Meg Wolitzer, Ann Packer, and Other New Books Reviewed
This week: A Greek drama casts a spell in Meg Wolitzer's new novel, the legend of Hank Greenberg, a searing look at a troubled Irish school, the definitive account of the Bay of Pigs, and delicious stories from Ann Packer.
This week: A Greek drama casts a spell in Meg Wolitzer’s new novel, the legend of Hank Greenberg, a searing novel looks at a troubled Irish school, the definitive account of the Bay of Pigs, and delicious stories from Ann Packer.
The UncouplingBy Meg WolitzerBestselling author Meg Wolitzer revisits the topic of female sexuality with her signature insight and wit—but this time, an ancient Greek play sets the stage for her contemporary tale.
Sexuality waxes and wanes in our lives—with the ups and downs of longtime marriages, with the thrill of illicit affairs, the budding of adolescence, and the chilling descent into old age. What fuels our passion and kills our desire? The women in The Uncoupling are forced to ask themselves these questions when a high-school drama teacher stages Lysistrata, the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with their men to force them to stop fighting. As the actors rehearse, the school’s female teachers and students suddenly lose their libidos. Husbands, lovers, and boyfriends are denied sex for no apparent reason, and relationships are strained if not forever damaged. With her humorous voice, ecstatic prose, and unique historical backdrop, Wolitzer sheds light on the changing nature of female sexuality over time.
Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One By Mark Kurlansky The incisive, concise story of the baseball great, who was famous for his swing—and his faith.
The bestselling author of Cod and Salt turns his eye to one of baseball’s legendary class acts. Ball player Hank Greenberg was best known for his graceful swing and his 1934 decision to sit out a game between his Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees that fell on Yom Kippur. This incident helped give rise to the myth that “Hank Greenberg won’t play on the High Holidays,” and made him something of a hero to Jews across America. In this new biography, Mark Kurlansky shows that Greenberg was actually a secular Jew and that his decision to sit out the Yom Kippur game had less to do with his faith and more to do with family and social pressures. Kurlansky explores the highs and lows of Greenberg’s personal and professional life, and the anti-Semitic culture over which his career played out.
The Brothers’ LotBy Kevin HolohanA native of Dublin, Kevin Holohan’s debut novel comically satirizes the evils of a didactic Catholic school in post-World War II Ireland.
The Brothers’ Lot takes on serious subject matter—the grim aftermath of World War II, the abuse of children by priests—with biting satire that lends comic relief to an otherwise dark novel. At the Brothers of Godly Coercion School for Young Boys of Meager Means, new student Finbar Sullivan is introduced to clerical, sadistic schoolmasters and his hardened fellow classmates. The Brothers are tainted by war experiences and one sees harsh punishment of his pupils as “the best excuse for vindictiveness that had come his way.” The institution is plagued by absurdist ideals and teachings, and the Brothers become absorbed with the notion of miraculous Sainthood. But as their obsession backfires, new evils within the school’s already decaying system become more apparent, and Holohan’s tone grows increasingly acerbic. Fellow Irish novelist Joseph O’Connor says, “ The Brothers’ Lot is a memorable, skillfully wrought, and evocative satire of an Ireland that has collapsed under the weight of its contradictions.”
The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs By Jim Rasenberger Using long-hidden CIA documents, Rasenberger goes deeper into the Bay of Pigs catastrophe than ever before and delivers the fullest story yet.
Despite the Kennedy administration’s initial statements that it had nothing to do with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, evidence quickly appeared suggesting otherwise. In this new account of the incident, Jim Rasenberger uses CIA documents to explore the actions of all the key figures in the drama, including President Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Dwight Eisenhower. From Castro’s journey to New York, where he was greeted by thousands of cheering Americans, to an examination of the CIA’s role in the invasion, the book is filled with copiously researched historical information. Yet, thanks to Rasenberger’s skillful writing, Brilliant Disaster reads more like a thriller than a history book, making it accessible to any reader with even the faintest interest in the topic.
Swim Back to Me by Ann PackerA new collection of emotionally charged and moving new short stories by the bestselling author.
In Swim Back to Me, bestselling author Ann Packer releases a gripping collection of short stories on a variety of themes. In “Molten,” Packer uses a mother’s depression over her teenage son’s death to explore grief and coping with loss. While in “Walk for Mankind,” two friends discover the destructive power of sex. Packer, the author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier and Songs Without Words, delivers a stunning look into how we learn and sometimes fail to live with each other.