Enjoy some staff picks from Stef, manager at Water Street.
I was totally blown away by Beheld, a historical novel that re-frames one incident in early American history through the eyes of the women who experienced it, rather than the men who usually get to tell the story. It's a powerful take on an often misunderstood time, Plymouth Colony in the 1600s, told with suspense and fascinating detail. The heart of this novel though is the relationship between Alice Bradford, wife of William Bradford, governor of the colony, and Dorothy, Bradford's first wife who died on the Mayflower. Nesbit captures their friendship and love beautifully, and that relationship sustains the novel. It's lovely, heartbreaking, and true.
I adored this! The writing is exquisite, the pacing is both quick and thoughtful with great twists and reveals AND crazy profound thoughts on motherhood and marriage and love and sanity. She's a wonderful writer and it's an unforgettable ride.
This book is absolutely incredible. MacLaughlin, who majored in Classics in college, says she came to write this book as an exercise at first—what would it look like to see the stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses from the perspective of the women instead? What if she turned the gaze around? The result is a collection of the fiercest, most wildly different stories I’ve ever read. Some are quiet, some are explosive. Some are set in antiquity, some are modern day. But the theme running through them all is the same—the myths that lay the foundation of storytelling weren’t just about men, conquering and pillaging. There’s always another side to the story.
Here’s what Nina said about it:
“If you go through the Metamorphoses, there is a lot that is the same: a nymph gets chased by a god...so writing this was an act of really looking for the one or two details that de-generified the woman, like, for example, a white headband. To find the one tiny detail that differentiated her and then have that one detail blast a whole explosion of associations in my mind to make an individual, as opposed to these generic fleeing females.”
Trigger Warning: rape, violence against women
If you like Ruth Ware’s thrillers, you will not be disappointed with this one. (If you don’t like her thrillers, I mean, why.) It is *just* spooky enough—not so much to keep me from falling asleep at night, but enough that I may have jumped a teensy bit a few times. Her thrillers always have great twists and reveals that feel organic, not absurd. (I’m looking at you, Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney, the most absurd thriller I’ve read in recent years.) This one absolutely delivers on that.
Roman Caine is in a dead-end job when she finds a listing for a nanny position that sounds almost too good—the pay is great and it would be a big step up from her current position. Of course, when she goes to visit the house, a cottage-mansion in the Scottish Highlands with the most sophisticated “smart house” technology and surveillance system, there are a few red flags. But goddammit she takes that job anyway. LOOK OUT GIRL.
Oh damn! Do you love Lindy? If so, you will love this book! Here it is! Hooray!
Wait, do you not love Lindy? Hang on. Do you love feminism, body positivity, people being hilarious, progressive politics, recaps of Food Network shows, and take-downs of Goop and also of people who think Ted Bundy was handsome? OKAY THEN YOU LOVE LINDY. This book is for you. Here, take it. Laugh, be angry but then laugh again. It’s so nice. There is not much more I can say, friends. She’s so funny and smart as hell and her burns are white hot. It’s the full package.
This novel is simply a masterpiece. Reading it you will say to yourself, who is the aged and experienced writer who spent 10000 years writing this totally assured and masterful book? Then you will look at the photo in the back and be like OH IT’S THIS INFANT? THIS TINY BABY WROTE THIS INCREDIBLE NOVEL? Then you might cry or laugh or whatever but regardless, you’ll keep reading. It’s so good.
It’s almost more the story of a place than of a person— The Kamchatka Peninsula, located in the far East of Russia, an area that has more in common with Mongolia than the more populated cities of Russia. Two young sisters are kidnapped in the first chapter, and each chapter after is about people in the community who were somehow connected to the crime. By the end of the novel, the characters have fully linked together creating a web that explains what happened to the girls. It’s really incredible. Excellent writing and fully developed characters with the plotting of a thriller—you love to see it.
If you like the stories of Kelly Link and Carmen Maria Machado but think, hey these could be weirder, then The Book of X is for you. Can you deal with a woman whose torso is twisted into an X? What about a family that farms meat, like they have a meat quarry where the meat grows and they harvest it by cutting it out of the rock? It’s absolutely revolting. Have I lost you yet? IF NOT, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU.
Cassie is our strange heroine, the woman with the X for a torso, just like her mother before her. She wants to leave her small town, find love, community, and a job that fulfills her. Do you think perhaps that giant torso X will make that difficult for her? DO YOU?
Sarah Rose Etter has written this strange and beautiful thing—both a polemic on the demands placed on women’s bodies and a truly moving story. It’s really incredible.
What a gift this book is! Machado has absolutely laid her soul bare telling her story of queer domestic abuse. And because she is who she is, it’s not a just a memoir. It’s a text book on folk tales, fairy stories, and myth— she connects her story to all of our stories. It’s despicable; it’s universal. And because she’s one of the most inventive writers of this generation, each sentence is a marvel. I was disturbed and devastated for her, each aggression, micro and major, and at the same time awed at her clarity of vision, her beautiful words.
Machado has such a fascinating mind and compassionate soul-- it means her book is both head and heart, a literary magic trick if there ever was one. Heartbreaking, heart-stopping. I couldn't stop reading it. And that finish! Talk about magic.
“This is how emotions work, right? They get tangled and complicated? They take on their own life? Trying to control them is like trying to control a wild animal: no matter how much you think you’ve taught them, they’re willful. They have minds of their own. That’s the beauty of wildness.”
First of all I’m sorry but can you just pick this book up and hold it in your two hands and not feel immense joy at just how lovely it is? It’s the perfect size. Its size alone is a delight. But luckily it is also a lovely and strange book that is both readable and mysterious, so the whole holding in your hands delight thing is just a bonus.
Now my friends, this is a bit of an unusual book. I can’t even really tell you what it’s about. It’s a woman who falls in love with an older man, an author whose picture she’s seen on the back of his book, and who she then sees in real life. It’s another woman who has just had a baby and who doesn’t know how to create her art anymore. It’s a filmmaker and her lovesick producer. It’s folly and romance and regret. It’s weird and wonderful.
It’s the past and the future, told with delicate and prodding prose. Who is telling the story? Who knows. Who needs to know? *Jazz hands* *sings* EUUUROOOPE!
This book is SIMPLY WONDERFUL. It is teeming with wild characters and hijinks and dancing showgirls and beaded costumes and terribly smart pillbox hats—life and love and tragedy and New York City in the 1940s. You will adore Vivian, the woman telling the story of her life in New York, after her parents banished her to her Aunt Peg and her falling down playhouse, The Lily.
Vivian is a young woman finally freed from the constraints of Vassar and her strict, conservative family. She goes a little wild. (Okay, a lot wild.) Mistakes are made. MISTAKES ARE MADE. She has to live with the consequences but what could have been tragedy is turned into a beautiful life. Ugh that sounds cheesy but just TRUST ME. Vivian is telling this story to a woman named Angela. Who is Angela, you ask? Read on my friend. It’s a lovely reveal at the end, perfectly timed. You will be in tears. But in a good way of course.
HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK IS WEIRD AS HELL, IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. At the start of the book, our mysterious heroine, Abby, is living an under the radar kind of life—living at home, college dropout, no career—and she’s depressed and lonely. She is obsessed with drawing her dreams, and with the cult film director Auguste Perren. The only shine in her life is seeing what her old friend Elise is up to, through the pages of glossy tabloid magazines. Elise is an up and coming Hollywood star, and when she returns to their small town for their high school reunion and rather innocuously invites Abby to stay with her if she’s ever in LA, Abby’s life is flipped upside down. Despite the barely there invite, Abby drops her life immediately and goes to LA. Though Elise is surprised to see her, she eventually asks her to stay as her assistant. OH BOY WHAT A MISTAKE SHE HAS MADE. Abby and Elise’s relationship is deeply dysfunctional, both leaching off the other. As their relationship spirals, Abby’s dreams become darker and more vivid. The ending is totally wild and came out of left field, yet the path that led to it was there all along. SO GOOD.
This book is pure magic, just like the delicious gingerbread at the heart of the story, baked by Perdita Lee and her mother Harriet Lee. It’s an old family recipe, one Harriet learned from her mother, in Druhastrana, the magical (possibly made up) land where she grew up. It’s difficult to summarize this book—it’s one that has to be experienced, one you steep yourself in while you read it. Oyeyemi’s writing is gorgeous and crisp and her stories manage to be fairy tales without feeling like you can see the scaffolding of the story, like you can in so many fairy tale retellings—there’s a magical land and a key to get in and a girl named Gretel, but there’s also a factory of Gingerbread Girls baking cakes for their cruel boss, Clio, oh and did I mention the Greek chorus of three dolls? Sago, Prim, Bonnie, and Lollipop. You’ll love them. You really don’t know what you’re in for in one of Helen Oyeyemi’s books and that is the joy.
This fictional oral history of a rock band from the 70s is so many things—unique and yet feels timeless, funny at times, surprisingly tender, and fun as hell to read. It’s told in a series of interviews with all the members of the band, which have been spliced together to make a coherent narrative. It’s really clever, you feel like you’re listening in on a conversation but you also get a full story, with a full plot—tension, suspense, resolution.
It being clever wouldn’t be enough though, would it? The beating hearts of this lovely novel are Daisy Jones, the badass, party girl with a voice like gold and a face people couldn’t look away from, and Billy Dunne, the leader of the band The Six, a man who fights his urges to party and blow his life up throughout the whole book. It’s a great study of these characters whose lives are thrown together so dramatically, and of an era and a lifestyle and a type of music that just doesn’t exist anymore. It’s nostalgic and dreamy, and has a killer ending, too.
This is one of those once in a lifetime kind of books—one of the most unusual and most powerful books I’ve ever read.
This is a story of a small fundamentalist Mennonite sect who have cloistered themselves in a South American country where they can be totally off the grid. Mennonites run the gamut like all religions, from standard Sunday church to Amish-level removal from society. This sect is completely removed, the women have no education or power, they can’t even read or write, and the men make all the decisions.
The entire book is a conversation between a group of women. They are trying to decide what to do in response to a string of rapes and sexual assaults done to women and girls in their small community by men in their community. Can they leave? If they leave, where will they go? If they leave, will God smite them? Should they stay and forgive the men? These women are smart and strong and you absolutely love them. The ending is a complete gut punch. The whole book is a gut punch. And, of course, it’s based on a true story.
This is an incredible novel. It does SO much. Reading it, you will be entertained and delighted, have your heart broken, be pissed off and shamed anew at the damage we did to Black people through slavery, educated and utterly swept away by the narration.
Our narrator, Washington Black, “Wash,” is born into slavery on a plantation in Barbados. He’s protected by Kit, a hard woman who has a soft spot for him. She promises that when they die, they’ll be returned to the homeland, Africa. But before that can happen, Wash is chosen as the manservant to Titch, the younger brother of their cruel master. Though Titch benefits from the slave system, he doesn’t agree with it. When Wash is about to be implicated in a crime, Titch takes him and they escape in his flying machine, the balloon they have been working on for months. Their journey takes them around the world, working on scientific discoveries and running from the slave catchers. It’s an adventure story, a coming of age novel, a slave narrative, all in one.
The writing is excellent and the story will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.