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S.M.C.'s Reviews

Susan McCloskey has worked at Bookshop Santa Cruz since graduating from UCSC in 2000. She is the former Event Coordinator at Bookshop and continues to consult for the store. In her other life, she is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She believes in story, and loves the meld of working with books, narrative, and people.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

There is something delightful in growing to love a curmudgeon. Gail Honeyman has us see the world through Eleanor Oliphant’s eyes. Quirky, prudish, and filled with dry wit, the world seems a bit askew and awfully rigid as Eleanor moves through it. But a chance encounter in which she is forced into helping a stranger starts Eleanor on a journey of discovering the beauty in relationship. Honeyman slowly unveils the tragedy behind how Eleanor became Eleanor. This book had me intermittently laughing, cheering, and tearing. - S.M.C.

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735220683
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - May 9th, 2017

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

I was drawn to this novel by its premise…a little boy who repeats a tale of such confusion and chaos that those around him are unsure of whether to suspect abuse or an early diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia.  Yet as the novel continues, we understand that the boy is in fact remembering—trying desperately to understand his present day life, with the life that he had before.  Interweaving actual documentation of reincarnation by children who seem to be able to report data and substantiated facts of the life they lived before, Guskin weaves together a wonderful tale that is at once a murder-mystery, a depiction of love and loss, and an active questioning of the clarity between past and present. The topics that are touched in this novel are fodder for Bookgroups, and while this is a page-turner, it is also a literary debut that brings to front the scope of just how much we do not know. - S.M.C.

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The Forgetting Time: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250118714
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Flatiron Books - February 7th, 2017

Antelope Woman by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich first published this title as The Antelope Wife in 1998, but on a road trip she was hit with an understanding that she had to go back to the novel, and rewrite it: one of her protagonists was demanding a different perspective. The result is this new shape-shift of a novel, published in 2016, and now titled Antelope Woman. Weaving in and out between present day and history, as well as the urban city versus the remote reservation, Erdrich tells the story of Klaus Shawano who abducts Sweetheart Calico, an Ojibwe woman who is as alluring as she is mysterious. As the story continues, we see how this one act is actually a culmination of history in the making, as unbeknownst to Klaus, his family as long been intertwined with that of Sweetheart’s. Erdrich writes in her foreword to this rewritten novel that Sweetheart is her “wise wildness”—and oh how the novel captures that. A completely mesmerizing tale of the collision between love and obsession, mothers and daughters, white and indigenous, past and present, magic and reality, and humor and tragedy, bookgroups will be stunned by how one seemingly haphazard act reveals itself to be a beautiful tale of interconnection and history. - S.M.C.

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Antelope Woman: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062375285
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - October 25th, 2016

Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author best known for his journalism as a war correspondent. Now retired, he has written a more personal story, one that he waited a half century to tell. At 19, as a sailor aboard the USS Shangri-La, stationed in Japan shortly after the United States had dropped its nuclear bombs, he met Kaji Yukiko, a Japanese woman 10 years his senior. With her, he saw firsthand the complexity of the effects of the war as well as the complexity of a redemptive love without a happy ending. This poignant memoir bridges time, culture, and distance. This quiet and vivid memoir is one of the best I have read in years. —S.M.C.


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Please Enjoy Your Happiness: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501151255
Availability: Hard to Find - Believed to be Out of Stock Indefinitely
Published: Touchstone - August 2nd, 2016


Brittany Maynard was not yet 30 when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She became famous through her advocating for the right to end her own life. Wild and Precious Life is her mother’s story, a poignant memoir in which we see a life lived to the fullest, we witness a mother who struggles to support the decision her daughter has made, and we watch how one family’s intimate decision transforms a nation’s dialogue about choice in end-of-life decision making. This is a story about life and how fierce and enduring we can be when we look fully at all that comes.                                                              —S.M.C.

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Wild and Precious Life Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501128516
Availability: Hard to Find - Believed to be Out of Stock Indefinitely
Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books - October 25th, 2016

Body of Water by Chris Dombrowki

Using his talent for careful observation and in lyrical and taut language, Chris Dombrowski turns his eye toward fly-fishing for the ever-elusive bonefish in the Caribbean. But the story in this book is not what it seems, and through tales of David, one of the island’s oldest sea guides, comes a story of two men at the opposite ends of life. Together they witness a wounded landscape, an environment that is needing to adapt and survive at a hastened pace; and they find the deep wisdom that can come from sharing nature in its pure form. For fans of Terry Tempest Williams, this is your next read. —S.M.C.


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Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Alluring Fish Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313522
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Milkweed Editions - October 18th, 2016

What Becomes Us by Micah Perks

What Becomes Us is one of those delicious novels that immediately places you into a world of narrative glory, stunning setting, and characters so bold and original that the cadence of their voices fill your every thought. When Evie, pregnant with twins, moves across the country to escape her controlling husband, she ends up in Lonely Rincon, New York, made famous by its historical significance as the location where (real-life) settler Mary Rowlandson was held captive by Native Americans in 1682. Perks weaves together the facts of Rowlandson’s story with Evie’s journey toward independence and acceptance. The novel is part ghost story, part love story, and most of all, a wonderful, wonderful read.  —S.M.C.


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What Becomes Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9781937402983
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Outpost19 - October 4th, 2016

My Sunshine Away By M.O. Walsh

This book grabbed me from the beginning and left me stunned by its penetrable depths at the ways light and shadow can interweave so explicably during adolescence. A coming-of-age story with a twist; set in Southern Louisiana, we meet a 14-year-old boy who is overly taken by his first love. When a violent crime breaks into the reality of the boy’s romance, first love becomes a point of suspect and intrigue and no one is left untouched. This is storytelling at its best, where mystery, innocence, memory, and truth collide in ways that leave nothing unturned. Book groups will have plenty to discuss. In the end, My Sunshine Away makes us reexamine how childhood shapes us into who we are and who we aren’t. It calls to examine the singular edge that exists in the juxtaposition of holding on tightly to one’s dreams, next to the way the deep pull of nostalgia can lead us astray from our truth. This is a captivating read. —S.M.C.
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My Sunshine Away Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425278109
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - April 5th, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry By Frederik Backman

This is one of those warm-hearted books that still packs a literary punch. Elsa is seven years old and quirky. She struggles making friends her own age because she’s just as concerned about their using proper grammar as she is about their ability to make up a rousing imaginative game. Here, we might refer to her as an “old soul,” but in Elsa’s world she is known as weird and odd. Elsa survives her loneliness because her grandmother stands in as Elsa’s best friend. Granny is a firecracker of feelings and impulses. She shoots at people with paint balls, dances when the moment takes her, and has no problem giving her opinion regardless of the social setting. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, Elsa is cast into the role of delivering letters of apologies to all the people Granny affronted while alive. With a flurried pace of wild narrative and incredible setting, this book had me laughing and tearing sentences apart. In some ways, this is a story of one child’s passage through grief, but it is also a depiction of the highlights of life and how being ourselves is really the only way to forge a connection. A beautiful and lasting story.  —S.M.C.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501115073
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Washington Square Press - April 5th, 2016

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich’s last novel, the National Book Award winner The Round House, was so spectacular that I didn’t think LaRose could come close to measuring up, and oh, how I was wrong. Erdrich’s mastery of language and character are evident in every word, but it is her gift of understanding the complexity of interconnectedness that stands out. No deed goes unmarked, whether it be a gift or a mistake, a prayer, or a betrayal. Erdrich dissolves the notion of ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’—she proves that each of us affects the other and that with that understanding, every choice is an act of endurance, toward completion, toward being, toward living. This will be a book you return to again and again.  —S.M.C.


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