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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.

For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan

This delightful book is hard to categorize. Written by Sasha Sagan, the daughter of astronomer Carl Sagan and writer-producer Ann Druyan, For Small Creatures is part memoir, part history, part science, and all heart. Raised by her famous parents as ethnically Jewish but not religious, Sasha Sagan was taught from a young age to find the miracle in the natural world that surrounded her. When her own daughter was born, Sagan was committed to continuing this way of upbringing but wanted to make sure that her daughter also had a sense of ritual and meaning that Sagan herself felt so deeply inside but had a hard time naming. Reflecting on nature, history, science, art, and literature, Sagan tells the story of how across eons and cultures, humans have always developed a way to mark the nature of time’s passing, of life, of death, and of the phenomenon of feeling. In charming prose, she offers a wonderful way to find meaning in everyday life.  - S.M.C.

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For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780735218772
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - October 22nd, 2019

Embroidered Botanicals by Yumiko Higuchi

Although I have been embroidering for almost 2 years now, I still consider myself a beginner. I am often hesitant to look at patterns and new projects, for fear that I will be intimated. But celebrated embroidery artist Yumiko Higuchi’s new book was the perfect one to ease my fears and boost my confidence. With splendid photographs, and clear, step-by-step instructions and diagrams, this book will be a delight for embroidery novices and experts alike. The designs somehow manage to be fresh and simple all at once. My favorite aspect of this book were the tips on using metallic thread to make a motif feel layered and stand out. This is a beautiful and lovely book for any embroiderer in your life (including yourself!). - S.M.C.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donohue (best-selling author of Room) proves her prowess as a multi-talented author in her newest novel.  Whereas Room was powerful for its gut-hitting plot and heart-racing psychological story, Akin stands out for its humor and intimate character development. When widowed, elderly Noah gets a call from Social Services, he is thrown overnight into being the sudden guardian for his 11-year old great nephew Michael. Through a series of twists and turns, the two find themselves in Nice, France, Noah’s long ago child hood home. What follows is a delightful tale of intrigue and adventure, but what stands out, is Donohue’s gentle use of humor and heart, as we watch these two, old and young, forge a bond that they are each in desperate need of. - S.M.C.

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Akin Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316491990
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 10th, 2019

Love Thy Neighbor by Ayaz Virji, M.D.

While working in a large hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Virji realized that due to the number of his patients he was assigned, he was practicing “turnstyle” medicine. Upon hearing of a shortage of doctors in rural communities, he and his family moved to a town of 1400 people in Minnesota, where he opened a clinic. After a few years, he was finally practicing personable medicine in a community that seemed warm and welcoming. Then the 2016 elections hit. Virji, a devout Muslim, woke to find a swastika on his sidewalk. The atmosphere in the town seemed to shift overnight and things got dangerous and intense. At the verge of leaving entirely, a town meeting was called and Virji found himself in the burdened position of having to educate and explain his religion to a less-than-open crowd. Love Thy Neighbor offers a view of the bravery that is required and the shifts that can take place when compassion and faith are used to combat fear. - S.M.C.

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Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor's Struggle for Home in Rural America Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780525577201
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Convergent Books - June 11th, 2019

What My Mother and I Don't Talk About edited by Michele Filgate

When Michele Filgate, the editor of What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, wrote an essay about her stepfather’s abuse, she revealed the fracture that the abuse caused between her mother and her. The essay went viral and Filgate realized that there was much to be learned about what happens in the intimate bond between mother and child when things go unsaid. Filgate gathered 15 writers to explore the topic. Some of the essays are hilarious; others heartbreaking; but there is such strength and resilience in this collection. I kept recalling Leonard Cohen’s line, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” - S.M.C.

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What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence Cover Image
By Michele Filgate (Editor)
$26.00
ISBN: 9781982107345
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 30th, 2019

After She’s Gone by Camilla Grebe

After She’s Gone, named the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the year by the Swedish Crime Writers Academy, is captivating. Famed psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön is found alone, hurt, and confused in Sweden’s rural woods, with little access to her recent memories, and realizes her partner is nowhere to be found. When the murderer that Hanna and the missing detective were investigating starts to threaten the entire town, the urgency grows. Only one person, a local boy with a desperate secret of his own, can help Hanna, and as the inexplicable relationship between the two grows, so does the race against time. This is a wonderful page-turner.  

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After She's Gone: A Novel (Hanne Lagerlind-Schon #2) Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780425284407
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Ballantine Books - February 26th, 2019

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: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
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: Not On Our Shelves, But 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
$25.95
ISBN: 9780385542883
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Doubleday - October 2nd, 2018

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