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Please check out this week’s Washington Anytime Library selection at


"The Night Olivia Fell," by Christina McDonald

Abigail Knight, the protagonist of McDonald’s complex, emotionally intense first novel, is determined to get answers after her 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, who recently seemed unusually distracted and moody, is found, brain-dead and pregnant, at the bottom of an embankment below a bridge in her hometown of Portage Point, Wash. Meanwhile, Abi manages the grief of seeing Olivia being maintained on life support just long enough to allow her granddaughter to live. The chapters told from Olivia’s viewpoint in the months leading up to the accident, during which she struggles with friendships and romantic relationships while piecing together the truth about her absent father, convey the cadence and the awkward urgency of teenage thought and behavior without exaggerating it. Every carefully fleshed-out character behaves authentically, yielding a satisfying sense of tragedy rather than one of villainy. McDonald dives into the mother-daughter conflict without compromising the reader’s compassion for either of them. Fans of twisty domestic suspense novels will be rewarded.

— Library Journal

"Let's Tell This Story Properly," by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Makumbi (“Kintu”) captures the struggles of economic uncertainty and assimilation for Ugandans in Britain across decades in this adept collection. In “Our Allies the Colonies,” Abbey, an immigrant lured to England during WWII by army recruitment posters, fathers a son with a white woman who puts him up for adoption without informing Abbey. In “Manchester Happened,” Nnambassa remembers her difficult immigration to Manchester and the arrival of her 14-year-old sister, Katassi, five years later in 1993. Katassi’s teenage entitlement causes a painful estrangement that not even their father’s terminal diagnosis decades later can bridge. In the title story, Nnam returns her dead husband’s body to Uganda, only to learn he had continued to father children with the wife she thought he had abandoned. In “Love Made in Manchester,” 15-year-old Masaaba shocks his British mom and Ugandan father by following through with his online boast about returning to Uganda to take part in the traditional circumcision ceremony. Readers will savor Makumbi’s explorations of characters caught between Uganda and England and the cultural forces of immigration, making for a thoughtful, eloquent collection.

— Publishers Weekly


"Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing," by Anya von Bremzen

Author of several international cookbooks, Moscow-born von Bremzen immigrated to U.S. shores with her mother in 1974. Here, she unlocks conflicted memories of her Soviet upbringing through reminiscences of certain dishes that became her very own “poisoned madeleines.” The period covered by the book begins with the fall of the czar in 1917 and ends with the triumphant return of the mother-and-daughter duo to “Putin’s mean petro-dollar capital” in 2011 in order to do their very own TV cooking show. Each decade is represented by foods that evoke emotional volumes: the fussy, decadent pre-Revolution aristocrat’s diet of burbot liver and viziga gave way to Lenin’s culinary austerity, exemplified by a spartan apple cake; the labor-intensive gefilte fish made by the author’s Jewish grandmother in Odessa was deemed unpatriotic and was replaced by utilitarian kotleti (Russian hamburgers); and food shortages and the rationing of the 1940s prompted “sham” foods for the starvation diet. The fluctuating political winds of the Soviet state were harnessed in successive editions of the totalitarian culinary bible, “The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food,” where American and Jewish ingredients were unceremoniously deleted during the 1950s Cold War. Corn, caviar, mayonnaise, and vodka: for both von Bremzen and her mother, a teacher, these were the subjects of intense longing, as they endured living in a communal apartment with 18 other people and being abandoned by von Bremzen’s father, as well as regimented schooling and harassment as Jews. Recipes included.

— Publishers Weekly

“As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride," by Cary Elwes

The movie “The Princess Bride” achieved a certain cinematic magic, which Elwes (“Westley”) captures in his warm and revealing behind-the-scenes account. At 23, he was one of the youngest actors in the movie and was largely unknown. He proved himself early on during filming when he suggested to director Rob Reiner that instead of going in feet first to rescue Buttercup in the Fire Swamp quicksand scene, as written by William Goldman, it would be more heroic to dive in headfirst. The stunt hadn’t been designed for that move and Elwes could have been seriously injured, but his idea winds up in the film. Elwes also describes breaking his toe while riding costar André the Giant’s ATV, and relates other juicy anecdotes. The author was in virtually every scene of the film, including the sword-fighting sequence, which required intensive training. The book also includes reminiscences about the production from Reiner, Goldman, and other members of the cast.

— Publishers Weekly


"Twelve Angry Men," by Reginald Rose and L.A. Theatre Works (fiction)

"Holmes on the Range," by Steve Hockensmith (fiction)

"The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters," by Priya Parker (nonfiction)

"The Pacific Alone: The Untold Story of Kayaking's Boldest Voyage," by Dave Shively (nonfiction)