Fiction

Fresh Ink: New Books Out Today: January 8, 2012

 

the happy life bookThe Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World by David Malouf (Pantheon)

All those new year’s resolutions we’re attempting to make good on right now really boil down to one thing: the desire to be happy. Happy with how we look, how we feel, how we relate, how we live. Research indicates that we humans are not so great at predicting what will make us happy; Malouf goes the other way around to root out the causes of our stress and trace the evolution of our definitions of happiness and contentment.

If you favor a cross-disciplinary approach to tackling life’s big questions, you’ll appreciate the combination of philosophy, theology, art, literature, and mythology Malouf brings to this latest exploration of the pursuit of happiness.

 

 

 

memory of light wheel of time seriesA Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

You needn’t have read the first thirteen books in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series to know that this, the fourteenth and final book, is a big freaking deal. Indeed, I haven’t. The conclusion of a beloved series is always newsworthy, and this one is even more so because Jordan, the series’ creator, died in 2007, leaving many fans fearing the story would never be concluded.

Brandon Sanderson stepped in to finish the job, and if his spots atop the NYT bestsellers list for books 12 and 13 are any indication, he hasn’t let fans down. This is one of the year’s most anticipated books, and I’ll be watching eagerly to see how readers respond.

 

 

 

 

she matters susanna sonnenberg friendshipsShe Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg (Scribner)

It is one thing to talk about the value and importance of friendships between women and another thing entirely to offer up one’s own friendships–the successes, the failures, the warmth, and the wrongdoing–by way of example and exploration. To do the latter requires guts, candor, and a willingness to expose one’s own weaknesses and mistakes. Sonnenberg rises to the challenge beautifully and with remarkable grace in She Matters. She recalls “the deeply known friend” to whom she could say absolutely anything without fear of judgment. “She showed me how simple: you witness and love, and you feel loved.” There’s the friendship that felt perfect at the time but reveals itself as uneven and not nearly reciprocal upon reflection; the college friendship that doesn’t hold up under real-world pressure; the mature and shifting relationships that mark adult life; and many more.

The “she” hovering over all these stories is Sonnenberg’s mother–their fraught relationship is the subject of her previous memoir Her Last Death–whose ideas and lessons prove difficult to overcome and re-wire. This is a book about the family we’re born into and the families we choose. It’s about one woman’s attempts to create healthy and satisfying friendships after a dysfunctional childhood, and the universal lessons we can learn from her. It’s about heartbreak and disappointment and quiet hurt. And, happily, it’s about the rare and wonderful magic of life-changing, life-sustaining friendships and the powerful bonds between women. Buy this. Read it. Buy copies for the women who make your life better. Read it again. Highly recommended.

 

Spectacle Stories Susan SteinbergSpectacle: Stories by Susan Steinberg (Graywolf Press)

Liberty discussed this in her preview of books to watch for in January and described it as “Intense, linked stories, revolving around women and the damage in their lives.” That’s a perfect description, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of early praise for this collection.

Steinberg’s short stories read like a combination of fiction and poetry I’ve not encountered anywhere else–they’re haunting and gorgeous and painful and so, so spare–and I found a new reason to be in awe of her on every page. The second story, “Underfed,” is particularly dazzling. A single, pages-long sentence comprised of countless clauses separated by colons, semicolons, commas and connected by ideas and heart, it is WOW.

I would lie on the grass; I would consider stars; I would consider my size; I would consider how the world began; it began, as you know, as a spark; and I began, as well, as a spark; and then everything grew; and a lot of things happened; and a lot more things happened; and the future was the present; and the present was a battle in my head; it was another line for me to cross…

See what I mean?