New and Noteworthy Paperbacks

Here are they paperback new and noteworthy titles for Boswell Book Company. Below are links to Non-Fiction and Fiction-click on either that you prefer. Underneath are some bookseller highlights.

 

New & Noteworthy Paperback Fiction New & Noteworthy Paperback Nonfiction

 

Staff Pick Badge
The Family Chao: A Novel By Lan Samantha Chang Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781324050469
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 20th, 2022

In a Chinese restaurant in Haven, Wisconsin (maybe standing in for Appleton?), a family prepares for a grand celebration. The oldest son, Dagou, has returned to town, tail between his legs (though still with two women fighting over him), to work at the family restaurant. His brothers Ming, a successful tech executive, and James, a medical student, are on their way home, too. The family is already on edge because of their parent’s separation, but when Leo reneges on a deal to give Dagou a piece of the restaurant and a recently discovered cache of money disappears, the family explodes. You absolutely don’t have to have read the inspirational source for this sharp-witted and passionate tale to enjoy it, but if you aren’t fluent in Dostoevsky, you might want to read The Brothers Karamazov Wikipedia entry afterwards.

— Daniel Goldin


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Lucy on the Wild Side By Kerry Rea Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780593201862
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Berkley - September 13th, 2022

Lucy loves nothing more than gorillas and her job as a zookeeper, so she's thrilled that her zoo will be featured on a hit nature docuseries... until she's asked to be part of the filming process. Lucy and cameras do not mix, and what's worse is that the show's gorgeous and popular host, Kai Bridges, overhears her complaining about his overblown ego and lack of brains. But if she wants a promotion to senior keeper, she has to play nice - on camera and with her new nemesis. Kerry Rea had me both cackling and crying in this book, which is not an easy thing to do! I enjoyed Lucy's initial pettiness toward Kai quite a bit (maybe more than I should have), and their banter was top tier. This book has a ton of heart, and it left me wanting more in the best way. 

— Rachel Copeland


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1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: A Memoir By Ai Weiwei, Allan H. Barr (Translated by) Cover Image
By Ai Weiwei, Allan H. Barr (Translated by)
$18.99
ISBN: 9780553419481
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown - September 13th, 2022

Ai Weiwei’s only known artistic influences as a young child living in labor camps were hearing bits of his father’s poetry and pouring over his father’s art books while his father worked nearby. Ai Qing was released from labor camps after Mao died, just as Ai Weiwei was old enough to attend junior high school. He enrolled in numerous art schools and art programs abroad throughout his young adult years, only to drop out soon after starting. His early artistic output thus appears to be mostly self-directed, often evolving dramatically with little apparent reason. When he returned to China, ancient, odd artifacts captured his attention, but it wasn’t long before his art became almost completely politically driven. Since he and his father rarely spoke, Ai Weiwei’s fierce morality seems largely based on observation of his father. Ai Weiwei’s autonomy, brilliance and passion shine throughout his memoir, with minimal presence of ego. Beloved worldwide, this book convincingly depicts how he earned this lofty status. 

— Kay Wosewick


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Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution By Mike Duncan Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781541730342
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PublicAffairs - September 6th, 2022

I’ve read a lot of history, but rarely have I seen a story as dramatic as Lafayette’s. I knew a little about him from other books - the Frenchman who helped George Washington finally win the American Revolution. I also assumed that Lafayette Hill in Milwaukee is one of the many tributes to him across the United States. But the twists and turns of this man’s life took me by surprise. Raised at the highest levels of aristocracy, he left as a young man to fight for glory and American liberty. Returning to France as a hero, he went from a pivotal role in Paris as the Bastille was stormed to a man hated by both extremes during the French Revolution. He spent years in European prisons, and later returned for a grand parade of love on a tour of every US state. Along the way he saw the hypocrisy of freedom fighters who continued to own slaves and worked to end it. He even tried to convince his father figure Washington to do the right thing. Duncan tells the story with suspense, riveting details, and bold conclusions. This is history at its entertaining finest!

— Tim McCarthy


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Matrix: A Novel By Lauren Groff Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781594634505
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 6th, 2022

In this engaging work of historical fiction, Groff creates a story for real life poet Marie de France, who was cast out of the French court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and sent to an ailing abbey to be its prioress. Angry and resentful at first, Marie slowly takes charge, transforming the abbey and empowering the women who live and work there. Wonderful blend of historical people and events and the author's vivid imagination.

— Kathy Herbst


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Our Country Friends: A Novel By Gary Shteyngart Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781984855145
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - September 6th, 2022

Extraordinary. I love every word Shteyngart’s ever written, and this is his best novel by an upstate country mile. I said I never wanted to read a 2020 pandemic novel, but I was wrong. I needed to read one – this one.

— Chris Lee

 

 

An aging Russian emigre writer facing the collapse of his career gathers a few friends to ride-out COVID in his Hudson Valley estate, complete with cabins for his guests. The story is generously sprinkled with farce and self-absorption, heady, funny, and occasionally cruel mealtime conversations, both self-inflicted and other-inflicted pain, and yes, joy. Gorgeous writing will leave images of Our Country Friends dancing in your head for days.

— Kay Wosewick


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The Sentence: A Novel By Louise Erdrich Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780062671134
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - September 6th, 2022

The Sentence is both hilarious and deadly serious, sly and sincere. It's hard-edged and beautifully tender, with biting humor as a balm for life’s wounds. Erdrich is a national treasure, but you probably knew that. What I knew of her was limited to her Birchbark House children's writing. I also knew that her flowing autograph is a signed book nerd’s dream, and her beautiful jacket photos take my breath away. I'm a shameful book collector who’s picky about his crushes. Oh yes, the story. If I tell you very much, I’ll ruin good surprises. So, I’ll just say it’s a ghost story, an exploration of the spirit world inside our own. It happens in Erdrich’s very own book store, Birchbark Books, with Louise as a subtle character. And the ghost is an annoying, complex, recently dead regular customer. Above all, we get to see into the heart of a Minneapolis bookstore during the pandemic and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. This book is priceless American truth! And it's about people who love books.

— Tim McCarthy


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Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law By Mary Roach Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781324036128
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 30th, 2022

Can a cougar go to jail? They can in India, where there is a three-strikes rule for putting down an attacking animal. Prior to that, they’ll be put in cages with limited free time in a facility that is not open to a public. What does that sound like to you? Intrepid (and often amusing) science journalist Mary Roach travels the world looking at how we handle conflicts between humans in nature, from bear attacks to falling trees. Elephants, stoats, monkeys, bears, gulls, and more fight with humans for habitats, invasive species (also generally thanks to humans) compete with indigenous ones, and NIMBY-ism runs rampant – we want to protect animals, except when they are bothering us. A fascinating read! And don’t skip the footnotes, or you’ll miss some of the funniest lines and asides.

— Daniel Goldin

 

 

Human encounters with wildlife - bears, blackbirds, backyard poisonous plants, and so much more - are increasing as land development shrinks wildlife habitat. Roach recounts dangerous engagements, some head-shaking practices, and plenty of laugh-out-loud turf wars. 

— Kay Wosewick


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Love on the Brain By Ali Hazelwood Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780593336847
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Berkley - August 23rd, 2022

Purple-haired scientist Bee Königswasser's big opportunity at NASA comes with one problem in the form of her project's co-lead, the man who hates her the most: Levi Ward. But when she confronts him about missing supplies and lack of email access, suddenly Levi is... nice? Helpful? Supportive? Surely this is some sort of bizarro world where Levi never hated Bee to begin with. I just need to know… how does Ali Hazelwood do it? By the end of the first page, I knew Love on the Brain would be one of my favorite reads of the year. Every page is a delight, every character is wonderful - you just have to read this for yourself.

— Rachel Copeland


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What Storm, What Thunder By Myriam J A. Chancy Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781953534385
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - August 23rd, 2022

The 2010 Haiti earthquake claimed a quarter-million-plus lives and forever changed millions of others. Chancy paints vivid images of chaos, devastation, horror, confusion, brutality, and regret, but also compassion, tenderness, and hope. Chancy distills extensive interviews into ten captivating, entwined stories that portray how seemingly similar traumatic experiences can have vastly different effects on individuals.

— Kay Wosewick


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The Book of Delights: Essays By Ross Gay Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781643753287
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - August 16th, 2022

I laughed, I cried, it moved me. (And yes, it’s better than Cats.) Seriously - this is Chicken Soup for the Soul for smart people, which I mean in the best way possible. This book will make you feel better about being alive. Ross Gay kept a Delight Diary for a year, chronicling his daily experiences of delight. Delight, not joy; a subtle difference, yeah, but it’s there - Gay’s moments of delight seem more self-aware, more grounded, maybe, than pure joy, and yet, simultaneously, more spontaneous, likely to catch him by surprise. He also drifts back and forth between delight as noun and verb, significant for the agency it gives the delighter. Whittled down to just over 100 entries, Gay uses a poet’s formula (brevity + depth = truth nuggets) to live an examined life in moments. Throughout, he’s bold enough to deep-dive into the messy reality of life’s bits of levity, to remain open-eyed and honest, historically and contextually aware. Recurring themes are race, the complications of the black male body in space, mortality, the personal and communal tragedies that separate and unite us, and the reached-out fingertips that occasionally manage to brush each other across that divide. I could talk about how impossibly uplifting this book is forever, but what I should really do is just put it in your hands and hope it has even a fraction of the effect on you that it’s had on me, because that would truly be a delight.

— Chris Lee


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Paradise: One Town's Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire By Lizzie Johnson Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780593136409
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown - August 16th, 2022

Intense, exhaustive, definitive - this is long form journalism at its finest. Johnson's account of the Camp Fire that leveled Paradise, CA and left fifty-eight dead is a harrowing reading experience. The precision with which a single, terrible day is rendered is breathtaking - there were moments I felt like I, too, was choking on black smoke and gasping for air. And the book sweeps through layers of the events: Pacific Gas & Electric’s failures and culpability at the corporate levels and on the ground; Paradise’s civic leaders’ efforts to save businesses, buildings, and lives; the firefighter’s desperate battle against the blaze; and the townspeople who lost their homes and everything in them as they ran to escape the flames any way they could. By the end of Paradise, you’ll know this town as if you’d lived there and mourn it like you’ve lost it, too.

— Chris Lee


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Harlem Shuffle: A Novel By Colson Whitehead Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525567271
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - August 9th, 2022

Whitehead starkly defines his characters' world as he unwraps their stories with a direct, graceful style and unique symbolism. I met him once at a Boswell Book Company event. I saw the genius in his eyes; the sincerity, too. And he’s funny! Once again, he drops us into another time. Harlem, 1959, was a much harder place than the one where I was born (that same year). Ray Carney is a loving family man with a small furniture company and modest ambitions for upward movement. He stays at the edges of the hustles all around him, but everything heavy pulls at the edges. He “was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked" until his beloved cousin Freddie draws him into a heist. I like Ray, and in Whitehead’s masterful hands he becomes real. I haven’t read a better American novelist, living or dead. He stands with James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, and E. L. Doctorow. Back-to-back Pulitzers ain’t bad. By giving us the past, Whitehead leads us toward the future. He's the new King of American historical fiction, the new voice as powerful as Doctorow’s. The torch of greatness has been passed.

— Tim McCarthy


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You Can't Be Serious By Kal Penn Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781982171391
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Gallery Books - August 9th, 2022

I have always been intrigued by Kal Penn, not just for his acting, but for his detour into civil service, which unlike other celebrities, did not involve running for office. While You Can’t Be Serious doesn’t have a coming out chapter, its revelation that Penn is engaged to a Nascar-loving Mississippian named Josh earned headlines upon the book’s publication. I was also very interested in reading about Penn’s struggles finding good roles as a South Asian and why Harold and Kumar go to White Castle was so groundbreaking. For every celebrity memoir I read, there are five others I put down within 25 pages. I need to like the voice, I want some interesting stories, the author must have something of substance to say, and if I’m promised humor, I better be laughing out loud. You Can’t Be Serious has all of that! 

— Daniel Goldin


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All's Well: A Novel By Mona Awad Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781982169671
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner / Marysue Rucci Books - August 2nd, 2022

Miranda’s brilliant career as a stage actor was halted by a fall that broke her hip.  After surgeries and therapy, she is still in chronic pain. Hobbled, she has become a teacher for a theater department, and they put on a Shakespeare play every year. Everyone seems to have written off Miranda’s pain as in her head, and they (her ex-husband, her best friend, and her physical therapist) can barely hide their disbelief that she has any pain. After a mutiny lead by student who wants a different Shakespeare play, Miranda is distraught and in pain. She drowns her sorrows at the pub, where she meets three mysterious men who know all about her and her pain. After a golden drink, Miranda is able to start transferring her pain to others, and her life takes on a new light. Much like Mona Awad’s BunnyAll’s Well starts to get more and more surreal and fantastical. I loved every minute of this crazy, amazing novel - Mona Awad is madly creative and inventive. Bravo.

— Jason Kennedy


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Brood: A Novel By Jackie Polzin Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780593311332
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor - July 26th, 2022

Give it some time. That’s my advice about Brood. Let the book peck at you for a while and you’ll be rewarded. I didn’t know that I completely loved it until the last three pages. Then I suddenly knew. Completely. This book is all of life told in the story of four backyard chickens. Our narrator’s voice comes straight at us - a bit sassy, sly, mostly sure-minded - even as she maintains a subtle neighborhood diplomacy. The contrast is wonderful. Chickens help her tell us boldly about loss and the inescapable hardships of living, but she’s not bitter. She sees the beautiful workings of her simple birds, and of people: her chicken-hesitant friend Helen, her staunchly independent mother, her very reasonable husband Percy, the awkward neighbors, and how all of life creates dust. Mix in Minnesota’s climate extremes and a changing neighborhood. You’ll get a growing sense that you’re reading something very special, richly human. Let Brood peck at you. There’s nothing quite like it.

— Tim McCarthy

 

 

When our nameless narrator muses that her four chickens – Miss Hennepin County, Gloria, Darkness, and Gam Gam – have no memory of the past or anxiety about the future, it is meant with desire, not disdain. Our heartland chicken keeper must confront both large and small losses all while making sure she’s got just the right kind of pellets. I’m not giving anything important away in this hauntingly meditative yet often funny novel by saying there’s a sort of an And Then There Were None element to the plotline - my inner voice kept trying to cajole the narrator to just buy another chicken. Several folks have compared the voice to Jenny Offill and Olivia Laing, but my thoughts ran to another Minnesota sleeper that was a bookseller favorite, Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members

— Daniel Goldin


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Out of Mesopotamia By Salar Abdoh Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781636140322
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Akashic Books - August 2nd, 2022

In what should well become an essential portrait of the fight against the Islamic State, Salar Abdoh’s novel reinvigorates the way we write about war. Saleh, an Iranian journalist and reluctant drama-as-propaganda television writer, travels between the urbane art world of Tehran and the battlefields near the northern border of Syria and Iraq, where he’s gotten more involved than a reporter is supposed to be. The novel digs into Saleh’s meditations and struggle to understand: why do we choose to bloody our hands? The answers are many, uneasy and contradictory, but as Abdoh riffs on the Western canon of war – the adrift disillusionment of Hemingway, the absurdity and commerce of Catch-22 – Out of Mesopotamia is nothing less than profound.

— Chris Lee


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Light From Uncommon Stars By Ryka Aoki Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250789082
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Books - July 26th, 2022

Ryka Aoki's Light from Uncommon Stars is an absolute gem of a novel: rare, gorgeous, and unique. This novel defies classification as it seamlessly mixes genres to tell a heartfelt story of acceptance, aliens, deals with demons, antique violins, and yes, donuts. The story follows a group of vastly different characters as their fates intersect in unexpected ways. Katrina Nguyen is a young homeless trans girl who has escaped an abusive situation and found herself unsure of where life will take her next. Shizuka Satomi, a.k.a. The Queen of Hell made a deal with the devil, and now she must deliver the souls of seven violin prodigies or face eternal damnation. And then there is Lan Tran, owner of Starrgate Donut and interstellar escapee of the galactic empire. The ways in which these three's fates intertwine will make readers laugh, swoon, and bite their nails in anticipation of discovering how this story wraps up. Unputdownable and gorgeously written, Light from Uncommon Stars is a page turning masterpiece and my personal favorite 2021 release. 

— Parker Jensen


Staff Pick Badge
The Empire of Dirt: A Novel By Francesca Manfredi, Ekin Oklap (Translated by) Cover Image
By Francesca Manfredi, Ekin Oklap (Translated by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780393881776
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 12th, 2022

In a rural Italian village there is a house set a little way from town, "the blind house," which is said to be cursed and home to three generations of women said to be witches. The summer we meet Valentina, she is teetering on the brink of adolescence: one day she discovers blood in her underwear, and her initial horror only grows when she finds that the crack in the wall of her room is bleeding along with her. The blind house has other secrets that crop up over the course of the novel, burdens that each woman must learn to bear in her own way as she carves out her respective place in the world. At its heart, this is a story about feminine chaos, intimacy, and desire set against the thick claustrophobia of a rural Italian village, all relayed in folksy magical realism. Deeply absorbing, a little unsettling, beautiful.

— Caroline Froh


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Shoulder Season: A Novel By Christina Clancy Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250761507
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - July 12th, 2022

With her second novel, Christina Clancy is cementing her spot as the bard of heartfelt stories of strong, funky Wisconsin women. As a Playboy bunny picaresque, Shoulder Season delivers – there are peeks behind the scenes (and under the ears) of life as a bunny, including cocktail lists and crazy parties, handsy customers and perverted pool boys, celebrity dalliances and down-to-earth romances, and yes, even a few whiffs of cocaine in the air. It’s a book about escaping to a wonderland – I’ll spare you the ‘down the rabbit hole’ puns – and about what a woman will put herself through to ditch the past and grab onto the allure and glamor of a new life.

— Chris Lee

 

 

Sherri Taylor is just an ordinary East Troy teenager, recently orphaned, looking for a job. On a whim, her friend Roberta, currently working at the Wooden Nickle in Southridge, suggests they apply for jobs at the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva. And with that, Sherri is a legendary Playboy Bunny. Though it’s billed as a family friendly resort, the truth is a bit murkier, and Sherri will find herself going places and doing things she never would have expected. Will she follow in the footsteps of Dorothy and find her way back home to Kansas, I mean Wisconsin? This enjoyable story, seeped in the 1980s and with a cast of unforgettable fellow Bunnies, is a hell-and-back story, driven by Sherri’s spirit. 

— Daniel Goldin


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Appleseed: A Novel By Matt Bell Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780063040151
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - July 5th, 2022

This story was amazing. Told through three alternating timelines: 1) In the 1790’s with a pair of brothers (one is a faun) trying to make their fortune by planting apple orchards ahead the coming expansion of humanity into the Ohio Valley; 2) one of the founders of a corporation attempting to save the planet from humanity basically cooking it to death, attempting to stop said corporation from playing god; 3) and way in the future, most of North America is covered in ice, there is a lonely person keeping watch and ready to reprint the world. Have we gone too far down the climate change path that our only option is to store up the natural world in computers in hopes of one day being able to repopulate? Have we ignored all the warnings that the world has sent us? I loved the way each of the stories played off the others, thematically and directly. It was pure brilliance. This will be on my list as one of my favorite reads of the year.

— Jason Kennedy


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The Comfort of Monsters: A Novel By Willa C. Richards Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780063053038
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - July 5th, 2022

Peg felt so close to her sister Dee growing up in Milwaukee. When Dee goes missing, Peg is certain she had the answers, but being that her disappearance coincides with Jeffrey Dahmer’s killing spree in Milwaukee, there’s not much interest in pursuing the case. Come to think of it, there’s not much interest in the Dahmer case either among the police. The story jumps back and forth between 1991 and 2019, with Peg’s anxiety about the long-unsolved case leading to a downward spiral, making The Comfort of Monsters part of a library of Milwaukee novels (Sorry to Disrupt the PeaceA Door Behind a Door) framed as mystery/thrillers that are more existential character studies. I was impressed by how Richards captures the visceral discomfort that permeates the story, as she touches on many moments of violence, from toxic behavior to sexual assault and other horrors. A memorable story that could well cross over to true crime readers.

— Daniel Goldin

 


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Immediate Family: A Novel By Ashley Nelson Levy Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250849274
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - July 5th, 2022

Ashley Nelson Levy’s language-y, hyper-smart debut is a breathless confessional burst and big-family-questions book all at once. A confessionquestional, if you will. You ever talk to people in your head, imagine conversations and arguments? That’s the whole book. Here’s how it goes: the narrator’s brother begs a last-minute wedding toast of her, which sets her off down memory lane, recounting their life from his adoption in Thailand at 3 years old to the day of his nuptials. Along the way she questions, essays, and debates with herself about adoption, infertility, and cultural histories of both, plus race, addiction, theft, territory and country, motherhood, heritage and genetics, and those eternal biggies: what makes a family? What breaks one? All of it’s explored with the open-hearted intimacy of someone talking in her head to the brother she’s realizing she’s desperate to reconnect with. Lame pun hard sell: if you want a beautiful, intelligent family novel, buy this immediately.

— Chris Lee