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The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.
The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of November 8 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, The Chosen One, by Echo Brown. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, November 15
★ Beasts of a Little Land, by Juhea Kim
Covering most of the twentieth century across the Korean peninsula, Kim’s debut novel wondrously reveals broken families and surprising alliances created by uncontrollable circumstances. Kim links multiple narrative prongs, effortlessly navigating overlaps and disconnects. Korea remains under Japan’s ruthless occupation in 1917, which lasts until WWII’s end in 1945. Many interactions between the colonizer and the controlled are horrific, but a fateful snowy night forces a Japanese officer and a starving hunter to form a bond. That mutual salvation will, decades later, both rescue then condemn the hunter’s son. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jade is initially offered as a servant then sold as an apprentice to renowned courtesan Silver. Jade grows up with Silver’s two daughters, Luna and Lotus, until Luna is mercilessly raped by a Japanese major and the trio is sent to Seoul to be nurtured and trained by Silver’s cousin Dani. Jade and Lotus blossom as accomplished, independent women, for a while thoroughly in charge of their hearts, bodies, and talents. Jade’s friendship with JungHo, a street orphan when they meet as children, will bolster them both for lifetimes.
Tuesday, November 16
★ Junkwraith, written and illustrated by Ellinor Richey
A story of memory, belonging, patience, and oddly enough, recycling, Junkwraith follows teenage Florence as she struggles to connect to friends and the world around her. In Richey’s futuristic world, everyone has a tiny personal AI called a Juju, and throwing things away improperly is forbidden. Florence finds that out firsthand when she tosses her brand-new skates in a fit of frustration and creates an angry spirit called a junkwraith, which curses her to start forgetting things. Readers follow her adventure as she traverses the Wastes in search of the Cave of Recovery, while braving her own fears to save herself and learn how to resolve the spirit. Side characters like Octavia the librarian, Horatio the pirate, and Duchamp the law officer flesh out the inventive setting and provide hints about the past and how the world became what it is now.
Wednesday, November 17
★ Mothers, Fathers, and Others: New Essays, by Siri Hustvedt
Hustvedt is a transporting storyteller, whether she’s writing her many-faceted novels, most recently Memories of the Future (2019), or her electrifying essays. This richly stirring and resonant collection begins with a portrait of her tough-minded Norwegian immigrant grandmother and segues into musings on what children inherit and absorb. The architecture of Hustvedt’s sentences is at once weight-bearing and fluid, as when a paragraph-long sentence embodies the openness of fields and sea as she remembers her mother. Looping in her daughter, Hustvedt considers the bonds between women over the generations, rejects “sentimental nonsense” about motherhood, and, in a tour de force, excavates the deep, gripping roots of misogyny. Hatred for and resentment of women has distorted every aspect of life, including medicine, which is stymied by sexism in many ways, such as scientists’ failure to fully grasp the intricate and wondrous symbiosis of pregnancy.
Thursday, November 18
★ Fox: A Circle of Life Story, by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus
The creators of Moth (2019) take on the often-avoided part of the life cycle: death. As a child and mother holding an infant walk through snowy woods, an omniscient narrator beseeches the reader, in lightly rhyming text, to follow another creature. Set against the crisp, white background, a fox, in mixed-media reds and oranges that give it beautiful, textured fur, hunts prey for her cubs. On Fox’s return, a whiteout foreshadows her fate. But first, spring arrives, and energetic verbs describe the three cubs playing and learning to catch their own food. Soon, it’s time for them to follow Fox across the road to test their skills in the woods. While the vulpine family heads back to the den after a successful hunt, the evocative whiteout occurs again. This time readers know the source is car headlights; Fox is hit and tossed to the side of the road. The cubs continue their life patterns; however, but Fox’s importance isn’t over. As her body decomposes through autumn and winter, every particle is used by insects and the soil.
Friday, November 19
★ Life, I Swear: Intimate Stories from Black Women on Identity, Healing, and Self-Trust, by Chloe Dulce Louvouezo
Prominent Black women from around the world open up and divulge some of their most vulnerable moments of healing and life lessons. Inspired by Louvouezo ’s podcast, Life, I Swear, this essay collection gives in-depth insight into Black women healing themselves. Each page and photograph celebrates not only how each writer has come to learn the deeper parts of herself, but also how they all hope that their vulnerability and transparency will inspire other women to do the same. The stories detail the pain, grief, and triumph it takes for Black women to do the inner work to reach their highest selves. A buffet of spirituality practices also serves as a common denominator most contributors credit with guiding them on their journeys. The narratives are honest and heartfelt with affection sliding off the page and into the heart of the reader.
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