Like Nicole Krauss' celebrated best-seller, The History of Love, her new novel contemplates love, loss and the oppressive weight of memory on those left behind. The plot here, though, is even murkier than it was in The History of Love: The tales told by the four narrators in this novel all have something to do with a massive antique desk that has passed through various homes ever since it was separated from its original owner in the Holocaust. Despite its deep sadness, however, Great House is also an exhilarating read because of Krauss' unconventional storytelling style. Although most of her characters are prisoners of the past, Krauss herself is a fiction pioneer, toying with fresh ways of rendering experience and emotion, giving us readers the thrill of seeing the novel stretched into amorphous new shapes.
So far, there are 11 of Charlaine Harris' vampire novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie is a mind-reading waitress who falls in love with Bill Compton, who became a vampire after the Civil War. Dead and Gone is ninth in the series, which starts with Dead Until Dark and ends with Dead Reckoning — and more are coming. The books, which are also the basis for the HBO series True Blood, take place in northern Louisiana, where much of the action plays out in two bars, Merlotte's and Fangtasia. In this alternate world of today, vampires can "come out of the coffin" and live among humans, thanks to a synthetic form of blood developed by the Japanese.
Much of the first half of I Think I Love You excavates the agonies of a 13-year-old girl living in Wales in 1974 who, along with her friends, is absolutely smitten with pretty boy David Cassidy (he of The Partridge Family fame). But as the novel gets under way, Pearson pulls off something extraordinary: She gives the subject of girl cliques and the intensity of the love they lavish on their idols its full due. The novel is both an anguished trip back to the mad possessiveness of puppy love and a respectful acknowledgment that it mattered. As our heroine, Petra Williams, says, looking back on her younger, David Cassidy-besotted self: "Yes, it was a kind of madness. It didn't last all that long, not in the great scheme of a life, but while I loved him he was the world entire."
Many of Scott Spencer's novels feature a turning point — a dreadful, often unplanned act committed by one of the characters — after which nothing will ever be the same. In his classic 1979 novel Endless Love, it was a teenage boy burning down his girlfriend's house because he was not allowed to see her again. In Spencer's newest novel, Man in the Woods, a carpenter named Paul takes a detour to the woods to have a few quiet moments alone. But Paul is soon joined by another man, who has a dog that he is hitting and yanking around. When Paul intervenes, he accidentally kills the man. Spencer tells Terry Gross that he chose a death as the turning point in this novel because he is interested in lives being changed very suddenly — and wanted, in the aftermath of that change, to both push his characters to the edge and test their conscience.
Long after her father's death, Michele Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, heard her uncle rant about how young people don't know what other people have sacrificed for them. "Well, you know your dad was shot," her uncle said matter-of-factly. Norris had no idea; her father had never told her. The revelation drove her to launch an investigation into her family's history — and their place in the larger, painful history of race in America — stories which she tells in her new memoir, The Grace of Silence. Norris learns that the shooting took place after her father returned to Birmingham, Ala., as a veteran of the Navy in 1946. It was a time when black veterans, who had fought for democracy overseas, were searching for it at home — and it was easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her memoir honors what she calls his "incredibly graceful act" of shielding her from his past so she could believe in a better America than he knew himself.
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.