It’s no secret: I love a good ghost story. But Katy Simpson Smith’s incantatory debut novel, The Story of Land and Sea, which I reviewed for ELLE’s September issue, replaces the usual gothic bluster with narration that is plainspoken and even puritanical. That’s not to say Smith skimps on the shivers — in rendering a historically faithful portrait of colonial life, she evokes ghosts of many women who died on the North Carolina coast in such detail that the chilly salt air seems to emanate from the page. The world she paints, though populated by pirates and soldiers, is one where harsh reality, not romance, reigns. (After all, these are men who enclose their deceased children in barrels of rum rather than in coffins, for practicality’s sake.) It is stark and beautiful, and a promising start for a novelist whose next tale I can’t wait to read. For now, you can read more of my take on Smith’s first novel here..
Journalist Helen Thorpe’s new book, Soldier Girls, investigates three women National Guard members who signed up for the stateside benefits–some had never traveled outside Indiana–and found themselves in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thorpe tells the full story of how unexpected wartime deployments affected every aspects of their lives: from school and health to family to romance. It’s an entertaining, eye-opening, and vital read.
From skin care to relationships to home decoration to chasing down a literary legend, ELLE’s July issue for me was all about the DIY spirit. I learned a couple of important things–click through (or pick up a copy on newsstands) to read more:
Ever wonder whether lucid dreaming and meditation can help redirect your waking life? I checked out an artsy exploration of the idea at NYC’s Rubin Museum this spring — called a “Dream-Over” — and wrote about it for ELLE.com. Read more here.
I loved Rivka Galchen’s debut story collection, American Innovations, out soon, for two reasons: (1) Many of the stories in it are set in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, so I could picture everything perfectly, and (2) she populates it with subtly paranormal, absurd occurrences–my favorite kind of plot. For more, check out ELLE’s May issue or click here.
San Francisco is the backdrop for some of my favorite thrillers: Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Vertigo. I just got back from a visit there this morning, and I was happy I’d read a new one beforehand: Room author Emma Donoghue’s pitch-perfect, salacious true-crime tale Frog Music. I reviewed it for ELLE’s April issue. To read more, click here.