Otto. Nella, a country girl, is forced to forge her way alone as head of the household.

Upon Johannes’ return, he doesn’t seem remotely interested in visiting the marriage bed. Marin is reluctant to hand over the reins to the household and continues to decide what foods they must eat (plain, cold herring) and how much money they are allowed to spend (practically none, in spite of their wealth). Still, Johannes surprises his new bride with an exorbitant gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home, based on an actual doll house owned by the real-life Petronella Oortman, which can be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Disregarding Marin’s monetary anxiety, Nella commissions a miniaturist to furnish her doll house. The artisan’s work is exquisite, but soon the miniaturist begins creating objects that Nella never asked for and which the miniaturist could not have possibly seen: their whippets, the oil paintings in their bedchamber and finally, replicas of the members of the household. Nella demands that the miniaturist stop, but the exquisitely crafted items keep arriving, slowly morphing to reveal lethal secrets that hide in the Brandts’ walls.

The fantastical elements of the story are intriguing; however, the novel takes a disappointing turn with an unsatisfying resolution to the mystery of the miniaturist. Regardless, The Miniaturist excels in depicting Amsterdam and its wealthy upper class, and lovers of art and of Amsterdam will be drawn to Burton’s imaginative story, which flows as effortlessly as water down a canal.

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Jessie Burton about The Miniaturist.

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Artful drama meets historic Amsterdam in The Miniaturist.

Much like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, best-selling author Haruki Murakami is the type of writer whose fans queue up at bookstores at midnight, clamoring to be the first to get their hands on his latest book. Unfortunately, people who do not read Japanese have had to wait quite some time to read Murakami’s latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which was published to acclaim in Japan in April 2013.

One could argue that it was worth the wait. In this somber book, readers are introduced to Tsukuru Tazaki, a Tokyo train engineer in his mid-30s. During high school, Tsukuru had been immersed in a particularly close friendship with two other boys and two girls in his hometown. However, one day soon after they started college, the group kicked him out of their close-knit circle and refused all future contact, without giving any explanation.

Now Tsukuru’s girlfriend has decided that before their relationship can progress, he needs to get to the bottom of why his friends tossed him out like a piece of garbage. So Tsukuru embarks on an international pilgrimage to visit each of his friends for an explanation behind the breakup, in order to move on with his life and find closure.

Traveling from Northern Japan through Tokyo and over to Finland, Tsukuru is immersed in the type of nostalgia where one feels homesick for a past that cannot be recreated or reclaimed, no matter how hard one might try. Those who have suffered a loss of friendship (and who can say that they haven’t ever been ousted by a clique?) will find this book hits particularly close to home.

As the ending of this sorrow-steeped novel approaches, a beautiful future for Tsukuru is only guaranteed by a close examination of the secrets that have stained his past.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Much like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, best-selling author Haruki Murakami is the type of writer whose fans queue up at bookstores at midnight, clamoring to be the first to get their hands on his latest book. Unfortunately, people who do not read Japanese have had to wait quite some time to read Murakami’s latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which was published to acclaim in Japan in April 2013.

“There are often two conversations going on in a marriage,” short-story writer Robin Black claims in her debut novel, Life Drawing. “The one that you’re having and the one that you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.” One could suggest that there are two conversations going on in this quiet, yet exquisitely crafted novel: the conversation between Augusta (Gus) and her husband Owen, and the conversation they’re not having, about Gus having cheated on him.

Black’s novel is primarily set in an idyllic farmhouse in Pennsylvania, where the couple has moved in order to work on their craft (Gus is a painter; Owen, a writer), and their marriage. Several years ago, during a bout of depression following the death of her sister, Gus had a brief—but extremely passionate—affair with Bill, the father of one of her art students. Determined to make her marriage work, Gus confessed her transgressions to Owen.

What Owen does not know is that Gus has been keeping in touch with Bill’s troubled yet talented daughter, Laine, for years. Keeping this secret weighs heavily on Gus. So when Alison Hemmings, a teacher-turned-painter, moves in next door, Gus finds the female confidante that she didn’t know she was looking for. Their friendship quickly deepens as Gus confides about her affair while Alison reveals her own stories about an abusive ex-husband and her 20-something daughter Nora’s recent turn to religion and writing.

What happens between the neighbors is both expected and yet full of surprises. Black takes precise care with her prose, drawing out the emotional conflicts between her characters as she asks whether a marriage can be saved after the ultimate betrayal. Though the slow pacing may frustrate readers, it’s all part of a buildup to a powerful conclusion. Life Drawing is a memorable debut.

 

“There are often two conversations going on in a marriage,” short-story writer Robin Black claims in her debut novel, Life Drawing. “The one that you’re having and the one that you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.” One could suggest that there are two conversations going on in this quiet, yet exquisitely crafted novel: the conversation between Augusta (Gus) and her husband Owen, and the conversation they’re not having, about Gus having cheated on him.

Emma Straub’s delightful second novel, The Vacationers, is the best work yet from this Brooklyn-based writer, who previously penned the quirky short story collection Other People We Married and the historical novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.

The Vacationers begins as the Post family is getting ready to leave their Upper West Side apartment for a two-week vacation on the island of Mallorca. Franny is a zaftig travel writer who treats food as a means of therapy; her husband, Jim, was just fired from his longtime job as a magazine editor after having an affair with an editorial assistant barely older than his daughter. Only mildly aware of her parents’ marital problems, Sylvia is focused on starting at Brown in the fall, far away from the brutality of high school bullies.

Joining the group is Sylvia’s older brother Bobby (a Miami real estate agent) and his personal trainer girlfriend, Carmen. Rounding out the bunch of vacationers is Franny’s best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence, who are awaiting possible good news from an adoption agency.

But while Franny meant for the trip to celebrate her and Jim’s 35th anniversary along with Sylvia’s high school graduation, the vacation turns into something much heavier as tensions are inflamed, jealousies are ignited and, ultimately, those pesky family secrets are revealed.

Straub transports her readers to an idyllic paradise of cobblestone streets, olive-tree-strewn hillsides, stunning beaches and rich, foreign delicacies, even as she creates an all-too-real family drama. The Vacationers is as refreshing as a frozen strawberry daiquiri and full of crisply drawn characters you’ll feel you’ve come to know.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Emma Straub’s delightful second novel, The Vacationers, is the best work yet from this Brooklyn-based writer, who previously penned the quirky short story collection Other People We Married and the historical novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.

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