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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.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

If you can bear to have lived it, I can at least bear to listen. In some ways this line is the heart of Cynthia Bond’s debut novel, Ruby. Every sentence seems infused with the contradiction of dark history and memory paired with the expansive reach of love and light. Spanning the depth of racial and sexual brutality in a small town in East Texas, we watch Ruby Bell grow from a beautiful child to a feral woman—someone that is plagued by what she has seen. Ruby is haunted. She lives a fever dream where ghosts talk to her, and history assaults her, and yet, there is one person, Ephram, the gentle deeply observant man that has loved Ruby his whole life that may be able to redeem her pain. Bond’s lyricism and talent has been compared to Toni Morrison or William Faulkner, and there is no denying such comparisons, but this book is also a stunning, poetic, part ghost story/part love story that stands fiercely on its own. This is an exquisite lasting read. —S.M.C.

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Ruby (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780804188241
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Hogarth - February 10th, 2015

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I am in awe of this novel—its language, the cavernous take it has on love and commitment and what it means to maintain a marriage. Monsters of Templeton, Groff’s first book, is one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read, but Fates and Furies is Groff at a genius level. It is difficult to define—a Greek drama, a love story, a telling and untelling of a marriage between a playwright and his wife. The sentences hum, the characters pull, and the story rises and falls in a breathless pace. If you can only read one novel this fall—this is it. Unbelievable.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
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Fates and Furies: A Novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781594634475
Availability: Backordered
Published: Riverhead Books - September 15th, 2015

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

This is a wonderful book for both writers and readers of memoir. Mary Karr, otherwise known as the queen of memoir for her best-selling books Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit, has written a brilliant book that celebrates the genre. With her characteristic wit and insight, Karr discusses her own writing process, focusing on unearthing one’s life story as well as taking us through excellent lessons and exercises on the mechanical how-to’s of writing autobiographical content. This inspiring book is one that you will continue to refer to. Make room on your shelf next to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Steven King’s On Writing; Karr has taken on the genre of memoir and gifted us all.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
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The Art of Memoir Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780062223067
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Harper - September 15th, 2015

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I am in awe of this novel—its language, the cavernous take it has on love and commitment and what it means to maintain a marriage. Monsters of Templeton, Groff’s first book, is one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read, but Fates and Furies is Groff at a genius level. It is difficult to define—a Greek drama, a love story, a telling and untelling of a marriage between a playwright and his wife. The sentences hum, the characters pull, and the story rises and falls in a breathless pace. If you can only read one novel this fall—this is it. Unbelievable.  —S.M.C.

Staff Pick Badge
Fates and Furies: A Novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781594634475
Availability: Backordered
Published: Riverhead Books - September 15th, 2015

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

This collection of shorter fiction from Colum McCann (who won the National Book Award for Let the Great World Spin) is made up of a novella and three short stories. McCann’s talent is as evident in his shorter writing as it is in his novels and the reader gains a surprisingly deep understanding of and empathy for each of McCann’s characters. Whether a judge who feels particularly nostalgic on what turns out to be a monumental day, or a mother whose gift to her son unleashes a tragedy, McCann’s characters make us think about the upending themes of chance, compassion, and fate. This is a terrific read from one of our best contemporary authors.  —S.M.C

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Thirteen Ways of Looking: Fiction Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780812996722
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Random House - October 13th, 2015

Later Poems: Selected and New by Adrienne Rich

This collection of Adrienne Rich’s poetry highlights some of the poems that Rich wrote during the 1970s—a time of political turmoil and cultural shifts that marked Rich not only as a poet of huge talent, but also a poet whose voice extended into the realms of politics and activism, filling in some of the void around silence and truth. The later and last poems that Rich wrote focus on the intimate—the poetics of relation, the importance of the craft—and provide a mirror for the nuances of the world in which we live. This is a splendid collection from one of the most important poets of our time.  --S.M.C.

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Later Poems: Selected and New: 1971-2012 Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9780393351835
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - November 23rd, 2015

The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Gilead, has a new collection of essays focusing on our modern culture and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is drawing on the likes of Calvin or Shakespeare or commenting on the privilege of the American elite, her precision and insight are evident in her prose. With chapter titles like “Memory, Grace, Theology or Fear,” Robinson’s essays reveal her belief in humanity despite our flaws, and the kinship of Robinson and her own protagonist, Gilead’s Reverend John Ames, seems deliciously close.  --S.M.C.

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The Givenness of Things: Essays Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374298470
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - October 27th, 2015

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

This is a wonderful book for both writers and readers of memoir. Mary Karr, otherwise known as the queen of memoir for her best-selling books Liar’s Club, Cherry, and Lit, has written a brilliant book that celebrates the genre. With her characteristic wit and insight, Karr discusses her own writing process, focusing on unearthing one’s life story as well as taking us through excellent lessons and exercises on the mechanical how-to’s of writing autobiographical content. This inspiring book is one that you will continue to refer to. Make room on your shelf next to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Steven King’s On Writing; Karr has taken on the genre of memoir and gifted us all.  --S.M.C.

Staff Pick Badge
The Art of Memoir Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780062223067
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Harper - September 15th, 2015

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken

Elizabeth McCracken (National Book Award Finalist for her novel, The Giant's House) has a wonderful way of blending the astringent and sharp with that of deep tenderness and yearning. New in paperback, this story collection illustrates McCracken’s deep-felt vision of capturing the world empathetically but slightly askew. From the first story—fierce and wonderfully startling, McCracken tells an evocative and brittle but compassionate not-quite-ghost story about a grieving mother—to the title story that deals with a father’s acceptance of his daughter’s brain injury, McCracken writes with a no-holds-barred sensibility and the result is powerful, unique, and deeply admirable.  --S.M.C.

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Thunderstruck & Other Stories Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780812987676
Availability: Backordered
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - August 18th, 2015

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise says so much about the good in humanity; it is a story of redemption and unexpected love. Set in Las Vegas, we are given an intimate view of those living in the city instead of the traditional story of the light and show. We are introduced to an immigrant boy whose family is struggling to assimilate. A middle-aged housewife coping with an imploding marriage and a troubled son. A social worker who struggles with the darker shadows of the city, and a wounded soldier recovering from an injury he can’t remember getting. These characters seem separate and disparate from one another, but McBride interlaces their stories and by the time their stories connect to reveal a whole, acts of tragedy and deep bravery are already unfolding. This is one of those novels that seems a quick read, where the story catapults you forward, but by the end, the spectrum of the range of what we are capable of, in every sense of that word, is what actually remains.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
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We Are Called to Rise: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781476738970
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 28th, 2015

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