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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

March 11, 2018

New This Week - The Love of Eleanor Roosevelt's Life and A Vivid Immigrant Family Saga
 
White Houses by Amy Bloom. Novelist Bloom brings to life one of American history's mos t interesting love affairs, that of Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Loren a "Hick" Hickok, in her new work of historical fiction. In this textured and vividl y rendered reimagining, Bloom's narrator is Hickok, who escaped extreme poverty a nd an abusive father to become a reporter for Associated Press. Although not the focus of the book, details of Hickok's early life before meeting Eleanor are fascinating and give readers added insight into the enduring friendship that unfolds. While the affair was not public knowledge in its day, it was an open secret in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt accepted the relationship (he had his own lovers) and even got Hickok a job in the White House. The relationsh ip between those two and Hickok's observations of his Presidency add to the story as well.


The
House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. The prolific author has written fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and short stories, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his landmark work The Devil's Highway, published in 2004. That harrowing work described the journey of 26 men who attempted to c ross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona. Now he offers up a compelling Mexican American immigrant family saga set in San Diego. In his final  days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly 100, dies herself, leading to two bittersweet days of de la Cruz family reminiscences. Urrea paints a portrait of a complex family that underscores what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border.

Among the wealth of critical praise is a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, which described the novel, in part, thusly: "A family saga that asks what it means to be American . . .It is a celebration, although Urrea is no sentimentalist; he knows the territory in which his narrative unfolds. There is tragedy here and danger; these are real people, living in the real world. Still, even when that world intrudes, it only heightens the strength, the resilience, of the family . . . Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book." 
#1 Indie Next Pick is a Gripping Memoir of Surviving Familial Fanaticism 
 
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. This month's favorite new book among independent booksellers is an amazing memoir about a young girl who is kept out of school until age 17 but goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. Debut author Westover was the last of seven children born to Morman survivalists in the mountains of Idaho. She writes with unflinching honesty about a grim and abusive childhood spent under the thumb of a paranoid patriarch who kept four siblings out of school and the entire family away from professional medical care. Her story of surviving that upbringing would be compelling on its own, but Westover's pursuit of an education and the resulting family consequences make for quite an extraordinary story. Here's the Indie Next bookseller review:

"Tara Westover is barely 30; could she really write a necessary and timely memoir already? Absolutely. Raised largely 'off the grid' in rural Idaho - without school, doctor visits, a birth certificate, or even a family consensus on the date of her birth - Tara nevertheless decides she wants to go to college. This is a story in two parts: First, Tara's childhood working in a dangerous scrapyard alongside her six siblings, her survivalist father, and her mother, a conflicted but talented midwife and healer, while fearing Y2K and the influence of the secular world; then, her departure from her mountain home to receive an education. Both halves of her story are equally fascinating. Educated is a testament to Tara's brilliance and tenacity, a bittersweet rendering of how family relationships can be cruel or life-saving, and a truly great read from the first page to the last."  
- Emilie Sommer, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC  
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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