UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
by Jhumpa Lahiri |

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People PICK

REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

STORIES

A beautifully rendered collection, Earth explores the dilemmas faced by Bengali immigrants in the west, yet its appeal is universal. Lahiri takes the reader from Massachusetts to Italy to London to Thailand as her characters discover love, freedom and the heartbreak of leaving one family to create another. In the standout title story, a lawyer on maternity leave struggles with her mother's death and her own ambivalence toward motherhood. "Only Goodness," about the complexity of loving an addict, contains a darkness that proves the author capable of leaving her usual realm, quiet domestic tragedy, for rougher waters. Reading her stories is hypnotizing—like falling into a dream where colors are brighter, smells sharper and time moves more slowly than in real life.

by Don & Susie Van Ryn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak with Mark Tabb |

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REVIEWED BY RICHARD JEROME

MEMOIR

The story (PEOPLE, June 19, 2006) is horrifically strange. In April '06 a van accident killed five people from Indiana's Taylor University. Laura Van Ryn, 22, battered and in a coma, survived. For weeks her family kept vigil, praying over her, fixing her hair. Finally, Laura awoke—insisting her name was Whitney. In fact, dental records proved she was Whitney Cerak, 19. Written by both families, this memoir is often frustrating: How did the Van Ryns mistake Whitney for their child, despite eyes that didn't quite look right and a pierced navel? Their realization is excruciating; the Ceraks' reunion with their daughter exhilarating. Back in college, Whitney says she's forever grateful to the Van Ryns, now friends. "Most people would be mad about what happened, but they aren't," she writes. As Laura's sister Lisa puts it, "All those prayers we prayed for Laura, the Lord knew who was really lying in that bed."

A 2000 Pulitzer prizewinner for her first collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri also wrote the bestselling 2003 novel The Namesake.

ON EATING, SLEEPING, AND COMPETITIVE CHEERLEADING

THE TASTE OF SWEET by Joanne Chen
Did your genes made you eat that cookie? An absorbing history of the human affinity for all things sweet.

INSOMNIAC by Gayle Greene
In search of a good night's rest, a lit professor travels the world and bones up on sleep science. No easy answers—but fascinating.

CHEER! by Kate Torgovnick
It's not all pep and pom-poms: A look at the grueling lives of three college cheerleading teams going for the top prize.

For the charming new book America at Home, Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt asked shutterbugs from Maine to Alaska to send in their best shots.