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In a Vertigo of Silence

Can the truth really set one free? In Miriam Polli’s debut novel, In a Vertigo of Silence, Emily, the young protagonist, discovers a family secret and thinks, I know now that secrets run in the blood and bones of those who came before. This intensely moving, multi-generational novel follows the lives of women, both strong and frail—shrouded, at times warped, by the confines of a long-held secret. Polli has drawn characters with empathy and poignancy as Emily strives to change the destiny of her family. Read more…

French Kisses

Twelve stories depicting Americans in France, a broad array of characters and situations- -a boozy basketball player colliding with bigotry; a vet at Omaha Beach confronting a memory; a boy sent abroad while his parents divorce; a jealous sister coveting one last heirloom; a killer seeking peace at Lake Geneva; a pharmacist shielding his suspect wife; an American woman who’s never lived in America; sons bullied by fathers; a relentless dreamer about to go illegal. All seek the enchantment, refuge or even forgiveness France might offer. But they can’t quite discard the baggage they carry. Read more…

Icon

When Mr. Finger builds his first Finger a half mile high flipping off the fabulously wealthy, Peter Boatz, a professor of Icons, finally has a fertile subject for his Icons of Power book. But this gigantic, obscene monument to the rich, with enormous grassroots support, soon takes on multiple meanings for Boatz: the abstract versus the concrete, the ideal versus the real, and involvement in the world versus withdrawal. Read more…

Too Cool

Sixteen-year-old Elbert Earl Evans (known as Triple E) bursts out of Goodpasture Correctional Facility and speeds toward freedom in a stolen Oldsmobile. As he outraces the police, his car stalls in the Colorado badlands in the middle of a snowstorm and he is stranded with his girl, Jeanne. Once he sets out on foot to find help in a landscape of bone-chilling desolation, his mind becomes a blizzard of memories and images, from the soft, sweet voice of his grandmother to his father’s cruel betrayal to the stark words of a writer named Kafka. The past becomes inseparable from the present as he fights to stay alive–and relives the twisting, tragi-comic odyssey that has brought him to this desperate point. Read more…

Local Music

A man who can’t bring himself to return to the apartment of his failing marriage, a woman spied on by a neighbor, a father terrified by the four-year- old next door, a boy living in a house haunted by his mother’s madness, a mother whose children are freezing in a heatless bedroom–the characters in the Stories of Local Music are unsettled in their own homes, their lives dissonant and discordant. Read more…

Sympathetic People

Both the beauty and frailty of human connections are seen in the thirteen stories collected in Sympathetic People. Here are women and men struggling to find love, meaning, happiness in marriage, adulterous affairs, art, meditation, and even the passage from life to death. Longing generated by loss is everywhere–in the death of a son, the end of a marriage, the slide from hope ignited by Neil Armstrong’s moon walk to hopelessness after President Kennedy’s death.In “Hindsight,” Jessie, a hippie in Lawrence, Kansas, opts for what she assumes is stability in a world of change, only to be brought up short years later when her life veers off its predicted path. “The Secrets of Snakes” reveals the early ruptures in a marriage and a wife’s futile attempts to stop them even as she tries to care for her son’s pet racer. In “The Jewel Box,” a grandmother promises to let her granddaughter know what Heaven is like after she passes and if, in fact, it looks like the Art Deco greenhouse built in St. Louis during the 1904 World’s Fair. And in “Versions,” a newlywed in Plano, Texas, entertains her sometimes angry husband’s first wife and realizes too late what she has given up in choosing him. Read more…

Wagon 537 Christiania

Frivolity, joy and self discovery are the things which, Les Stein, the protagonist of Wagon 537 Christiania, arrives at in his two-year sojourn in the freetown of Christiania. Fleeing from a world of angst and stress, longing for the woman who left him, and frustrated with the stale facets of modern life such as his university studies Stein develops a new understanding of love, independence and self realization. Read more…

Streethearts

John Spector is a seasoned high school teacher with 22 years in the trenches of a ghetto school filled with struggling teenagers, gangs, apathetic students— but also students “who make an indelible impression, kids with souls and hearts as big as the world.” We get the whole spectrum from Spector, a brave and decent soul, a soft touch, too nice, too caring perhaps. Herriges spent many years as a high school teacher. He brings substance and legitimacy to Streethearts. The authenticity of his narrative comes across in every line of every page, many of them packed with witty and sparkling dialogue, at times genuinely humorous, occasionally grim or even horrific, but always candid, always down-to-earth, always reliable. Read more…

The Law of Falling Bodies

Fifteen-year-old Virgil Foggy is trying to survive on a failing dairy farm in Minnesota. Virgil’s mother is pregnant-an unwelcome addition to the family. Virgil’s older brother joins the army and goes to war, but warfare is also close to home, much of it between Virgil and his stepfather. The Law of Falling Bodies is a novel about the schizophrenic, ubiquitous, and cyclical nature of all wars within and between men, women, and nations. Read more…

Minnesota Memoirs

Mesmerizing: In 17 riveting stories set in the author’s native Minnesota, Duff Brenna’s edgy tales journey from the mid-19th century to our current 21st century. While capturing the history centered in and around the cities of Medicine Lake, Golden Valley, Anoka, Minneapolis and Mankato, Minnesota Memoirs unfurl a series of unique narratives revealing a transfiguring perception of what it means to be alive in a world that never explains its quiet indifference to all things human. Called “a spectacular talent at crafting complex, believable characters” (Wall Street Journal), “a honed intelligence, unfaltering, unflinching, piercing” (New York Times) and “a master at capturing the helplessness of humans … with tough written all over them” (Los Angeles Times), Brenna’s insights into human nature show us who we are as a species and what we are capable of—our capacities for love and hate, intense desire, sanity, insanity, magnanimity, generosity of spirit and, above all, compassion. Read more…