People PICK

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

by Neil Gaiman |

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REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL

Reading Gaiman's new novel, his first for adults since 2005's The Anansi Boys, is like listening to that rare friend whose dreams you actually want to hear about at breakfast. The narrator, an unnamed Brit, has returned to his hometown for a funeral. Drawn to a farm he dimly recalls from his youth, he's flooded with strange memories: of a suicide, the malign forces it unleashed and the three otherworldly females who helped him survive a terrifying odyssey. Gaiman's at his fantasy-master best here—the struggle between a boy and a shape-shifter with "rotting-cloth eyes" moves at a speedy, chilling clip. What distinguishes the book, though, is its evocation of the powerlessness and wonder of childhood, a time when magic seems as likely as any other answer and good stories help us through. "Why didn't adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and ... dangerous fairies?" the hero wonders. Sometimes, they do.

The Why of Things

by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

The suicide of their 17-year-old daughter Sophie has opened a rift between Joan and Anders Jacobs, threatening their marriage and the well-being of their two younger daughters. Hoping for a healing change of scene, Joan, a novelist, and Anders, a teacher, relocate the family to their summer home on Cape Cod, only to face another tragedy within moments of their arrival. Author Winthrop (Fireworks) details what follows in the alternating voices of the grieving parents and their daughters Eve and Eloise. Although the four voices are confusingly indistinct at times, Winthrop has crafted a fast-paced, entertaining summer read.

Till Human Voices Wake Us

by Patti Davis |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Since her biting 1986 novel Home Front, which didn't please parents Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Davis has never shied away from controversy. Now she's written a saga about wealthy L.A. sisters-in-law who fall in love, leave their comfort zones to begin a lesbian partnership and cause a society scandal. It's not all shock value, though. One of the lovers is a mother devastated after her child's death. And Davis, an engaging storyteller, immerses us in her fractured families' world, where sorrow and joy play out with gut-wrenching realism. This isn't a book about sexual orientation; it's a book about being human.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

THE SON

by Philipp Meyer

A gripping multi-generational epic about a striving Texas family, the settlement of the American West and the price and privileges of power.

THE BOOKMAN'S TALE

by Charlie Lovett

A bookseller finds an old portrait that's his late wife's spitting image—and a mystery begging to be solved.

ON SAL MAL LANE

by Ru Freeman

Set in Sri Lanka in the '70s and '80s, Freeman's powerful second novel focuses on ordinary children living their lives as war clouds build.

In a new book, Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D., therapist to Jaycee Dugard, offers parents tips on shielding children from harm.

Why write the book?

"Icky" things happen, and kids are aware. I was in a class of fourth and fifth graders recently, and they were all talking about Sandy Hook. Parents need to be able to talk to their kids about these things in an age-appropriate way.

What are three quick tips you give parents?

Create a "Safe List" - trusted friends and family members - with your kids, establish rules for social media, keep computers in common areas. And listen!

Jaycee, 33, and her mom contributed to the book?

Right. They say, "Let's not pretend this stuff doesn't happen. Let's educate others."

What have you learned from them?

That families can go through tremendously difficult situations and thrive.

HOW I LEARNED TO READ

He's written four books, but the fact that the Bahamas-raised Oscar winner, 86, can read at all was the result of a stranger's act of kindness.

"I left school at 12½. But I wanted to be knowledgeable, even though at the time I did not know that such a word existed.

I was working in Queens as a dishwasher, and one evening I was sitting in the dining room trying to read the newspaper. This Jewish waiter walked over, stood looking down at me and then said, 'What's new in the paper?' I said, after hesitating, 'I can't tell you because I can't read very well.' He said, 'Oh, would you like me to read with you?'

That night and every night, that man, whoever he was, sat next to me and taught me to read - not just the pronunciation and meaning of the words, but what a comma was, what a period was. I eventually had to go to work elsewhere and I never got a chance to go back and tell him what a gift he gave me. I never ever got an opportunity to thank him."