Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

June 30, 2024

July's #1 Indie Next Pick Is a Twisty Mystery About A Teen Missing From Summer Camp

The God of the Woods by Liz Moore. Independent booksellers nationwide have chosen The God of the Woods as their favorite book being published in July. It's a literary mystery about a missing child (two, actually) with twists aplenty, unreliable characters, and secrets waiting to be revealed. Hardly a stretch for Moore, whose last novel was the intense crime thriller Long Bright River.

When Barbara Van Laar is discovered missing from her Adirondacks summer camp bunk one morning in August 1975, it triggers a panicked, terrified search. Barbara isn't just any camper: she's the daughter of the wealthy family who owns the camp, as well as the opulent nearby estate, and most of the land in sight. Adding to the creep factor is the fact that this isn't the first time a Van Laar child has disappeared in this region. Barbara's older brother also went missing 16 years earlier, never to be found.

In an interview with Indie Next, Moore talked about her research and how it led her to incorporate an additional element of class dynamics to the plot: "As I've grown more interested in writing true mysteries, I began to imagine what other characters could populate this world, and to research the history of 'great camps' in the Adirondacks — essentially, rustic mansions in the wilderness built and owned by dynastic American families. And then I asked, "Who might live in one of those?" And the upstairs/downstairs dynamic of the house, the camp, the family, and the staff really appealed to me."

The book has already garnered several several starred reviews, including this one from Kirkus, "Rich in background detail and secondary mysteries . . . this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint."

Compelling Chinese Historical Fiction Now in Paperback

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See. Born into a Chinese American family, See has used her ancestry as the impetus for much of her writing over the years, including novels like The Island of Sea WomenThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. In her latest work of historical fiction, she draws inspiration from the true story of a Ming dynasty woman physician from 15th-century China to tell a fascinating story of female friendship.

Tan Yunxian is being raised by her grandparents and schooled by her grandmother - one of only a handful of female doctors in China. She teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient. Yunxian also learns about women’s illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find a mutual purpose and vow to be forever friends.

But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife - embroider bound-foot slippers, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay within the walls of the family compound. How can Yunxian break free of these traditions and pursue her healing work, and can her friendship with Meiling play a role?

In its review last year, the Washington Post wrote,""Celebrated for novels that pull readers deep into Chinese history and culture, Lisa See imagines the life story of Tan Yunxian, a 15th-century physician who devoted her life to caring for women... Despite the inordinate limits placed on women, See allows their strengths to dominate their stories, even though not all women were graced with lives of fulfillment."

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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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