The Staff Picks: Week of May 16th

This is the week we turn 25 years old. Mid-twenties. Quarter century… Portrait of a Bookstore can now rent a car!

Here is what the Staff Picks this week:

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Julie Picks:

This Life Is in Your Hands, by Melissa Coleman

In 1968, Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue—a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families—pack a few essentials into their VW truck and abandon the complications of modern reality to carve a farm from the woods. They move to a remote peninsula on the coast of Maine and become disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible Living the Good Life. On sixty acres of sandy, intractable land, Eliot and Sue begin to forge a new existence, subsisting on the crops they grow and building a home with their own hands.

While they establish a happy family and achieve their visionary goals, the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. Winters are long and lean, summers frenetic with the work of the harvest, and the distraction of the many young farm apprentices threatens the Colemans’ marriage. Then, one summer day when Melissa is seven, her three-year-old sister, Heidi, wanders off and drowns in the pond where she liked to play. In the wake of the accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother’s breakdown—and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of neighbors. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame?

This Life Is in Your Hands is the search to understand a complicated past; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, it tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.

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Jane Picks:

The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem–ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities–like the Housekeeper’s shoe size–and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

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Lucia Picks:

A Moment in the Sun, by John Sayles

Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, Sayles’s latest novel takes the late 1890’s in its sights–from the white coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in Cuba and the Philippines.
Many, many pages long.

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Danielle Picks:

A Drove of Bullocks and A Filth of Starlings, by PatrickGeorge


A litter of kittens, a colony of ants, a pride of lions: everyone has heard of these plural nouns. But what about a parcel of hogs, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, or a business of ferrets? What could be more apt than calling a group of cockroaches an intrusion? Perhaps a loveliness of ladybirds! These fanciful groups and many more are illustrated with cutting-edge design—dazzling as a dazzle of zebras.

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BJ Picks:

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason’s family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna’s life is changed forever…

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound…

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency…

These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest novel from Kate Atkinson, the critically acclaimed author who Harlan Coben calls “an absolute must-read.”

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Donna Picks:

The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee

Smart and socially gifted, Adam and Cynthia Morey are perfect for each other. With Adam’s rising career in the world of private equity, a beautiful home in Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful. But for the Moreys, their future of boundless privilege is not arriving fast enough. As Cynthia begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family’s happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility. The Privileges is an odyssey of a couple touched by fortune, changed by time, and guided above all else by their epic love for each other.

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Lilly Picks:

Damn You, Autocorrect!by Jillian Madison

A buck a boat funny stuff the happens with autocorrect.

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