Greetings, and Happy New Year to all. For January, the New Arrivals blogs of the books coming into Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester won’t be presented by week, they will instead each give you a look ahead at some of January’s literary treasures.
This month there are many fiction titles, including literary fiction, romance, magical realism and women’s fiction.
To start with, in MOUTH TO MOUTH by Antoine Wilson, A man rescues a drowning man, and from there on his life changes dramatically. A successful art dealer confesses the story of his meteoric rise in this shocking literary fiction story.
THE FARAWAY WORLD by Patricia Engel is a collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.
STOLEN: A NOVEL by Ann-Helén Laestadius, Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles. Part coming-of-age novel, part sweeping family saga, and part love song to a disappearing natural world, Stolen is the internationally bestselling and award-winning debut novel about a young Sámi girl and her struggle to defend her family’s reindeer herd and their traditional way of life.
THE SWEET SPOT by Amy Poeppel is a modern-day women’s version of 3 men and a baby. In the heart of Greenwich Village, three women form an accidental sorority when a baby—belonging to exactly none of them—lands on their collective doorstep.
THE BOY WITH A BIRD IN HIS CHEST by Emme Lund is about a boy who was hidden away for years because of the bird in his chest, and then he took a brazen trip outdoors and his life was upended forever. The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved for who we truly are and learning to live fully and openly regardless.
HEART BONES by Colleeen Hoover. Moving, passionate, and unforgettable, Colleen Hoover’s novel follows two young adults from completely different backgrounds embarking on a tentative romance, unaware of what the future holds.
The non-fiction entries prove to be very engaging. The first one, A GUEST AT THE FEAST by Colm Toibin is a collection of literary essays, really a memoir, about growing up in Ireland during radical change, cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature. It is laced with humor, and part of it is about his diagnosis and treatment for cancer.
MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE: AN EPIC JOURNEY FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM by Ilyon Woo is the remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.
MOUTH TO MOUTH by Antoine Wilson
A successful art dealer confesses the story of his meteoric rise in this “powerful, intoxicating, and shocking” (The New York Times) novel that’s a “slow burn à la Patricia Highsmith” (Oprah Daily). “You’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting” (Vogue).
In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man.
Jeff reveals that after that traumatic, galvanizing morning on the beach, he was compelled to learn more about the man whose life he had saved, convinced that their fates were now entwined. But are we agents of our fate—or are we its pawns? Upon discovering that the man is renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault, Jeff begins to surreptitiously visit his Beverly Hills gallery. Although Francis does not seem to recognize him as the man who saved his life, he nevertheless casts his legendary eye on Jeff and sees something worthy. He takes the younger man under his wing, initiating him into his world, where knowledge, taste, and access are currency; a world where value is constantly shifting and calling into question what is real, and what matters. The paths of the two men come together and diverge in dizzying ways until the novel’s staggering ending.
Sly, suspenseful, and “gloriously addicting” (BuzzFeed), Mouth to Mouth masterfully blurs the line between opportunity and exploitation, self-respect and self-delusion, fact and fiction—exposing the myriad ways we deceive each other, and ourselves.
THE FARAWAY WORLD by Patricia Engel (short stories)
From Patricia Engel, whose novel Infinite Country was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick, comes an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.
Two Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends.
The Faraway World is a collection of arresting stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, “a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners” (The Washington Post). Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.
STOLEN: A NOVEL by Ann-Helén Laestadius, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles
Part coming-of-age novel, part sweeping family saga, and part love song to a disappearing natural world, Stolen is the internationally bestselling and award-winning debut novel about a young Sámi girl and her struggle to defend her family’s reindeer herd and their traditional way of life—for readers of Katherena Vermette and Michelle Good.
It is winter, north of the Arctic Circle. A few hours of pale light is all the sun has to offer before the landscape is once more enveloped in complete darkness. This is Sápmi, land of the Sámi, Scandinavia’s Indigenous people.
Nine-year-old Elsa is the daughter of Sámi reindeer herders. Her community is under constant threat—from the Swedish population who don’t always value the Sámi way of life, from the government that wants to claim their land for mining, and from violent poachers who slaughter their reindeer for sport and for sale on the black market.
One morning, when Elsa goes skiing alone, she witnesses a man brutally killing her beloved reindeer calf. Elsa is terrified by what she sees. Fearing for her own life and for the lives of her family members, she remains silent.
Ten years pass, and Elsa is now trying to claim a role for herself in her community, where male elders expect young women to know their place. Meanwhile, the hostility toward the Sámi continues to escalate, and the police won’t do anything to protect them. When Elsa becomes the target of the man who killed her reindeer calf all those years ago, something inside of her breaks. The guilt, fear, and anger she’s been carrying since childhood come crashing over her, leading to a final catastrophic confrontation.
Told in three parts, Stolen is a powerful, propulsive, and cinematic novel about a courageous young Sámi woman struggling to defend her Indigenous heritage against the cruelty of the modern world for justice and for the future of her people.
THE SWEET SPOT by Amy Poeppel
Amy Poeppel brings her signature “big-hearted, charming” (The Washington Post) style to this wise and joyful novel that celebrates love, hate, and all of the glorious absurdity in between.
In the heart of Greenwich Village, three women form an accidental sorority when a baby—belonging to exactly none of them—lands on their collective doorstep.
Lauren and her family—lucky bastards—have been granted the use of a spectacular brownstone, teeming with history and dizzyingly unattractive 70s wallpaper. Adding to the home’s bohemian, grungy splendor is the bar occupying the basement, a (mostly) beloved dive called The Sweet Spot. Within days of moving in, Lauren discovers that she has already made an enemy in the neighborhood by inadvertently sparking the divorce of a couple she has never actually met.
Melinda’s husband of thirty years has dumped her for a young celebrity entrepreneur named Felicity, and, to Melinda’s horror, the lovebirds are soon to become parents. In her incandescent rage, Melinda wreaks havoc wherever she can, including in Felicity’s Soho boutique, where she has a fit of epic proportions, which happens to be caught on film.
Olivia—the industrious twenty-something behind the counter, who has big dreams and bigger debt—gets caught in the crossfire. In an effort to diffuse Melinda’s temper, Olivia has a tantrum of her own and gets unceremoniously canned, thanks to TikTok.
When Melinda’s ex follows his lover across the country, leaving their squalling baby behind, the three women rise to the occasion in order to forgive, to forget, to Ferberize, and to track down the wayward parents. But can their little village find a way toward the happily ever afters they all desire? Welcome to The Sweet Spot.
THE BOY WITH A BIRD IN HIS CHEST by Emme Lund
Longlisted for The Center for Fiction 2022 First Novel Prize
A “poignantly rendered and illuminating” (The Washington Post) coming-of-age story about “the ways in which family, grief, love, queerness, and vulnerability all intersect” (Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author). Perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Thirty Names of Night.
Though Owen Tanner has never met anyone else who has a chatty bird in their chest, medical forums would call him a Terror. From the moment Gail emerged between Owen’s ribs, his mother knew that she had to hide him away from the world. After a decade spent in isolation, Owen takes a brazen trip outdoors and his life is upended forever.
Suddenly, he is forced to flee the home that had once felt so confining and hide in plain sight with his uncle and cousin in Washington. There, he feels the joy of finding a family among friends; of sharing the bird in his chest and being embraced fully; of falling in love and feeling the devastating heartbreak of rejection before finding a spark of happiness in the most unexpected place; of living his truth regardless of how hard the thieves of joy may try to tear him down. But the threat of the Army of Acronyms is a constant, looming presence, making Owen wonder if he’ll ever find a way out of the cycle of fear.
“An honest celebration of life and everything we need right now in a book” (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author), The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved for who we truly are and learning to live fully and openly regardless.
HEART BONES by Colleeen Hoover
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us and It Starts with Us!
Moving, passionate, and unforgettable, Colleen Hoover’s novel follows two young adults from completely different backgrounds embarking on a tentative romance, unaware of what the future holds.
After a childhood filled with poverty and neglect, Beyah Grim finally has her hard-earned ticket out of Kentucky with a full ride to Penn State. But two months before she’s finally free to change her life for the better, an unexpected death leaves her homeless and forced to spend the remainder of her summer in Texas with a father she barely knows.
Devastated and anxious for the summer to go by quickly, Beyah has no time or patience for Samson, the wealthy, brooding guy next door. Yet, the connection between them is too intense to ignore. But with their upcoming futures sending them to opposite ends of the country, the two decide to maintain only a casual summer fling. Too bad neither has any idea that a rip current is about to drag both their hearts out to sea.
A GUEST AT THE FEAST by Colm Toibin
From one of the most engaging and brilliant writers of our time comes a collection of essays about growing up in Ireland during radical change; about cancer, priests, popes, homosexuality, and literature.
“IT ALL STARTED WITH MY BALLS.” So begins Colm Tóibín’s fabulously compelling essay, laced with humor, about his diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Tóibín survives, but he has entered, as he says, “the age of one ball.” The second essay in this seductive collection is a memoir about growing up in the 1950s and ’60s in the small town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford, the setting for many of Tóibín’s novels and stories, including Brooklyn, The Blackwater Lightship and Nora Webster. Tóibín describes his education by priests, several of whom were condemned years later for abuse. He writes about Irish history and literature, and about the long, tragic journey toward legal and social acceptance of homosexuality.
In Part Two, Tóibín profiles three complex and vexing popes—John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. And in Part Three, he writes about a trio of authors who reckon with religion in their fiction. The final essay, “Alone in Venice,” is a gorgeous account of Toibin’s journey, at the height of the pandemic, to the beloved city where he has set some of his most dazzling scenes. The streets, canals, churches and museums were empty. He had them to himself, an experience both haunting and exhilarating.
A Guest at the Feast is both an intimate encounter with a supremely creative artist and a glorious celebration of writing.
Table of Contents
Cancer: My Part in Its Downfall
A Guest at the Feast
A Brush with the Law
History/African American and Black:
MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE: AN EPIC JOURNEY FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM by Ilyon Woo
The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.
In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self- emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.
Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.
But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.
With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—one that challenges us even now.
As always, thank you for making our shelves your destination.