Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin. My Random House sales rep Ann Kingman pressed this book into my hand last week when visiting the store, so I took it along to read on the plane. I gobbled it up so fast that I actually had to buy another book at the airport bookstore to read on my second flight! A woman recovering from a divorce unwillingly gets involved in the search for nine plants with a collective mythical power in the Yucatan. A delightfully distracting read, the author takes us for a romp that is equal parts romance, adventure, magical realism, and self-discovery. It's a colorful, frothy, well-paced novel perfect for escapist reading.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Alas, she was not at Wi4, but her galleys were. I'd not read her before but she's a favorite with Rebecca Fabian, our children's buyer at the Odyssey Bookshop, as well as our teen readership. It astonishes me how brilliant Anderson is at getting into the mind and under the skin of her characters. Not just another troubled teen story, Wintergirls explores the scary and inexorable downward spiral Lia's psyche takes after her former best friend is found dead, alone, in a seedy motel room. Anderson's language of anorexia is as haunting as Lia's mental anguish and she keeps the reader guessing until the end whether Lia will be able to keep herself from vanishing altogether.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is the book that I picked up in Detroit--it killed me to have to buy a book from a chain bookstore. I also may have his name spelled incorrectly, so my apologies! Hosseini spins a tragic tale of two women whose lives are full of unimaginable horrors, set against the backdrop of various Afghan regimes. What endures is their new found loyalty to each other as well as as the intense yearning for home that the displaced feel. I'm the one bookseller in the US who didn't read The Kite Runner, so I have nothing to say in terms of comparisons, but I had been wanting to pick up this book ever since watching Hosseini engage in bantering on stage with Stephen Colbert (not for the faint hearted!) a couple of years ago at BEA.
I'm also totally excited about tomorrow's book release for Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, which was probably the best book I read in 2008. (What year should it count in? The year that I read it or the year it is available to the general public?) It's an epic story, full of grace, sharp observations, hard truths and redemption. It's about family, fatherland, betrayal and self-discovery. It's one man's story set against the backdrop of Ethiopia, India, and the US. It's full of heart. Beautifully written. Brilliant insight. I could go on and on, but by all means, just go out and read it! We're going to have signed copies 'round here next week, so if you're interested in a signed copy give us a call or shoot us an email. May I confess something? I'm a little giddy at the thought of meeting him next week. I just hope I don't go all fangirl on him and say something to embarrass myself!