The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, The Girls From Ames and More

Our roundup of the best new books this month.
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The Late, Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow (Ballantine)

This comic romp through the afterlife follows the posthumous adventures of Molly, a New Yorker who dies under mysterious circumstances. Luckily she gets to learn the fate of those she left behind, including her no-good husband, Barry. As a spectator at her own funeral, Molly muses about her burial outfit, saying, "Wherever it is I’m off to, I hope they notice the shoes — black satin, terrifyingly high slingbacks, with excellent toe cleavage."

— Carmela Ciuraru

The Scenic Route by Binnie Kirshenbaum (Ecco/Harper Perennial)

Midlife reinvention is not always as easy as one might hope. In this moving, bittersweet novel, 42-year-old Sylvia Landsman is newly divorced, estranged from a dear friend, and out of a job. When she falls headlong into romance on a trip to Italy, she finds the strength to make sense of her pain and comes to appreciate that "the future dangles promise like a bell on a stick."

— Carmela Ciuraru

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow (Gotham Books)

Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist, took a year off from his job so he could travel around the country to study the 40-year friendship of 11 women from Ames, Iowa. The story is striking in part because a man reports it. He is captivated by the subject both as a journalist and as the father of teenage daughters. He examines the Ames clique from every angle — career, marriage, motherhood — but he also keeps his authorial presence to a minimum. The women, now 45 and 46 years old, open up about coming of age at the height of feminism and the challenges of holding on to friends. The result is richly detailed and undeniably familiar, as if someone narrated your own life story back to you.

— Carmela Ciuraru

The Artist’s Mother by the editors of the Overlook Press (Overlook Duckworth)

Mother as muse may not be a common theme in art history books, but great painters have often paid homage to the women who raised them. In The Artist’s Mother, the editors at the Overlook Press have collected, for the first time, 36 portraits of famous artists’ mothers: Anna van Gogh taught her son Vincent to draw, and Katherine Cassatt, a Victorian matron, encouraged her daughter Mary’s bohemian lifestyle. While their offspring have long been anointed as geniuses, these women finally have their place in history too. It’s one that is much richer than oil on canvas.

— Rebecca Adler Warren

Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2009.

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