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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted April 1, 2014

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Elizabeth Spencer
  • Date Published January 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-87140-681-1
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Ninety-two-year-old Elizabeth Spencer, with fifteen works published over the course of seven decades, is known as the “Grand Dame” of Southern literature—yet she addresses contemporary family problems as sharply as any younger author. Her best-known work is the 1960 novella Light in the Piazza, as it was made into a Broadway show. It’s been more than a decade since her last book, and her new short story collection, Starting Over, is worth the wait.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Joshua Beckman
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-75-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 91pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Elizabeth O'Brien
Joshua Beckman is an editor at Wave Books, and The Inside of an Apple is his seventh poetry collection. At its best, his poetry is composed of whimsical snapshots, reminiscent of haikus, as in this moment halfway through “Being in ways”:
  • Subtitle My Life as a White Anglo Saxon Jew
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Sue William Silverman
  • Date Published March 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8032-6485-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 232pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Cheryl Wright-Watkins
This essay collection is by noted memoirist Sue William Silverman, who was one of my mentors at the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency MFA program. While normally such ties between reviewer and author are discouraged in NewPages’s reviews, the exception was made for two reasons, one being the import of the subject matter of the essays: Silverman explores her extended spiritual identity crisis from growing up Jewish in a Christian world and includes a continuation of focus from her two previous memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You and Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, in which Silverman recounts being sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood and her resultant sexual addiction and recovery. While tremendously important social issues to be brought into the public dialogue, it’s much harder for such books to be given much, if any, review consideration. The second reason for the exception is precisely that my relationship to Silverman affords me the ability to comment on her craft, as she taught it, and assess her own ability to “walk her talk.”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jonathan Grimwood
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-138-7
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 320pp
  • Price $26.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt
Jonathan Grimwood’s debut novel, The Last Banquet, takes us to France during the mid-1700s, when the gap between the haves and have-nots widened and set the stage for revolution. The landscape is surreal, with bands of roaming citizens scouring the countryside for food—it’s almost an 18th century version of Road Warrior, minus the gas-powered vehicles and villains in strange get-ups.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Harriet Scott Chessman
  • Date Published November 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9893023-1-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 144pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Kirsten McIlvenna
The Beauty of Ordinary Things, Harriet Scott Chessman’s fifth title, charts the day-to-day battles faced by Benny Finn, having returned from serving in Vietnam, and Sister Clare, a young woman learning the trials and joys of committing her life to a convent. Isabel Howell, Benny’s brother’s gal and Sister Clare’s childhood friend, link the two of them, creating a friendship between Benny and Sister Clare that brings about a sort of healing and acceptance for them both. The beauty in this novel, as the title somewhat alludes to, is in the little things—in this case, elegantly crafted lines from Chessman.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Elizabeth Howort, Dawn Gorman, Leslie LaChance, Janlori Goldman
  • Date Published October 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9766405-8-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 69pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Andrea Dulberger
The voices of four women poets are gathered in one place in the beautifully designed collection Mend & Hone. The title’s pungent phrase, suggesting the acts of both repairing and sharpening, intrigued me, as did a question asked on the back cover by the poet D. Nurkse: “How do we make ourselves at home on a stone falling through space?” All four writers in this book seem engaged in the work of finding and making a place for their lives, both within experiences of the physical/natural world and the world of human interactions.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Rabih Alameddine
  • Date Published February 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2214-8
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 292pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet
The beautifully written novel An Unnecessary Woman, by Beiruti writer Rabih Alameddine, may be best appreciated by a mature reader, although any lover of serious books should enjoy this one.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Dan Beachy-Quick
  • Date Published September 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-1609381844
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 190pp
  • Price $24.00
  • Review by Lydia Pyne
“Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.” Mark Twain’s observation about biography reminds us that life-writing is nothing if not a tricky genre—where the clothes and buttons of a person’s life are cut, tailored, and assembled into a specific narrative. How a biographer weaves together the threads of the clothes heavily influences how an audience internalizes a person and his/her life.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rachel McKibbens
  • Date Published March 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9827106-8-5
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 28pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Kris Bigalk
It comes as no surprise to the reader that Rachel McKibbens is one of American’s most accomplished spoken-word poets, having served nine times on the National Poetry Slam team and winning two spoken word championships. The strength of her poems lies in their strong, consistent voice—one that speaks with authority and uses the cadences and expressions of natural speech to create a natural tension that moves through each poem and the collection as a whole.
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