Features / Five in Bloom

Five in Bloom: Spring Blooms

by Juhi Singhal Karan

Five in Bloom is relaunching with five books that are coming out this spring! We hope that you’ll take one of these bloomers’ stories along with you as you venture out to enjoy some Vitamin D!

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, The Nest

The Nest makes its appearance on several lists of books to look out for in 2016. According to Bookpage, the four siblings who are at the center of the story, though “spectacularly dysfunctional,” skew more towards “quirky” in the vein of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette rather than being dismal. In its author’s words, the story is about “the one thing all of us inherit simply by being born: our place in a family narrative.” Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s debut comes at age 55 as a result of a late-in-life desire to write fiction. Her previous experience as a copywriter stood in her good stead: “[It] made it easier for me to understand how important revision is. . . . When you’re writing copy for someone’s annual report, you can’t get ego-invested in the result because it doesn’t ‘belong’ to you. I think that helped me be clear-headed about having to cut things from the book that weren’t serving the story, even though I might have loved the pages. I’d let myself feel sorry about it for a few hours and then let it go.”

Guillermo Erades, Back to Moscow

 back to mosow Gullermo Erades

Guillermo Erades, a career diplomat, created the Moscow of his book while sitting inside a fortified compound in modern-day Mesopotamia. He wanted “to write a love story between a main character and a city,” and at the same time “to write an ode to Moscow,” the city where he was first posted in his work with the European Union. He was helped by Chekhov, whose writings he drew inspiration from, to evoke a Moscow that had “a Wild West feeling.” In Erades’s words, “In Baghdad I found resonance in Chekhov’s claustrophobic sense of entrapment, in the historical doom cast over the times he described.” Kirkus Reviews characterized Back to Moscow as “an appealingly chaotic—if familiar—look at the inner life of a young ‘intellectual.’”

Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Lazaretto

Diane McKinney-Whetstone’s Lazaretto travels back in time to tell the story of a group of African Americans whose lives are connected by Lazaretto, a “quarantine hospital [that was] the first stop for immigrants who wish[ed] to begin new lives in Philadelphia.” Lazaretto, according to Booklist, is “a unique blend of poetic language and graphic depictions of the injustices suffered by African Americans in the post–Civil War period.” Her stories are set in Philadelphia, the city she chose as her home because in her words, “I lived out of the city for awhile and spent a lot of time in the car. After I moved back into Philly I realized that I missed the way the city forces you into spaces with strangers, on busses and els for example when you can watch people for the length of the ride, see what happens to their face when they laugh or frown, the pattern of wrinkles. I walk a lot more now and hear snatches of conversation; the rhythms and inflections of human speech are fascinating. You miss that in a car.”

Shawn Vestal, Daredevils

Shawn Vestal’s collection of short stories, Godforsaken Idaho, won him the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. In Daredevils, his first novel, we follow 15-year-old Loretta as she is forced to marry a fundamentalist polygamist, and then later runs away with her husband’s teenage nephew and his best friend. In the words of Scott Cheshire, “Daredevils is a bona fide marvel that pairs two American originals: the complex human drama of Mormonism and the bigger-than-life bravura of 1970s icon Evel Knievel.” Of his writing process Vestal says, “More and more, I recognize the crucial importance of the time I spend away from the keyboard, thinking about what I’m working on, unconsciously preparing for the next burst of writing.”

Click here to read Bloom’s profile on Shawn Vestal

Meg Medina, Burn Baby Burn

Meg Medina has a slew of accolades to her name. In Burn Baby Burn she “tackles burgeoning feminism, first love, disco music, and family violence” to tell the story of Nora Lopez, a high school senior in New York City during the summer of 1977. Medina drew on her own memories of “[New York] city’s almost surreal decay” in the ’70s to write Nora’s story. Stiller, Nora’s African American friend and close ally, was the “hardest” character for Medina, a Latina, to write about. Through Stiller, Medina wanted to explore “the idea that there are many ways to be controlled, put down, discriminated against, so which lens are you looking through?” Booklist called the novel “a stellar piece of historical fiction [that] emphasizes the timeless concerns of family loyalty and personal strength while highlighting important issues that still resonate today.”

Bloom Post End

Homepage photo credit: final count, 365.109 via photopin (license)

One thought on “Five in Bloom: Spring Blooms

  1. I’ll add these books to my wish list. i’m so glad you’re back, both for your reviews and for your concept since I’m an even later bloomer, preparing to publish a memoir later this year at age 82. Unfortunately i find the demands of today’s necessary “platform’ so demanding, (social media, etc.) that there’s no time to read books.

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