Into That Forest by Louis Nowra; Skyskape, 153 pages ($16.99) Ages 12 and up.
This gripping tale of survival, set in the wilds of Tasmania, is narrated by 76-year-old Hannah O’Brien, in her unique and powerful voice: “Me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again.” Hannah, 6, and her friend, Becky, 7, were on a picnic outing with Hannah’s parents when a flash flood swamped their boat, and Hannah’s parents drowned. The girls, left alone in the bush, are adopted by tigers they nickname Dave and Corinna. Nowra offers drama and gritty detail as the girls adapt to the wild, living in a den, hunting at night, losing their ability to speak in favor of the growls, sniffs, the communication of the tiger.
Nowra, an Australian playwright and novelist, offers a fascinating contrast, first of the girls shedding their human ways as they learn to hunt and eat raw meat, and the wrenching adaptation, when they return to their other lives, to “civilization,” painfully learning again to speak, to walk upright, wear clothing. This is a truly fascinating exploration of what it means to be human.
– Jean Westmoore
Who Asked You? by Terry McMillan; Viking, 400 pages ($27.95)
Terry McMillan treads familiar territory in her latest novel, “Who Asked You?” Four sisters and their families struggle through life, love and real-world crises.
Once again, the author of “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” creates a memorable and realistic, if not entirely likable, cast of characters – featuring strong women who also are wives and mothers. They face contemporary problems – drug addiction, incarceration, Alzheimer’s, homosexuality – in imperfect ways. And that’s what makes their stories so realistic and their personalities so empathetic.
“Who Asked You?” is a breeze to read despite the heavy themes. The sisters and their families become neighbors, almost friends, to readers, and it’s hard to let them go as the book nears its conclusion.
As usual, McMillan’s dialogue is spot on, and her understanding of pop culture infuses her story with unparalleled realism.
McMillan does nothing new here, but why should she? Her books tell richly textured, insightful and funny family stories. It’s what she does best.
– Kim Curtis, Associated Press
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King; Bantam, 412 pages ($26)
Paris in 1929 was a heady time and place – a Jazz Age populated with American expatriates known as the Lost Generation.
This slightly seedy bohemian atmosphere nurtured artists and writers who changed the way works of art would forever be viewed. Laurie R. King perfectly captures this era as she explores the City of Lights’ avenues and alleys in the highly entertaining “The Bones of Paris.”
King excels at weaving real people into a private-eye novel, elevating the plot while delivering a clear-eyed look at this epoch. Figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, the surrealist photographer Man Ray, Cole Porter and others give “The Bones of Paris” texture as King uses reality sparingly but effectively.
American Harris Stuyvesant, who left the U.S. Bureau of Investigation after a blowup with J. Edgar Hoover, barely ekes out a living in Europe. His latest assignment seems tailor-made – prowl the bars, nightclubs and cafes to search for a 22-year-old Boston woman whose mother hasn’t heard from her in months. Philippa Crosby has been supplementing her mother’s checks with bouts of modeling and acting. Unknown to her family, Harris had a brief fling with Philippa a year ago and is sure he’ll find her with another guy, drugged out in some remote bar.
His investigation leads to a fringe community full of violence and to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, where actors indulge in graphic pain and naturalistic horror. But the carefully orchestrated acts at the Montmartre theater may not be mock demonstrations.
“The Bones of Paris” captures a moment in time when anything was possible.
– Oline H. Cogdill, Orlando Sun Sentinel