Nell’s Nicotine, The Brooklyn Bestseller, Larkin’s Line, & Others

Carriage Return, week of 6/20/2017

Photo by John Ganiard

Carriage Return is The Ribbon’s round-up of recent Literati Bookstore staff favorites, as well as an occasional place for useful links and news from around the literary web regarding upcoming events at the store.


Recent Staff Favorites (Paperback Original or New in Paperback)

Ecco Press (6/20/2017)

Nicotine, by Nell Zink

Can anyone tell me where Nell Zink came from? No — seriously. I don’t want to say that this woman is a genius but…this woman is a genius. Nicotine, her third novel in three years, is a stunning testament to the amalgam of bizarre brilliance that is Zink’s prose. She tells us a story about family, community, adulthood, smoker’s rights, sex, death, culture, counterculture, anarchy — truly, I could go on — with impeccable flow and refreshing economy.

Penny, still reeling from the painfully prolonged passing of her father Norm, a wealthy hippie and founder of a “healing center”, ironically, where the rich go to die, discovers an eclectic group of squatters living in Norm’s childhood home. What follows is a chaotic escapade into activism, a journey into the Millennial mind, and a discovery of what it means to belong.

Zink’s characters are smart, complex, and remarkably striking. I found myself drinking them in, absorbing their lives — their stories, from start to finish. Nicotine is certainly an adventure, and I was more than happy to come along for the ride. — Tara

William Morrow & Company (6/20/2017)

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles

Jiles is a gifted wordsmith whose prose creates vivid physical and emotional landscapes that one can slip into effortlessly. Set in Texas in the 1870s, News of the World is filled with interesting and lesser known historical facts of the time and culture, but it is the portrayal of the evolving relationship between two unique characters that makes this novel so beautiful and moving. At times I found the story so engaging I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, while other times I lingered.

Captain Kidd travels to small towns to read newspapers to locals who are starved for news of the world. His routine is disrupted when he reluctantly agrees to transport a rescued ten-year-old girl back to her relatives. She is shrewd and determined to escape. The Journey across Texas is treacherous, but along this trek resistance and distrust is transformed. -Sharon.

Vintage (6/13/2017)

How to Set a Fire and Why, by Jesse Ball

This is a stunningly original coming-of-age story narrated by the teen-aged Lucia. She is a witty, cynical (understandable given the hardships she’s suffered in her young life), brutally honest, precocious, perspicacious, and complicated anarchist and wannabe arsonist. She’s also probably the smartest person in the room at any given time, with an uncanny knack for spotting and exposing pretense. To read Lucia’s thoughts is to be in awe of her mind, to feel compassion for her, to learn from and admire her (her rule: “Don’t do things you aren’t proud of.”), to be sometimes skeptical of, but always intrigued by her ideas, to laugh at her astute observations (“History is just people behaving badly.”), to be afraid for and yet hopeful for her, and yes, to love her. She is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever encountered. Thank you, Jesse Ball, for Lucia. — Jeanne

Picador (6/6/2016)

The May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine

I am fortunate enough to have both a living mother and grandmother, and a teenage daughter of my own. The “sandwich generation,” they call us, people caring for aging parents while raising their own children. This novel does the best job of any I’ve read in showing how both generations can misunderstand and hurt each other, even with the best intentions. The older generation may not mean to make us worry, but they do; adult children may not mean to infantilize their parents, but they do. There are no villains in this novel, no dark secrets revealed. This is simply a great, funny book about good people, trying hard, people who don’t get it right all the time — but do so enough, and when it counts. — Jill

Amistad Press (5/30/2017)

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything as beautiful as the melody of Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn. As I walked along the streets of a Brooklyn suffocating in racial tension and poverty with a dreamy, lost, beautiful black girl named August growing up without her mother, I was halted, over and over again, by the beauty of Woodson’s prose. Filled with words that spread over me like warm summer sun, Another Brooklyn deals with race, memory, and that quiet, rolling ache we call girlhood in the most powerful and enlightening ways. This book manifests the strongest truths: that life powers forward with or without the people we hold dearest; that the present never really exists; and that maybe where we come from has everything to do with where we’re going. This quickly became one of my very favorite books. — Claire

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