Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

November 26, 2023

A Vivid and Touching Meditation on Finding Connections in an Environment That Demands Separation

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez. Novelist Nunez is probably best known for National Book Award-winning The Friend, about a woman who deals with her grief over the death of her best friend while burdened with the unwanted Great Dane - also traumatized - he has left behind. In The Vulnerables, Nunez's main character also deals with grief (of a different kind) and an unexpected animal in her life (a bird instead of a dog). The setting is New York City at the outset of the Covid lockdown, where an older woman agrees to house-sit for a friend of a friend and take over care of the home's macaw from a college student who has split the scene. Naturally, the irresponsible student returns, and the three unlikely housemates must deal with the pandemic and evolving relationships with each other. Nunez's writing is ruminative and sometimes surprisingly humerous as she leads her group of "vulnerables" through fears of isolation, exposure to illness, and learning to care for each other.

In its starred review, Kirkus wrote, "Nunez's subject is the core business of being alive: the tenuous beauty of human connection, the nature of memory, the purpose of writing, the passage of time. . .the result is almost arrestingly straightforward. Spare and understated and often quite funny, the experience is less like reading fiction than like eavesdropping on someone else's brain. . . .[The Vulnerables] itself is strangely, sweetly hopeful."

#1 Indie Bookseller Pick for December Brings Back an Unusual but Winning Sleuth

The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose. This sequel to the bestselling The Maid brings back the socially awkward Molly Gray, possibly on the spectrum but also charming and keenly observant. With her flair for cleaning and proper etiquette, she has risen through the ranks of the glorious five-star Regency Grand Hotel to become the esteemed Head Maid. But her world is turned upside down when J. D. Grimthorpe, the world-renowned mystery author, drops dead—very dead—on the hotel’s tearoom floor, leaving a roomful of suspects and the hotel's prestige reputation in the balance. As the police investigate guests and staff alike, Molly realizes that she has a unique connection to the murder victim. As a child, she and her dearly departed Gran worked side by side as maids at the mysterious Grimthorpe mansion, and Molly's memories from that time provide insights that fuel her detecting skills.

The Mystery Guest was chosen as the #1 pick of the December Indie Next list and is sure to appear on bestseller lists. Molly Gray will not be every reader's cup of tea, and this series is definitely on the light and cozy end of the mystery scale. But her determination to rise above her social challenges and personal idiosyncrasies have made Molly an appealing character for many.

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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I'm a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, CA.

My goal here 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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