Gone Fishin' for Love That Lasts
THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE
by Christina Baker Kline |

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NOVEL

Butternut squash soup, the perfect marinara: Angela Russo inherited recipes from her Italian grandmother to make her a master in the kitchen. Away from the stove, though, the perpetually single, 33-year-old event planner has created a recipe for disaster. She loses her job after a fire-eater she hired ignites an entire art gallery, prompting her to leave her family and friends in Manhattan and flee to a small town on the coast of Maine. Her plan? To set up housekeeping with a rough-and-tumble fisherman who charmed her with clichéd haikus over match.com—and whom she's met just once.

With prose that flows so naturally it needs no fancy dressing, third-time novelist Kline develops an inventive stock of characters in Angela's new orbit—and endows them with dialogue so natural that readers will at times feel like cutting in. When her fisherman beau (screenname: MaineCatch) isn't everything she dreamed, Angela's life intertwines with an unexpected set of out-of-state transplants, and Kline weaves an unassumingly beautiful story of human relationships and self-discovery. Her knack for storytelling makes this the ideal page-turning light read, with a tremendous payoff.

REVIEWED BY LISA INGRASSIA

House of Happy Endings
by Leslie Garis |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

MEMOIR

Garis's grandparents—beloved authors Howard, who created Uncle Wiggily, and Lilian Garis, who spun Bobbsey Twins tales—cast a fatal shadow over her father, Roger. In her deft memoir, Leslie parses the bizarre intergenerational household that gave her a front-row seat for it all—the sweeping estate in Amherst, Mass., where the elderly Lilian, a vicious neurotic who seldom rose from her bed, tormented her grown son. What's remarkable is not the author's pain, but her perspective: Sifting through the events leading to Roger's 1967 suicide, Garis maintains her distance while coming to terms not only with her own torment, but with her father's. It's a rare achievement, and House a superb work.

REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN