Monday, August 27, 2012

Kate M. Is Recommending...

Author Gretchen Waters made a name for herself with her bestseller "Tammyland"--a memoir about her divorce and her admiration for country music icons Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton that was praised as a "honky-tonk "Eat, Pray, Love."" But her writing career is cut abruptly short when she dies from a fall down a set of stone library steps. It is a tragic accident and no one suspects foul play, certainly not Gretchen's best friend from college, Jamie, who's been named the late author's literary executor.

But there's an unfinished manuscript Gretchen left behind that is much darker than "Tammyland" a book ostensibly about male country musicians yet centered on a murder in Gretchen's family that haunted her childhood. In its pages, Gretchen seems to be speaking to Jamie from beyond the grave--suggesting her death was no accident . . . and that Jamie must piece together the story someone would kill to keep untold.

Tuesdays with Morrie meets Bill Bryson in Visiting Tom, another witty, poignant, and stylish paean to living in New Auburn, Wisconsin, from Michael Perry. The author of Population: 485, Coop, and Truck: A Love Story, Perry takes us along on his uplifting visits with his octogenarian neighbor one valley over—and celebrates the wisdom, heart, and sass of a vanishing generation that embodies the indomitable spirit of small-town America.

What can we learn about life, love, and artillery from an eighty-two-year-old man whose favorite hobby is firing his homemade cannons? Visit by visit—often with his young daughters in tow—author Michael Perry is about to find out.

Toiling in a shop Perry describes as "an antique store stocked by Rube Goldberg, curated by Hunter Thompson, and rearranged by a small earthquake," Tom Hartwig makes gag shovel handles, parts for quarter-million-dollar farm equipment, and—now and then—batches of potentially "extralegal" explosives. As he approaches his sixtieth wedding anniversary with his wife, Arlene, Tom, famous for driving a team of oxen in local parades, has an endless reservoir of stories dating back to days of his prize Model A, and an anti-authoritarian streak refreshed daily by the four-lane interstate that was shoved through his front yard in 1965 and now dumps over 8 million vehicles past his kitchen window every year. And yet Visiting Tom is dominated by the elderly man's equanimity and ultimately—when he and Perry converse over the kitchen table as husbands and as the fathers of daughters—unvarnished tenderness.

From the unparalleled imagination of award-winning author Jeffrey Ford come twenty short stories (one, "The Wish Head," written expressly for this collection) that boldly redefine the world. Crackpot Palace is a sumptuous feast of the unexpected--an unforgettable journey that will carry readers to amazing places, though at times the locales may seem strangely familiar, almost like home. Whether he's tracking ghostly events on the border of New Jersey's mysterious Pine Barrens or following a well-equipped automaton general into battle, giving a welcome infusion of new blood to the hoary vampire trope or exposing the truth about what "really" went down on Dr. Moreau's Island of Lost Souls, Jeffrey Ford has opened a door into a dark and fantastic realm where dream and memory become one.

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