–Book Synopses

Suite Harmonic: A Civil War Novel of Rediscovery—In the late 1850’s, a young Irishman, having abandoned his studies for the priesthood, arrives in New Harmony, Indiana in the afterglow of its utopian experiment and soon finds himself both in love with the town’s most alluring woman and immersed in the violence of war. Told with a counterpointing narrative on the homefront and shaped from a wealth of national and local documents, Suite Harmonic: A Civil War Novel of Rediscovery brings a rare intensity and accuracy to an infantryman’s battlefield experience and an immigrant’s fraught quest to find his place in a new land.

Time Stamp: A Novel—A novel that ranges over the subjects of loss, marriage, politics, and art, Time Stamp is a searing depiction of the way parents’ lives affect their children through their untold or barely told stories—things that exist in the ether of family life and persist, yet play out differently on the stage of a new generation. Told in alternating narratives that open in 1911 when eleven-year-old Will Wheelock is on the periphery of a South Carolina lynching, and in 1997 when Will’s daughter, Maddie, is attending a London retrospective of her photographs of refugee camps, Time Stamp encompasses most of the twentieth century. With the trajectory of two arrows aimed at the same target, Will’s story moves forward and Maddie’s backward until they collide in 1972 during Richard Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Hanoi. It is a pivotal moment when Will’s lifetime as a fence-sitting public servant shatters, and Maddie’s true personal and artistic quest begins.

In the Land of the Dinosaur: Ten Stories and a NovellaIn the Land of the Dinosaur is set in 1980s small-town and rural Wisconsin. The title story, which opens the collection, creates its landscape and sets the tone of an insular world buffeted by change. The stories are not connected in terms of action, but place is their great unifier and many of the book’s central characters reappear in the the final piece, a disturbing coming-of-age story, “The Killing.”

The Second Magician’s Tale—When a young woman, trained from childhood in astrology, rejoins a colorful group of traveling players as a replacement for her magician husband, who was lost in an explosion, her precarious state imperils the entire troupe. The Second Magician’s Tale—a novel set in the 1970s and bookended by mirroring calamities—is a story of loss, obsession, and escape.
Watching Oksana and Other StoriesWatching Oksana features disparate voices, most of them speaking from the late twentieth century. The opening group of stories, “What You Do for Love,” is linked thematically, all of its protagonists in uniquely intense yet familiar parent–child relationships. “American Snapshot, 1993” is a stand-alone story in a more experimental vein that takes an oblique look at race. The “Laura” stories feature the same character at different points in her life, the last describing Laura’s dreamlike experience of the death of her mother. In the collection’s final story, “Swimming,” the main character’s desperate wish for a child leaves her emotionally numbed at the loss of her husband.

Watching Oksana and Other Stories features disparate voices, most of them speaking from the late twentieth century. The opening group of stories, “What You Do for Love,” is linked thematically, all of its protagonists in uniquely intense yet familiar parent–child relationships. “American Snapshot, 1993” is a stand-alone story in a more experimental vein that takes an oblique look at race. The “Laura” stories feature the same character at different points in her life, the last one describing Laura’s dreamlike experience of the death of her mother. In the collection’s final story, “Swimming,” the main character’s desperate wish for a child leaves her emotionally numbed at the loss of her husband.

Clare, Loving: A Novel in Three Novellas—Traveling from present-day Chicago to the Bicentennial summer of 1976 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and New Orleans, and then to Minnesota in the late 1950s, Clare, Loving is the story of Clare McHenry, whose mirroring estrangements from her mother and daughter are shaped by the puzzles of religion, men, silence, and the spiraling of time. Given the book’s reverse narration, there is a normal accretion of detail and an added unfolding of layers that carry the reader “forward” to the seminal action. As “Sylvie” opens, Clare has just learned that her daughter, faraway in Texas, has given birth to a son. By the close of “The Nuns on the Roof of St. Peter’s,” ten-year-old Clare has been distanced from her own mother and introduced to the guilt that roils her later life. In the intervening section, “The Beautiful Ships,” Clare pursues a passionate, secret, and disastrous affair with the unexpected man who becomes Sylvie’s father.

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