Two Recommendations

So far, 2011 is shaping up to be an excellent reading year. It’s still January and I’ve discovered two new favorites. One is Julia Glass’ The Widower’s Tale, a compelling, multi-dimensional story that reminded me why she’s consistently on my top-author list.

The other is The Local News, Miriam Gershow’s debut novel. She’s an Oregon resident, and of course anything with the words “local” and “news” in the title are a huge draw for me (due to my community journalism background). I’m not sure how I missed its initial publication in 2009, but I’m so glad I did finally discover this novel. It features protagonist Lydia Pasternak in the wake of her brother’s mysterious disappearance.

Gershow captures Lydia’s journey with lots of heart but without an ounce of cloying sentimentality. It’s literary without being indulgent. It’s an honest take on high school and feeling different than your peers without dragging on about hairspray and dating. Gershow sets a fine, clean course and follows through in a great display of talent, originality and understanding of how a community changes in the wake of an inexplicable, horrific event.

Aspiring writers should pay particular attention to the last sentence of each chapter. I found myself turning pages not only to find out about the plot, but for the pleasure of reaching those amazing landings and resting there a while.

While at Powell’s Books earlier this month, looking to buy  a copy of The Local News, I overheard two women talking about The Widower’s Tale. It’s no wonder–I was standing smack in the middle of the G section–and yet I couldn’t stop smiling as one excitedly told the other about the band of eco-activists in the novel she was reading.

If you’ve stumbled on a lovely book lately, pass the word on to your friends, family and coworkers–or leave it here in the comments section. Word of mouth is how novels last beyond their immediate publicity push, and anyone who writes a beautiful one deserves many, many readers.

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
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