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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.

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Novelist Alice Hoffman (Here on Earth) was diagnosed with cancer at the same time her mother was battling the disease, her sister-in-law had recently passed away from it, and her sons were still young. Survival Lessons is the result of those trying years, and as Ms. Hoffman puts it, she wrote the book “to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other.” This charmingly formatted book is graciously distilled, with simple and intimate pieces of advice that Hoffman garnered in her journey. Often wry and humorous, Hoffman’s gift as a storyteller adds a little oomph to each lesson, and the whole is a wonderful guide for anyone struggling with trauma, grief, or loss.

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ISBN: 9781616203146
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Algonquin Books - October 1st, 2013

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande

After publishing two acclaimed novels about the Mexican immigrant experience, Reyna Grande chose to reveal her own troubled and triumphant story as an illegal immigrant in this beautifully written and heartfelt memoir. Born in Mexico and raised by her grandparents after her parents left to find work in the U.S., at nine years old, Reyna enters the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant to live with her father. Filled with hope, she quickly realizes that life in America is far from perfect. While her father has big dreams for his children, his alcoholism and rage undermine all his hard work and good intentions. Finding solace from the violence, Reyna turned toward books and reading, and ultimately became the first person in her family to obtain a higher education. At a time when immigration politics are at a boiling point in America, Reyna Grande offers an intimate glimpse into the Mexican-American experience, and we are left gifted not only by her honesty, but by her startling and stoic prose that opens up to the wider questions about the lines between loyalty, love, and accepting one’s true self.
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The Distance Between Us: A Memoir Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781451661781
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - March 12th, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

New is paperback; this is the perfect Book Group read—I quickly fell under the spell of this memoir. Working in publishing for years, Schwalbe was always a devoted reader, but when his mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, reading takes on a whole new meaning. While waiting together through numerous doctor visits and hospital stays, Will and his mother discussed books they had each been reading and began to exchange titles—thus creating the "End of Your Life Book Club”. There is a candid honesty in this memoir that makes one feel like an interloper on two wonderful conversationalists. And while this memoir certainly serves as a eulogy to Will’s mother, as she is so deftly captured, it is also a book about love—the love between family, the love of faith and dialog, of authors and story, and ultimately the love of reading and the way it transcends so much. This is one of those reads that sticks with you because of its layered gifts—any Book Group will take this book and feel grateful, as Schwalbe speaks at both personal and prose level.
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$16.95
ISBN: 9780307739780
Availability: Backordered
Published: Vintage - June 4th, 2013

Claire of the Sea by Edwidge Danticat

From the publication years ago of Danticat’s novel, Dew Breaker, I have long been a fan of Danticat’s writing. And oh, how this new novel surpassed my expectations and rekindled my awe of this talented author. Told in interweaving chapters that go back and forth with time, the tale centers around a father’s love for his daughter, a heartbreaking decision, and a child, suddenly vanished. Mesmerizing from the first page, this book creates a magical tale of the calamity and daily life of in a small Haitian town—not wanting to give too much away, Danticat has offered up a story about the complexity of life when heartbreak and love are mixed together into one.
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ISBN: 9780307271792
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 27th, 2013

Search Party by Valerie Trueblood

The beginning of this story collection starts with a quote by Penelope Fitzgerald: "If a story begins with finding, it must end with searching," and so we discover each story here to follow the arc of a search, just as each also contains a rescue. These stories surprise and stun though as it is not always clear who is the lost. Whether it be the story of a police officer who has been fired and suddenly finds himself in a position to confront a violent student, to that of a teenage nurse-aide who has just entered the folds of the adult world and is challenged by the ways heartlessness seems to be the accepted norm, Trueblood’s talent is conveyed in the demands she places on the reader—it is often up to us to discover the empathy and the understanding—to find the resolve and sympathy for those that are lost and just outside of reach.
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Search Party: Stories of Rescue Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781619021495
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Counterpoint LLC - July 16th, 2013

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville

Some of my favorite novels are those whose settings permeate into the story and take hold just as much as the characters and plot. Kate Grenville’s unflinching view about Australia’s history and the pioneering story set against the backdrop of the Aboriginal people’s demise is compelling and brave. Telling the story of Sarah Thornhill, a young woman born into a privileged pioneer family, Sarah is unaware of the turmoil that her family’s wealth is built on, but when a romance between Sarah and another young pioneer begins to develop, it threatens to ambush everything about what Sarah knows of her own life and upbringing. This is an unforgettable portrait of a passionate woman caught up in a historical moment—a breathtaking and bold tale.
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$15.00
ISBN: 9780802121219
Availability: Backordered
Published: Grove Press - June 18th, 2013

Shine, Shine, Shine: A Novel by Lydia Netzer

Talk about an original story—this is a debut novel unlike any other. What does it mean to be normal? This is the story of two odd children who grew up and fell in love, the way they fit and the way they fell apart, how he became an astronaut lost in space, and she became the perfect wife whose "perfect" wasn't real. We literally travel between the infinite boundaries of outer space and the confines of the human heart. I was taken not just by the uniqueness of this story’s creative plot, but by the deeper themes it revealed—and the surprising reach we each travel in order to be understood.
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$14.99
ISBN: 9781250020413
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - July 2nd, 2013

We Sinners by Hanna Pylväinen

What surprised me about this debut novel was how subtly the author was able to convey such large themes. Telling the story of a contemporary fundamentalist Christian family at the crossroads. Caught between the cultural fissures of their strict church and that of ordinary America, the family in this novel in many ways feels just like that of any other family, the sibling rivalries, the loving chaos that ensues with so many children, the overwhelming love and also stifling atmosphere that occurs with attentive parenting. But the novel also calls to issues around faith—how it can bind a family together but also divide it. This is a stunning novel that is powerfully empathetic, illuminating the dilemma between faith and love and the conflict that can arise if asked to choose between the two.
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$19.00
ISBN: 9781250032188
Availability: Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Picador - July 23rd, 2013

Falling Into the Fire by Christine Montross

I first came to love Christine Montross—a poet-turned-scientist—with her first book, Body of Work—a hauntingly moving memoir about the relationship that formed with a cadaver named Eve that Montross is assigned to as first-year of medical student. In Falling Into the Fire, we jump forward years, and Montross is now a fully licensed psychiatrist practicing a critical care setting. Still a poet at heart, Montross approaches her patients and, in fact, mental illness as a whole, with inquisitiveness and compassion. Weaving in case-studies with history, memoir, and her own intimate struggles as a doctor, Falling Into the Fire is a wonderful window into the nature of psychiatry and the thin line between illness and the need for connection and understanding that is so imbedded in each of us.

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Falling Into the Fire: A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781594203930
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Penguin Press - August 1st, 2013

Someone by Alice McDermott

National Book Award-winning author Alice McDermott (Charming Billy) has done it again. In a deft and transpiring voice, McDermott carries us through seven decades of Marie’s life, beginning in 1920 when she is seven years old, and the reader is left humbled by the intricacy of a life observed. This is a gentle but stunning book, about an Irish-American family and the intimate change that takes place with the passage of time.

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Someone: A Novel Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780374281090
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 10th, 2013

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