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Recently Reviewed

A selection of books recently reviewed in the Winnipeg Free Press. To see recent reviews, visit the Free Press website.


Home Stretch

- by Graham Norton

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In this "compelling, bighearted, emotionally precise page-turner" (Sunday Times), the New York Times bestselling writer and acclaimed television host explores the aftermath of a tragedy on a small-town to illuminate the shame and longing that can flow through generations--and how the secrets of the heart cannot stay be buried forever.

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony, a group of young friends, including the bride and groom, are involved in an accident. Three survive. Three are killed.

The lives of the families are shattered and the rifts between them ripple throughout the small town. Connor survived, but living among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as carrying the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he eventually makes a home--of sorts--for himself in New York, where he finds shelter and the possibility of forging a new life.

But the secrets--the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind--will not be silenced. Before long, Connor will have to confront his past.

A powerful and timely novel of emigration and return, Home Stretch demonstrates Norton's keen understanding of the power of stigma and secrecy--and their devastating effect on ordinary lives.

The Light of Days

- by Judy Batalion

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THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

Also on the USA Today, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Globe and Mail, Publishers Weekly, and Indie bestseller lists.

One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters--a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now.

Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland--some still in their teens--helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these "ghetto girls" paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers, bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, used their Aryan looks to seduce them, and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town's water supply. They also nursed the sick, taught children, and hid families.

Yet the exploits of these courageous resistance fighters have remained virtually unknown.

As propulsive and thrilling as Hidden Figures, In the Garden of Beasts, and Band of Brothers, The Light of Days at last tells the true story of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time. Judy Batalion--the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors--takes us back to 1939 and introduces us to Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who risked death traveling across occupied Poland on foot and by train. Joining Renia are other women who served as couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs, all who put their lives in mortal danger to carry out their missions. Batalion follows these women through the savage destruction of the ghettos, arrest and internment in Gestapo prisons and concentration camps, and for a lucky few--like Renia, who orchestrated her own audacious escape from a brutal Nazi jail--into the late 20th century and beyond.

Powerful and inspiring, featuring twenty black-and-white photographs, The Light of Days is an unforgettable true tale of war, the fight for freedom, exceptional bravery, female friendship, and survival in the face of staggering odds.  

Factory Summers

- by Guy Delisle

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The legendary cartoonist aims his pen and paper toward his high school summer job

For three summers beginning when he was 16, cartoonist Guy Delisle worked at a pulp and paper factory in Quebec City. Factory Summers chronicles the daily rhythms of life in the mill, and the twelve hour shifts he spent in a hot, noisy building filled with arcane machinery. Delisle takes his noted outsider perspective and applies it domestically, this time as a boy amongst men through the universal rite of passage of the summer job. Even as a teenager, Delisle's keen eye for hypocrisy highlights the tensions of class and the rampant sexism an all-male workplace permits.

Guy works the floor doing physically strenuous tasks. He is one of the few young people on site, and furthermore gets the job through his father's connections, a fact which rightfully earns him disdain from the lifers. Guy's dad spends his whole career in the white collar offices, working 9 to 5 instead of the rigorous 12-hour shifts of the unionized labor. Guy and his dad aren't close, and Factory Summers leaves Delisle reconciling whether the job led to his dad's aloofness and unhappiness.

On his days off, Guy finds refuge in art, a world far beyond the factory floor. Delisle shows himself rediscovering comics at the public library, and preparing for animation school-only to be told on the first day, "There are no jobs in animation." Eager to pursue a job he enjoys, Guy throws caution to the wind.

Inside Comedy

- by David Steinberg

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The world of comedy and comedians of the last five decades. By the man the New York Times calls "a comic institution himself," the only comedian (twenty-six years in stand-up) to have made Elie Wiesel laugh, as well as having appeared on The Tonight Show (140 times, second only to Bob Hope, but who's counting). From the director of TV comedy series Mad About You, Seinfeld, Friends, Weeds and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
 
Larry David:  "I'm lucky. I know and love David Steinberg. You don't. Now's your chance. Don't blow it!"
 
"David has always been a comedy hero to me. One of his many gifts is the ability to inspire funny people to be even funnier, as you will discover in this truly hilarious, insightful book." --Martin Short
 


From David Steinberg, a rabbi's son from Winnipeg, Canada, who at age fifteen enrolled at Hebrew Theological College in Chicago (the rabbinate wasn't for him) and four years later, entered the master's program in English literature at the University of Chicago, until he saw Lenny Bruce, the "Blue Boy" of Comedy, the coolest guy Steinberg had ever seen, and joined Chicago's Second City improvisational group, becoming, instead, the comedian's comedian, director, actor, working with, inspired by, teaching, and learning from the most celebrated, admired, complicated comedians, then and now--a funny, moving, provocative, insightful look into the soul, wit, and bite of comedy and comedians--a universe unto itself--of the last half-century.

From the greats: George Burns, Lenny Bruce, Sid Caesar, Lucille Ball, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner, et al., to the newer greats: Carol Burnett, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Bob Newhart, and the man for all comedy, Martin (Marty) Short; to the greats of right now: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wanda Sykes; and more . . .

Steinberg, through stories, reminiscences, tales of directing, touring, performing, and, through the comedians themselves talking (from more than 75 interviews), makes clear why he loves comedy and comedians who have been by his side in his work, and in his life, for more than sixty years.

Here are: Will Ferrell, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Myers, Groucho himself and the greatest of them all (at least of the last half century), Jonathan Winters . . .

A Boring Wife Settles the Score

- by Marie-renee Lavoie

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The eagerly anticipated sequel to the critically beloved and bestselling Autopsy of a Boring Wife finds the saucy and ever-appealing Diane, now turning fifty and with the wreckage of her marriage behind her, setting off on a new hilarious journey for romance.

A Boring Wife Settles the Score marks the return of Diane, the raunchy and entertaining heroine of the prize-winning and bestselling Autopsy of a Boring Wife. Despite the end of her marriage, Diane still has plenty of love to give. Determined not to waste her days -- that's just not her style -- she finds a job in a daycare and solace in cocktails with her best friend, Claudine, who convinces Diane her love life is not over. Diane wants romance and sees no reason why she shouldn't have it, but she soon discovers, in her typically chaotic and hilarious manner, that for a woman approaching her fifties the task is not so simple as it is for a man.

The Willow Wren

- by Philipp Schott

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The touching and nuanced portrait of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a resourceful German boy. Ludwig is an odd and introverted child, growing up in Hitler's Germany. While Ludwig's father, Wilhelm, is a senior Nazi and a true believer, Ludwig escapes the unfolding catastrophe by withdrawing into nature and books. Eventually, when the Allied bombing campaign intensifies, Ludwig is sent to a Hitler Youth camp, where his oddness makes him a target for bullying. As the war turns against Germany, the Hitler Youth camp becomes ever more severe and militaristic, and the atmosphere spirals towards chaos. After the Nazis abandon the camp, Ludwig returns home, and his father is presumed dead. With Ludwig's mother descending into depression, the 11-year-old bears increasing responsibility for the survival of the family as starvation sets in under Russian occupation. Soon, it will be impossible to leave the Russian zone, so Ludwig decides that he must rally his despondent mother and lead her and his three younger siblings in an escape attempt to the west. Based on a true story, The Willow Wren is a unique, touching exploration of extremism, resilience, and the triumph of the small.

The Anthropocene Reviewed (Signed Edition)

- by John Green

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Instant #1 bestseller! A deeply moving collection of personal essays from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down.

"The perfect book for right now." -People


"The Anthropocene Reviewed is essential to the human conversation." -Library Journal, starred review

The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale--from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.

Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity. As a species, we are both far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough, a paradox that came into sharp focus as we faced a global pandemic that both separated us and bound us together.

John Green's gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.

This is a signed edition.

The Devil's Trick

- by John Boyko

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More than forty-five years after the fall of Saigon, John Boyko brings to light the little-known story of Canada's involvement in the American War in Vietnam.

Through the lens of six remarkable people, some well-known, others obscure, bestselling historian John Boyko recounts Canada's often-overlooked involvement in that conflict as peacemaker, combatant, and provider of weapons and sanctuary.
     When Brigadier General Sherwood Lett arrived in Vietnam over a decade before American troops, he and the Canadians under his command risked their lives trying to enforce an unstable peace while questioning whether they were merely handmaidens to a new war. As American battleships steamed across the Pacific, Canadian diplomat Blair Seaborn was meeting secretly in Hanoi with North Vietnam's prime minister; if American leaders accepted his roadmap to peace, those ships could be turned around before war began. Claire Culhane worked in a Canadian hospital in Vietnam and then returned home to implore Canadians to stop supporting what she deemed an immoral war. Joe Erickson was among 30,000 young Americans who changed Canada by evading the draft and heading north; Doug Carey was among 20,000 Canadians who enlisted with the American forces to serve in Vietnam. Rebecca Trinh and her family fled Saigon and joined the waves of desperate Indochinese refugees, thousands of whom forged new lives in Canada.
     Through these wide-ranging and fascinating accounts, Boyko exposes what he calls the Devil's wiliest trick: convincing leaders that war is desirable, the public that it's acceptable and combatants that what they are doing and seeing is normal, or at least necessary. In uncovering Canada's side of the story, he reveals the many secret and forgotten ways that Canada not only fought the war but was shaped by its lessons and lies.

The Brilliant Abyss

- by Helen Scales

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A marine biologist vividly brings alive the extraordinary ecosystem of the deep ocean--a realm about which we know less than we do about the Moon--and shows how protecting rather than exploiting it will benefit mankind.

"The oceans have always shaped human lives," writes marine biologist Helen Scales in her vibrant new bookThe Brilliant Abyss, but the surface and the very edges have so far mattered the most. "However, one way or another, the future ocean is the deep ocean."

A golden era of deep-sea discovery is underway. Revolutionary studies in the deep are rewriting the very notion of life on Earth and the rules of what is possible. In the process, the abyss is being revealed as perhaps the most amazing part of our planet, with a topography even more varied and extreme than its Earthbound counterpart. Teeming with unsuspected life, an extraordinary interconnected ecosystem deep below the waves has a huge effect on our daily lives, influencing climate and weather systems, with the potential for much more--good or bad depending on how it is exploited. Currently the fantastic creatures that live in the deep--many of them incandescent in a world without light--and its formations capture and trap vast quantities of carbon that would otherwise poison our atmosphere; and novel bacteria as yet undiscovered hold the promise of potent new medicines. Yet the deep also holds huge mineral riches lusted after by many nations and corporations; miningthem could ultimately devastate the planet, compounded by the deepening impacts of ubiquitous pollutants and rampant overfishing.

Eloquently and passionately, Helen Scales brings to life the majesty and mystery of an alien realm that nonetheless sustains us, while urgently making clear the price we could pay if it is further disrupted.The Brilliant Abyss is at once a revelation and a clarion call to preserve this vast unseen world.

Amazon Unbound

- by Brad Stone

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"A masterful book." --Marc Levinson, The Washington Post
"A juicy tour of the company Bezos built."--The New York Times Book Review

From the bestselling author of The Everything Store, an unvarnished picture of Amazon's unprecedented growth and its billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, revealing the most important business story of our time.

Almost ten years ago, Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone captured the rise of Amazon in his bestseller The Everything Store. Since then, Amazon has expanded exponentially, inventing novel products like Alexa and disrupting countless industries, while its workforce has quintupled in size and its valuation has soared to well over a trillion dollars. Jeff Bezos's empire, once housed in a garage, now spans the globe. Between services like Whole Foods, Prime Video, and Amazon's cloud computing unit, AWS, plus Bezos's ownership of The Washington Post, it's impossible to go a day without encountering its impact. We live in a world run, supplied, and controlled by Amazon and its iconoclast founder.

In Amazon Unbound, Brad Stone presents a deeply reported, vividly drawn portrait of how a retail upstart became one of the most powerful and feared entities in the global economy. Stone also probes the evolution of Bezos himself--who started as a geeky technologist totally devoted to building Amazon, but who transformed to become a fit, disciplined billionaire with global ambitions; who ruled Amazon with an iron fist, even as he found his personal life splashed over the tabloids.

Definitive, timely, and revelatory, Stone has provided an unvarnished portrait of a man and company that we couldn't imagine modern life without.

Love Like Water, Love Like Fire

- by Mikhail Iossel

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"We can't stop turning the pages of this book." --Ilya Kaminsky,New York Times Book Review

"Love Like Water, Love Like Fire is an extraordinary book: funny and profound, moving and provocative. Rarely has life in the former USSR (or anywhere, for that matter) been portrayed with such a rich admixture of soaring observation and finely rendered detail. This is a gorgeously constructed collection by one of our wittiest and most insightful writers." --Molly Antopol, author ofThe UnAmericans

"Mikhail Iossel is a genius, a comic visionary in the tradition of Gogol, Keret, Barthelme, and Saunders." --Brian Morton, author ofStarting Out in the Evening andFlorence Gordon

From the moment of its founding, the USSR was reviled and admired, demonized and idealized. Many Jews saw the new society ushered in by the Russian Revolution as their salvation from shtetl life with its deprivations and deadly pogroms. But Soviet Russia was rife with antisemitism, and a Jewish boy growing up in Leningrad learned early, harsh, and enduring lessons.

Unsparing and poignant, Mikhail Iossel's twenty stories of Soviet childhood and adulthood, dissidence and subsequent immigration, are filled with wit and humor even as they describe the daily absurdities of a fickle and often perilous reality.

Mikhail Iossel immigrated to the United States in 1986 from the former USSR and is an associate professor of English at Concordia University in Montreal. His stories and essays have appeared in theNew Yorker,New York Times Magazine,Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere.

Her Dark Lies

- by J.t. Ellison

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If you only read one thriller this year...

"A great modern gothic. Ellison outdid herself-- what an ending!" --Catherine Coulter, #1 NYT bestselling author of VORTEX.

Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison's breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget--and some won't survive.

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends...and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire's otherwise blissful relationship--the strange mystery surrounding Jack's first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out--and the real terror begins...

You won't be able to guess what happens in the end!

The Premonition

- by Michael Lewis

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But the president insisted there was nothing to worry about.

Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst-case scenarios. Michael Lewis's taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The characters you will meet in these pages are as fascinating as they are unexpected. A thirteen-year-old girl's science project on transmission of an airborne pathogen develops into a very grown-up model of disease control. A local public-health officer uses her worm's-eye view to see what the CDC misses, and reveals great truths about American society. A secret team of dissenting doctors, nicknamed the Wolverines, has everything necessary to fight the pandemic: brilliant backgrounds, world-class labs, prior experience with the pandemic scares of bird flu and swine flu...everything, that is, except official permission to implement their work.

Michael Lewis is not shy about calling these people heroes for their refusal to follow directives that they know to be based on misinformation and bad science. Even the internet, as crucial as it is to their exchange of ideas, poses a risk to them. They never know for sure who else might be listening in.

Our Woman in Moscow

- by Beatriz Williams

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion.

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family's sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digbys defected to Moscow with a trove of the West's most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn't seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digbys from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris's marriage defies Ruth's understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet KGB officer forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties.

Light on a Part of the Field

- by Kevin Holowack

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In his evocative debut novel, Light on a Part of the Field, Kevin Holowack introduces us to a family grappling with artistic ambition, mental illness, and rifts that may not be possible to mend. Set in B.C. and Alberta in the 1960s and 1970s, this is a novel of finely observed vignettes offering a refracted look at art and family in the Canadian West.

A young artist, Ruth, and her obsessive husband are struck by lightning, an experience that throws their lives into a universe of intense beauty and angst. Years later, Ruth lives on a farm her husband bought before his mysterious disappearance, and she creates idyllic but unremarkable paintings to cope with her confusion and loss. Then, without warning, her eldest daughter Gayle is love-struck by a travelling stranger and runs off to Edmonton where she too must contend with poverty, sickness, and her father's upsetting legacy. Meanwhile, farm-bound Ruth becomes more frantic in her work and begins longing for human contact as her house and animals disintegrate around her.

As Gayle and Ruth seek new ways of connecting in order to remedy their unsettling family legacy, they begin a complicated process of renewal and must decide whether they can reconcile despite all the pain they have caused one another.