Christine DeZelar-Tiedman

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With so many (perhaps too many) characters and story threads, one worries whether McNamer (Red Rover) will be able to bring them together by the end, but she does. The conclusion is satisfying, but mention of a mysterious illness afflicting one resident returning from a cruise in early 2020 casts an ominous shadow. Recommended for readers eager for nonquaint novels about seniors.

Of Women and Salt

While the nonlinear structure of the narrative sometimes makes the story feel disjointed, Garcia has carefully layered the novel so that each chapter delivers revelations about the motivations and psychological burdens of the characters that add to understanding on the part of the reader (though not necessarily the characters, who are not always party to the secrets of their mothers or grandmothers). A relevant and timely work delivered with empathy.


Moss (Ghost Wall) seems to be commenting on the disconnect and isolation of modern life, though the vacationers’ travails can make for dreary reading. The campers have a perfect opportunity to form community but fail to do so, while the Ukrainians, whose othering Moss highlights by not providing their viewpoint, seem to be the only campers who embrace enjoyment of life.

American Gospel

Enger wisely avoids making direct connections with current political events, though there are some subtle parallels. The largely young, marijuana-smoking “Jesus people” who show up on the farm are a sharp contrast to today’s Evangelical movement. Though much of the plot feels carefully orchestrated, events go in unexpected directions near the end, and the opposing perspectives of faith vs. reason are given equal weight in a story that will appeal to many fiction readers.


Robinson fans will be hungry for the next chapter in the Gilead saga, and the beauty and humanity of Robinson’s prose will win over new fans. Highly recommended.


The Seventh Mansion

Meijer (Rag) does a creditable job of connecting the troubled psychology of a contemporary teen with the sometimes lurid accounts of the lives of saints, suggesting that the extremities of their respective devotions are similar. Not for everyone, but refreshingly bold and original.



Award winner Gordon (Final Payments) stacks the deck a bit too much in Agnes’s favor, making her eminently likable and sympathetic, despite her undeniable privilege. Heidi/Quin is the clear villain. The moral dilemma could have been more evenhanded, although perhaps that would have undercut Gordon’s aim of indicting the glorification of meanness that has seeped into contemporary American culture.

What Are You Going Through

Deeply empathetic without being sentimental, this novel explores women’s lives, their choices, and how they support one another, particularly when they don’t have spouses or children or those relationships have become strained. Highly recommended for readers who favor emotional resonance over escapism during difficult times. [See Prepub Alert, 2/24/20.]


The Vanishing Half

With large sections focusing on the viewpoints of Desiree, Jude, Stella, and Kennedy in turn, Bennett allows readers’ perspectives and sympathies to shift, providing empathy for their difficult choices.


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