What do you think your job is at LBB? Dominatrix of Ceremonies
What's your sign? Outlet Mall
What's in the trunk of your car? Dog hair, Left Bank Books Pride Booth Sign
Stick or Automatic? Depends on who is driving
Favorite Pair of Shoes (Past or Present): My first high heels-red, size 4- borrowed when I was 12(?) for my Halloween "flapper" costume
Check out what Kris is reading at Goodreads.
This compulsively readable debut novel takes up themes of self, gender identity, madness, and sibling relationships in a unique and utterly fascinating way. I read it straight through without stopping. Jane is the younger sister of John. They are siblings with a close bond and John is in charge, but when he becomes ill with schizophrenia, their relationship takes a complicated and fascinating turn. Moving to an apartment together, Jane takes on John’s identity in public, living his life for him while he “gets it together” at home. This gender identity shift is life-changing for Jane in ways both predictable and not. Naturally this arrangement is headed for disaster, but exactly how it unravels and what becomes of Jane makes for a great story. -Kris' January Pick, 2014
Another home run from the author of the award-winning Olive Kitteridge. The adult siblings of a Shirley Falls, Maine family have grown apart when both boys relocate to New York City for jobs as lawyers: one as a high-powered celebrity lawyer with the perfect wife, the other as a low-paid Legal Aid lawyer with a bad apartment and no social life. Their lives are disrupted when the sister’s rudderless teenaged son inadvertently commits a hate crime against the Somali immigrant community in Shirley Falls. These are Strout’s signature characters, richly drawn and as real as your college best friend. -- Kris
Immensely readable essays on wide-ranging topics with certain appeal for fans of Patchett who have waited a long time for a collection like this , but it will also be satisfying for readers who enjoy essays about writing, the shortcomings of marriage, family life, and the current state of the bookselling industry. Give it to a Patchett fan, a woman in your life, or a would be writer who will benefit greatly from her unvarnished advice. -- Kris
Excellent first novel exploring gender, identity and being other. For readers of edgier, outsider fiction and memoir. Put me in mind of Lidia Yuknovitch’s excellent memoir, Chronology of Water. In My Brother’s Name, Jane grows up in the shadow of her immensely talented older brother John, whom she idolizes and whose schizophrenia emerges when he goes off to college. After the family, but mostly John, fail at and reject conventional treatment, Jane and John decide to go off together in hopes that if she supports him, he will have the space to heal. Her efforts at employment are unsuccessful and they hatch a plan for her to “pass” as John to get a job in a music store. As Jane’s identity morphs steadily into a healthier version of John, John’s state of mind gradually deteriorates. I was utterly absorbed by this novel which haunted me for weeks after I read it. I didn’t want it to end. Brava, Laura! -- Kris
My favorite book this year is On Sal Mal Lane. Comparisons to Dickens are not far off, but I am put in mind more of To Kill a Mockingbird. The tale chronicles the lives of the varied assortment of families living on Sal Mal Lane, as experienced particularly through the eyes of the children there. As the tentative bonds of proximity work their magic in the lives of the residents, the civil war brewing at the boundaries begins to intrude. It is a beautiful, lushly and lovingly written account full of a sense of place and history, but brilliantly universal as well. -- Kris
An absorbing novel of life in Columbia as experienced by those who lived through the drug wars. Antonio Yammara is a young lawyer whose friendship with a mysterious man he meets in a pool hall makes him an unintended target of unfinished business from a violent time thought to be long behind them. To heal from this present-day trauma that threatens to destroy his marriage, Yammara must take a journey into his now dead friend’s past, a journey where he confronts both his own childhood, and that of his friend’s beautiful daughter. Vasquez has been rightly hailed as a literary force of a new generation of Latin American writers. Read this book!
Are the Swedes and their incessant coffee-making giving you caffeine jitters? Take a break with an Irish hard-boiled detective story set in 1981 during “the Troubles.” A Catholic police detective in a Protestant town where the first thing you do in the morning is check under your car for a bomb is on the trail of a serial killer targeting gay men. Who may or may not be IRA. The killer, that is. Or possibly the victims. During a time when being gay (or IRA)is illegal. McKinty’s sharp prose is literary grade, his sense of place and time spot on. And Detective Sean Duffy drinks a lot more whiskey than coffee. Utterly entertaining with some intellectual meat on its bones to boot.
Winterson’s gorgeous long-awaited (by me) memoir is by turns poignant, literary, ironic, and profoundly moving. Readers of her autobiographical first novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit will find the truer version even more engaging. But you can come to this memoir without know her other work. Winterson was adopted into a working class family with a cold Pentacostal mother who ultimately rejected her for being a lesbian. Winterson sustained herself through books growing up—voraciously making her way through nearly all of English literature. The deft blend of personal narrative with her love of literature is a deeply satisfying read. -- Kris
I am thrilled this book is back in print! A literary historical novel with a Jewish lesbian and an Argentinian brothel at its center, it is rich with history, adventure, and a rather exotic locale. -- Kris
Reading this compassionate account of life on the socio-economic bottom rung is like watching a train wreck: you feel compelled to read on through the decade LeBlanc spent following single mother Lourdes, her daughter Jessica, would-be in-law Coco, their children, friends and boyfriends. They live in a world of jails, welfare offices and housing projects where they negotiate their constantly dashed hopes. This brilliant book rubs the patina right off the American myth of equality for good. -- Kris
A chance meeting with a mysterious Portuguese woman jostles Raimund Gregorius loose from his safe world of teaching ancient languages at a Swiss lycée and propels him into a bookstore where he has a second chance meeting, this time with a Portuguese text, whose author, the late Amadeu de Prado, was a doctor and member of the Resistance in Lisbon. Gregorius travels to Lisbon to immerse himself in the life of this enigmatic figure who demanded life be anything but predictable, who questioned the meaning of everything, from the words we use up in daily banalities to life itself. Gregorius learns Portuguese, a language he finds both alive and unreliable, to understand Prado’s writings. He interviews friends and family, studies the writings and deeds of a dead man, clinging almost, to Prado’s life and thoughts as if his own salvation depended upon it. Texts within texts, people who are not as they seem, and a story rich with pathos make Night Train to Lisbon the kind of book you read slowly and savor, underlining or copying out passages as you go. I absolutely loved this book. -- Kris
Wingshooters is a great little read about the complex face of the American family today. White Upper Midwestern grandparents are raising their Vietnamese-American granddaughters in a small close-knit town that doesn't welcome outsiders especially non-white ones. Revoyr keeps all her characters sympathetic and makes us think. Would be great for teens as well. -- Kris
This book is really funny and heart-breakingly sad at the same time, mostly because bestselling Swedish crime novelist Mankell writes with a social conscience. He takes a break here from his popular Wallander series to poke fun at the current obsession with Swedish crime novels while simultaneously writing one.Shadow Girls features a Jesper Humlin, a middling poet being urged by his publisher (recently purchased by a large conglomerate) to write crime fiction. Everyone he knows, from his insane mother (who has taken a job as a phone sex worker) to his stock-broker seems to be writing crime fiction. While giving a disastrously hilarious reading from his new book of poems, Humlin encounters three girls who live in the shadows—Sweden’s undocumented immigrants, and unwillingly starts a writing group for them, thinking he may just get his crime novel after all. What unfolds is a brilliant combination of absurdist satire and social commentary, aimed on one hand at failed social policy and on the other at both bottom-line publishing and authors who take themselves way too seriously. Great gift for readers who like a little protein in their entertainment. -- Kris
If you have been waiting for the big epic
multi-generational tale of mothers and daughters as only Amy Tan can deliver,
this is your book. -- Kris
(for the self appointed expert in the house) -- Kris