As she did in her memoir, The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls spins family dysfunction into a riveting, triumphant tale. Walls writes Half Broke Horses (Scribner, $26), a “true-life novel,” in the voice of her spirited, defiant grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Lily grew up in the Depression’s grueling rural poverty, moving from a Texas dugout to a failing New Mexico ranch. She was forced to leave school when her father spent her tuition money on a pack of great Danes, but she still became a pilot, rancher, and teacher. Think Little House on the Prairie, with a bit more grit and a lot more sass.
Written at various times in his illustrious literary career, the five stories in William Styron’s The Suicide Run (Random House, $24) are wrought from Styron’s experience as a Marine lieutenant at the end of World War II. The title story refers to a young soldier recalled to service for the conflict in Korea, and the weekend trips he made from Camp Lejeune to Manhattan to visit his mistress. The fullest and most satisfying piece is “My Father’s House,” which pairs a young Marine’s reminiscences of his father’s home in Virginia, his hope of returning to it, and his trouble re-assimilating to life in the South, with his more recent memories, some idyllic and some gut-wrenching, of time in Saipan awaiting orders for the invasion of Japan before the war was ended by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (Library of America, $40) is a treasure. As we’ve come to expect from the Library of America, this edition is handsomely bound and contains not only all of Raymond Carver’s stories, collected and uncollected, but also essays, a chronology, notes on the text, and a brief biography. The real treat, though, is the inclusion of Beginners, the unedited collection of stories that was published as What We Talk about when We Talk about Love. This is a perfect gift for fans of Carver’s fiction or for anyone who wants to see him in a new light.