Staff Pick

Originally published in Polish in 2009, Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (Riverhead, $27) is more linear than the buoyant Flights, but what may seem a breezy and almost comic story of small-town eccentrics is imbued with Tokarczuk’s wit, intelligence, and inimitable, subversive literary style. Both the narrator and the story are ingenious and winning creations. An involuntarily retired teacher and former bridge builder, Janina Duszejko is one of a handful of year-round residents in a rural outpost that serves as a summer getaway for the
wealthy. She spends her days checking on empty estates, casting horoscopes, helping a friend translate Blake (source of the novel’s title and stunningly apt epigraphs), and developing theories on everything from “testosterone autism” and why the feet—“our plugs into the socket”—are the most revealing part of the body, to why anger, which “has the power to exceed any limits,” is “the source of all wisdom”—revealing herself, like Blake, as a down-to-earth mystic. Then the murders start. The victims are all men who hunted and Duszejko believes they were killed by animals, as punishment for their cruelty. When the police laugh her off, Duszejko’s moral outrage grows, and Tokorczuk makes a powerful argument for the wisdom of the marginalized—whether old women, wild deer, or stray dogs.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel Cover Image
By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translated by)
$27.00
ISBN: 9780525541332
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - August 13th, 2019

Staff Pick

A critical moment in history meets an array of meticulously wrought characters in The Secrets We Kept (Knopf, $26.95), an enthralling debut novel from Lara Prescott. Set in the throes of the Cold War, the story unfolds through the eyes of Irina, Sally, and Olga—each with a poignant side of the story to tell. Irina, a CIA typist and budding spy, is mentored by the enigmatic Sally, a sharp-witted and glamorous Agency swallow, as they both work to publicize Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Their story is deftly interwoven with the voice of Olga, whose character animates the real life figure of Pasternak’s mistress and muse. Prescott crafts her protagonists in such a way that they maintain sharp individuality, yet share a coequally powerful feminine voice. The historical aspect of the novel is carefully researched, shedding light on both the worldwide and personal impact of Doctor Zhivago. The author frames the setting in such fine detail that the reader could walk the very paths being described through Washington D.C. today. Everything about this story, from the relatable dynamics between characters to the elegantly described clothing they wear, feels close enough to touch.

The Secrets We Kept: A novel Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525656159
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - September 3rd, 2019

Staff Pick

Olive, Again (Random House, $27) reprises the irrepressible protagonist of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, but no prior experience is necessary to savor this delightful
and moving novel. Described as “difficult,” even “formidable,” Olive, a retired seventh-grade math teacher, is blunt to a fault—she’s a woman who “thinks everything is crap.” Well, yes and no. “Anything could be true with Olive,” someone notes, and as Strout shows in thirteen interlocking stories, Olive is also needy, regretful, and always surprising. Nor, despite her considerable reputation, does she always steal the show. Strout gives her a strong supporting cast, and we meet a first-time mother who goes into labor at a friend’s baby shower; an eighth-grader whose difficult adolescence fits eerily into the drama playing out in the home of the elderly couple she cleans for; a mediocre student who becomes the U.S. Poet Laureate; and two brothers from Strout’s 2013 The Burgess Boys, still coming to grips with the childhood accident that killed their father. Presented with deep compassion, each of these characters is fully realized, as is Crosby, Maine, where, through its neighborhoods, shops, and old age home, Strout shows the limits of the adage that everyone knows each other in a small town. Rather, “there are always secrets.” Ranging from unfaithfulness to abuse, these boil down to “the essential loneliness of people,” which not even Olive is immune to.

Olive, Again: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812996548
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Random House - October 15th, 2019

Pages