Heft

by Liz Moore |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

Arthur Opp is heartbreaking. A 58-year-old former professor of literature, he weighs 550 lbs., hasn't left his Brooklyn apartment in years and is acutely attuned to both the painful and analgesic dimensions of his self-imposed solitude. Kel Keller, a handsome and popular high school athlete whose mother drinks too much to take care of him or even herself, faces his own wrenching struggles. The pair, apparently connected only by a slender thread, at first seem unlikely as co-narrators and protagonists of this novel, but they both become genuine heroes as their separate journeys through loneliness finally intersect. Though Moore's narrative is often deeply sad, it is never maudlin. She writes with compassion and emotional insight but resists sentimentality, briskly moving her plot forward, building suspense and empathy. Most impressive is her ability to thoroughly inhabit the minds of Arthur and Kel; these are robust, complex characters to champion, not pity. The single word of the title is obviously a reference to Arthur's morbid obesity, but it also alludes to the weight of true feelings and the courage needed to confront them. Heft leads to hope.

Passing Love

by Jacqueline E. Luckett |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

Nicole-Marie Handy is a lifelong Francophile who believes that her French name, French-speaking father and the French dictionary she finds and studies as a child make a life in France her birthright. After the death of her best friend and a proposal from her married lover, Nicole-Marie travels to Paris, where she finds a clue to the truth about her African-American family and begins a journey through the past: her own, and that of the city she adores. Beautifully written and filled with vibrant scenes of Paris in its Jazz Age and today, Passing Love is a treat.

Crazy Enough

by Storm Large |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

MEMOIR

A sick mother makes a sad family. A sick mother who seems to revel in her illness makes a sad and furious family. And so it is with Storm Large's bipolar mother, whose institutionalizations and suicide attempts devastated everyone who tried, and failed, to love her enough. The indie rocker and contestant from the Rock Star: Supernova reality series has written a funny and touching memoir on growing up with a parent who's irreparably broken.

The World We Found

by Thrity Umrigar |

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NOVEL

In Umrigar's luminous latest, four Indian schoolmates who haven't seen each other in decades are reunited by tragedy. The differences between the women, and between the lives they now live in various countries, slowly melt in the face of the universal human experiences Umrigar depicts. Wise and absorbing, her novel has the rich, chaotic vibrancy of a Mumbai marketplace.

DOES THE NOISE IN MY HEAD BOTHER YOU?

by Steven Tyler

Just in time for the new Idol season, the Aerosmith frontman's wild and crazy ride.

BOSSYPANTS

by Tina Fey

Oy, the acne! Eek, the perm! In her hilarious memoir, the 30 Rock star (and former theater camp nerd) recalls her path from teen geekdom to fame.

COME TO THE EDGE

by Christina Haag

An ex-girlfriend's heartfelt, bittersweet memories of the life-changing love she and John F. Kennedy Jr. shared.

At 38, New York University psychology professor (and musical no-talent) Gary Marcus took up guitar. His new book explores the difficulties-and rewards-of being an old dog learning new licks.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU?

I had a lifelong love of music but a complete lack of talent. I played Guitar Hero, sucked at that, but then my wife got me to play Rock Band....I immersed myself in guitar like a kid trying to learn a language.

ISN'T IT MUCH EASIER FOR KIDS?

Scientists used to think the brain's ability to acquire things switched off at a certain age, but it's more like a dimmer switch. It might be too late to get a symphony gig, but it's never too late to learn and enjoy.

DOES TALENT MATTER, OR IS PRACTICING WHAT COUNTS?

Talent matters. I've been playing for three years, and when Jimi Hendrix had played for three years...

HOW'S YOUR PLAYING?

It's incredible how far I've come. I'm performing a song with Terre Roche (of the folk group the Roche Sisters) in New York. My wife's amazed at my progress. Though she prefers when I practice unplugged.