Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

June 23, 2024

Powerful Story of Love, Loss, and Obsession Defies Easy Categorization, and Heartwarming Family Vacation Should Spread Summer Cheer

All the Colors of the Dark by Chris Whitaker. I am a big of fan of Whitaker's last novel, We Begin at the End, and I continue to recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. One of its strengths is the author's storytelling ability, which is compelling. Another is the characters Whitaker creates, including the wise-beyond-her-years Duchess - a young teenage girl fiercely protective of her young brother and determined to survive family failure. Given that, I was awaiting his new book both with anticipation and an awareness that it might not live up to my high expectations.

Not to worry. I know it's only June, but it's hard to imagine I will read a better work of fiction this year. Two misfit teens, Patch and Scout, become soulmates over more than two decades - and steal your heart almost from page one. At the book's outset, Patch saves a girl from a serial predator, then gets captured himself, and is placed in total darkness with a young woman being held in captivity with him. After he escapes, his obsession to find her leads him on a years-long Quixotic journey of heartbreak and Robin Hood-styled lawlessness. Through it all, he and the equally determined Scout stay connected, and events from his past impact both their lives. The story is impossible to pigeonhole - part mystery thriller, part family drama, part wrenching love story - but it's the characters that will grab you and not let you out of their grip until the final page.

And it's not just me raving. In its starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, "With deeply affecting characters and ambition to spare, Whitaker has conjured a dazzling epic that defies easy categorization. It's astonishing."

Sandwich by Catherine Newman. Given the critical buzz and bookseller enthusiasm surrounding this novel, Sandwich looks to be one of big summer reads of 2024. The story takes place in Cape Cod during a multi-generational family's annual week-long summer vacation. At the center is Rocky, sandwiched (sorry) between her grown children and fully aging parents while dealing with her own middle age struggles and oncoming menopause. Fortunately, unconditional love and lots of laughs are in plentiful supply, but when a chain of events sends Rocky into her past to relive a handful of long-ago summers, she comes comes face to face with her family's history and future.

Among the many glowing reviews is this from the New York Times Book Review: "Occasionally a writer comes along who seems able to turn every domestic triumph and tear, every dinner concocted, co-sleep endured and I.P.A. swallowed (or not) - in other words, the ordinary stuff of first-world life - into material rife with wit, humor and soul-bearing openness. Catherine Newman. . .is that sort of writer. . . .Impassioned, crackling, vividly detailed writing and utter hilarity. . . .If you want to laugh out loud, tear up and rush to pull out a book in the 35 seconds between subway stops, this sweet, savory, tenderhearted Sandwich fits the bill, and goes down like (bread and) buttah."

Unique Story of Friendship Set in the World of Video Gaming

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. Two full years after its hardcover publication - most of it spent on bestseller lists - Zevin's remarkable word-of-mouth hit arrives in paperback. She has combined her gift for storytelling with a lifelong passion for gaming to produce a modern-day love story about two childhood friends, Sam, raised by an actress mother in LA's Koreatown, and Sadie, from the wealthy Jewish enclave of Beverly Hills, who reunite as adults to create video games, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Over the course of 30 years, the pair experience success and fame, joy and tragedy. They never become lovers - they are actually incompatible romantically - but each is the most important person in the other's life.

I know some of you are probably thinking, "a love story set in the world of video gaming - really?" But Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow's staying power is almost unheard of in the book world and due to its ability to attract readers of various ages and interest levels. It's a story about the boundless creativity that exists in game development, it's a story about video games as a metaphor for human connection, and it's a story of love and friendship between a pair of engaging young characters.

Among the plethora of rave reviews is this one delivered by Maureen Corrigan on NPR's Fresh Air: "Whatever its subject, when a novel is powerful enough, it transports us readers deep into worlds not our own. That's true of Moby Dick, and it's certainly true of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, which renders the process of designing a great video game as enthralling as the pursuit of that great white whale....There are...smart ruminations here about cultural appropriation, given that the game, Ichigo, is inspired by Japanese artist Hokusai's famous painting The Great Wave at Kanagawa....It's a big, beautifully written novel about an underexplored topic, that succeeds in being both serious art and immersive entertainment."

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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I'm a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, CA.

My goal here is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world. 

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