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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

February 3, 2019

Now in Paperback -  
Love, Loss, and a Great Dane, and   
What if You Knew When You'll Die?   
 
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. This winner of the 2018 National Book Award, which NPR called a "penetrating, moving meditation on loss, comfort, memory," is a unique novel about a woman and a dog named Apollo, both grieving over the same man. When the unnamed protagonist, an author who teaches writing, unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor to suicide, she reluctantly takes in the unwanted Great Dane he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of Apollo, traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction since dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While trying to manage her sadness, the woman becomes increasingly attached to the dog, refusing to be separated except for brief periods of time. And yet, as she becomes more connected to Apollo, it becomes easier to begin to heal. The book is both sad and laugh-out-loud funny, offering a heartfelt look at the complexities of loss and love.  
 
 
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. What if a psychic claimed she could tell you when you would die? What if four siblings all wanted to know? That's the kickoff to this compelling and original family saga, one that begins in 1969 and stretches over four decades. Each of the Gold children is given a prediction of his or her due-to-die date by a fortune teller who may or may not be the real thing. Readers then follow the four through their adult lives, wondering what impact the prophecies bestowed upon them has on their choices and decisions.  
 
The Immortalists was the #1 Indie Next pick in January of 2018, and the bookseller review chosen to represent independents' enthusiasm gives you an idea why the book was so popular:
 
"In 1969, four siblings visit a fortune teller, who tells each child the date of their death. We follow the Gold siblings both separately and together over the next four decades and see how these revelations affect their choices, their behavior, and their relationships with one another. Apart from raising the obvious question (would you want to know the date of your death?), Benjamin brilliantly explores how family members can be both close to and distant from one another, and ponders the point at which our actions cease to matter and fate steps in. I LOVED The Immortalists, and if there's any justice in bookselling, this book will find the massive audience it so deserves."
-- Erika VanDam, RoscoeBooks, Chicago, IL   
Word of Mouth Makes Lovely Coming-of-Age Novel a Bestseller 
 
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I began hearing about this book about a month after it was published last August. There hadn't been a lot of review attention, but the owner of the bookstore where I work received a call from a friend praising a new novel that was part love story and part murder mystery. Then three other colleagues raved about it, and two book clubs expressed interest. Apparently, this was happening in bookstores around the country, because Crawdads began to build some real buzz. Now, six months after its publication, its sits on or near the top of national and regional bestseller lists.  
 
I wasn't among the early readers, but I was happy to be late to the parade. The book's premise didn't initially grab me, but thank goodness for peer pressure because  Where the Crawdads Sing was a lovely and unexpected surprise. The story of Kya Clark begins in 1952, when her mother walks out on her family when Kya is just six years old. Four older siblings also drift away over the next couple of years, leaving Kya with her drunken, irresponsible father, living in a dilapidated house in the coastal marshes outside of a small coastal North Carolina town. When dear old dad finally takes a hike as well, young and unschooled Kya is completely on her own, using what she learned from her father and a brother about the natural world around her to survive. Although this is her first book of fiction, Owens is an award-winning nature writer and the coauthor of three books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa. As such, she made the predicament of a 10-year-old girl abandoned in the marshland remarkably believable to me - no easy task.  
 
The book jumps back and forth in time, interspersing Kya's life and eventual involvement with two boys she meets as a teenager (one of whom changes her life by teaching her to read) with the 1969 investigation of a murder that finds Kya, or The Marsh Girl as she is known in town, as the prime suspect. That's all you need to know, but I will add that Kya Clark is a wonderful and empathetic character who you will be rooting for throughout.    
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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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