PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneGeye writes with an almost romantic passion about all things wintry ... Half the story is again set in the fictitious town of Gunflint in northern Minnesota, in contemporary time; the other (and far more compelling) half is set in Hammerfest, Norway, in the late 1800s ... Through Odd Einar, Geye imbues isolating bleakness with a perverse beauty ... Is it a reflection of modernity that their lovemaking involves a frank recitation of body parts? Or maybe the more intuited scenes of Inger and Odd Einar’s sexual life is what gives Stig and Greta’s couplings a whiff of the softest porn ... Yet these two story lines need each other. Odd Einar’s tale alone would be no more than a slim volume of folk heroism. Greta’s struggle to recover her heart could seem prosaic, if not for the deft interweaving of her family history, bringing the threads of the first two books of the trilogy into a finished tapestry ... Geye captures winter so well in its physical and emotional consequences. That this can leave a reader with a bit of a chill in both body and soul is a considered risk.
PositiveThe Star TribuneIn 2018, Colin O’Brady made a grueling solo crossing of the Antarctic landmass, hauling a 300-pound sled for 54 days over more than 900 miles with no resupply or, he contends, assistance. Yet what constitutes assistance has spawned a chilblain within the adventurers’ community ...[O\'Brady\'s] accomplishment (which became an unplanned-for race when the world learned that Briton Louis Rudd was pursuing the same feat) inspires awe, and his account of the trek is a compelling mix of bravado, fear, self-doubt, dream states, exhaustion and adrenaline. He’s a good writer ... While such achievements can prove lucrative on the speakers’ circuit, he also is passionate about inspiring children to know they can do more than they think possible. There’s likely no definitive verdict to be had here, pitting transparency against tenacity.
RaveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"... a riveting account of Hall’s work as a ferociously courageous American spy, yet whose mother never quite forgave her for failing to marry a rich man ... Purnell’s research is impressive, with extensive footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. And good thing, because the work of spies such as Virginia — Purnell calls her Virginia — is mind-boggling ... Purnell writes with compelling energy and fine detail. Passages about German torturer Klaus Barbie are emotionally wrenching. She avoids romantic flights about wartime valor. She quietly conveys Resistance fighters’ frank acceptance that fighting for one’s country is not only worth their sweat, but their lives ... Purnell reminds how much history there is to tell.\
PositiveThe Star TribuneIt’s an achievement when an adult writes convincingly in the voice of a 5-year-old, and Lee Zacharias succeeds with Fern ... The story is meticulously researched ... The result is a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from what otherwise is a rather thin story ... Fern relates that a secret will haunt her throughout life, but it’s difficult to feel her trauma—perhaps because, at heart, this is a story told from a 5-year-old’s perspective and the distance between Fern and the typical reader finally is too great. Zacharias has brought history to the page with great skill. Read for this reason, letting Fern serve as an excuse.
Bragi Ólafsson, Trans. by Lytton Smith
MixedMinneapolis Star Tribune\"... perhaps it is testament to Bragi Ólafsson that, after giving a reader many opportunities to set Narrator aside as inscrutable and even a little irritating, the pages nevertheless continue to be turned. You simply have to find out what happens ... Granted, when the pages dwindle to too few to reveal much resolution, you’re in too far ... The plot seems fantastical — yet who hasn’t given in to imagining what might have been, with an indulgent emphasis on thinking the worst of someone? Maybe that’s the thread that keeps a reader reading, that there is more in common with G. than we’d care to admit.\
Marie Ndiaye, trans. by Jordan Stump
PositiveMinneapolis Star-TribuneIt\'s a book that, once read, leaves you wondering what to think about it, but knowing at the least that you had a thought-provoking evening ... Those words sound halfhearted, but are meant to convey better. Perhaps they\'re influenced by Ndiaye herself ... a strange, strong series of stories.
RaveThe Star TribuneThe novel is a series of unlikely letters between Tina, an English farmer’s wife, and Anders, a museum administrator in Denmark ... it’s the exchange of their reflections on life that proves so peacefully compelling ... How subtle. How perceptive. How mundane ... Meet Me at the Museum is gently provoking, delving into how we interact with our children, our spouses, our communities, but mostly with ourselves.
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"This is a provocative, well-researched book for our times. Yet one nit: Smarsh sets up this book as a note to an imaginary daughter, a childhood creation who shaped many of Smarsh\'s own smart decisions by prompting her to think, \'What would I tell my daughter to do?\' Good tactic. Except that the resulting random sentences addressed to \'you\' always come as a surprise, the reader not being steeped in her life-altering experience ... This is a difficult, but illuminating, book for these class-riven times.\
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"That Davis is a skilled storyteller also is clear. And perhaps her story of becoming a champion of carnivores cannot be told without the personal relationships that influenced her work ... Davis takes the essential need to eat and compels us to examine how, why and what we consume, without preaching or judging. Killing It could be a provocative choice for book clubs, given how it propels an examination of our relationships with animals as commodities, as companions, and as coq au vin.\
MixedThe Minneapolis Star\"The implication is that if Gael were male, we\'d excuse or admire her. Hughes\' point isn\'t without merit, but her insistence in presenting Gael without nuance results in her coming across as just another of society\'s barnacles. If she were male, we\'d be repulsed by him. Still, the question: Is there something to be gained by meeting a female character so wholly self-absorbed, so unfailingly cold? Maybe so, if only for the experience.\
Edward J. Larson
PositiveThe Star TribuneThe saga of Robert Peary, the U.S. explorer, and his attempts on the North Pole provide the clearest picture of how obsession and fame can drive a person. His claim to have succeeded remains contested, but who knows? These territories are beyond forbidding and Larson’s deep research hums along in compelling writing. To strive and to fail, then to see others ultimately succeed is a sorrow of ordinary life. Add in starvation, windchills and icy crevasses, and the burning quest to go where no one has gone before boggles the mind.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWe know the literary drill: Unassuming woman facing insurmountable challenges rises to the occasion in an inspiring journey of courage and pluck. Oh, and with a touch of romance … The literary drill would have Leni saving her family, by stealth and cunning, courage and pluck. And surely, she does what she can. But Hannah has created a complex and agonizingly relatable character … Hannah has created an atmosphere of brooding paranoia and simmering violence that can set your heart racing. Anticipated plot twists unravel unexpectedly. Leni is, by all marks, the strong woman here. But she’s how many of us would be strong: in fits and starts, undone by errors of judgment and misplaced trust.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe book’s title is a bit of a misnomer, for Billy is quickly discovered. But a series of hapless events charms the public, and he becomes known as ‘the stowaway’ and the Everyboy face of the expedition … It’s the cultural context that Shapiro adds through her deeply researched reporting that enables Billy’s story to illuminate this particular era … That Billy goes to Antarctica, that he returns a hero and that the spotlight inevitably moves on make up the entire dramatic arc of this book. Its charm is in how the irresistibly plucky Billy becomes a metaphor for America on the cusp of an amazing spurt of progress … The Stowaway is a charming book, a glimpse of history that, by definition, fascinates and delights.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThis Could Hurt is set in the offices of Ellery Consumer Research in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. There’s an air of The Office TV show in its darkly comic tone, but it delves more deeply and seriously into the dynamics of a workplace ... Medoff mines the phenomenon of the 'office wife,' generational values, gender politics, racial nervousness, networking and more, all set against the irrevocable reality of meeting the bottom line ... The narrative cracks along, without an indulgent passage in the book. The characters change in credible ways, and Medoff has us, at various times, both rooting for them and wanting to dump coffee over their heads.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...a compelling look at a weirdly camouflaged swath of society that’s more entwined around us than we realize ... These nomads are not necessarily to be pitied. They are inventive and savvy, frugal and generous. When they gather at a campground for bring-your-own-topping baked potato night, they are, as one put it, 'hiding in plain sight' ... Bruder is gentle with them, not judging nor theorizing too much about consequences to follow.This is important, eye-opening journalism, presented for us to contemplate: What if?
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneGenoways lucked into finding subjects who are extraordinarily frank, who let him into their personal lives with a clear trust, but perhaps also with a sense that trusting him is among their few hopes. As Meghan, making the case for small farmers, tersely asks: 'Are you ready to go raise your own food?' This book is bigger than the Hammonds. They are a thread through which Genoways recounts generations of agricultural history. Earl Butz, the Russian grain deal, Cargill, Monsanto, the Homestead Act, the Keystone pipeline, climate change — they all are put in context with their impact on farming, which then has an impact on the price of our potato chips. Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine many who’ll read this book without a personal link to farming to draw them in. But The Blessed Earth is a history book, an economics text, even a soap opera of sorts. If we eat, we should know.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneIn the wrong hands, this tack could seem gimmicky. But Lunde threads a common string through these characters. The novel becomes far less about bees than about family — about how the relationship between parent and child can be passionate, desperate, tragic and uplifting ... Lunde is best known as a children’s author. This is her first novel for adults, but it’s hard not to think that her immersion in a youthful world informs her ability to write with a devastating elegance about the bond — or lack thereof — between parent and child ... A History of Bees is a dark read, and yet it ends on a wavering note of optimism. It’s been likened to Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 sci-fi novel Station Eleven, with good reason.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"...don’t get too focused on reliving Monicagate. Zevin’s characters are far more compelling. Ruby’s pen-pal correspondence perfectly captures teen angst and energy. Embeth’s imaginary parrot may seem all too real to those coping with trauma. Rachel’s back story of dating while aging is a novel in itself. But it’s Jane’s reinvention of herself that drives the toughest questions about social media, our fickle appetite for scandal, our compulsion to shame — especially slut-shame — and ultimately how choosing to confront the past can deny it of its power.\
PanThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe premise strains credulity, but Dee has other story lines about people’s paranoia of terrorism, of high school slights never outgrown, of family tensions, of economic uncertainty that are genuine enough … If Dee didn’t quite know how to start this novel, he sure doesn’t know how to end it. Yes, the middle has its moments. But there are only two book covers.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneKwan's satirical lance has become slightly more subtle, while no less deadly, over the course of the trilogy. The books are the essence of the beach read: lively plot(s), memorable characters, able to be read with adult beverages at hand.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneSet in the vast yet claustrophobic reality of Antarctica, the novel’s first delight is in its vivid depiction of sub-zero life ... Shelby keeps more than a few story lines thrumming here, yet a keen eye for character and a sharp ear for smartass dialogue keeps the strands straight. She also offers up a fair amount of science.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWithout a single battle scene, or image of gore, or impassioned speech about the horrors of human conflict, Anything Is Possible is a haunting damnation of war ... it’s not a bad idea to reread Lucy Barton before opening this one to reacquaint yourself with the townspeople of Amgash ... War is by no means the main theme of Anything Is Possible. If anything, the novel moves toward an unexpected optimism. Yet war’s effects linger, as subtle as Pete Barton furtively moving his window blinds to see who’s outside: It’s a small action, but reveals so much.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneKamookak was a boy in 1966 when he heard his grandmother's stories of finding strange metal objects. He became fascinated with the mystery of Franklin and later began gathering an oral history of various elders' accounts. Watson's depiction of this work lends spiritual and physical insights into native life in the extreme conditions ... Watson's deeply felt understanding of that work heightens Kamookak's sad satisfaction while enacting, at book's end, an ancient rite over the sunken Erebus. Ice Ghosts documents what happens when cultures collide. Or perhaps more pointedly, when one culture feels superior for no better reason than pride.
PositiveThe Portland Press HeraldWith Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition, it’s hard not to hear the arching baritone of the late Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers keening about 'the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea' ... Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, tells how Inuit lore, British pride and modern technology often worked at cross-purposes, and also how people, sometimes for no logical reason, became obsessed with the ill-fated expedition ... Drawing only from historic documents for parts one and two, Watson’s account is as exhaustively detailed as one would expect from an ace reporter but also, understandably, a little lifeless ... Watson’s deeply felt understanding of that work heightens Kamookak’s sad satisfaction while enacting, at book’s end, an ancient rite over the sunken Erebus ... Ice Ghosts documents what happens when cultures collide.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneObviously, all of these characters eventually will intersect, and, frankly, the prospect strains credulity at first. But Burton keeps her threads in line, weaving in some unexpected colors just when you think you’ve figured it out. Oddly, the characters remain somewhat at arm’s length — perhaps because there’s not an ordinary one in the bunch. That we care about them is mostly due to wondering how they relate to one another. It’s the well crafted tale that draws you in, and in the end, respects you as a reader.
Mary Mann Hamilton
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThere’s nothing fine about the writing, nor provocative about her thoughts. But Hamilton’s matter-of-factness wins you over almost immediately, and unexpectedly. She can tell a story — carving fields from a wilderness of cane and snakes, living among panthers and wild hogs, losing children to death, and all with a husband who has a secret that remains just out of reach ... Most remarkably, this book somehow enables a reader not to feel abject guilt at complaining about the temperature of their latte, but only a genuine gratefulness and admiration for those who went before.
MixedThe Philadelphia InquirerPace is a curious thing here, for though most of the book meanders like a wandering stream, the pace in its final pages picks up to an almost dizzying degree, complete with an unimaginable plot twist. Maybe this is a metaphor for the floodwaters finally rushing into the valley. I'd love to credit Quindlen with such a tactic. But the summing up feels more like it simply was time to close out the story, as though Mimi's middle age simply wasn't interesting enough to explore. Miller's Valley is a lovely read - the dialogue never disappoints - but in the end, it's more creek than reservoir.