Books to Read this April

Authors Elizabeth Strout, Meg Wolitzer and Mary Roach make our list

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The Burgess Boys

by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

 

Never underestimate the power of a family secret, its ability to make and break lives. When a freak accident causes the death of their father, the three Burgess siblings seem locked into their roles forever: Jim, the corporate success story/rescuer; Bob, the kindhearted but ineffectual slob-dog; Susan, the bad dresser, the far-from-perfect mother, the bore. But secrets have a way of waiting around for new calamities to reveal them, and sometimes, when the mighty fall, the slob-dogs and the unfashionable find a way to step up. With her signature lack of sentimentality, a boatload of clear-eyed compassion and a penetrating prose style that makes the novel riveting, Strout tells the story of one Maine family, transformed. Again and again, she identifies precisely the most complex of filial emotions while illuminating our relationships to the larger families we all belong to: a region, a city, America and the world. Pam Houston

 

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Bryan McCay

The Interestings

by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead)

 

At an arts camp in the Massachusetts woods, six smart teenagers create a force field of friendship that will last a lifetime. Wolitzer’s compelling and compassionate new novel begins in 1974, the summer that Nixon resigns and 15-year-old Julie Jacobson, a gawky scholarship camper, is reborn as Jules, the nickname bestowed by the Interestings, a charmed circle of talented young men and women she’s astonished to have penetrated. Wry Jules finds she wants a bigger life than dull Julie did. Wolitzer, a More contributing editor, chronicles that complicated quest movingly and often hilariously, following the group over 35 years of triumphs, sorrows, couplings, splits and twists. Through characters inescapably shaped by their times but winningly idiosyncratic, Wolitzer tackles the big stuff: money and class, envy and loss, the meaning of success, the mysteries of marriage and parenthood. The Interesting who achieves the greatest fame and fortune is a brilliant animator; so is Wolitzer.  Judith Stone

 

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Bryan McCay

Gulp

by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton & Company)

 

You’ll want to eat first. Mary Roach’s Gulp (Norton), a gleeful investigation of the human digestive system, may not whet your appetite, but it could be the tastiest read of the season. Roach’s wit spills over into the footnotes as she tests the cleaning power of saliva, probes the mysteries of constipation (alas, poor Elvis) and visits a prison to learn about what drug smugglers call hooping (no, they’re not talking about basketball). Having learned to relish muktuk—raw narwhal skin—she quizzes scientists about our culture’s squeamishness. “The same chanterelle and Gorgonzola galette that had the guests swooning,” she writes, “is, after two seconds in the mouth, an object of universal revulsion.” What Roach brings to the table is more like reverence, salted with delight. —Cathleen Medwick

 

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Next: March 2013 Must-Reads

 

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Bryan McCay

First Published Wed, 2013-03-20 16:25

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