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S.M.C.'s Reviews

Susan McCloskey has worked at Bookshop Santa Cruz since graduating from UCSC in 2000. She is the former Event Coordinator at Bookshop and continues to consult for the store. In her other life, she is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She believes in story, and loves the meld of working with books, narrative, and people.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

In celebration of its paperback release, I have started and restarted this review many times, as it seems nearly impossible to convey the brilliance and impact of this novel. I can tell you it is my favorite novel in years; I have recommended it to so many, only to have them pass it on. There are throat-caught sentences and marvel when those of us that have read it try to talk about it. The book alternates between two storylines, one following Yale, a young gay man in Chicago in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis; the other following Fiona, 30 years later, a mother in a desperate search to find her missing adult daughter. The intersection of these two stories is nothing short of brilliant. Love, redemption, and life at its fullest are bound in these pages. Read this book. —S.M.C.

 

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The Great Believers: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735223530
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Books - June 4th, 2019

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

This is a delightful, moving read for fans of Ann Patchett, Celeste Ng, or Alice McDermott. As the story weaves in and out of a narrative that covers 40 years, the reader gets an intimate view of a Chicago couple and their four daughters and of what happens when a family secret resurfaces. There is such realness in each character that it is impossible not to find yourself simultaneously exasperated and in love with each family member. The novel explores the complex ties of parenting and sisterhood, and how love can be a weight as well as salvation. This is a wonderful, amazing debut. - S.M.C.

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The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel Cover Image
$28.95
ISBN: 9780385544252
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Doubleday - June 25th, 2019

In Pieces by Sally Field

Unlike some celebrity memoirs that focus on art and fame, actress Sally Field’s memoir is much more personal, and includes her life before she was famous. She reveals that as a child, she was sexually abused by her stepfather and talks about how that shaped her decisions regarding her partnerships, which roles she took, and even how she mothered. As an artist, she was drawn to the roles that “spoke of outrage,” but in writing her memoir, you can feel the connection that Field has found with herself. - S.M.C.

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In Pieces Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9781538763025
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - September 18th, 2018

What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky

I loved this collection of essays. Sharp, political, intelligent, and witty, Havrilesky’s voice reminded me of a merge between Cheryl Strayed’s Dear Sugar and Rebecca Solnit. Havrilesky points out how our culture’s emphasis is tuned to a constant tirade of consuming and reaching—we are to seek out more technology, buy newer apps, climb the ladder, improve our minds, finesse our rooms, spruce ours cars, balance our diets, deepen our relationships…and the list just keeps going. Enough! With heart, humor and insight, Havrilesky helps show that if we stop seeking happily ever after, we might be surprised by just how connected and content we can actually feel. - S.M.C.

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What If This Were Enough?: Essays Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780385542883
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Doubleday - October 2nd, 2018

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

Phoebe Siegler, a Manhattan woman who finds herself shattered and floundering after the results of the presidential election, jumps to volunteer to find her close friend’s runaway daughter. Following leads to the California desert, Phoebe meets an obscure private detective known for his ability to find and aid runaways and strays. In search of the missing girl, the two set out on a journey that feels chimerical and twisted. The pair must rely on the desert’s fringe inhabitants, and the story starts to hint of violence and turmoil. This novel/mystery/love story is both an enigmatic tale of being lost and found and a frame for the subtext of a divided America, one where truth, power, and the haves and the have-nots are in need of deep scrutiny. - S.M.C.

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The Feral Detective: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062859068
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Ecco - November 6th, 2018

Standing at the Edge by Joan Halifax

Joan Halifax is a scholar, anthropologist, activist, and Buddhist teacher. She has works with neuroscientists, psychologists, politicians, caregivers, teachers, and activists and has named five psychological territories she calls Edge States—altruism, empathy, integrity, respect, and engagement—that epitomize strength of character and can also be the root of suffering. Halifax notes that if we can teeter on the edge of each state and observe our behaviors and impulses from there, we can travel the range of the human experience and do so with openness and courage. - S.M.C.

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Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet Cover Image
By Joan Halifax, Rebecca Solnit (Foreword by)
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250101341
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - May 1st, 2018

Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home by Natalie Goldberg

When Zen practitioner and author Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) was diagnosed with a dangerous blood cancer, she was suddenly thrown into the world of hospitals, medical lingo, and life-threatening urgency. Months into her own treatment, her partner was also handed a cancer diagnosis. With her Buddhist practice and steadfast spiritual gaze, Goldberg speaks to the importance of recognizing that it is the dance between the dark and the light, the hard and the easy, that makes life full and worthy of living. - S.M.C.

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Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home: A Memoir Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781611805673
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Shambhala - June 5th, 2018

Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman & Richard Davidson

Goleman and Davidson have written a readable and well-researched book that draws on not just the benefits of mindfulness but the brain research on what happens within our body that makes meditation and focused awareness quiet and center us as much as it does. They argue that while the benefits of mindfulness are tenfold, it is important to also have an understanding of the whys and hows of the practice so it does not simply become a cultural phenomenon that gets diluted and loses its worth. With tips, research, and explanation, this book is a wonderful read for those who want to deepen and understand the workings behind their mindfulness practice. - S.M.C.

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Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780399184383
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Avery - September 5th, 2017

Becoming Myself by Irvin D. Yalom

In the way that Oliver Sacks revealed the complexity and deep heart that exists in the world of neurology, Irvin Yalom has long written books that reveal the bravery and nuances that exist within our relationships with one another (Love’s Executioner, one of Yalom’s early works, remains one of the most poignant nonfiction books I have ever read). Now in his 80s, Yalom turns toward a study of self and memory as a means of discovery. In a blend of traditional memoir and funny imaginings between his older and younger self, Yalom speaks with humor and heart about his upbringing with detached parents, his own foibles at becoming a psychiatrist, and the way that aging is an opportunity for an entirely new way of knowing and understanding the world. - S.M.C.

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Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist's Memoir Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780465098897
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Basic Books - October 3rd, 2017

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Having binge-watched the television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, coupled with current politics, I swore off dystopian stories for the time being just so I could catch my breath. Until, of course, I caught word that my favorite author’s new title was just that. Future Home of the Living God tells the story of one woman, Cedar, who at four months pregnant, is suddenly thrown into a fight for survival when the state of genetic evolution starts to reverse itself. Plants and animals are reproducing species that have long been extinct and there are whispers that the children being born aren’t surviving or if they are, something is very wrong with them. The government responds by gathering genetic data and institutionalizing pregnant women. As Cedar’s pregnancy progresses, we watch the journey that she must endure to protect her unborn child. While this genre is a departure for Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God explores themes familiar to her other books, examining self-identity, loyalty, and the importance of redemption within family. This is a taut and intense whirlwind of a read—whew. - S.M.C.

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Future Home of the Living God: A Novel Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9780062694058
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper - November 14th, 2017

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