March 2013 Must-Reads

The best new books to read this month

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By | Sonali Deraniyagala


Publisher | Knopf


Imagine yourself on a seaside vacation in Sri Lanka, with your husband, your young sons and your parents. It’s the day after Christmas, and life is rich and good, you and your husband are still in love, your parents still healthy, your boys bright, interested, loved by all. And then imagine, out the window, a wave where no wave should be and the dawning realization that you must run, must leap with your family into a jeep, which speeds toward safety until the wave swamps it, tumbles it, tearing from you your husband, your boys, leveling the hotel where your parents wait, leaving you clinging to a branch, alive when the wave recedes but stripped of everything. How do you, left utterly alone, go on? Deraniyagala’s unmitigatedly honest, immeasurably potent memoir recounts the eight dark years since the 2004 tsunami erased her life, and her reluctant progress toward rejoining the living. Relentless in its explication of grief, this massively courageous, tenaciously unsentimental chronicle of unthinkable loss and incremental recovery explodes—and then expands—our notion of what love really means. —Pam Houston


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With or Without You

By | Domenica Ruta


Publisher | Spiegel & Grau


As a girl, Domenica Ruta, aka Nikki, would beg her “deranged circus act” of a mother to “tell me a story about me.” But drug-addicted Kathi could only talk about herself, bring home guys, sleep or rage. Still, our lonely narrator brims with love for this scrappy woman, recounting how Kathi would take a job for just a few weeks so she could buy her daughter a coveted doll or a computer. With cutting humor and a marvelous violence of language, Ruta acknowledges the terror and excitement of being raised by someone who could “build me up and tear me to shreds in a single breath,” who “loved me so much that she couldn’t stop hating me.” Sexually assaulted at a young age by a man she calls her uncle, desperate for attention (sex becomes her “gateway drug”), Nikki grows up to be a blackout drunk, and though she works hard for sobriety, “no friend, no boyfriend, not even a room full of people throwing a party just for me, could pry the lonesomeness from the body it inhabited.” A shattering memoir, written with a passion that soars.  —Susanna Sonnenberg


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A Thousand Pardons

By | Jonathan Dee


Publisher | Random House


The midlife crisis remains a durable subject, as proved by Jonathan Dee in his affecting, clever, offbeat novel A Thousand Pardons (Random House). Successful lawyer Ben Armstead, depressed and detached from his wife and from himself, manages to dismantle his family in the course of a few devastating hours. The fallout from Ben’s transgression serves as the springboard for the action, which centers on Ben’s wife, Helen, who, after having long been in stay-at-home-mom mode, is forced to suddenly remake herself. Taking a job in public relations, Helen finds she possesses a rare gift: the ability to make men admit to their mistakes, no matter how large or damaging. When movie star Hamilton Barth, whom Helen grew up with, improbably comes back into her life, she takes crisis management to a new and startling level. With the same degree of control, slyness and seriously good writing demonstrated in his most recent book, The Privileges, Dee explores the stupid mistakes people make again and again, as well as what it takes to forgive. —Meg Wolitzer


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Bryan McCay

The Sunshine When She's Gone

By | Thea Goodman


Publisher | Henry Holt and Co.



This is not OK: taking the baby for a morning walk while your exhausted, crabby wife sleeps in—then impulsively hopping a cab to the airport and transporting yourself and the kid to a Caribbean island. Dazzled by his own uncharacteristic daring, John, the renegade father and husband in Thea Goodman’s sprightly debut novel, The Sunshine When She’s Gone (Henry Holt), soon experiences the delights of managing a baby with an upset stomach in the tropical heat. Meanwhile, his wife, Veronica, thinking that John has taken little Clara to her mother-in-law’s house in the suburbs, tastes the pleasures of being precariously out of control. Like every comedy of errors, this novel makes us wince, then grin with relief. —Cathleen Medwick


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Bryan McCay

First published in the March 2013 issue of More

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