Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

June 26, 2022
New Softcovers Include National Book Award Fiction Winner and a Political Thriller from a Powerhouse Writing Team
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott. In this powerful novel, the winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction, Mott tackles, in the words of Publishers Weekly, "what it means to live in a country where Black people perpetually 'live lives under the hanging sword of fear' " The book follows several storylines, going back and forth between a Black author on a cross-country publicity tour to promote his bestselling novel and a young Black boy living in a rural town in the recent past. And then there is The Kid, a possibly imaginary child who appears to the author on his tour.

The National Book Awards Judges Citation for the book had this to say: "With audacity and invention, Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book weaves together three narrative strands — an unnamed author, a boy named Soot, and a figure known as The Kid — into a masterful novel. In a structurally and conceptually daring examination of art, fame, family and being Black in America, Mott somehow manages the impossible trick of being playful, insightful and deeply moving, all at the same time. A highly original, inspired work that breaks new ground."
State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny. Two good friends combined to produce a bang-up political thriller that was one of last Fall's most popular books. Fueled in large part by Clinton's political knowledge and experience and in part by the bestselling Penny's skill at building suspense, their effort yielded an apocalyptic tale of global menace that received lots of love from critics and booksellers.
The protagonist of the book, Ellen Adams, is this country's new Secretary of State. She has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray and the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy. The attacks are the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; and more. Adams and her team soon realize that everything has been carefully planned to take advantage of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

In her review on NPR's Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan said, "State of Terror is a plot-driven concoction, featuring a classic race against time to out-maneuver international terrorists and homegrown traitors hellbent on turning the United States into a Russian satellite state... State of Terror is a giddy read, particularly for women of a certain age... All thrillers are fantasy stories — fantasies about power and ingenuity. In State of Terror, an older woman draws on her expertise, a reserve of female solidarity, and the magic of a tool James Bond never scored — a pair of Spanx — and she manages to avert disaster. As thriller fantasies go, this one feels a lot more plausible to me than most."