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|Fri, 02-20-2009 - 8:05am|
HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET
By Jamie Ford
290 pages. Ballantine Books. $24
The year is 1942, and in the wake of Pearl Harbor sentiment against Seattle’s Japanese-American population has been growing; 12-year-old Henry Lee’s parents make him wear an “I Am Chinese” button whenever he leaves their International District apartment, because they fear he will mistakenly be picked up by the police. But Henry’s closest friend, Keiko Okabe, the only other Asian student at Rainier Elementary, is of Japanese descent, though the single word of the language she knows is: wakarimasen (I don’t understand). Soon, Keiko and her family are swept up in the anti-Japanese hysteria that led to the interment of some 110,000 people in relocation camps. In the novel’s other strand, which takes place in 1968, the adult Henry tries to make sense of his past, a quest touched off by the unsealing of the Panama Hotel, where many of the departing internees had left their possessions for safe-keeping. This is Jamie Ford’s first novel.
By Valerie Laken
336 pages. Harper. $24.99
Kate Kinzler and her husband, Stuart, have been coasting — living in a rental apartment with brown shag carpeting and a water-stained ceiling: “They were 29, full grown, seven years out of college. And still living like this.” Then her parents give them the money to buy their own house. The one Kate chooses is a “project,” with an overgrown lawn, fake wood paneling and years of grime. Unbeknownst to them, it also comes with a history: a man was killed within its walls almost 20 years earlier. As Kate reclaims the house, her marriage crumbles, and she becomes involved with two men, Walker Price and Jay Harrison, who share a connection to the house and its past.
By Antonya Nelson
296 pages. Bloomsbury. $25
Antonya Nelson doesn’t write about the lucky. In her short stories, 11 of which are collected here, teenagers become pregnant, marriages end, love goes unrequited. Her characters, most of them women, are looking for a connection, but rarely find it. In “Shauntrelle,” Constance Vorhees has broken up her marriage by having an affair, and then misread her lover’s intentions. Now she’s living with a roommate in a corporate apartment. Alone one night Constance checks her e-mail messages: “More than anything, what Constance wished was that she would open her computer and it would sparkle like a treasure chest, perched here on the windowsill of the living room. The screen would be radiant, flooding the dark apartment, and a hundred messages would await her,” Ms. Nelson writes. “But there was nothing new, not even spam.”
By Christopher Moore
311 pages. William Morrow. $26.99
In his previous books Christopher Moore has done vampires (“Bloodsucking Fiends”), Jesus (“Lamb”) and whales (“Fluke”), among other things. In “Fool” he takes on Shakespeare, with a retelling of “King Lear” through the eyes of Lear’s fool, here a short, profane, sex-obsessed jester named Pocket. The plot and cast of characters are borrowed (more or less) from the original, with several Moore-ian additions — a second fool, named Drool, and a refrain that could come in handy for any adapter of Shakespeare: “There’s always a bloody ghost.”
By Roopa Farooki
355 pages. St. Martin’s Press. $24.95
When we meet them, the characters in “Corner Shop” are living in London, pursuing their dreams. Fourteen-year-old Luhith Khalil, known as Lucky, who cares more for soccer than for school, wants to win the World Cup for England. His mother, Delphine, a former marketing executive, now feels trapped as a stay-at-home mother. She’d only wanted to get away from her village in rural France. His grandfather, Zaki, runs the shop of the title in a dusty corner of Hammersmith, while longing “to live with my soul mate by my side, free from all the petty practicalities of life.” The extent to which they achieve those dreams, and then have to live with the burdens that follow, is the subject of Roopa Farooki’s second novel.
CUTTING FOR STONE
By Abraham Verghese
541 pages. Knopf. $26.95
Like his main character, Marion Stone, Abraham Verghese is a doctor (he teaches at the Stanford University School of Medicine) born in Ethiopia who emigrated to the United States. Marion and his twin brother, Shiva, are left alone at birth when their mother, a nun, dies, and their father, a surgeon, disappears. Fleeing an act of political violence, Marion lands in New York, at a charity hospital called Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, where events transpire to force him to confront his past. Dr. Verghese has published two previous memoirs; this is his first novel