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May 28, 2021

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 5/28/21

DOWNEAST: FIVE MAINE GIRLS AND THE UNSEEN STORY OF RURAL AMERICA by Gigi Georges (Harper). A book by a social scientist of insight, not only theories, and some gifts: for making character and …

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May 28, 2021

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DOWNEAST: FIVE MAINE GIRLS AND THE UNSEEN STORY OF RURAL AMERICA by Gigi Georges (Harper). A book by a social scientist of insight, not only theories, and some gifts: for making character and atmosphere real for us, and for making sentences that work without straining. She reports from (yet another) very American place: the far-east corner of the most rural state in America, the part that's known as Downeast, even though on a globe it's up from almost everywhere. (That “down” usage is explained, lucidly if not rationally.) These nicely assorted girls remain in close focus, and their lives, over four years in late adolescence and earliest womanhood, tell us much of the lives of Americans in much of America: far from luxury needn't be far from comfort, but far from great cities also isn't far from class divisions, drug infestations, solid families but also shattered ones. I grew up in an isolated small town (not quite this isolated, but . . . well, a town where not everyone was a farmer, as not everyone here is a lobsterman); Dr. Georges gets all of it, and of them (us).

WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday). Already the #1 bestseller . . . in fiction! It's the actual Stacey Abrams, voting-rights hero and fast-rising political star; but also, off and on and under a pseudonym, a popular novelist, apparently as recreation. Mostly romances and romantic suspense, beginning when she was in law school, at (well, sure) Yale. But this new novel is political suspense, knowing, full-length, crowded, centering on the Supreme Court and a vicious president (based on nobody—no partisan political argument is being snuck in). It's shrewd and skillful, high-energy fun.

THE GUNCLE by Steven Rowley (Putnam). You may need a few pages to get comfortable in this novel, but it's worth it. It's written closely in the guncle's (gay uncle, that would be) point of view, and at first either he or the author seems, well, frantic to be witty at every moment. They settle in, though, and so will you; the guncle suddenly must—but for a couple of months!—care for two small children of his newly widowed, drug-addicted brother. Hilarity hovers just over your shoulder as growth ensues, in all three of them.

ARCTIC STORM RISING by Dale Brown (Morrow). Here's news: A new series from the master of military action thrillers, the author of (20, is it?) Patrick McLanahan novels. Here, he introduces a new central character, Nick Flynn, a similar but not the same sort of military fighter and leader (he's an Air Force intelligence officer, but we won't expect to find him at a desk, much). So Dale Brown is off and soaring once again, in the setting the title calls out, with intrigue almost as much as action.

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