Violet Swan, the luminous centerpiece of Deborah Reed’s Pale Morning Light With Violet Swan, finds herself at age ninety-three closing down on life, still active as a renowned abstract artist and doted on by her son, Francisco, and his wife, Penny. Yet when an earthquake upends her idyllic community in coastal Oregon, Violet and her family are forced to confront some complicated truths that have long been ignored. Matters are further complicated with the arrival of Violet’s grandson, Daniel, who brings with him his own secrets that force Violet to reckon with traumatic events of her past, the details of which her family is unaware. Through it all, Reed charts the ever-shifting family relationships with wit and compassion, nimbly jumping between past to present, and constructing one of 2020’s most memorable characters with the enigmatic and ethereal Violet. Critics and authors alike have praised Pale Morning Light with Violet Swan. Booklist hailed it as “a poised, multilayered portrait of a complex life,” and Margaret Renkl called it “a beautiful, shimmering, heart-lifting testament to the power of memory and love and art.”
Brendan Dowling Author Archive
Darin Strauss’ The Queen of Tuesday offers a captivating take on one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century, Lucille Ball, peeling back the layers to show a Lucy only a privileged few would have been able to witness during her lifetime. Beginning with Ball on the brink of her phenomenal television success, […]
Most sports fans are familiar with Drew “Bundini” Brown as the charismatic, rhyme-spouting, larger-than-life figure in the background of Muhammad Ali. In the rousing Bundini: Don’t Believe The Hype, Todd Snyder crafts a loving, three-dimensional portrait of this seminal figure on boxing history, showcasing not only Bundini’s linguistic genius and acute boxing strategy, but also the darker moments that haunted Bundini’s extraordinary life. Through rigorous research, as well as unprecedented access to Bundini’s family and friends, Snyder dives into the key moments of Bundini’s life: his childhood in Florida; his service (as a teenager) in the Merchant Marines; his complicated love story with his wife, an Orthodox Jewish woman from Brooklyn; his work with Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali; as well as his post-boxing life, which included a foray in Hollywood with the Shaft films and an appearance in The Color Purple. Critics have lavished praise on Don’t Believe the Hype. The Wall Street Journal stated, “Mr. Snyder writes lyrically, and his research appears to be impeccable: It’s hard to imagine that anyone has slipped through his interview net,” and Foreword Reviews called it, “authoritative and entertaining, Bundini comes through for boxing fans and for those interested in Black American culture.”
Anne Helen Peterson has been a welcome voice for readers of Buzzfeed for years, covering a range of topics from the history of cool girls to refugee resettlement. When she turned her attention to millennial burnout in 2019, the topic struck a nerve, resulting in over seven million views. Now Peterson has expanded the scope of her article with her new book, Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. Here, Peterson employs her rigorous academic background to dissect the common misconceptions about this generation and focus on how burnout has uniquely affected the ways they work, parent, and socialize. The result is a fascinating look at history, economics, and culture that will profoundly transform the way readers think of this generation.
In Meredith Hall’s Beneficence, readers are immersed in the lives of the Senter family, dairy farmers in the fictional town of Alstead, Maine, as their lives are upended by an unimaginable crisis. In the early 1930s, Tup and Doris are devoted parents to their three children: the charismatic Sonny, introspective Dodie, and fiercely loyal Beston. Over the next two decades, they pour their hearts into restoring the neglected farm and the family remains a compact, devoted unit. When tragedy befalls, each member is rocked in a different way. With lyrical precision, Hall dissects how grief reshapes each member and pushes them into newfound territory. The result is a profoundly moving family saga that provides an engrossing reading experience.
Whether it’s through her beloved Book Lust series, her frequent appearances on NPR’s Morning Edition, or her own critically acclaimed novel, George and Lizzie, Nancy Pearl has been providing readers with impeccable reading options for many years. With The Writer’s Library: The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives, Pearl has taken it one step further. She and her collaborator, playwright Jeff Schwager, interviewed a wide-ranging group of twenty-three American authors about the books that made them who they are today. From Susan Choi on The Borrowers to Amor Towles on The Honorable Schoolboy, the result is a series of illuminating conversations that reveal your favorite writers in surprising and intimate ways.
Magdalena Newman’s Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey, beautifully details her oldest son Nathaniel’s experience with Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder that causes craniofacial deformities. At birth, Nathaniel’s ears, eyes, cheekbones, and jawbone were not properly formed, necessitating hearing aids, a gastrointestinal tube, a tracheostomy tube to assist breathing, and over sixty surgeries the first fifteen years of his life. Newman, who had been a professional concert pianist in her native Poland, was totally unprepared to care for a baby with such enormous medical needs, Yet she immediately rose to the challenge, becoming laser focused on ensuring Nathaniel could lead a normal life. Magdalena and her husband Russel’s fierce advocacy serve as a guiding light for their family and community, navigating through Nathaniel’s complicated medical procedures (as well her own bouts with both non-Hodgkins and Hodgkins lymphoma diagnoses) with grace and dignity. Newman charts her family’s journey with raw honesty, while Nathaniel’s perspective pops up throughout the memoir, emerging as a clever and funny teenager with his wry commentary. Magdalena and Nathaniel’s journey take them to unexpected places, including a friendship with R.J. Palacio, who saw a picture of Nathaniel while doing research for Wonder.
“I Had Grown Too Big to Shrink”: Tiffany D. Cross on her Journey from the Control Room to the Green Room
Tiffany D. Cross has been a major player in the news media for nearly two decades, first working as an Associate Producer for CNN, then founding the influential newsletter The Beat DC, to her current appearances as an on-air political analyst on MSNBC. In her new book, Say It Louder: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy, Cross digs into the current landscape of the news media, exploring how a lack of diversity in newsrooms shapes not only what stories are covered but also how they are reported, and then examining the resultant effect on day-to-day life in the United States. Through comprehensive data analysis as well as exploring key moments in U.S. history, Cross investigates the critical role Black voters have played in past elections, and how that role has been misunderstood and under-reported by the media. The result is an illuminating look at the current political moment that profoundly shapes how readers consume and examine news media.
In David Nicholl’s hilarious and tender Sweet Sorrow, the impending marriage of thirty-eight year-old Charlie causes him to look back on his formative first relationship, a summer romance with the ebullient Fran, a fellow cast member in a community theater production of Romeo and Juliet over twenty years earlier. As the present-day Charlie recalls the highs of falling in love and the many embarrassments of his first foray into acting, he also recounts the darker moments of that summer: the loneliness of being left behind as his school friends prepared to leave for university and his recently divorced dad grappling with the collapse of his beloved record shop. The result is an emotionally rich look at a man reckoning with his past and the relationships that guided him to his present, one that stands proudly alongside Nicholls’ previous books, which include the beloved One Day and Starter for Ten.
Sameer Pandya’s Members Only charts a calamitous week in the life of Raj Bhatt, a charming middle-aged anthropology professor at a South Californian university. As part of his tennis club’s membership committee, Raj has long sought to diversify the club’s lily white makeup. He’s thus delighted to meet Bill Brown, a charismatic Black doctor who is applying to the club. Yet during Bill’s membership meeting, Raj makes a racist joke in a disastrous attempt to bond with Bill and his wife. From there, Raj’s week only gets worse. His white colleagues at the club demand to dictate the terms in which Raj should apologize (while blithely ignoring their own past racist comments), while a cohort of Raj’s white students rise up to protest his “reverse racism” in the classroom. Through it all, Pandya navigates Raj’s world with insight and grace, making Raj’s miserable week very, very funny in the process.
Diane Cardwell on Surfing, Falling Over and Over Again, and the Danger of Saving Yourself for a Future that Never Comes
Diane Cardwell was in her mid-forties when a chance visit to Rockaway Beach altered the trajectory of her life. A successful journalist for The New York Times, Cardwell was at Rockaway for a story, but found herself transfixed by the surfers on the beach. That fortuitous encounter caused her to sign up for a surf lesson, and soon Cardwell was spending every spare moment at the beach, forging friendships with other surfers, and eventually buying a home there so she could more seriously pursue her newfound passion. Her memoir, Rockaway: Surfing Headlong into a New Life, charts Cardwell’s journey of self-transformation through surfing, providing not only a bighearted exploration of Rockaway, but also exquisite sports writing that plants the readers on top of the surfboard.
In Gerard Koeppel’s engrossing Not a Gentleman’s Work: The Untold Story of a Gruesome Murder at Sea and the Long Road to Truth, Koeppel investigates a murder trial that captured the attention of the late nineteenth century but is now largely forgotten. In 1896, six days into a twelve-week voyage to Buenos Aires, crew members […]
Ivy Pochoda’s extraordinary These Women dives into the inner lives of disparate women in the West Adams neighborhood of Southern Los Angeles, whose worlds are upended by a shocking murder in their community. Dorian runs a local restaurant, mired in grief over her daughter’s horrific murder over a decade earlier, while Julianna spends her nights working at a club and her days exploring her newfound passion in photography. As Dorian fights for justice not only for her own daughter but the two most recent victims, unexpected connections emerge among the women, hurtling the reader to a devastating and unexpected conclusion.
In Steph Cha’s compassionate and devastating Your House Will Pay, a shocking crime uproots the lives of two very different Californians. Grace Park exists in a world of ordered routine, living with her parents in the Valley and working in their family-owned pharmacy. In nearby Palmdale, Shawn Matthews’ quiet life of family contentment is forever […]
Sloane Andrews was one of “The Chosen Ones,” five teenagers who used their magical powers to save the world from the Dark Lord. Ten years later, she’s a husk of her teenage self, battling PTSD and apathetic about what direction her life should take. When one of the Chosen Ones unexpectedly dies shortly after the ten-year anniversary of the Dark Lord’s defeat, Sloane finds herself pulled into yet another battle to save the world, one that will call into question everything she has experienced before. Veronica Roth, who surged to success with her Divergent series, has here conjured another arresting world, filled with world-weary heroes making bold, adult choices. Chosen Ones is one of the most eagerly awaited titles of the spring, and has already been labeled a Best Book of April from Time, Entertainment Weekly, and Literary Hub.