Christine DeZelar-Tiedman

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River Spirit

Historical novels are often most successful when they focus on ordinary people experiencing extraordinary times, and that is the case with Aboulela’s (The Kindness of Enemies) latest. Zamzam and Yaseen’s love story is moving and gripping, sweeping the reader along hoping that they will end up together against the odds. The multiple perspectives also serve a useful purpose for readers who may know next to nothing about the complex historical events described. Highly recommended.
PREMIUM

Playhouse

Set in the early 2010s, prior to the #MeToo era, Bausch’s novel seems to be saying something about predatory men, but it’s unclear where he stands on the subject, and there is no real payoff to that story thread.
PREMIUM

The Magic Kingdom

The narrative moves slowly, but copious detail of Shaker life and the philosophy of utopian communities that have largely disappeared from the American landscape, are well depicted. Well-researched historical fiction from a skilled novelist.
PREMIUM

The Book of Goose

Li’s understated prose belies the intensity of the emotions being depicted, and the story takes many unpredictable turns. Knowing only that the adult Agnes married an American, lives in the United States, and keeps geese, readers don’t learn the meaning of the title until the novel’s end. Highly recommended.
PREMIUM

Witches

Beautifully rendered, this is a book to meditate over and perhaps reread.
PREMIUM

This Place That Place

Without a traditional plot, there is a story, and a touching love story at that, underlying a frank and painful look at what opposing governments and ideologies do to individuals.
PREMIUM

Planes

Despite the intense subject matter, Baker avoids melodrama in this relatively brief novel, and some expected confrontations never occur, which will frustrate some readers and relieve others.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English

The short chapters keep the pages turning during the first two sections as the narrative heads toward the inevitable catastrophe, and the meta-fictional third section helps readers process what may have disturbed or offended in the story itself and its depiction of the characters, addressing current conversations about authorial voice, consent, and cultural appropriation. Extraordinary.
PREMIUM

Bitter Orange Tree

Alharthi is an important new voice in world literature, and while Zuhour remains underdeveloped as a character, the novel is worth reading for the insights into Omani culture, particularly with regard to its exploration of family bonds and obligations, specifically women’s plight in those dynamics.
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