The Mountains Sing

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Que Mai, Kalb, Ramey, Lisicky, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Bess Kalb, Sarah Ramey, Paul Lisicky, and more—that are publishing this week.

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The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Mountains Sing: “Nguyễn’s lyrical, sweeping debut novel (after the poetry collection The Secret of Hoa Sen) chronicles the Tran family through a century of war and renewal. As middle-aged writer Hương revisits her native Hanoi in 2012, she reflects on the lessons shared by her late grandmother Diệu Lan (‘The challenges faced by Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks’) and chronicles their journey of survival during the Vietnam War. Hương was 12 when bombs encroached on Hanoi, where she lived with Diệu Lan after her mother, Ngọc, a physician, left to search for her father, a soldier in the NVA. After an evacuation to the mountains, Diệu Lan ‘opened the door of her childhood’ to Huoung with stories of being raised by a wealthy family to pursue an education and resist old customs such as blackening her teeth. Diệu Lan also describes the harrowing truth of the Việt Minh Land Reform, during which her family’s land was seized in the spirit of resource distribution, encouraging her to question what she’s been taught in schools. Grandma and Hương return to Hanoi and find their house decimated, and Ngọc, who survived torture and rape while imprisoned by South Vietnamese soldiers, comes home without Hương’s father. In a subtle coda, Nguyễn brilliantly explores the boundary between what a writer shares with the world and what remains between family. This brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers.”

Nobody Will Tell You This but Me by Bess Kalb

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: “Jimmy Kimmel Live! writer Kalb honors her late grandmother, Bobby Bell, in an amusing debut memoir written in the grandmother’s sassy voice. The book, framed as a love letter to Kalb and featuring excerpts from grandma’s funny voice mails and phone calls, contains intriguing family stories about Kalb’s great-grandmother, who, at 12, emigrated to New York from Belarus, alone, to escape Jewish persecution; about Bobby’s marriage to Kalb’s grandfather, a scrappy businessman who got rich building houses; and about Bobby’s contentious relationship with Kalb’s fiercely independent mother. Kalb does a great job of capturing the voice of an opinionated, chronically concerned grandmother who’s convinced that she knows best. Bobby shares her thoughts on everything from Kalb’s choice of pets (‘we are not cat people’) to her decision to live in San Francisco (‘San Francisco is for people who wear polar fleece to restaurants and try to convince each other to go camping’). The book spans Bobby’s life and beyond (there are cheeky sections written from beyond the grave) and offers both wisdom and unsolicited advice (‘you’d be gorgeous if you went a little blonder’). This is a fun, touching tribute to family, and the perfect book for anyone who treasures their domineering, spirited grandmother.”

Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pride of Eden: “Brown (Gods of Howl Mountain) sets his haunting, empathetic latest in a wildlife sanctuary on the Georgia coast. Ex-jockey and Vietnam War vet Anse Caulfield and his lover, Tyler, a veterinarian, run Little Eden, a haven for exotic animals rescued from exploitative roadside zoos, circuses, and private owners. It’s a dangerous enterprise, since Anse must rescue his animals under the cover of night and constant threat of discovery by the unsavory people he rescues his animals from. He’s aided by his friend Lope, a firefighter, falconer, and drone operator, who, in the devastating opening pages, saves Anse from Henrietta, a lioness who escaped her enclosure and is subsequently killed. Newcomer Malaya is an Iraq vet fresh off a job thwarting poachers in South Africa that went south. When a reclusive wolf breeder threatens their little slice of heaven, they must embark on their most dangerous mission yet. With a lush sense of atmosphere, Brown paints an evocative portrait of Anse, a man who has devoted his life to broken and abused animals, out of love and as atonement for past sins, as well as of Malaya, who struggles with PTSD and finds new purpose in their work. Couched in a thrilling narrative, Brown’s heartbreaking yet hopeful message of humanity’s moral responsibility for the natural world and its magnificent creatures will linger with readers.”

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Beheld: “Nesbit (The Wives of Los Alamos) cleverly recasts pilgrim history in this deeply enjoyable novel of murder in Plymouth Colony, Mass. To those living in Plymouth in 1630, the colony is not the land of freedom they’d envisioned. The Puritans hold an iron grip on religious observations, alienating the Anglicans among them, while the colonists haven’t received the benefits promised to them, such as land. John and Eleanor Billington, former indentured servants, distinguish themselves as rebels in the colony, never hesitating to point out inequities and hypocrisy, particularly those of prominent settlers William and Alice Bradford and the storied Myles Standish. After the arrival of John Newcomen, a new settler who’s been promised land belonging to the Billingtons, more than one person ends up dead. Capturing the alternating voices of the haves (the Bradfords, Newcomen) and the have-nots (the Billingtons), Nesbit’s lush prose adds texture to stories of the colony’s women, and her deep immersion in primary sources adds complexity to the historical record. Fans of Miriam Toews’sWomen Talking will eagerly devour this gripping historical.”

The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: “In this illuminating debut memoir, musician Ramey offers an account of a mysterious illness that plagued her for more than a decade, beginning when she was in college in the early 2000s. Ramey recounts years struggling with excruciating pain, at times being unable to rise from bed. She pursued multiple medical treatments, but her pain persisted; when she turned to alternative approaches such as acupuncture and positive thinking, she found some relief, but also what she felt to be a New Age tendency to blame the victim. Though this medical saga is disturbing in the many miscalculations her doctors made, Ramey’s hilarious and upbeat sense of humor lightens even the direst of circumstances (a surgeon who performed the wrong surgery on her is dubbed Dr. Oops, and others merit such glib monikers as Dr. Vulva, Dr. Paxil, and Dr. Bowels). As Ramey relentlessly researched her own ailment, she learned that millions of women with such conditions as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and other illnesses had also been ignored, mistreated, or belittled by conventional medicine. Ramey was eventually diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, and here she argues for more compassion among doctors and better treatment, and highlights reasons why some research has trouble securing funding (vaginal diseases, for example, are ‘too unpalatable for any awareness campaign, too unsexy to start a blog’). Ramey’s uncanny grit and fortitude will deeply inspire the multitudes facing similar issues.”

Later by Paul Lisicky

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Later: “A writer recalls his search for love and community in Provincetown, Mass., during the AIDS epidemic in this melodramatic memoir. Fiction writer and memoirist Lisicky (The Narrow Door) spent several years in the early 1990s in Provincetown, a Cape Cod resort, artist’s colony, and gay mecca, doing a writing fellowship and trying to sort out his late-20s life. He found the town an exhilarating haven, where he could finally live his homosexuality loud and proud—’Hey, do you want to get high and have sex?’ inquired one random guy on the street shortly after he arrived—but also a death-haunted place where recently healthy acquaintances faded from AIDS before his eyes. Lisicky finds affecting moments of pathos in the declining health and deaths of friends (‘The churches in Town turn their backs on the sick in Town, but that is not why I turned my back on God’). Unfortunately, much of the book’s endlessly complex and neurotic rumination is lavished on trivial matters: casual hookups in the dunes; longer-term relationships, riddled with small insecurities and betrayals, that feel paper-thin; and simple mishaps (‘It feels like the toppling is connected to some secret instinct in myself that is driven to ruin,’ he frets when a fake oversized ice-cream cone he is wearing in a parade falls off his head). The result is a callow and uninvolving coming-of-age narrative.”

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