Hut's Place
 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

April 14, 2019

New Novels Showcase Wartime Heroism and Patriarchal Atrocity  
Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly. In Lilac Girls, her hugely popular first novel, Kelly followed the lives of three women connected to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women during World War II: a Polish prisoner, a young Nazi doctor, and the wealthy American woman who becomes involved with a concentration camp network through her work at the French consulate. The story was Inspired by actual events and real people, including New York socialite and real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. With her new book, Kelly moves a generation back in time to tell another story of war, also inspired by true events and again featuring three women and a plot that moves from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I. Caroline Ferriday makes another appearance, but it's her mother Eliza who is the focus this time around. Here's some plot information:
It is 1914, and New Yorker Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met one summer years ago in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia's imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortune-teller's daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. Back in New York, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya's letters suddenly stop coming, she fears the worst for her best friend. This is historical fiction and wartime drama from a welcomed women's perspective.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews. One of the 2019's most eagerly anticipated novels appears to have justified all the hype, with rave reviews and an immediate appearance on independent bookstore bestseller lists. The story is a harrowing one, made all the more so by the real-life events it draws from, but it's also compelling and thought-provoking. Hundreds of women in a fundamentalist Mennonite community have been attacked during the night, and they are told by leaders that demons are responsible. What they discover is that the true demons are men from their own group who have been drugging and raping females of all ages. When a fuss is raised, the women are told they can either forgive the rapists and keep their mouths shut, which keeps open the path to heaven, or leave the colony and leave salvation behind. Over the course of two days, eight of the women gather in secret to discuss what to do and what the consequences of any actions may prove to be.  
The novel is an April Indie Next pick; here's the bookseller review that appears on that list:  
"Women Talking is an eloquent exploration of how a group mind coalesces - as a kind of vision that comes in fits and starts, arguments and digression - to finally arrive at a decision. Or, read another way, it's a compelling examination of the opposing voices in our own heads as we wrestle with impossible choices between the known and the unknown. What's most compelling about Toews' novel is its lack of sensationalism and how it shows real people struggling through the aftermath of devastating violence. Grounded in a religious culture where suffering and obedience are an expectation, these women grapple with uneasy answers to what's best for themselves and their children. Women Talking is the quiet, startling story of coming to terms with how, or if, we save ourselves."
- Steve Mitchell, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC
Urrea's Immigrant Family Epic Filled with Joy and Heart 
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. This sweeping Mexican-American family
saga was described by Publishers Weekly as a "vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows." With its arrival in paperback, the novel should be on multiple book group lists. 
Urrea sets his story in modern day San Diego, where 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.  
NPR's Lily Meyer was one of the many fans of both the book and the author's writing skill: "Urrea's gifts as a storyteller are prodigious... The book's spirit is irrepressibly high. Even in its saddest moments, The House of Broken Angels hums with joy...The novel overflows with the pleasure of family...And all that vulnerability, combined with humor and celebration and Urrea's vivid prose, will crack you open." 

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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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