Editor's note: In April, Grace published an excerpt from "A Reluctant Life, A Wife's Journey Through Love and Loss," a profoundly felt and beautifully written chronicle. Quietly poetic, Yvette Nachmias-Baeu's first published work is a brave accounting of the process and permutations of grief, after losing her husband, Dieter, to a rare form of cancer in 2009. She will hold a reading this Saturday, Oct. 20, at 10:30 a.m. at Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic.
By Annie Philbrick
"Brain on Fire" by Susannah CahalanFree Press, November 2012, $25
Susannah Cahalan's memoir, "Brain on Fire" is a terrifying spiral of a mental illness descending into an unforeseen hell. How Cahalan was able to write about her illness and the medical mystery surrounding it in such vivid and lucid detail is incredible. The goodness Cahalan found was a doctor who was able to pull her and her family back from the brink of death.
"Eight Girls Taking Pictures" by Whitney OttoScribner, November 2012, $25
In her author's note, Whitney Otto writes "I think of [this novel] as portraits rendered with words instead of paints — or a series of photographs." Visual and intimate, "Eight Girls Taking Pictures" is a candid portrayal of women in love — with men, with women, with art and life. Otto has written a novel that deeply immerses you. Upon finishing in nearly one sitting, I wished for the opportunity to know and converse with all of these artists over an al fresco dinner in their time period.
"The Malice of Fortune" by Michael EnnisDoubleday, September 2012, $26.96
"The Malice of Fortune" by Michael Ennis is a brilliant book. Ennis creates a world of murder, deception, narcotic-induced rituals, science and discovery, and the exploration into what determines human behavior. With each page of this sixteenth-century masterpiece of historical fiction, I was entranced by early Roman history. I found myself fascinated by this era of history, so much so that I pulled a copy of Machiavelli's "The Prince" off the Penguin Classic spinner to read in order to understand the evils of human behavior further. Ennis is an impeccable writer who uses words to express emotions that most men cannot express in voice. "The Malice of Fortune" should certainly find its place at the top of many best-seller lists, as it is a book that stays with you after closing the last page: 'Only great love, as I was told in a lifetime so long ago, can journey beyond the shores of fate.'"
"Shelter" by Frances GreensladeSimon & Schuster, May 2012, $15
By nature, mothers are the caretakers and nurturers, yet as individuals they also search for a powerful independence. What often makes a safe shelter for a child is not so much the physical covering as the mere presence of a mother. Maggie and Jenny live in the wilderness of British Columbia in the 1960s with their mother Irene and father Patrick (who gets killed in a logging accident). When Irene never returns, the children are now on their own. "We did not try to look for our mother. She was gone, like a cat who goes out the back door one night and doesn't return, and you don't know if a coyote got her or a hawk or if she sickened somewhere and couldn't make it home. We let time pass, we waited, trusting her, because she had always been the best of mothers. She's the mother, that's what we said to each other…"
"Shelter" by Frances Greenslade will captivate you. Resilient yet lost and sad, Maggie and Jenny muddle through life without their mother, all along wishing she would return to comfort them. This is a novel that you cannot put down in the hopes that Irene shall return to nurture her children. In her profoundly moving and powerful novel, Greenslade reaches into your heart and squeezes hard.
"The Vanishing Act" by Mette JakobsenW.W. Norton September 2012, $23.95
I love getting manuscripts from my sales reps. It says to me that they truly love a book and want to share it with you. That is exactly what David Goldberg wrote when he sent "The Vanishing Act" to me. He wrote "I've never sent a MS before so you know this is something special. I love this little gem and I hope you will too! It is brisk and magical, full of wonder and longing." "The Vanishing Act" is exactly that. Author Mette Jakobsen writes in sparse yet imaginative prose a story told through the eyes of a young girl, Minou, who lives on a island with her family. In an act of magic her mother vanishes, leaving Minou with a secret and alone with only her father and dog.
Throughout the manuscript I underlined passages, each one so carefully crafted with every word working its magic. "I got the postcard from my pocket and read it again: '...it is in the heart and not in the words — not even in the most beautiful ones — but in the heart, in the skeleton bird pushing against your chest, wanting to fly, that we know for certain who and what we love. That is all we have, all there is." Jakobsen has truly composed a special gem of a novel, sprinkled with philosophy and magic. A perfect escape from the commonality of daily life.
Annie Philbrick is co-owner of Bank Square Books in Mystic.