by Rachel Kushner
REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN
For the Americans who live in a world of company yachts and limousines, Cuba in the late 1950s is a place where nothing is as it seems. Billeted in a luxurious compound that belongs to the United Fruit Company, the transplants scramble for their social footing as Fidel Castro gathers his troops and Cuba prepares for a revolution. Resorting to the usual standbys—alcohol, adultery, gossip meant to wound—many of the company men and women sink into "lives of tenuous appearances and outright lies." Their children (two of whom are narrators in this absorbing first novel) are the ones who cross the cultural divide. Moved by the poverty of the Cubans who toil for United Fruit, a teen joins the guerrillas plotting to reclaim the country. Schoolgirl Everly Lederer is captivated by a young servant who plants a night-blooming cereus under her window, saying that "years from now its first bloom would open and fill her room with fragrance ... but [she] would be gone by then." Though she protests, "I'll be here!" he tells her, "That's silly ... you have to go." With its sharp detail and precisely drawn characters, Telex From Cuba
offers a compelling look at a paradise corrupted.
by Christopher Reich
REVIEWED BY JOSH EMMONS
Don't let the title fool you: There are no rules whatsoever when it comes to the deception in Reich's globe-trotting, bomb-ticking, loyalty-blurring new thriller. Instead, Jonathan Ransom—an American physician and Doctors Without Borders volunteer on assignment in Geneva—has only bite-size clues to the truth about his recently deceased wife's surprising secret life. Borrowing from fish-out-of-water classics like North by Northwest
and The Bourne Identity
weaves Ransom's agonized personal quest into a larger geopolitical struggle (think nuclear winter in the Middle East) that will keep you reading—and checking news headlines to make sure it's just fiction.
by Carol Cassella
REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL
Drawing on her 22 years of medical experience, physician Cassella vividly captures the inner workings of a large Seattle hospital, where Dr. Marie Heaton, a respected anesthesiologist, is shattered when a child dies on her watch. A malpractice suit compounds Heaton's feelings of guilt; the subsequent onslaught of depositions, hospital power plays and character assaults drive her into anguished self-scrutiny. We're in familiar Grey's Anatomy
territory here, as the never-married doctor examines her personal as well as professional demons and draws closer to her sister, her father and a colleague who's her ex. But a startling plot twist, combined with Cassella's first-hand understanding of our ailing health care system, makes this involving debut just what the doctor ordered.
by Joan Silber
REVIEWED BY THAILAN PHAM
Silber's sixth book again showcases her intricately crafted narrative style: Six stories are linked so that a peripheral character in one appears at the forefront of another. Whether focusing on an American engineer in wartime Vietnam, the sister of a tin prospector in 1920s Thailand or a Sicilian immigrant adjusting to life in New Jersey, she conjures entire lifetimes from the moments of shame, optimism and displacement she depicts. "Hoboken things," the Sicilian grudgingly admits, she "learned ... inch by inch, in spite of myself." The characters within the book's delicate web illustrate how inescapable are the consequences of any human action, rippling from one generation to another across continents in this "great, swarming world."
THIS SUMMER I'M READING ...
Check Please!: Dating, Mating & Extricating by Janice Dickinson
"I love anything that is nonfiction, and I love this book. I love her."
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
"I feel it will speak to me; it's about an expatriate trying to find sense in a foreign land."
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
"Amazing. When he describes the smells of flowers, it's like you're really there."
My 6-year-old sous chef, Julian, and I tried out the latest crop of cookbooks for children.
YUM-O: THE FAMILY COOKBOOK
by Rachael Ray
Great idea: Breaking out tasks (stuff apples, tear basil) that the youngest chefs can handle.
Not so great: Candy "pseudo sushi." (Cute, but all sugar!)
Sous chef loved: Clam Bake Stoup.
THE TODDLER COOKBOOK
by Annabel Karmel
Great idea: Roasting cherry tomatoes for fast red sauce, instead of jarred.
Not great: Must fish sticks look like fish with a single pea for the eye? Must they?
Sous chef made (with help): Banana muffins.
PAULA DEEN'S MY FIRST COOKBOOK
by Paula Deen with Martha Nesbit
Great idea: Easy instructions and table-manners tips.
Not great: Processed foods (marshmallow ambrosia salad).
Sous chef wanted to make: That ambrosia, of course.
COOK IT UP IN A CUP!
by Julia Myall
Great idea: Risotto cups, oven-baked in 20 mins.
Not so great: Recipes for 12 portions—but only 6 cups in the box.
Sous chef wanted to make: Anything that looked like a cupcake.
A Christian novel by a 53-year-old former office manager, this slim debut is an unlikely megahit. Our take on why:
IT HAS A QUIRKY PLOT A father returns to the supposed site of his little girl's murder and meets God—in the form of a blues-loving African-American woman.
ITS EVERYMAN AUTHOR WROTE FROM THE HEART William P. Young says he dreamed up the book for his six kids, inspired by abuse he suffered as a child.
IT HAS UNIVERSAL THEMES, even if you aren't religious. Says Young: "We all have some great sadness. It's a metaphor for the process of dealing with it."
Please, Mummy, can I be king now? Odds are Britain's Prince Charles won't get the throne for his birthday this fall, but the Palace has compiled a charming coffee-table book (accompanying an exhibition of photos and memorabilia now on display at Windsor Castle) to mark the occasion.