What Book Should I Read Next?

Girl Power: The Primal Roar

This post contains two novels and the memoir of Ani DiFranco, a Grammy-award-winning musical artist and feminist icon. The primal roar of the latter is probably self-explanatory. I grouped the two novels with this title because The Whisper Network deals with feminism and the #MeToo movement: Man of the Year reveals the heart of darkness lurking inside some of our most prominent citizens.

No WallsNo Walls and the Recurring Dream
Ani DiFranco
Hardback, $28 
On Street: May 7, 2019 / Viking (Penguin RH)

You may know Ani DiFranco as a political activist, philanthropist, entrepreneur or as “the Little Folksinger”. She has definitely forged her own way, paying her dues by appearing at small clubs and festivals. After releasing her first album at the age of 18, she rejected the mainstream recording industry and created her own label, “Righteous Babe Records”. It wasn’t easy. As an emancipated minor, she recalls having to sleep in a bus station in Buffalo, New York, and her fierce independence has antagonized some people. But through it all, DiFranco has followed her dreams.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • Girl power
  • Who could possibly be a better storyteller than a folksinger?
  • This memoir of her life so far is told in Ani DiFranco’s voice: Funny, frank, passionate, and raw.

WhisperThe Whisper Network
Chandler Baker
Hardback, $26.99
On Street: July 2, 2019 / Flatiron Books (Little Brown UK)

On this blog, I usually don’t quote from the book, even after publication. So what compelled me to open up this hardback and harvest a quote? This author is the young Julie Andrews of writing–she can easily span four octaves, sounding gorgeous in every register. The book opens with a group narrator:

“Before that day, our lives raced along an invisible roller coaster track, a cart fastened to the rails, through engineering and forces we couldn’t wholly grasp, despite our superabundance of academic degrees. We moved with a sense of controlled chaos.

“We were connoisseurs of dry shampoo brands. It took us four days to watch a complete episode of The Bachelor on our DVRs. We fell asleep with the heat of laptops burning our thighs. We took two-hour breaks to read bedtime stories to toddlers and tried not to calculate the total number of hours spent working as mothers and employees, confused as to which came first. We were overqualified and underutilized, bossy and always right. We had firm handshakes and hefty credit card balances. We forgot our lunches on the kitchen countertops.

Each day was the same. Until it wasn’t. ”

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • Finding out you’re not the only feminist who belongs to Bachelor Nation.
  • For those who adore a smart whodunnit–this one’s been described as “furiously funny and just plain furious”.
  • In her day job, Chandler Baker kicks butt as a corporate attorney, so she is an expert on corporate law.

Man YearMan of the Year
Caroline Louise Walker
Hardback, $26
On Street: June 11, 2019 / Simon and Shuster

Recently I joined a Facebook discussion about Time magazine’s “Man of the Year”, as someone was outraged that Adolph Hitler was chosen in 1938. According to Time, this is not an honor. Instead, it spotlights the person who most influences world events–for better or for worse.*  (The magazine has since changed the name of this selection to “Person of the Year”, by the way.)

This novel tips its hat to the spirit of Time‘s award, as Dr. Robert Hart–Sag Harbor’s Man of the Year–begins a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. Only the women in his life can clearly see the truth: his devoted office manager, his friend, and his beautiful new wife. The trouble is that Nick, the troubled college roommate of Robert’s son and a current houseguest, starts getting a little too close to the good doctor’s wife…and the lies Robert tells start slipping out of control.

*To drive this point home, the 1938 cover artist depicted Hitler as a tiny little man with his back to the reader, playing a massive organ with his murdered victims spinning on a St. Catherine’s Wheel. Underneath the stark illustration ran the cutline, “From the unholy organist, a hymn of hate.”




What Book Should I Read Next?

With Love, From Europe

From today’s Dublin Strand to the Ritz in 1940’s Paris; to a modern-day Dutch housing estate/isolated Scottish isle, these three novels will take you on a satisfying, if whirlwind, tour of Europe.

The one set in Ireland

LyingLying in Wait
by Liz Nugent
Paperback $16
On Street: February 2019
Scout Press / Simon & Schuster

Something’s rotten in the country of Ireland…it could be the dead body of Annie Doyle, a drug-addled prostitute, or it could be the creepy, overly-intimate relationship of the wife and son of the man who killed her.

Dad Andrew is a respected judge; he lives with his wealthy wife in Avalon, the five bedroom Georgian house in South County, Dublin, where she was raised. Son Laurence may be overweight, ungainly, and mercilessly bullied at school, but he’s more clever than he is given credit for, especially by his devoted mother. When Karen, the sister of the missing woman, crosses paths with Laurence, he already knows something is very wrong in his home–even if he doesn’t know about the body buried in the family’s tidy garden. Now he is determined to unearth the truth.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • In addition to creating a chilling psychological thriller, the author has written a detailed study of the sinister sociopathic mind.
  • Liz Nugent was named Irish Woman of the Year in Literature for 2017.
    • Her first novel, Unraveling Oliver, was named Crime Novel of the Year by the Irish Book Awards.

The One Set in France

MistressMistress of the Ritz
Melanie Benjamin
Hardback: $28
On Street: May 21 / Delacorte Press

Famous occupants of Paris’s Ritz Hotel:

  • George Balanchine
  • Coco Chanel
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Doris Duke
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Cole Porter
  • the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Infamous occupants of Paris’s Ritz Hotel in March 1940:  Hermann Goering and his Nazi bullyboys. But Blanche, the manager’s Jewish American wife, isn’t about to give up without a fight. She and her patriotic husband join the Resistance, risking their marriage, their freedom, and ultimately their lives in the fight to liberate France.

Why it’s Worth Choosing
This novel is inspired by real WWII French Resistance heroes Blanche Auzello and her husband Claude. It is always a joy to read a novel in which a place like the luxurious Ritz Hotel, created in 1898, becomes a character. And nobody examines the complexities of women’s loves and lives like this author. For proof, read Melody Benjamin’s Swans of Fifth Avenue or The Aviator’s Wife.

The one set in Holland/Scotland

DarknessThe Darkness That Divides Us
Renate Dorrestein
Paperback, $16.99
On Street: May 21, 2019 / World Editions

Living on an idyllic Dutch housing estate, Lucy used to be the most popular girl in elementary school. But when a bizarre crime rocked her world and sent her mother to prison, Lucy’s childhood exploded into an ordeal of constant, vicious bullying. Now her mother is out of prison, so they decide to make a clean start on a rugged Scottish isle. But escaping your past is never that easy.

Told in the alternating voices of Lucy and her bullies, this darkly atmospheric and emotionally spellbinding story is part family drama and part mystery.

Why it’s Worth Choosing

  • Award-winning author Dorrestein is known internationally for her unsentimental depiction of children and their flawed families.
  • Her wicked humor offsets the darkness of the subjects.
  • All the chapters have “Sue Grafton-inspired titles” (my observation) like A is for Abacus, B is for Beetles, C is for Crisis, etc. How fun is that?
  • It is translated from the Dutch, so we’re lucky to even be able to read it.