Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sway by Zachary Lazar

Little Brown, January 2008

Thank goodness for Zachary Lazar!! For awhile there I was ready to throw my book critic hat into the ring and wait for someone to stomp on it - there was a long period there where I was positive that the publishing industry was done for. Then along came Sway by Zachary Lazar. Tackling three separate story lines set in the late 1960s - the founding of the Rolling Stones, the Manson family and the strange life of filmmaker Kenneth Anger - Lazar leads the reader on a historical, emotional and physical journey that is at times unsettling but is always remarkable.

A fictionalized account of these three events, the reader enters the back halls of poverty ridden London, the mansions of the British countryside, the Laurel Canyon ranches of record producers and movie stars, the hippie commune of Manson. As each narrator takes us on a journey into the lives, both tragic and profound, we are propelled into their world, a world that we want to learn about, a world filled with freedome and a sense of absolute angst. Lazar's careful use of words adds imagery to each story - this is not simply a book we read but rather one we live. Lazar is my new hero.

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos

Little Brown, August 2008

Imagine if one event in your life was so unforgettable, so unforgiveable as to define the rest of your waking days. That is the dilemma addressed in George Pelecanos' The Turnaround. Pelecanos, a writer who seems to have one of the keenest insights into the human soul, tells the story of two boys, one from the right side of the tracks and one from the wrong side of the tracks. When a prank leads the young white Greek boy into the African American side of town, a crime occurs that will mark both boys for life.

Time passes and these young men grow into adults; adults who wish to forgive and forget the past before their lives are over. This notion of redemption echoes throughout this beautifully written novel; Pelecanos takes us deep inside the lives of men who have journeyed down a path that seemed fated for each. Hailed as a mystery writer, Pelecanos, a television writer, brakes genre labels - his writing combines the human insight of Steinbeck and the keen sense of timing of Stephen King. Pelecanos is truly one of the great writers of our time.

Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy

Little Brown and Company, February 2008.
Yannick Murphy, author of Signed, Mata Hari, is one of those critically acclaimed authors that most readers know nothing of. Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and recipient of the MacDowell Colony Fellowship, Murphy is a literate and innovative writer who does not shy away from stories that appear difficult. In this recent release, Murphy takes on the story of the great, illusive Mata Hari, a woman of mystery and legend.
Telling the story with alternating pasts and presents, Murphy takes us into the life of Margaretha, a young woman who marries a man she does not truly love as a way to leave her family home. Margaretha is filled with dreams, hopes and a sensuality that pours from her soul; it is the sensuality that ultimately turns her life upside down. While there has always been speculation that Mata Hari was a spy, Murphy does not directly answer this question but rather shows this secretive soul stuck inside a prison where her pleas for freedom go unheard.
In breathtaking prose, Murphy illuminates a story that must be told for this story is that of every woman who has ever searched for love and been turned away, for every woman who tries to express her own desires but is tossed aside. With this work, Murphy may soon be the author everyone is talking about.

Carpool Diem by Nancy Star

5 Spot, March 2008

Annie Fleming is juggling it all - work, a family, a marriage where communication has become rare. When she loses her job (a job that defines her), she soon realizes how much of her daughter's life she has missed...including her love of soccer and her desire to be a member of the best team in town, run by soccer fanatic Winslow West. Soon Annie finds herself focusing her misplaced energy towards daughter Charlotte's sport and before long she has become one of those soccer moms she always hated.

Star, a former entertainment executive, effectively captures the importance of sport in suburbia. With characters who manipulate, undermine and commit crimes to further their children's soccer careers, the author delivers a fun and honest portrayal of community in the 21st century. Check out Star's recent interview in the New York Times where she discusses how she came to write the book.