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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.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

In this new novel, Flight Behavior, one can clearly sense Barbara Kingsolver’s origins as a biologist through her taut and beautiful descriptions of nature. Set in the rural community of Tennessee’s Appalachian Mountains, we meet Dellarobia Turnbow, a young wife and mother who feels confined by the constraints of her bucolic life. On her way to commit an act that threatens to break her family apart, she stumbles upon a mysterious phenomenon of nature that holds a resounding effect that will reach far beyond Dellarobia’s small community. There are no simple answers in this book. And that natural phenomenon that Delorobia discovers? We Santa Cruzans are in the unique position to find our own version of it right here in our own backyard.
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Flight Behavior: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062124265
Availability: Backordered
Published: Harper - November 6th, 2012

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

It is hard to believe that this is a first novel—the writing is so deeply rooted with truth and lyrical brilliance. The story is told through the eyes of 14 year-old June and how her understanding of the world shifts with her Uncle’s death from AIDS. It would be a mistake to view this book as only a story of loss and tragedy, as it is instead a story about growing up, and the sharp beauty that comes with the discovery of how to live truly and honestly. I cannot say enough about the stunning reach of this novel—the way that it will move you and the way that it becomes embedded into your own understanding of courage and veracity. This is one of those books that is not written to just be read, but instead it is a novel that is felt. My soul responded—what more is there to say?

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Tell the Wolves I'm Home Cover Image
ISBN: 9780679644194
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: The Dial Press - June 19th, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

A novel is truly captivating when it creates a world that is wholly original and solely its own. This novel does that in such a compelling way that your heart, your mind, and your intellect experience a feeling of precariousness that comes with belief and faith. Now imagine how Budo feels. Budo is Max's imaginary friend. Although only Max can see him, he is real. Real as in, well, real. He and the other imaginary friends watch over their children until the day comes that the child stops imagining them. Then they are gone. Budo exists because Max has faith: that is the premise of this captivating novel—but I am leaving out so much because I cannot ruin the story. I can suggest Emma Donoghue’s Room as a comparison, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but really, all that you need to know is that you will fall in love. This is a book about bravery. It is a book about grief at the order of things that cannot be changed, and about the magnificence that comes with those that can.

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ISBN: 9781250006219
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: St. Martin's Press - August 21st, 2012

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown

This memoir struck me on so many levels—not just for its exquisite and textured writing but also for its powerful honesty and startling frankness. Ian Brown’s son Walker was born with an extremely rare genetic syndrome. To his parents, caregivers, and even his doctors, Walker is a mystery, unable to speak and truly communicate; his disease makes Walker and his needs, feelings and even his symptomatology a complete unknown. As investigative journalist, Ian turns his focus to the disease, traveling the world to meet with the few doctors and parents of children who know CFC (cardiofaciocutaneous), and becomes immersed in this community. He comes to find the value of every human life, and begins to accept the wonder and love of Walker just as he is.

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The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780312675417
Availability: Out of Print
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - July 17th, 2012

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

In Blue Nights, Didion again writes about loss and grief—this time focusing in on the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo. Like The Year of Magical Thinking there is an unflinching honesty to Didion’s voice. book groups especially will be drawn in to discuss the complexity of Didion’s narrative structure. Her writing is layered and rhythmic, so we are handed sentences and words that repeat and spiral. It is as if Didion could not help herself, writing in overlapping threads of memories and moments that cannot be separated from the life and love of a person who is so suddenly absent. Blue Nights is haunting and singular—a book whose very inertia is in the complex filter of a life sifted through loss. Didion has handed us a compilation of grief—an assembly that is determined and striking, and will ring familiar to anyone that has had to form their own narrative around holding on and letting go.
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ISBN: 9780307387387
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Vintage - May 29th, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

I know that book groups might be hesitant to read a book that falls into the Young Adult genre, but truly I think any story that can depict childhood and coming of age in a way that can immerse both young and adult readers, is a story that is well worth discussion. In When Things Come Back 17 year-old Cullen narrates what happens when his small town suddenly becomes a hotspot after what was thought to be extinct woodpecker is spotted. Cullen is both impressed and mortified by his town's transformation—suddenly his peers are sporting woodpecker inspired haircuts and bird-watching becomes an ideal date. But then when his 15-year-old brother goes missing amidst the chaos, Cullen’s surprise turns to something more vigilant and shadowed. The gift of this YA novel (which was the winner of the coveted Michael Printz award) is the way that regret, surprise, and humor are all interweaved. Layered and remarkably unique, this novel calls to mind how ordinary and extraordinary are only a coin’s throw apart.

Where Things Come Back Cover Image
ISBN: 9781442413337
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Atheneum Books for Young Readers - May 3rd, 2011

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

If there is one book designed for book groups to read, this one is it. It begs discussion and curiosity. Suspended in a strangely modern-day version of limbo, we are introduced to “the Kid”, a young man who is trying to create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration. After doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders. Banks’ talent as a writer is evident as he eases us into the narrative slowly and deftly, breaking down the story so that his characters become human and real. I want to suggest that Banks has created something brave and thorough in this book—he has created a new moral compass of sorts, one that is deserving and crucial. It is not easy, but ultimately this book is about empathy and hope, and it takes a brave writer, and a willing reader, to look at something head on. What a read.
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Lost Memory of Skin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061857645
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Ecco - July 17th, 2012

The Light Between Oceans

It is 1918, and having survived the horrors of the First World War, Tom Sherbourne enlists as a lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock, the last point of land where two oceans diverge. Thawed by the seclusion and ritual of this life, Tom meets and falls in love with his wife Isabel on a trip to the mainland. The two return to the lighthouse and begin an intimate and almost sacred homemaking. But when Isabel suffers multiple miscarriages, the island’s seclusion starts to feel precarious and haunted. Until a day comes when a boat carrying a dead man and a screaming baby washes up on the shore. Isabel and Tom make a decision that enters them into that gray area when there is no clear right or wrong. The ripple effect of this decision becomes a pulsing force, and ultimately the novel questions life, the beauty and ugliness of it, the light and dark of it, and the shades in between.
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The Light Between Oceans: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451681734
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Scribner - July 31st, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

This is one of those reads that I picked up and instantly became wrapped up in, the whole time one small part of my brain being so excited that I had at last found that long sought perfect summer read. Mostly told through the point of view of high-spirited and fiercely determined 11-year-old Swan, one cannot help but fall in love with this vibrant young girl. As Swan's Arkansas family is exposed to their core after an unforeseen tragedy, Swan seems the only one who refuses to give up faith or spirit. It may sound cliche, but this really is that book that makes you laugh, hold your breath, and tear up. For fans of Fannie Flagg, this is that it summer read.
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The Homecoming of Samuel Lake: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385344098
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - July 10th, 2012


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