Untold Story

by Monica Ali |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

What if Princess Diana didn't really die? In this astonishing novel, acclaimed British author Ali (Brick Lane) imagines that the beleaguered princess, threatened with assassination, has staged her own death. We meet "Lydia," nee Diana-rendered unrecognizable by plastic surgery, hair dye, and brown contact lenses-in her new, desperate-housewife life. She lives in an American suburb, and she works at a kennel, "humping thirty-pound bags of Nature's Variety dried dog food" while her pinot grigio-quaffing girlfriends-"who accepted her for who she was. For who she wasn't. For who she was now"-muse about mysterious aspects of her past. What makes Lydia ache is not the loss of her fairy-tale existence but missing her sons, left behind and believing their mother is dead. Yet what makes her lose sleep is the fear that she will be discovered. Tightly structured and lyrically told, Ali's book explores not only Princess Di's "untold story" but deeper issues of human identity. The truth about each of us, she concludes, is most evident in the secrets we keep.

Alice Bliss

by Laura Harrington |

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REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL

Fifteen-year-old Alice is at odds with her mother, annoyed by her whip-smart sister and close to her father, Matt, who plants a garden with her each spring. Then Matt's Army Reserve unit is activated for duty in Iraq. Bereft, Alice wears an unwashed shirt of her dad's for weeks, trying to keep his memory close. Though the specter of sorrow that falls over the story from the beginning never recedes, the predominant emotion is love. Every child should have a father she adores this much; readers may feel inadequate in comparison to Matt, who promises to come home but, just in case, leaves Alice a cache of letters with labels like "the moment you realize you want this boy to kiss you" and "the moment you realize you're more like your mother than you want to be." Harrington's first novel makes a powerful statement against war without pointing fingers. There are thousands of American kids like Alice, facing down their teen years with a parent gone to war. Her story is harrowing and heartbreaking, but it reads like truth.

People

PICK

Ali (right) imagines an alternate fate for the late princess she calls "a gorgeous bundle of trouble."

READ MY HIPS

by Kim Brittingham

As a teen, "I was bigger and uglier than most girls," writes Brittingham. Her path to self-acceptance will make you cheer.

FIRE AND RAIN

by David Browne

A fascinating look at a pivotal year in the lives of James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

YOUR VOICE IN MY HEAD

by Emma Forrest

Her psychiatrist dies, then her lover leaves. A memoir about finding strength when you least expect to.

SHARKS!

Juliet Eilperin spent months getting close to them for her book Demon Fish. "They're dangerous," she says, "but so are we."

THEY'RE LESS DEADLY THAN TOASTERS

Electric toasters kill more people a year than sharks do. So do chair-related accidents and elephant attacks and the flu.

THERE ARE WAYS TO AVOID ENCOUNTERS

Stay out of the water at dawn, and dusk and don't swim with a dog. Scientists are working on an actual shark repellent.

THEY'RE ENDANGERED

Humans kill 80 to 100 million a year. Roughly a third of shark species are threatened with extinction.

THEY'RE WORTH SAVING

Sharks are important because they remove the weak and the sick from the ocean, kind of like a garbage collector. And where the most sharks are is where you see the most vibrant diversity of species.

SUMMER READING LIST

"I love books that keep me turning the pages, especially in summertime," says the bestselling author (whose new book Save Me is in stores now). She suggests:

1 BURY YOUR DEAD

by Louise Penny

This superbly crafted mystery weaves together three separate plotlines that revolve around murder, history and love.

2 ONE SUMMER

by David Baldacci

From the master of political thrillers, a moving story about a father who keeps his family together after his wife's death.

3 HEART OF THE MATTER

by Emily Giffin

Giffin proves there are two sides to every story in this tale told by two women: one the wife of a pediatrician, the other his mistress.

4 LIVE WIRE

by Harlan Coben

Coben's twisty thrillers are among my favorites. In this one, a sports agent sets out to find the husband of a client and ends up finding out more than he wanted to know-about himself.