Picks and Pans Review: A Taxonomy of Barnacles

updated 01/09/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/09/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Galt Niederhoffer

Film producer Niederhoffer sets this appealing story in present-day New York City the idealized metropolis of Woody Allen movies. In a Jane Austen-meets- The-Royal- Tenenbaums plot, the six sisters Barnacle are goaded into action at a Passover seder when their Darwin-obsessed father tells them his fortune will go to whoever can “immortalize the Barnacle name.” (Survival of the fittest, indeed.) Within this rarefied cocoon, Niederhoffer spins an engrossing tale of family drama and true love one that offers the pleasures of a layered, old-fashioned romance.

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Chief Joseph & the Flight of the Nez Perce
By Kent Nerburn

Nerburn illustrates how quickly history moves when valuable land is at stake: The Nez Perce Native Americans connected to thousands of square miles in the West “like one is bound to a family” first saw white people in 1805. By 1877, the charismatic Joseph and 800 fellow Nez Perce had been forced from their homeland and herded towards a distant reservation in today's Washington state. Nerburn deftly records a dark chapter of forced diaspora and forgotten promises one as engrossing as a novel.

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