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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.


Brittany Maynard was not yet 30 when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She became famous through her advocating for the right to end her own life. Wild and Precious Life is her mother’s story, a poignant memoir in which we see a life lived to the fullest, we witness a mother who struggles to support the decision her daughter has made, and we watch how one family’s intimate decision transforms a nation’s dialogue about choice in end-of-life decision making. This is a story about life and how fierce and enduring we can be when we look fully at all that comes.                                                              —S.M.C.

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Wild and Precious Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501128516
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books - October 25th, 2016

Body of Water by Chris Dombrowki

Using his talent for careful observation and in lyrical and taut language, Chris Dombrowski turns his eye toward fly-fishing for the ever-elusive bonefish in the Caribbean. But the story in this book is not what it seems, and through tales of David, one of the island’s oldest sea guides, comes a story of two men at the opposite ends of life. Together they witness a wounded landscape, an environment that is needing to adapt and survive at a hastened pace; and they find the deep wisdom that can come from sharing nature in its pure form. For fans of Terry Tempest Williams, this is your next read. —S.M.C.


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Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Alluring Fish Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313522
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Milkweed Editions - October 18th, 2016

What Becomes Us by Micah Perks

What Becomes Us is one of those delicious novels that immediately places you into a world of narrative glory, stunning setting, and characters so bold and original that the cadence of their voices fill your every thought. When Evie, pregnant with twins, moves across the country to escape her controlling husband, she ends up in Lonely Rincon, New York, made famous by its historical significance as the location where (real-life) settler Mary Rowlandson was held captive by Native Americans in 1682. Perks weaves together the facts of Rowlandson’s story with Evie’s journey toward independence and acceptance. The novel is part ghost story, part love story, and most of all, a wonderful, wonderful read.  —S.M.C.


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What Becomes Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937402983
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Outpost19 - October 4th, 2016

My Sunshine Away By M.O. Walsh

This book grabbed me from the beginning and left me stunned by its penetrable depths at the ways light and shadow can interweave so explicably during adolescence. A coming-of-age story with a twist; set in Southern Louisiana, we meet a 14-year-old boy who is overly taken by his first love. When a violent crime breaks into the reality of the boy’s romance, first love becomes a point of suspect and intrigue and no one is left untouched. This is storytelling at its best, where mystery, innocence, memory, and truth collide in ways that leave nothing unturned. Book groups will have plenty to discuss. In the end, My Sunshine Away makes us reexamine how childhood shapes us into who we are and who we aren’t. It calls to examine the singular edge that exists in the juxtaposition of holding on tightly to one’s dreams, next to the way the deep pull of nostalgia can lead us astray from our truth. This is a captivating read. —S.M.C.
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My Sunshine Away Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425278109
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - April 5th, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry By Frederik Backman

This is one of those warm-hearted books that still packs a literary punch. Elsa is seven years old and quirky. She struggles making friends her own age because she’s just as concerned about their using proper grammar as she is about their ability to make up a rousing imaginative game. Here, we might refer to her as an “old soul,” but in Elsa’s world she is known as weird and odd. Elsa survives her loneliness because her grandmother stands in as Elsa’s best friend. Granny is a firecracker of feelings and impulses. She shoots at people with paint balls, dances when the moment takes her, and has no problem giving her opinion regardless of the social setting. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, Elsa is cast into the role of delivering letters of apologies to all the people Granny affronted while alive. With a flurried pace of wild narrative and incredible setting, this book had me laughing and tearing sentences apart. In some ways, this is a story of one child’s passage through grief, but it is also a depiction of the highlights of life and how being ourselves is really the only way to forge a connection. A beautiful and lasting story.  —S.M.C.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501115073
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - April 5th, 2016

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich’s last novel, the National Book Award winner The Round House, was so spectacular that I didn’t think LaRose could come close to measuring up, and oh, how I was wrong. Erdrich’s mastery of language and character are evident in every word, but it is her gift of understanding the complexity of interconnectedness that stands out. No deed goes unmarked, whether it be a gift or a mistake, a prayer, or a betrayal. Erdrich dissolves the notion of ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’—she proves that each of us affects the other and that with that understanding, every choice is an act of endurance, toward completion, toward being, toward living. This will be a book you return to again and again.  —S.M.C.

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LaRose: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062277022
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Harper - May 10th, 2016

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

John Irving’s newest novel explores fate, memory, faith, and the endurance of love between siblings. Juan Diego, a 14-year-old boy who has a gift for language, and his sister Lupe were born in a city dump in Mexico. Lupe has a vocal chord problem that leaves her unintelligible to most but not to Juan Diego, who understands her perfectly. Lupe is also a mind reader. She can see into people’s thoughts, their past, and also at times predict the future. Juan Diego leaves Mexico as a young teenager and becomes a famous novelist and professor in the States. Lupe does not come with him. Avenue of Mysteries is the story of their separation and of the magical worlds and bonds that tie them together, and is filled with humor and heart.   —S.M.C.

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ISBN: 9781451664171
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - June 7th, 2016

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

This personal political coming-of-age memoir is striking from the beginning. How does one learn to be a black man today? Who are the models? There is Obama and there is Trayvon Martin. You can be a ‘token’ or a ‘martyr’ but how do you just Be? Mychal Denzel Smith is a keen observer of both himself and the world around him. He confronts his own challenges and assumptions about being a young black man today, and does so by exploring the context and complexity involved in growing up in a culture that is filled with prejudice, disregard, and disenfranchisement. Smith’s ability to be so invested, self-aware, and emotionally raw makes this astute and intellectually brilliant memoir powerful and honest. A deep and important book that everyone should read. 


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Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781568585284
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Bold Type Books - June 14th, 2016

Irritable Hearts by Mac McClelland

As a journalist for Mother Jones, Mac McCelland traveled the world covering high crisis politics and world events; she was used to seeing scenes that most of us never encounter. But after witnessing the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, McCelland returned home unable to “recover.” Plagued by nightmares, changes in perceptions, and uncontrollable crying, she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Irritable Hearts, McCelland writes with candor about turning her journalistic eyes inward, struggling to research PTSD even has she is held in its grip. The result is an oh-so-readable memoir that is also a portrayal of human character.  —S.M.C.

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Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250053503
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - March 22nd, 2016

Pioneer Girl: A Novel by Bich Minh Nguyen

This book is a delightful, immensely readable novel that is more layered than it seems. Written as if it was memoir, Nyguyen introduces us to Lee, a Vietnamese-American who struggles between holding her own identity and staying connected to her mother and grandfather—immigrants that came to America during the Vietnam War. Moving from Vietnam to America, Lee’s mother and grandfather were able to bring very few belongings with them, and yet they held on to one thing: a gold pin with a relief sketching of a small house on it, left behind in their Saigon restaurant by an American reporter named Rose. And so begins the literary mystery that makes this book a page-turner. Following a hunch, Lee begins a journey from the American mid-west, to Vietnam, and back to America again, following the trail that perhaps this pin is somehow connected to the quintessential-American family—that of Laura Ingalls Wilder. What follows is a literary mystery that bears light to the complexity the immigration story—revealing the layered depths that make up the pioneer spirit, family loyalty, and just what it means to call a place home.  —S.M.C.

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Pioneer Girl: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143126225
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Penguin Books - January 27th, 2015


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