Rachel Hoge

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In What’s Eating Us: Women, Food, and the Epidemic of Body Anxiety, author and four-time Emmy Award-winning television journalist Cole Kazdin declares there’s hope for those who have tried and failed to quit diet culture. As only someone with firsthand experience can, Kazdin explains in unflinching detail just how damaging dieting can be to our mental and physical health. Although What’s Eating Us centers on Kazdin herself—a journalist determined to reach recovery for her eating disorder—this isn’t just one woman’s story. Neither is it just a fact-based report aimed at finding answers. It’s both of these things: personal and illuminating, subjective yet relatable. Citing medical research alongside real-life testimonies, with a balance of personal candor and well-executed analysis, this book will resonate with anyone who’s ever been critical of their reflection in a mirror.

From body positivity to neutrality to liberation, Kazdin explores the different approaches to redefining our relationships with our bodies. For most people, this journey begins when we challenge our understanding of weight, health and dieting, which are topics mired in misinformation. Separating weight and health, Kazdin explains, becomes even more difficult when you factor in the ways that diet companies misleadingly brand themselves as holistic health and wellness programs. 

But perhaps the real feat of Kazdin’s book is its ability to propel the reader into thinking about their body in a way that feels connected to society—to gender, race and economic class—which makes the individual burden feel a little less heavy. The ways in which the scientific and medical communities have failed individuals when it comes to dietary health, Kazdin argues, is often rooted in systemic structures around racism, sexism and prejudice against larger bodies. For example, the toxicity of diet culture impacts everyone but especially women of color, whose health concerns often go unheard or ignored by doctors.

Folded within the book’s narrative are statements that may seem radical but are actually evidence-based and supported. Yes, people of all sizes can be healthy. No, a person’s weight is not always within their control. And yes, dieting to lose weight typically leads to gaining it back again. With empathy and understanding, Kazdin offers the reader everything they need to better understand this difficult topic. There are the daunting, disheartening facts; the levity of shared incredulity; and finally, the neutrality needed to see the number on the scale as just that: a number.

With its balance of personal candor and research, Cole Kazdin’s What’s Eating Us will resonate with anyone who’s ever been critical of their reflection in a mirror.
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Aisha Harris, co-host of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” and a writer for Slate and The New York Times, is the pop culture maven millennials have been waiting for. That’s why her debut book, Wannabe: Reckonings With the Pop Culture That Shapes Me, will be flying off the shelves faster than Taylor Swift presale tickets. Part pop culture analysis, part social commentary, and completely and intrinsically personal, Wannabe tackles topics both internal and external. At the forefront are societal issues such as positive representation versus harmful stereotypes in media. Harris’ identity as a Black woman also shapes the narrative as she deftly explores the intersection of pop culture and politics, noting how our political climate changes the way we tell stories.

This book will appeal to readers wishing to go beyond the consumption of media for entertainment’s sake by helping them engage in a socially conscious dialogue. But despite its intellectual value, Wannabe isn’t written for academics. Harris’ audience is anyone who wishes to broaden their understanding of pop culture’s significance to society, and the accessibility of her writing helps to achieve that goal. The humor incorporated throughout the book is truly a delight, and each chapter is chock full of so many witty asides that Harris, were she a television writer, could be the new Amy Sherman-Palladino.

But the book truly shines when it offers us a peek inside Harris’ psyche, providing examples of specific artists, actors and authors who have impacted her life. From unlikely childhood heroines such as tomboy Kristy from The Baby-Sitters Club and loyal punk Ashley Spinelli from the cartoon “Recess,” to the incredible impact of the MTV and VH1 R&B era (looking at you, Toni Braxton), Harris explores how her younger self gravitated toward subversive female icons who redefined the meanings of femininity and strength. As the years passed, other content challenged Harris’ views of womanhood and sexuality, from the sensual Nola Darling in She’s Gotta Have It to the four iconic women who defined a sex-positive generation in “Sex and the City.” Harris also analyzes present-day pop culture, from flawed female leads in TV shows like “Fleabag,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Insecure” to pop stars like Rihanna and Megan Thee Stallion who are unapologetically sensual, commanding and fun. When Harris applies her refined, journalistic scrutiny to subjective nostalgia, the behind-the-scenes magic of Wannabe becomes truly clear.

So in conclusion—taps mic—Imma let y’all finish, but this book is the best pop culture guide of all time!

When Aisha Harris applies her journalistic scrutiny to the subversive pop culture icons who shaped her millennial upbringing and worldview, the magic of Wannabe comes alive.
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In her memoir, Lara Love Hardin puts a human face on painfully personal crimes—like the 32 counts of identity theft she commits against her community in order to fund her drug addiction. The Many Lives of Mama Love grips you as suddenly as any psychological thriller, leaving you breathless as Love Hardin evades the consequences of her crimes until, eventually, there’s nowhere left to run. During her yearlong incarceration, the women Love Hardin meets in cell block G are vastly different from her—a former upper-class soccer mom with a successful business—yet she finds similarities and common ground with her fellow inmates in her struggle with sobriety. The title itself is perfectly apt, encompassing Love Hardin’s status as a devoted mother who fights to remain in her children’s lives as well as the way she provided stability and understanding to younger inmates, who nicknamed her ”Mama Love.”

With its behind-the-scenes look into incarceration, The Many Lives of Mama Love provides a largely unknown perspective that is absolutely crucial to understanding our country’s prison system. As she relates her grueling firsthand experiences behind bars, Love Hardin folds in commentary on prison reform that is compelling, persuasive and timely. Her journey through the most tumultuous years of her life—from her harrowing time locked away to her release; from the desperate attempts to maintain her freedom and parental rights to her rise as one of the most successful ghostwriters on the literary scene—is the embodiment of endurance and fortitude. The vulnerability and authenticity of her story is only rivaled by her portrayal of the hard-fought self-awareness that comes from finally facing oneself. Readers will experience the lows and highs of addiction, incarceration and rehabilitation as Love Hardin assembles the pieces of her shattered life into something beautiful again in this gritty and inspiring chronicle. 

Readers will experience the lows and highs of addiction, incarceration and rehabilitation as Love Hardin assembles the pieces of her shattered life into something beautiful again.
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With unparalleled lyricism and a command of language only a poet could possess, How to Say Babylon: A Memoir recounts Safiya Sinclair’s life as a Rastafarian child raised under the oppressive and patriarchal rule of her father. While providing a contextual background on Rastafari—a religious movement and cultural community many have heard of, but few outsiders understand—Jamaican-born Sinclair tells the story of her and her siblings’ upbringing of isolation, fear and poverty. Shining a spotlight on the persecution and unwanted attention her unorthodox upbringing garnered in Jamaica, in addition to the acts of racism running rampant in the Western world, Sinclair describes acts of ignorance and cruelty from a perspective so close, you can feel her wounds. How to Say Babylon contemplates matters of race and religion, of class and equality, of identity and womanhood, through an unforgettable voice that’s unflinchingly raw and powerful.

The beacon of light throughout this often tragic narrative is Sinclair’s journey to her vocation as a writer. With rich descriptions that feel languid and decadent, each sentence should be consumed like a meal—filled with literary nutrition and poetic garnishes that’ll leave Sinclair’s fellow writers begging for the recipe. Inhabiting a space between poetry and prose, with the very best elements of both on display, How to Say Babylon is truly a poet’s memoir. A story of Black womanhood that grips the reader through its obvious feat of craft and its captivating storytelling, the style of Sinclair’s work is utterly unique, including phonetic dialogue that brings Jamaica’s Rastafarian world to life. How to Say Babylon also considers the power of literature and education, the strength and perseverance of familial bonds and the complex notion of identity for people of color worldwide.

Above all, the pages of How to Say Babylon should be savored like the final sip of an expensive wine—with deference, realizing that a story of this magnitude comes along all too infrequently.

Safiya Sinclair's memoir should be savored like the final sip of an expensive wine—with deference, realizing that a story of this magnitude comes along all too infrequently.
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John Hendrickson’s Life on Delay: Making Peace With a Stutter is the kind of memoir that educates, endears, impacts and devastates, often simultaneously. A journalist and senior editor at The Atlantic, Hendrickson is best known for his 2019 interview with then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. The resulting piece had little to do with politics. Rather, Hendrickson’s article centered on Biden’s lifelong stutter and its influence on everything from his childhood to public speaking. The perceptible beating heart of the piece is Hendrickson himself, who tackled the subject of Biden’s stutter in a way only someone on the inside could. Hendrickson also speaks with a stutter, one that he deems severe. Life on Delay picks up after Hendrickson’s article went viral, when he was left to tackle media attention focused on the disability he had spent most of his life trying not to think about.

John Hendrickson shares what happened when he stopped regarding his stutter as an obstacle and started viewing it as a fact.

Although the book is predominantly a memoir, covering everything from adolescent bullying to teenage angst, it also includes a wide selection of interviews with other people who stutter. These conversations highlight Hendrickson’s journey from reluctant stuttering icon to a person at peace with himself and his stutter. His writing is unflinching as he depicts the daily life of someone with a disability only 1% of the U.S. population has. Personal yet informative, Life on Delay delves into the internal poeticism of someone who feels perpetually on the fringe while offering tangible advice regarding what to say or not say to someone with a stutter. By combining his own personal narrative with others’ life stories, Hendrickson provides a kaleidoscopic portrait of stutterers’ lived experiences, including creating music and art, facing childhood trauma, having their own “coming out” experiences and accepting disability as a part of their identity.

Life on Delay is not a disability memoir that focuses on trying to find a cure for stuttering, nor does it fall into the category of sentimental, inspirational stories of overcoming impossible odds. Instead, the book promotes a simple message: Obtaining true peace comes from accepting every part of yourself, including the things that bring you shame. It’s a universal message from a voice that has been misunderstood at best, demeaned and diminished at worst, making its impact on the reader all the more profound.

John Hendrickson’s Life on Delay: Making Peace With a Stutter is a memoir that educates, endears, impacts and devastates, often simultaneously.
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John Hendrickson begins his memoir, Life on Delay: Making Peace With a Stutter, at the point when most people first encountered his byline: during an interview in 2019 with then-presidential candidate Joe Biden for The Atlantic, where Hendrickson is a senior editor. Although he is a person who stutters, the viral article, titled “What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say,” was Hendrickson’s first piece about stuttering that was written for “public consumption,” he tells me by phone from his home in New York City.

At the time of our conversation, near the end of 2022, Biden is almost halfway through his first presidential term. Hendrickson, meanwhile, has spent the intervening years writing a memoir about stuttering and his journey of self-acceptance, prompted by his highly acclaimed article on Biden’s lifelong stutter. “Writing the article was the first time I had really reckoned with the layers of being a person who stutters,” he says. “[Stuttering] goes well beyond difficulty in saying words. It’s about avoidance and coping. It’s about trying to find self-confidence. It’s about stigmatization. There are so many layers to it that are deeper and more complicated than the mechanics of saying words, and that was the first time I had ever addressed any of that in a meaningful way.”

Read our starred review of ‘Life on Delay’ by John Hendrickson.

Like Biden and Hendrickson during their interview, Hendrickson and I share a common experience: We stutter. We spend the first few minutes of our phone call exchanging mutual relief that there’s no pressure to hide our stutter during introductions, and no apprehension about how the person on the other end might react to the repetitions, prolongations, blocks or other auditory elements of our stutters. That sense of camaraderie is one Hendrickson highlights in his book as well, which not only covers his firsthand experience with stuttering but also incorporates interviews with stutterers from diverse backgrounds. “My personal story is mine, and it contains certain elements that are universal. But there are so many other people, so many other stories and other perspectives out there that are very different from the life that I’ve lived, even if we’ve both lived with a stutter,” Hendrickson explains. “Those different perspectives really broadened my understanding. I can only convey my own way of living, but that wouldn’t be a full enough picture. I wanted to make sure I was offering the reader a true variety of perspectives on navigating this disorder.”

Those other perspectives include a guitarist named Lyle who sells self-referential T-shirts about his stutter; a nurse practitioner named Roisin who became the co-leader of a stuttering support group, where she eventually met her spouse, Stavros, who also stutters; and a “multitalented artist” who has “reclaimed the power of his stutter like no one I’ve ever met,” Hendrickson writes, by rendering his first name, Jerome, with a preferred spelling of “JJJJJerome,” further cementing the connection between his identity and his speech.

“The underlying message of the book is: Never underestimate your capacity for change.”

Book jacket image for Life on Delay by John Hendrickson

Alongside these compelling conversations, Hendrickson provides the most up-to-date medical and scientific research on stuttering. He describes therapy practices that emphasize self-acceptance over more traditional techniques, like fluency shaping, that approach stuttering as a problem to be solved or eliminated. “It was very important to me to highlight the most cutting-edge, modern and progressive approaches to therapy, in which they’re giving clients the primary message of: ‘Communicate confidently,’” Hendrickson says. “‘It’s OK to stutter, and we want to work with you to make you feel empowered to speak in any situation. If you’re disfluent or fluent, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re talking at all. What matters is that you’re living a full life with your stutter.’”

There’s an interesting sense of disconnection when writing about a stutter, which can be physically transcribed on the page—by repeating certain letters or sounds, or using ellipses and white space on the page to mimic blocks and pauses—but can’t be fully realized until it’s spoken out loud. Even so, there are scenes in Life on Delay that capture the strain, pressure and anxiety of daily interactions as a person who stutters. “This is the tension that stutterers live with: Is it better for me to speak and potentially embarrass myself or to shut down and say nothing at all?” Hendrickson writes in an early chapter. “Neither approach yields happiness.” In the first half of the book, there’s a sense of melancholy, isolation and anger toward his speech that Hendrickson captures beautifully: “I understand that my stutter may make you cringe, laugh, recoil. I know my stutter can feel like a waste of time—of yours, of mine—and that it has the power to embarrass both of us. And I’ve begun to realize that the only way to understand its power is to talk about it.” Hendrickson shares that part of his motivation for writing Life on Delay, for addressing those feelings of shame and isolation head-on, was to “write a book that my teenage self wanted to read.”

“It’s harder and it takes longer to reach a place of acceptance—to really undergo this change in perspective and make peace with the fact that things aren’t perfect.”

As Hendrickson reflects on his own childhood, interacts with more people who stutter and conducts interviews that foster open and authentic communication over the course of Life on Delay, a sense of acceptance for his own speech begins to emerge. “I’ve changed,” Hendrickson says succinctly. “I’ve undergone a change with my relationship to my stutter. Five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I would have never expected to be writing a book about stuttering, or giving interviews, or doing anything remotely resembling public speaking. So the underlying message of the book is: Never underestimate your capacity for change.”

Hendrickson says the change he experienced was a result of finally accepting his speech and regarding it as a fact of his lived experience, rather than an obstacle to be altered or avoided. “The subtitle of the book is ‘Making Peace With a Stutter’ because that was really my goal. It’s possible to reach a place of peace with it, and that is a really profound feeling, because it’s different from liking something or hating something,” he says. “There are so many things in our lives we likely wish were different or, if we had a do-over, that we would change. It’s harder and it takes longer to reach a place of acceptance—to really undergo this change in perspective and make peace with the fact that things aren’t perfect. When you’re able to internalize a message like that and apply it to other parts of life, it does give you a sense of peace.”

Author headshot of John Hendrickson by Matthew Bernucca.

The author of Life on Delay stopped regarding his stutter as an obstacle and started viewing it as a fact.
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Most writers have strong opinions about how a successful story is written, and unfortunately for us ambitious writers-to-be, these opinions often differ. Should I begin by outlining or free-writing? What’s more important, plot or prose? I’ve asked these questions, and more, to an endless parade of writers, editors and creative writing teachers. And what I’ve discovered is not one solution, but an appreciation for all solutions—as each perspective can teach me something worthwhile about the writing process.


Writing coach Deb Norton believes we all have creative potential, but we allow a mysterious force to interrupt our writing. Norton calls this “resistance,” which can take the shape of self-doubt, perfectionism, an imaginary panel of literary critics—whatever creates apprehension during the writing process. The solution? Embracing resistance until it becomes a creative asset, not a stumbling block. In Part Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance, Norton shows us how.

The process begins with resistance training, which relies on 6-minute writing exercises that build creative strength and flexibility. If this sounds like writing bootcamp, you’re on the right track. “You should exercise your writing for the same reason you exercise your body,” Norton writes. “You can’t build muscle without something to push against.” And while writing prompts can feel conventional and safe, Norton advises writers to approach this time with wild abandonment. Not only does she provide a guide on how to actually accomplish this (here’s a hint: it involves letting go of control, intentions and even standard grammar) she also includes writing prompts for every kind of writer. Do you rely too heavily on inspiration? Do you find yourself bored or distracted when writing? Maybe you worry too much or play it too safe. Whatever your poison, this book may provide the creative antidote.

These writing prompts also explore the original cause of creative resistance. “It’s in our nature to be creative. We see this in the way that all children play-act, paint, dance and sing without fear, as though they were born to it,” Norton writes. “But at some point the creative spirit is ‘nurtured’ right out of us.” Revitalizing your creative instincts, then, may require reflection on topics like time, truth and memory. Not only should we locate our inner critics, Norton argues, but we should know which opinions to discard and which to value. “If you unfriend all of your inner critics, how will you know whether you’re doing your best work and reaching your highest potential?” Norton asks.

A formally educated actor who spent a decade in the field, Norton colors each chapter with humorous and honest anecdotes that bring each writing prompt to life. Whether relaying how she could only embrace the role of an angry Greek god by imagining her distaste for lima beans, or revealing how resentment of her husband’s cleaning skills was just another way to avoid daily writing, Norton approaches each chapter with a mix of personal essay, brief philosophy and detailed writing prompts. 

Ideal for those willing to use resistance to become more positive and productive writers, Part Wild ends with more than 400 bonus prompts “to ensure that you never have an excuse not to write.” Personally, I found myself reaching for a pen long before each chapter’s end.


With its title and focus, I expected The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults to be abstract and dreamlike, perhaps a leisure read. But as soon as I began reading, it became clear that Cheryl B. Klein is a serious and knowledgeable editor who has produced a comprehensive guide to writing books for young readers. Klein has worked in the publishing industry for more than 15 years, most notably as the continuity editor on the last two books of the Harry Potter series. In The Magic Words, she shares her expertise on writing, revising and publishing books for younger audiences.

Klein is quick to note which elements of fiction she believes are most important: good prose, rich characters, strong plot construction, thematic depth and powerful emotion. “An artistically successful book will demonstrate strength in at least four of the qualities I’ve just named,” she writes. She shows how to develop the premise of a novel and answers many practical questions, like how to query an agent. Clear-cut chapters like “How to Write a Novel” appear alongside chapters that detail industry expectations for things like word count and formatting. This is the kind of straightforward and knowledgeable feedback that can take writers years to receive in the literary marketplace. Luckily for us, Klein chose to share her expertise so writers can apply these insights to their own projects when they begin writing.

Throughout the book, Klein deconstructs how successful novels work and presents techniques for recreating that structure within our own writing. She also examines the unique joys and challenges of writing for a younger audience. Packed with professional lessons and interwoven with personal anecdotes, observations and visual aids, Klein’s book is rich with authority and know-how.

But beneath all this insider knowledge is Klein’s unwavering belief in the power of words, which I suspect is what prompted her to begin reading and writing in the first place. “Through the invocation of the right words in the right order,” Klein writes, “books can change lives.”


Author, story coach and writing instructor Lisa Cron spends her time thinking about brains. According to Cron, unsuccessful books don’t suffer from a lack of talent, plot or prose. They struggle because most writers don’t know what a successful story is made of, and the chemical reaction it produces.

In her latest book, Story Genius, Cron shows writers how to crack the story code by unveiling the cognitive storytelling strategies of brain science. Her methods, she argues, will not only make writing flourish—it’ll save writers time on pages that seem to go nowhere.

In the beginning, Story Genius sets a straightforward goal: to explain what a story is, and what it isn’t. For decades, writers and readers have believed that crafting a good story requires a particular spark, or a literary magic. Cron argues against this romantic notion by using science to explain the power of storytelling. “Because our response to story is hardwired, it’s not something we have to learn or even think about,” she writes. “The power story has over us is biological.” A good story hacks the reader’s mind, quite literally, by triggering the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is often associated with the pleasure system of the brain, meaning a good story can have as powerful of an effect as a good meal or a romantic encounter.

To craft a story that hooks an audience, creates a loyal readership and is considered a success, Cron believes we need to understand, then harness, this particular type of brain chemistry. But how do we actually apply this knowledge to our writing?

The answer is linked to the story’s main character, the protagonist, and how she makes sense of what’s happening. “Story is not about the plot, or what happens,” Cron writes. “Story is about how the things that happen in the plot affect the protagonist, and how he or she changes internally as a result.” Effective storytelling, then, requires an internal struggle that is manifested by an external one. And because dopamine is triggered by intense curiosity, when readers are compelled by a story, it means they’re instinctively interested in the protagonist’s emotional and physical journey. In fact, Cron cites a study that reveals, “when we’re reading a story, our brain activity isn’t that of an observer, but of a participant.” The reason a vast majority of manuscripts are rejected, Cron says, is because the plot is more developed than the characters.

But Story Genius provides more than just a biological breakdown of storytelling. Cron also helps us craft the inside story, where we connect and explore the life of our protagonists; afterward, we must create an external story to prompt the protagonist’s internal struggle. To create writing that’s textured, Cron shares writing tips on topics like subplots, secondary characters, character backgrounds and more. By the end, she promises we’ll have the tools to produce “evolving, multilayered cause-and-effect” blueprints for our next projects.

And then—when others ask what our secret is—perhaps we’ll be coy and just say, “Science.” 

Most writers have strong opinions about how a successful story is written, and unfortunately for us ambitious writers-to-be, these opinions often differ. Three new books offer valuable perspectives on writing and advice on how to overcome the stumbling blocks in the creative process.
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The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a rare indulgence in contemporary fiction. Offering a world that’s equally real and imagined, Heather O’Neill’s latest novel fashions a love story set in historical Montreal that spans the life of two unusual orphans.

As children raised in harsh conditions, Rose and Pierrot oppose the cruel reality of life by embracing a fantastical world of make-believe. They bloom into artists and performers—excelling in music, dancing, comedy and acting. The chemistry in their performance mirrors their connection in life, and it seems fated that Rose and Pierrot will spend their lives loving each another. But when they’re separated as teenagers during the Great Depression, they begin parallel paths deep into Montreal’s underworld. When they finally reunite, will the magic of the stage and the love they shared as children be enough to save them from themselves?

All at once, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is whimsical, melancholy, tragic and delightful—a wonderful feat that recreates the ambivalence of life. Throughout the novel, the bleakest of realities are colored by magic, and the most joyful moments are cloaked in subtle gloom. The novel’s many addictions—drugs, power, even love and music—are juxtaposed against the presence of invisible bears, sad clowns, clairvoyant occurrences and apples made of jewels. But the intricate details of The Lonely Hearts Hotel do much more than surprise and entertain; they share the lives of characters we can’t help but fascinatingly follow. The joy and adoration between Rose and Pierrot form the novel’s core, and the fact that their love story is shown through shades of mysticism, absurdity and hardship accentuates O’Neill’s ability to tell a story—and tell it distinctively.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is unlike any novel I’ve ever read. Though it has similar themes and sensations as William Blake’s “The Tyger” and even Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, Moulin Rouge!, O’Neill’s particular mix of magical realism, comic tragedy and romance makes it a highly original work of fiction. Is this novel an idyllic fairy tale of stage magic and romance, or a surreal exploration of sadness, sensuality and addiction? For all you ambitious readers, I’m happy to report that The Lonely Hearts Hotel is both.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a rare indulgence in contemporary fiction. Offering a world that’s equally real and imagined, Heather O’Neill’s latest novel fashions a love story set in historical Montreal that spans the life of two unusual orphans.

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In her first novel, The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden has created a coming-of-age story rooted in folklore, set in the Russian wilderness and surrounded by the magic of winter.

In 14th-century Russia, Vasya is an unusual girl—wild and strong, perceptive and brave—who grew up captivated by her family’s frightening tales and legends. But when Vasya finds the stories to be true, and realizes she has special and coveted abilities, she must protect her family from ancient dangers long believed to be fairy tales.

Arden masterfully portrays the unbridled freedom of her young heroine, as ominous forces loom and the tension heightens between the old ways of the village and the new official religion of Orthodox Christianity. Vasya and her family live in a world of beeswax and wine, of warm ovens and deep sleep, described in gorgeous and lyrical prose. At the novel’s core lies a wonderfully woven family tapestry, with generations of sibling friendship, ancestral insight and marital love.

Arden, who has a B.A. in French and Russian literature, spent a year living and studying in Moscow, and her background in Russian culture delivers an added layer of authenticity. She includes a note concerning her transliteration process and a glossary of terms at the end, lending more context to this textured, remarkable blend of history and fantasy.

A commanding opening of an enchanting new series, The Bear and the Nightingale is a must-read for lovers of history, fairy tales and whirlwind adventures. With an unforgettable setting and an exceptional female protagonist, this literary fantasy is a spellbinding read.

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Katherine Arden.

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Katherine Arden has created a coming-of-age story rooted in folklore, set in the Russian wilderness and surrounded by the magic of winter.

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