Featured books will be available for the public today. To place them on hold, call the Walla Walla Public Library at 527-4550 or go to wallawallapubliclibrary.org.
“Stay and Fight,” by Madeline Ffitch
Ffitch’s remarkable and gripping debut novel (after story collection “Valparaiso, Round the Horn”) traces the journeys of a makeshift family in contemporary Appalachian Ohio. After Helen leaves Seattle with her boyfriend to live off the land and acquires 20 acres and a camper to sleep in, she is soon left by herself when he finds the life he imagined for them too daunting. She quickly adapts to fend for herself, learning how to forage and cook roadkill and working to help cut trees with Rudy, a lifelong local who spouts antigovernment paranoia and practical advice in equal measure. Soon, Karen and Lily, a neighboring couple, give birth to a son, Perley, and are no longer welcome at the radical Women’s Land Trust, so Helen offers them a new home with her, hoping they’ll all manage the land together. It becomes apparent, however, that it’s hard to mesh their personalities. As the years go by and Perley decides he wants to go to school and be a part of the world the others so despise, the life this family has built threatens to fully unravel. The story is told in the alternating voices of Helen, Karen, Lily, and Perley, and Ffitch navigates their personalities beautifully, creating complex, brilliantly realized characters. As the stakes rise, for both the family and the preservation of the region, the novel skewers stereotypes and offers only a messy, real depiction of people who fully embody the imperative of the novel’s title. This is a stellar novel.
— Publishers Weekly
“Girls Like Us,” by Cristina Alger
An FBI agent stumbles into a cesspool of police corruption and dead girls after the death of her father, a Long Island homicide detective.
After scattering the ashes of her father, Martin, Nell Flynn heads to his South Fork home to sift through his possessions after a motorcycle crash took his life. Nell is on leave from her job in D.C. as a member of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit after she killed a member of the Russian Mafia in the line of duty and got a bullet to the shoulder for her trouble. Nell mourns her father but also looks forward to moving on and never looking back at a town that holds nothing but bad memories, including the brutal murder of her mother, Marisol, when she was only 7. But getting out of town soon isn’t in the cards for Nell. When her old friend Lee Davis, a newly minted homicide detective, asks for her help solving a series of gruesome murders, Nell is intrigued. A young girl, shot, dismembered, and wrapped in burlap, has been found buried in a local park, and she bears a striking resemblance to a young Latina found the previous summer. Nell soon learns that a mansion near the burial is the site of lavish parties attended by Washington elites, where possibly underage girls are provided for entertainment. Nell’s digging leads to young Latina escorts afraid to come forward for fear of deportation and the wrath of their pimp, who is working with some of the most powerful men in New York. When a local landscaper is arrested, Nell isn’t convinced he’s the killer, and disturbing secrets about the local police — even her father — are rising to the surface. Nell carries a palpable sadness and is still haunted by her mother’s murder and her complicated relationship with her father. She has a vulnerable, empathetic core that will pull readers in, and Alger has a feel for small-town dynamics. The tension becomes nearly unbearable as Nell realizes she truly can’t trust anyone. Readers can expect a few genuine surprises, and the light Alger shines on society’s most vulnerable members is an important one.
Melancholy and addictive.
— Kirkus Reviews
“This Much Country,” by Kristin Knight Pace
Sled dog racer Pace debuts with an earnest chronicle of the ups and downs of a life spent living in the wilds of Alaska. After graduating from high school in Texas, Pace passed on a college scholarship and instead moved to Montana to live with Alfred, a guy she’d met online, then spent the summer of 2009 at the Denali National Park Sled Dog Kennels in Alaska. When Alfred left her for a co-worker, a devastated Pace moved to Alaska for good with a “head full of possibilities” and a “heart ready to accept them.” Living in a cabin and caring for a team of sled dogs, she writes of “figuring out who I was while being alone.” What she discovered was an inner strength to match her physical toughness and a love for dog sledding that led her on her “greatest” journey — the Yukon Quest and the grueling Iditarod sled dog races. Pace wonderfully captures the adrenaline rush of flying across a snow-covered landscape in 40-below temperatures, as well as the despair of later burying two of her beloved dogs in the frozen tundra (“I stroked Moose’s fur ... The last of his living warmth was still there, but he didn’t respond to my touch”). Pace is candid about life in the frozen north, and her self-awareness makes this a worthy addition to the outdoor adventure genre.
— Publishers Weekly
“Shoot for the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11,” by James Donovan
A vigorous exploration of the Space Age, a frontier oddly befitting Wild West historian Donovan (“The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo — and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation,” 2012, etc.).
The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of “Apollo 11” on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step” pronouncement. That history and the long chain of efforts leading up to the landing have been well-documented, not least by Tom Wolfe in “The Right Stuff.” Even so, Dallas-based historian Donovan finds fresh things to say about the events — as when, for instance, he recounts Buzz Aldrin’s constant lobbying to be the first to set foot on the moon, a campaign that his peers found tedious but not entirely unseemly. That Armstrong was chosen to lead and then kept in that role, Donovan writes, strongly reflects a priority: “NASA wanted to make a clear statement about the nonmilitary nature of the landing and of the American space program as a whole,” and Armstrong was both a civilian and senior in the hierarchy, making him a natural choice. Aldrin was privately devastated but put up a brave front. In Donovan’s hands, pioneering space scientist Wernher von Braun gets some deliverance from the Tom Lehrer school of lampoonery: True, he’d worked for the Nazis, but he also made remarks about the Hitler regime critical enough to be charged with treason, interrupting his perhaps unlikely playboy lifestyle. Just so, Donovan turns to small but meaningful episodes that speak volumes: NASA’s grudging addition of various lunar experiments “for the science guys”; Aldrin’s ministering of Communion by means of a tiny vial of sacramental wine that he smuggled aboard for the purpose; the fact that only by landing there could we be sure that “the moon’s color … was various shades of gray.” The author closes with the hopeful thought that after a long hiatus, we may soon be heading back into space.
A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.
— Kirkus Reviews
“Deep River: A Novel,” by Karl Marlantes (Fiction)
“Tell Me Who We Were: Stories,” by Kate McQuade (fiction)
“How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender,” by Mike Chase (nonfiction)
“The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern,” by Robert Morrison (nonfiction)