The New Title Tuesday recommendation this week features the five finalists for The National Book Award announced a few days ago. Here’s the shortlist, with excerpts of their Booklist reviews and links to our library catalog.
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
Best-selling and acclaimed children’s author Woodson presents an evocative adult novel. August, her memories stirred by running into a friend after her father’s funeral, dives headlong back into episodes from her youth. Suddenly, having lived only in Tennessee, eight-year-old August finds herself in her father’s hometown of Brooklyn. Stoic young August is bolstered by the responsibility of watching her brother while their father works, and by the certainty that their mother will soon leave Tennessee, too, and join them. From their third-floor window, August and her brother observe the daily despair of poverty, but more notably the world of liberated, unsupervised youth: the skipping rope, the uncapped hydrant, in short, the kids they wish they were.— Annie Bostrom YA/Mature Readers
The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan
In the virtuosic opening of Mahajan’s timely second novel, he writes, “a good bombing begins everywhere at once.” This setup works well for the broad array of story lines connected to a 1996 detonation of a small but potent bomb in a humble Delhi marketplace. Two young Hindu brothers perish in the blast, but their best friend, Mansoor, a Muslim schoolmate, survives with injuries. The novel traverses continents and years—up to the trial in 2003, even allowing a grieving character to inhabit the bomb in a spectacular dream. The anchoring characters are Mansoor and Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who refers to his deadly art as “making chocolate,” even as he worries about his victims and his ill mother. — Carolyn Alessio Adult Fiction
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
In the winter of 1970, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has made a fairly comfortable living in northern Texas. He travels from town to town, reading current news of ratified amendments and polar expeditions to (mostly) attentive audiences. When he’s asked to deliver a 10-year-old German girl back to her relatives in San Antonio in exchange for $50 in gold, he agrees. Johanna’s parents had been killed by the Kiowa, but she was spared and was raised as one of their own for four years. Captain Kidd finds that Johanna, now in his care, has lost nearly all memory of her language, comportment, and upbringing. Facing a 400-mile journey filled with threats of ambush and an uncooperative charge, Captain Kidd wonders if his choice to deliver the girl was the right one. — Stephanie Turza Historical Fiction
The Throwback Special, by Chris Bachelder
This is a book about men. Is it ever! Twenty-two men gather annually to reenact the grotesque football injury (comminuted fractures to two leg bones) suffered when Washington quarterback Joe Theismann was crushingly tackled by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in a Monday Night Football game in 1985, remembered years later by millions of football fans. Published to coincide with the event’s thirtieth anniversary, the novel takes off from this seemingly unpromising setup to deliver a frequently very funny satire about men in our times, from the ridiculous (the convoluted lottery by which these guys choose their positions for each year’s reenactment) to the pathetic (a litany of what the reenactors have occasionally come home to find their daughters and wives doing). — Mark Levine Adult Fiction
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Over the course of his previous five novels, Whitehead has conducted an imaginative, droll, and eviscerating inquiry into the blurred divide between American mythology and American history, especially the camouflaged truth about racism. In this magnetizing and wrenching saga, Whitehead tells the story of smart and resilient Cora, a young third-generation slave on a Georgia cotton plantation where she has been brutally attacked by whites and blacks. Certain that the horror will only get worse, she flees with a young man who knows how to reach the Underground Railroad. Everything Whitehead describes is vividly, often joltingly realistic, even the novel’s most fantastic element, his vision of this secret transport network as an actual railroad running through tunnels dug beneath the blood-soaked fields of the South, a jolting and resounding embodiment of heroic efforts and colossal risks. Yet for all that sacrifice and ingenuity, freedom proves miserably elusive. — Donna Seaman Historical Fiction
You can read the full reviews at: BooklistReader.com
Happy Reading, Susan C.