7 Best-Reviewed Books in May 2019

  • June 4, 2019

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony this past month.

7 Best-Reviewed Books in May 2019

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (Viking). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Purnell deserves much credit for her meticulous research, mining Hall’s surviving correspondence, the memories of comrades-in-arms, and the declassified files of three governments for insights into Hall’s character and exploits. The author never sacrifices precise detail in the interest of furtive liaisons, midnight explosions, narrow escapes, and shocking betrayals, though there are plenty of those. Up to now, the facts about Hall’s life have been far too little known to the public. A Woman of No Importance sets the record straight: It’s a terrific book about an astonishingly brave and accomplished American war hero.”

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Talmage Boston. “True to form, McCullough unfolds the almost-forgotten history in a fast-paced chronological sequence. Why did a small group of Revolutionary War veterans in Massachusetts want to leave their homes in 1787 and head west to the lonely virgin forests of the Ohio Country? So they could receive a measure of compensation for their wartime service, since the government had not paid them. Our fledgling country was insolvent, and its currency had become almost worthless.”

99 Nights in Logar: A Novel by Jamil Jan Kochai (Viking). Reviewed by Fatima Taha. “This novel is the Afghani equivalent of gathering around a warm campfire on a night where the air still has quite a bit of nip to it. You aren’t entirely comfortable, but you’re surrounded by loved ones as you share tales that evoke a spectrum of emotions.”

Malawi’s Sisters: A Novel by Melanie S. Hatter (Four Way Books). Reviewed by Sarah Trembath. “But Malawi’s Sisters is not without joy; it is no dreary story. The novel moves quickly, as its author has that rare gift of saying just enough to keep readers reading and giving enough to make them understand. We truly know the characters, and we believe them as they find agency in the midst of a terrible loss.”

The Murmur of Bees: A Novel by Sofía Segovia; translated by Simon Bruni (Amazon Crossing). Reviewed by Sally Shivnan. “A magical-realism romp from Mexico, Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees — her first novel translated into English — offers a dizzying swirl of history, family lore, tragedy, redemption, and, of course, magic. It’s the kind of magic that Latin American authors have developed to a high and subtle art, and it infuses every page of this saga.”

Everything Is Just Fine: A Novel by Brett Paesel (Grand Central Publishing). Reviewed by Heidi Mastrogiovanni. What is especially remarkable in Paesel’s writing is that, even with so many parents and kids in her story, she honors everyone’s point of view. A harsh and cruel mother is revealed to be that way because of a devastating loss in her past. Another mother who comes across as supremely prim and silly in her emails is shown to be anything but. In the second half of the book, the emails are fewer and farther between as the situations become more earnest. And even when they return, reading them feels different. It’s almost as though it’s the characters’ subtext, not the words, speaking.”

Nothing’s Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon by C.M. Kushins (Da Capo Press). Reviewed by Terry Zobeck. “Nothing’s Bad Luck is [Kushins’] first book, and he has written a sympathetic but unflinching portrait of Zevon. His musical background enables him to write about Zevon’s art with authority and insight. But he does not spare the reader from the unpleasant aspects of Zevon’s alcohol- and drug-fueled behavior that placed tremendous strains on his relationships, many of which did not survive the assault.”

Like what we do? Click here to support the nonprofit Independent!
comments powered by Disqus