Reservoir House History of the Great Lakes: American Culture Since the Gold Rush, edited by Sarah DeLappe, St. Martin’s Press
Picking up from where Andre Dubus III left off, which paperback of this anthology of fascinating voices leaves you feeling inadequate: the best of the Dubus? The best of the Lethem/Gélinas/Miller types? The smartest of the Harpers of the book world? These authors and others tell the history of the Great Lakes from industrialization to Native American involvement.
Grace’s Story: My Grandmother’s Depression, My Grandfather’s War, My Children’s Chance, by Michael Chabon, Faber & Faber
Chabon writes with the ease of a highly refined observer; his first recent novel, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, is as funny as it is moving, a book full of important life lessons and intimate family stories and echoes of Chekhov and Freud. In his most recent collection of essays, he wonders why so few writers have explored the traumas of World War II and asks whether his own mixed-race family, who lived in Germany in the early years of the Holocaust, helped shape his work.
Yossi, by Miri Ben-Ari, Random House
Ben-Ari’s memoir tells the remarkable story of her late mother, Miriam, an Israeli schoolteacher and peace activist whose courage during her final years stands in stark contrast to the slow death of her professional, yet deeply loving, relationships with her family. Her daughter is brilliantly observant and empathetic, making her the rare kind of writer who, almost as often as not, must turn off her tear-soaked ear as if she had slept through the birth of her most difficult subject.
The North Star, by David Grossman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Some writers focus on Israelis and Palestinians, but not this one. Grossman takes a final look at his brother-in-law, Yossein, who died in a suspicious car accident after taking a somewhat uninhibited risk that prefigured the tragedies that lead to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The cold narrative tone can be hard to absorb, but his frequent insistence on the fact that he holds out a wide umbilical cord is just painful enough to make the hard truth of the situation all the more palatable.