Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Read more...
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Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she's in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn't what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora's relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s, '30s, and beyond--from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women--Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.
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Jami Attenberg’s fourth book, The Middlesteins, is a darkly fascinating account of one woman’s battle with overeating. Edie Middlestein has struggled with her weight since childhood and now weighs more than 300 pounds. Diabetic and heading toward late middle age, Edie—who lost her job at a law firm because of her weight—receives more bad news: Richard, her pharmacist husband, is leaving her. Edie’s daughter, Robin, looks after her, although she’s embittered by her duties. Her son, Benny, is married to the gorgeous Rachelle, and their two teens will soon be celebrating their b’nai mitzvah. Despite surgery and her grandchildren’s forthcoming festivities, Edie continues to indulge, adding friction to an already stressed family environment. Attenberg’s timely, unforgettable story—told from shifting points of view—will strike a chord with readers. This is a well-crafted, provocative novel that’s tailor-made for reading groups and certain to spark spirited discussion.
ON THE ROAD TO STARDOM
Lovers of historical fiction will be entranced by The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty’s fascinating account of the Wichita housewife who watches over future silent-film star Louise Brooks on her first trip to New York City. The year is 1922. Louise is 15, gorgeous and ambitious when she travels to New York from her home in Kansas to train with a prominent dance company. Accompanying her is 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, a cautious wife and mother—and Louise’s opposite in every way. Louise isn’t thrilled by the presence of her chaperone, yet a bond develops between the two, and the weeks they pass in each other’s company will be life-changing for both. Cora has her own closely guarded motivations for traveling to New York, and her story proves to be as compelling as that of her movie-star charge. In the decades that follow their pivotal summer, both Cora and Louise will experience triumph and heartbreak. Moriarty’s contrasting heroines embody the changing times, and their differences lend nuance to this richly rewarding narrative.
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In her delightful yet cautionary eighth novel, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver examines the ways in which global warming impacts a fictional corner of Appalachia. Strong-willed Dellarobia Turnbow lives in the rural hamlet of Feathertown, Tennessee, with her husband, Cub, and their two young children. When she spots an incredible assemblage of monarch butterflies on a nearby mountain, she knows she’s seen something special. The locals think she witnessed a miracle, and the incident is soon picked up by the media. A handsome African-American scientist named Ovid Byron arrives to study the butterflies, and what he discovers about them spells bad news for the natural world even as it places Dellarobia at the heart of a conflict that’s both personal and political. Kingsolver’s latest book has weighty issues at its core, yet it never seems heavy-handed, in part because of its charming cast of small-town characters. It’s a timely, penetrating novel that’s at once entertaining and illuminating—a balance Kingsolver seems to achieve almost effortlessly.