Star's Picks: Spring 2021
Fiction, Non-fiction and more.
Quarterly Book Recommendations from Star Lowe
former owner and book slinger at Star Line Books
"For five years I had the privilege of owning and operating an indie bookstore
Star Line Books, in Chattanooga Tennessee. I have an insatiable appetite for
books and a fervent need to share them with other readers. I look forward to
continuing to literate my community, via a quarterly supplement, by sharing my latest reads and what new releases I am anticipating.
Vernal sunshine, myriad shades of green, and the chorus of spring peepers pull me outside where it just so happens is my favorite place to read. So grab a light wrap, your favorite springtime sip, and one of the following lovelies, and join me outdoors for some reading."
THE FORTUNATE ONES
by Ed Tarkington, Algonquin Books Jan 2021.
Can you ever go home again? Maybe the better question would be, do you really want to go home again? Lucky for me, Ed Tarkington's latest novel is set in Nashville, and near enough to my home to allow me, vicariously albeit, a return visit to the haunts of my youth. The Gatsby-esque plot will be familiar, but with a Southern Gothic twist served up in sweet tea spiked with smooth Belle Meade Bourbon.
WHO IS MAUD DIXON?
by Alexandra Andrews, Little, Brown and Company Mar 2021.
This novel should come with grab handles! With a plot that excels at a breakneck speed, you’d be wise to hang on tightly until the finish. Florence, Andrews’s protagonist, is not particularly likable at first glance. She is young, awkward, and insecure, and allows the resentment of her station to undermine her employment as an assistant editor at a publishing house in New York. Florence also didn’t help herself any by having a dalliance with a married senior editor. Ah, youth and it’s stings. Newly unemployed and facing the prospect of returning home to Florida, Florence’s luck turns quickly when a contact approaches looking to hire an assistant for the elusive author, Maud Dixon. Dream job, but is it? Dixon, who is really Helen Wilcox, we come to learn is struggling with writer’s block. Her efforts to live up to the runaway success of her novel Mississippi Foxtrot, have left her a bit unhinged. It doesn’t take much editing of Helen’s new manuscript for Florence to discover Helen’s fraud. “I could write this,” Florence thinks. Her disillusionment with her icon is short-lived and quickly turns opportunistic. What ensues between the bucolic Catskills hills and the dangerously curved roads of Morocco will leave you breathless. These two very ambitious, cunning, and deceptive women are vying for an authorship they both want, and one of them may have already murdered for it. Hang on to the grab handle! This dark comedy is well worth the ride.
by Rachel Cusk, Farrar, Strous and Giroux May 2021.
Cusk's Second Place exceeds its form. The novel drifts between past and present, Gothic and contemporary, allegory and truth. M, a mother on the brink of rebellion, has an encounter in a Parisan art gallery that will set the trajectory of this character-driven story. Early one morning while visiting Paris, M wanders into a gallery she has tracked down after seeing a seductive painting on the advertising flyers for the artist's show. This painting speaks to M, quite literally, offering a liberation commonly reserved for men. L, the painting's artist, is equally beguiling. When M returns to the home that she shares with her husband, the unsettling ideas provoked by the art and its creator prove a temptation too potent to ignore. Will M rebel or comply?
by Claire Fuller, Tin House Books May 2021.
Generally set in beautifully remote locations, Fuller’s latest novel rambles around a cottage on a rural farm and country estate in the English countryside. Twins Jeanie and Julius, ages 51, share the cottage with their mother Dot. The cottage has protected them against the modernized world. When Dot unexpectedly dies, the beautiful and insular life they created begins to crumble. Just when it appears their luck is turning, Jeanie and Julius are confronted with a series of stunning secrets from their mother’s past. Truths that will have them questioning who they are, and everything they thought they knew of their family’s history. Peppered with the lyrics of numerous folk songs, Fuller’s novel intones a poignant story worthy of its on song. Pastoral, not so much, but hauntingly original, Unsettled Ground is.
A BOY NAMED BOY: A MEMOIR
by Earl Braggs, Wet Cement Press Mar 2021
Braggs's memoir is of his experience growing up as a Black man in America. His words rattle, snap, and hum with innate rhythm. He fastidiously recounts a past, once innocent, then all too stained with still-ugly truths.