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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted June 14, 2011

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Timothy O'Keefe
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9324404-02
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 76pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
Timothy O’Keefe’s The Goodbye Town is brimming with small, intricate images, stacked piecemeal upon one another to create the brilliant and sensuous world of each individual poem. Space is not only put to remarkable use by the poet in a structural sense, but is a complex recurrent theme as well. The occupation of space and—conversely—absence, are ever-present throughout O’Keefe’s work. The poems’ people are shadows and outlines or fleeting memories captivated only by the noises they produce.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jenny Shank
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-57962-214-5
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 304pp
  • Price $29.00
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
Right off the bat (no pun intended), Jenny Shank’s novel, The Ringer, appealed to me. The story takes place in the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado—a location I still consider to be home even though I haven’t lived there in eight years—and I was looking forward to being transported back to the wide-open skies, to the dry, thin air of the Rockies, and to the familiar sights and streets of my youth. And I wasn’t disappointed. Shank’s sense of place is strong, and throughout the novel I experienced many wonderful moments of nostalgia and recognition—Hey! I’ve eaten at that restaurant! I know that newscaster! I remember the daily, summer thundershowers!
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Michael Heffernan
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0814335109
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 71pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Larry O. Dean
Cribbing from Leo Tolstoy, poets of place are all alike in how that particular locale obsesses them, whereas poets from Detroit are uniquely autochthonous. Jim Daniels, Toi Derricotte, Robert Hayden, and Philip Levine are four writers who come to mind, and each wears their (sometimes bittersweet) affection for Detroit like a permanent tattoo. Michael Heffernan, along with the above poets, has spent more time away from his native city than within it, yet no matter where he goes—Kansas, Washington, Ireland, Arkansas—he totes Detroit's DNA along with him, whether he chooses to or not.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by David R. Dow
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0446562065
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 273pp
  • Price $14.99
  • Review by Maurice Chammah
In the past decade, death penalty defense lawyers have taken to the practice of outlining the life history of their clients to juries, including the circumstances that led to the murder for which they face death. The goal is the jury’s sympathy, the hope that they might spare them from death. I always wondered about whether these same juries end up with sympathy for the lawyers themselves. A life of death penalty defense, with so many sleepless nights and last-minute scares, often seems like a sadomasochistic, or at the very least, all-consuming career choice.
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  • Book Type Young Adult Fication
  • by Jodi Lundgren
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1897187852
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 217pp
  • Price $11.95
  • Review by Audrey Quinn
Oh, the teenage years. Insecurities, fights between friends, disagreements with parents, first loves, and broken hearts. Leap by Jodi Lundgren has it all and more. Natalie Ferguson is a fifteen-year-old who finds herself battling drugs and drinking, body issues, insecurities about dating, the struggle to hold onto childhood friends all while coping with divorced parents who are ready to move on with their lives. The amount of things on her plate would be overwhelming for anyone and through diary entries the reader goes through it all with her. Natalie’s one savior is her love of dance though she finds herself at odds with her strict dance teacher. While she explores a newfound love of modern dance, Natalie comes into her own and finds confidence in her ability to handle all of the crazy things life has thrown her way.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tayari Jones
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-156129900
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 340pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Atlanta in the late seventies and early eighties, two women, two daughters, one man: such are the major players in Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow. Delicate and tender without being cloying, this novel explores not only the strangeness of bigamy but also what it means to be a wife, to be a sister, to be a family. The premise of Jones’s plot is straightforward: James Witherspoon, a black man who runs his own limousine company, has married two women and fathered a daughter with each. Only one wife, Gwen, and her daughter, Dana, know of the existence James’s other family (Laverne, the wife, and Chaurisse, the daughter).
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-931357-91-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 124pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Stephanie Burns
In Greek mythology, there is perhaps no myth so painfully evocative and morally instructive as that of Daedalus and Icarus. Daedalus, the brilliant architect of the Minotaur's labyrinth, constructs wings of feather and wax so that he and his son can escape their imprisonment. They are almost successful, until Icarus, forgetting his father's warnings, flies too close to the sun and his wings melt, plunging him to his death. Rachel Eliza Griffiths's The Requited Distance mines this myth, as well as the other stories related to Daedalus, for their rich and mournful underpinnings. Griffiths presents the conception and birth of the Minotaur, the construction of the labyrinth, Daedalus's attempted murder of his nephew Perdix, and Icarus's fatal flight through many different eyes (including that of a watching fig tree), capturing profound emotions with her lush descriptions. Throughout, we witness the cost of unwieldy desire and ambition.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Daniel Tiffany
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9831480-0-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 62pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Patrick James Dunagan
With Privado Daniel Tiffany offers up a pop-cultural remix of sorts on, as he tells it, “cadences used by the armed services in marching drills,” so every “poem” or “section” here is titled “Cadence.” However, the nearest he allows for hitting a rhythmic stride is the oft repeated:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Fanny Howe
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975869
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Fanny Howe’s latest work, Come and See, explores themes of spirituality and war with a concern for children growing up in the midst of war-torn countries. Spirituality, a theme that can be seen in Howe’s work as a whole, rises more in the form of a seeker, one questioning religion, rather than an adherent.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bogdan Suceavă
  • Translated From Romanian
  • by Alastair Ian Blyth
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2684-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 212pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Fallout from a real revolution can be worse than its cause. Mass murder, reckless replacement of proven agrarian practices, and imprisoning the educated are just a few documented aftershocks. Fictional revolutions and their resulting chaos can be equally atrocious, as it is in Bogdan Suceav?‘s Coming from an Off-Key Time.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Peter Richards
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0979975554
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Helsinki, as a collection, almost reads as one long poem. The poems are nearly uniform in length and line-length, all one-stanza, lacking punctuation, title-less. The poems are characterized by their drive, their unceasing motion that sweeps the reader along with it. It is the work of an author with focus; the collection’s themes are primarily on love and war. The love object, a reoccurring character, is Julia. The book first begins with discussing war and death:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Carl Adamshick
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0807137765
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Alyse Bensel
Curses and Wishes, Carl Adamshick’s award-winning debut collection, is driven by brief retrospective and introspective poems, compacting an overwhelming sense of loss in America. Adamshick at once laments and celebrates different ways of American life, ranging from small-town farms of the Midwest to the international scale of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following in the tradition of American poetry that engages with the American spirit, Adamshick transfers the fervor of Whitman’s long, sprawling lines into short-lined, energetic poems that make for a fast and invigorating read. Curses and Wishes will entrance any reader with concerns for the fate of the American landscape and its people.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Phillip Sterling
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0814335079
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 134pp
  • Price $18.95
  • Review by Matthew C. Smith
Titling a collection of short stories In Which Brief Stories Are Told may seem rather obvious, but Phillip Sterling’s tales of loss, detachment, and mystery reveal the complications inherent in narrative and character, and call into question the relationship between narrator and audience. Throughout, he brings to life characters we ordinarily might not give a second glance: bystanders and passers-by who, like the reader, catch only glimpses of the greater plot in which they play a role.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Deborah Baker
  • Date Published May 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1555975821
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 256pp
  • Price $23.00
  • Review by Ann Beman
Part mystery, biography, memoir, history, narrative nonfiction escapade, Deborah Baker’s The Convert doesn’t fit in any one category. Like its subject, Margaret Marcus/Maryam Jameelah, the book is a misfit. And like creative nonfiction should, it poses questions, and in wrestling with those questions, it jigs loose more questions, bigger questions, questions that tie you in knots, give you an unscratchable itch, or maybe incite you to hurl something not unlike a hardback volume across the room. In any case, it is a book you want to discuss.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Arpine Konyalian Grenier
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9807651-5-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Kristin Abraham
Arpine Konyalian Grenier’s fourth full-length book, The Concession Stand: Exaptation at the Margins, is a genre-bending collection of what can best be described as lyric essays. In essence, the pieces in this book are enacting the exaptation that they advocate: the exaptation of language to connect with a collective identity, one that allows for new ways of communication that are not hindered by culture/hierarchy/power/history but are inclusive to all.
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