Happy Thursday! Today I have two special books to share, both from Counterpoint Press, which has quickly become one of my go-to publishers for intelligent literary fiction!
First, I’ll share my thoughts on National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender’s smart book of short stories, The New Order.
I’ll follow that with the tiny, but at the same time large, book of essays from Marion Winik, The Baltimore Book of the Dead.
My Thoughts on The New Order:
The New Order is relevant and timely as it addresses topics in contemporary American culture. While Karen Bender confronts issues head-on, she has a way with words that is straightforward, but also calm and subtly engaging.
The New Order is an assessment of the fragile times in which we are living. The stories are powerful and unexpected, yet starkly simple. The everyday is addressed in a thought-provoking way making us question what truly matters? Also, how can we take action to fix all that’s going wrong?
Karen Bender has a voice, a strong one. Her writing is stunning, and the stories are brilliantly crafted as each slowly unfolds.
In short, if you are seeking quiet, well-written, powerful stories with an underlying expression of one take on the world and its problems today, read The New Order. The insight is indelible.
Thank you to Counterpoint Press for the complimentary book. All opinions are my own.
The New Order shows a singular writer at the top of her form dealing with contemporary themes and ideas, shining a spotlight on the dark corners of our nature, our instincts, and our country.
The critically acclaimed author of Refund returns with a new collection of stories that boldly examines the sense of instability that has grown stronger in American culture over the last two years through the increasing presence of violence, bigotry, sexual harassment, and the emotional costs of living under constant threat.
In the title story, the competition between two middle school cellists is affected by a shooting at their school and it is only years later when they realize how the intrusion of violence affected the course of their lives. In “This is Who You Are,” a young girl walks the line between Hebrew School and her regular school, realizing that both are filled with unexpected moments of insight and violence. In “Three Interviews,” an aging reporter must contend with her dwindling sense of self and resources, beleaguered by unemployment, which sets her on a path to three increasingly unhinged job interviews. In “Mrs. America,” a candidate for local office must confront a host of forces that threaten to undermine her campaign, forcing her to face her own role in the dissonance between what America is and what it should be.
My Thoughts on The Baltimore Book of the Dead:
This stunning little book could almost fit in your pocket. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around all that is contained within the pages and deep within Winik’s words. I challenged myself to make this review bite-sized, too, and to hit at the heart of what this book is.
Beginning with the story of her mother, Winik pens the memories of those who have passed away in brief essays. The writing is straightforward but filled with tenderness and hope. The themes are universal and about what anchors us- family and home. I’ve read nothing like it, and I’m grateful a Goodreads’ friend (Victoria) reviewed it so highly. She read it based on a recommendation from none other than Anne Patchett.
In summary, this book is poetic, simple, emotional, and absorbingly profound. Even with me doing my best to describe how it made me feel, I guarantee when you pick it up, it will feel different to you. It will become something bigger, and my hope is that it will fit neatly into your heart as it did mine.
Thank you to Counterpoint Press for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
Approaching mourning and memory with intimacy, humor, and an eye for the idiosyncratic, the story starts in the 1960s in Marion Winik’s native New Jersey, winds through Austin, Texas, and rural Pennsylvania, and finally settles in her current home of Baltimore.
Winik begins with a portrait of her mother, the Alpha, introducing locales and language around which other stories will orbit: the power of family, home, and love; the pain of loss and the tenderness of nostalgia; the backdrop of nature and public events. From there, she goes on to create a highly personal panorama of the last half century of American life. Joining the Alpha are the Man Who Could Take Off His Thumb, the Babydaddy, the Warrior Poetess, El Suegro, and the Thin White Duke, not to mention a miniature toy poodle and a goldfish.
Have you read The New Order or The Baltimore Book of the Dead, or are either on your TBR? Do you read short stories or essays sometimes? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR