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Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

Penguin Press

 

Little Fires Everywhere  was a September selection for Book of the Month Club, and it was also Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club selection. A lot of the time, I am let down by books that get a lot of hype because my expectations are so high, but not this time. This is a deep and interweaving domestic drama that begins with a home in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, being burnt to the ground. The author backtracks and shares with the reader the events leading up to the climactic first chapter.

 

The book is primarily about two women—Elena Richardson, an upper class mother who has lived in Shaker her entire life and adheres to an ideology of always playing by the rules; and Mia Warren, a vagabond artist and single mother with a mysterious past. Mia rents a duplex from Elena and ends up working for Elena helping around the house. Their children become very close. When Elena’s best friend tries to adopt a Chinese baby girl resulting in a custody battle, the two women find themselves on opposite sides. Little Fires Everywhere explores themes of race, class and motherhood, and I couldn’t put it down.

– Marilu Morgan

Paul Vogler

By the Smoke & the Smell

Ten Speed Press

 

Vogler’s By the Smoke & the Smell is a travel memoir, tasting guide, manifesto, and occasional fat whine. Vogler’s San Francisco restaurants—Bar Agricole and Trou Normand—serve only “authentic, grower-produced” spirits. Meaning, if your grapes (or grain) come from somewhere other than your vicinity, you can keep your whorish beverages. I can respect that, though I found his dismissal of the Kentucky bourbon industry (“immersed in apocryphal bullshit“) overstated. Vogler’s mystical view of “peasant” Mezcal hung heavy, too, prompting one producer’s sly comment: “I can’t speak to what you’re looking for, but I can tell you what you might find.”

– Bruce Collier
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