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Father of the Rain by Lily King

'Father of the Rain' By Lily King

A review by Wendy Smith

Lily King won a well-deserved raft of honors, including the prestigious Whiting Writer's Award, for her first two novels, The Pleasing Hour and The English Teacher, and her latest is just as sensitive and perceptive. Indeed, this harrowing chronicle of Daley Amory's 34-year struggle to come to grips with her impossible father may be her best yet.

It's not just that Gardiner Amory is an alcoholic with a nasty temper. It's not just that he's a bigot who comments when he sees Daley with a book by Judy Blume, "You're always reading the Jews. Just like your mother." It's not just that he mocks any achievement of Daley's or her older brother Garvey's that doesn't involve sports. It's not just that he reads aloud an explicit letter in Penthouse Forum to his 11-year-old daughter and the 6-year-old daughter of his new wife Catherine, goes skinny-dipping in front of them and lets them see him fondling Catherine's breasts in the pool.

The worst thing about this adult man with the self...



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Anthill by Edward Osborne Wilson

Imagine what it would be like to read Anthill without knowing that the author, Edward O. Wilson, is an eminent, innovative, often controversial Harvard biologist who has written more than 20 groundbreaking nonfiction books and won two Pulitzer Prizes. As though we didn't know that Wilson has raised ...


The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

(Editor's Note: Elizabeth Kostova will be appearing at our Burnside store, Wednesday, January 27th, at 7:30pm. Please join us!)Elizabeth Kostova made her fiction debut with a bestselling bang in 2005 with The Historian, a spooky tale about the real-life model for Dracula and an ominous book whose...


Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff's short story "Bullet in the Brain" has remained lodged in mine for many years, not just because he kills a literary critic in it (with the puckish implication that what goes around comes around), but because it exhibits so cleanly what the best stories do: range outward from the...


Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon

Wartime Sarajevo, Bosnia, early 1990s, as reported by a character in Aleksandar Hemon's novel The Lazarus Project: The electricity, out for months at a stretch, would return intermittently, bringing the lights and radios and televisions that had been left on suddenly to life. But the power grid...


Columbine by Dave Cullen

When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, wearing black dusters and T-shirts emblazoned "NATURAL SELECTION" and "WRATH," went on the shooting and pipe-bomb rampage in 1999 that killed 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., it hardly should have been a surprise...


A Hidden Life by Johanna Reiss

In the eyes of the world, there may only be one girl named Anne who spent her childhood in Holland hidden away from the Nazis. (Had a friend not given me a copy of Harry Mulisch's The Assault, the account of the seven days of Hitler's siege on the Netherlands, I probably would have continued to...


The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

In 1998, before the clarifying attacks of 2001 shocked the West into higher gear in its anti-terror efforts, Dexter Filkins was a reporter making trips into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Among the things he witnessed was a public execution at a Kabul soccer stadium, a sanctioned revenge killing...


Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante by Lily Tuck

Italy's decay under the Mussolini dictatorship from the 1920s until the twilight of World War II is one of history's most poisoned chapters. The Fascist demagogue emulated Hitler's mass persecution of Jews, warping the society as wartime retrenchments spread poverty and fear. On Easter Sunday, 1941,...


The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick

[Ed. note: This review covers two books, The Forger's Spell and The Man Who Made Vermeers.] Published within three months of each other, these two wildly contrasting books about Dutch forger Han van Meegeren strikingly demonstrate that attitude indelibly shapes content. In The Forger's Spel...


Travel Writing by Peter Ferry

Will the real Peter Ferry please stand up? Peter Ferry No. 1 lives in Evanston. He has been a textbook author, a travel writer, and a creative-writing teacher at Lake Forest High School. He has now written his first novel, Travel Writing, with a protagonist named Peter Ferry, a former textbook...


Thirty-eight Witnesses (08 Edition) by A. M. Rosenthal

The Garden of Last Days: A Novel by Andre Dubus III

A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade by Christopher Benfey

Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff

The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America by Susan Faludi


More Than Three Decades of Quality Writing and Criticism

The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. To learn about how to join, click here.

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