May 2014: Alan Heathcock, Volt: Stories

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Alan Heathcock, Volt: Stories

Somewhere on the northern plains is the Spartan, windswept village of Krafton. It is inhabited by rough-hewn men and a resourceful woman sheriff, a former grocery clerk who’s learning her job after being elected by the townspeople as a joke. Through a series of interlinked and well-calibrated short stories, Alan Heathcock shows us a rural village that is grim, violent, and strangely compassionate.

April 2014: Anthony Winkler, God Carlos

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Anthony Winkler, God Carlos

Set in 1520, a generation after Columbus’s voyages and a time when the Spanish foothold in America was still slippery, God Carlos is the story of two protagonists: a bawdy Spanish sailor who stumbles into the Jamaican interior, and a grieving Arawak Indian in search of a God who can save his clan. Too literary to be historical fiction, and too historical to be literary fiction, God Carlos combines the best of both forms.

March 2014: Michel Stone, The Iguana Tree

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Michel Stone, The Iguana Tree

Hector and Lilia are a loving couple from southern Mexico; The Iguana Tree is the story of their journey to the U.S. to work illegally on a farm. Based on real life stories, Stone takes us to places Norte Americanos never see–sardine-packed false-bottom trucks, unsafe safe-houses, and immigrant detention facilities. The result is an even-handed story where immigrant, farm owner, and INS agent all get a fair shake.

February 2014: Marc Schuster, The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl

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Marc Schuster, The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl

In a run-down Philadelphia suburb, a divorced mother is trying to hold it together for her two daughters. But the girls are a lot of work, her job stinks, and her ex-hubbie’s new wife makes her insane. Salvation appears in the form of white powder–at least until addiction sets in. From this sad set-up emerges the funniest and smartest ‘say-no-to-drugs’ book ever written.

January 2014: John Warner, The Funny Man

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John Warner, The Funny Man

An unfunny comic rides an unfunny joke to spectacular fame. He overdoses on his ego and then does something very stupid. He’s charged with manslaughter, and pleads “not guilty by reason of celebrity.” Warner offers a blistering critique of American celebrity culture but remembers to make us laugh. If a younger, tougher Larry David wrote a novel, it would be this book.