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by Eric Puchner |

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REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

NOVEL

A clever send-up of the Reagan-era's Morning in America mentality, this debut novel centers on Warren Ziller, a California real estate developer going for broke. Literally. His big bet on a desert housing complex is bankrupting his toxic family, though he's keeping that news to himself. But when the Chrysler disappears from his Palos Verdes driveway and the furniture guys haul away the living room set, his mixed-up kids (one son wears all orange) get suspicious. A neighbor notices that Warren seems "a bit...on edge." Wife Camille, a loopy sex-ed videomaker (Earth to My Body: What's Happening?), remains oblivious—gleefully charging a cashmere shawl to take her mind off the couple's loveless marriage. Worried that her husband is cheating (she's premature on that), Camille aims a garden hose at the shirts Warren is air-drying in order to save on cleaning bills. Just as you're settling in to the quaint days of pay phones and Atari video games, a ghastly incident turns the second half of the book into a wrenching series of soul-searching episodes. Puchner's well-constructed tale of a house of pain built on a foundation of secrets echoes Updike and Easton Ellis. After spending time with these suburban strivers, though, you'll be glad the '80s are long gone.

The Wife's Tale

by Lori Lansens |

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REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

NOVEL

Bestseller Lansens' latest novel centers on Mary Gooch, 43 years old, 5'6" and 302 lbs. Her world is constricted not only by size but by grief. Mary measures her life in pounds gained—father's death: 10 lbs.; second miscarriage: 20. Food acts as protection and comfort. When, on the eve of her 25th wedding anniversary, her husband vanishes, Mary sets off in search of him. Lansens' clear prose unveils the connection between a body weighed down by flesh and a spirit smothered by loneliness. Mary's odyssey of heartache and hope is not so much about finding her husband as it is about rediscovering herself.

The Whale

by Philip Hoare |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON-FICTION

A love letter to the "largest, loudest, oldest" mammal ever to have existed, Brit biographer Hoare's book romps through science, history and literature to chronicle his obsession with the mighty whale. Salted with astounding facts (the calls of blue whales were once mistaken for earthquakes), this is an exhilarating valentine.

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up

by Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

NON-FICTION

Anyone who's ever found themselves humming the Captain and Tennille on the subject of marriage will find a different view here: It's not love that keeps us together but lust, lactose intolerance and a shared hatred for the neighbors. In he-said/she-said chapters, husband and wife writer-performers Gurwitch and Kahn have written a laugh-out-loud screed about marriage and its discontents. It's the perfect chaser to Valentine's Day.

>LIVES WORTH LOSING YOURSELF IN

A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS

by Elena Gorokhova

A smart, spirited tale about growing up in the colorless Soviet Union of the 1960s.

LITTLE BOY BLUES

by Malcolm Jones

In evocative prose, Newsweek's cultural critic recalls the southern childhood that shaped him.

JUST KIDS

by Patti Smith

How two budding artists, Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, nurtured each other to fame.

>• Does sexual abuse traumatize kids? Courting controversy, Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D., says not exactly.

YOUR THESIS?

Child victims of sexual abuse often don't feel traumatized at the time. They're confused; kids don't understand the sexual nature of what's happening. And force or violence is rarely used.

AND LATER?

They feel betrayed—how could he do this to me? Ashamed and guilty—why didn't I say no?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN TRAUMA THEN AND SUFFERING YEARS LATER?

As adults, they feel horrible that they didn't know enough to say no. Knowing that's normal can help.

YOU'VE BEEN CALLED A FRIEND OF PEDOPHILES?...

It took me four years to write the book because I was so afraid of the reaction. Sexual abuse is an atrocious, damaging crime. We just need to rethink what's at the root of that damage.

>• After Henrietta Lacks succumbed to cervical cancer in 1951, scientists used her cells to launch a medical revolution. In a new book, Rebecca Skloot maps the toll on her unsuspecting family.

WHO WAS HENRIETTA LACKS?

She was a poor black woman whose cancer cells grew astonishingly quickly. After her death they were used to create an immortal cell line, called HeLa, for research. These cells were used to develop the polio vaccine; they went up into space; they were the first cells ever cloned. Meanwhile her family was living with no money, no health insurance.

HOW DID THEY FIND OUT?

In the '70s researchers wanted to understand HeLa cells, so they tracked down the family. Henrietta's husband had a third-grade education. He thought they had part of his wife alive in a laboratory, they'd been doing tests, and now they wanted to test his kids for cancer. He didn't understand.

WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND YOUR BOOK?

I wanted to tell the story of this woman who unknowingly was one of the most important women in history, and her family were among the only people who didn't benefit. One of her sons had quadruple bypass surgery: As he went under, the doctor was thanking him for all that his mother's cells had done; he woke up $150,000 in debt.

WILL YOUR BOOK HELP THEM?

I hope so. I just launched a foundation: hen riettalacksfoundation.org to provide scholarship and health insurance money for her descendants.

>LIVES WORTH LOSING YOURSELF IN

A MOUNTAIN OF CRUMBS

by Elena Gorokhova

A smart, spirited tale about growing up in the colorless Soviet Union of the 1960s.

LITTLE BOY BLUES

by Malcolm Jones

In evocative prose, Newsweek's cultural critic recalls the southern childhood that shaped him.

JUST KIDS

by Patti Smith

How two budding artists, Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, nurtured each other to fame.

>• Does sexual abuse traumatize kids? Courting controversy, Susan A. Clancy, Ph.D., says not exactly.

YOUR THESIS?

Child victims of sexual abuse often don't feel traumatized at the time. They're confused; kids don't understand the sexual nature of what's happening. And force or violence is rarely used.

AND LATER?

They feel betrayed—how could he do this to me? Ashamed and guilty—why didn't I say no?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN TRAUMA THEN AND SUFFERING YEARS LATER?

As adults, they feel horrible that they didn't know enough to say no. Knowing that's normal can help.

YOU'VE BEEN CALLED A FRIEND OF PEDOPHILES?...

It took me four years to write the book because I was so afraid of the reaction. Sexual abuse is an atrocious, damaging crime. We just need to rethink what's at the root of that damage.

>• After Henrietta Lacks succumbed to cervical cancer in 1951, scientists used her cells to launch a medical revolution. In a new book, Rebecca Skloot maps the toll on her unsuspecting family.

WHO WAS HENRIETTA LACKS?

She was a poor black woman whose cancer cells grew astonishingly quickly. After her death they were used to create an immortal cell line, called HeLa, for research. These cells were used to develop the polio vaccine; they went up into space; they were the first cells ever cloned. Meanwhile her family was living with no money, no health insurance.

HOW DID THEY FIND OUT?

In the '70s researchers wanted to understand HeLa cells, so they tracked down the family. Henrietta's husband had a third-grade education. He thought they had part of his wife alive in a laboratory, they'd been doing tests, and now they wanted to test his kids for cancer. He didn't understand.

WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND YOUR BOOK?

I wanted to tell the story of this woman who unknowingly was one of the most important women in history, and her family were among the only people who didn't benefit. One of her sons had quadruple bypass surgery: As he went under, the doctor was thanking him for all that his mother's cells had done; he woke up $150,000 in debt.

WILL YOUR BOOK HELP THEM?

I hope so. I just launched a foundation: hen riettalacksfoundation.org to provide scholarship and health insurance money for her descendants.