THE TIGER’S WIFE by Tea Obreht

This spectacular debut novel by the talented Téa Obreht, is narrated mostly through the voice of young Natalia Stefanovi. Shortly after the novel opens, we learn that Natalia has followed in her grandfather’s footsteps and studied medicine. Just recently done with medical school, she has taken on a volunteer assignment to inoculate children in an orphanage in a small seaside village called Brejevina. The book is set in a war-ravaged country in the Balkans, quite possibly Obreht’s native Croatia. Brejevina, Natalia explains, “is forty kilometers east of the new border.”

March 10, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Allegory/Fable, Balkans, Debut Novel

SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell

In her hotly-anticipated debut novel, SWAMPLANDIA!, Karen Russell returns to the mosquito-droves and muggy-haze of the Florida Everglades and the gator-themed amusement park featured in her short story, “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” that opened her widely-praised 2006 collection, ST. LUCY’S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES. It was that collection, with its exuberant mix of satire and fabulism, that secured Russell’s reputation as one of the most exciting up-and-comers around and earned her a coveted spot on The New Yorker’s much buzzed about “20 under 40” list last fall. With her energetic prose, quirky settings, and fantastical plots, Russell is a writer’s whose style forces you to sit up and take notice, sometimes at the cost of emotional involvement with her work. However, Swamplandia!, with all its flashing-neon prose is an insightful (and surprisingly funny) exploration of the loss of innocence that inevitably follows the death of a parent.

February 2, 2011 · Judi Clark · 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Family Matters, Florida, Humorous, Unique Narrative


If UNDER FISHBONE CLOUDS doesn’t attain the high readership it deserves, there is no justice. It’s quite simply one of the most lavishly imagined, masterfully researched, exquisitely written contemporary novels I’ve read. And if that sounds as if I’m gushing…well, it’s probably because I am.

December 7, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, China, Facing History, Family Matters, World Lit


Michele Young-Stone’s debut novel, THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHNING STRIKE SURVIVORS has, at its premise, the impact of lightning strikes on people and their loved ones. It is primarily about a young woman named Becca who comes from a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic mother and a philandering father. It is also about Buckley who loves his mother very much but is filled with guilt and remorse about his life.

November 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Humorous, New York City, US South

THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN by Carolina de Robertis

THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN is a gem of a novel, grounded in actual history, with a dollop of magical realism, a splash of Dickensian coincidence, with some forbidden romance and political intrigue added to the mix.

The novel opens at the turn of the 20th century in a remote Uruguayan village, when a baby is spirited away and then reappears, a year later, unharmed in the branches of a tree. The young one is named Pajarita – translated to little bird – and the narrative, divided into three sections, sequentially focuses on her, her daughter Eva, and her granddaughter Salome.

October 9, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Debut Novel, Facing History, Latin American/Caribbean, Reading Guide, South America


Ever since the publication of her story collection,THE GIRL IN THE FLAMMABLE SKIRT, Aimee Bender has established herself as a writer of minimalist magic realism, a description that seems contradictory given the lush prose of the founding father of magic realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the emotional adjective-laden writing of popular American author Alice Hoffman. But Aimee Bender has claimed her niche as a writer who tells stories the way we pass on fairy tales to our children: spare plots that contain wondrous images and, ultimately, wisdom. Her plots center on one or two magic elements in an otherwise ordinary world. In her latest novel, THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE, Bender focuses on narrator Rose, a girl who learns, to her horror, that she can taste the emotions of those who cooked or grew her food, whether that person is her desperate mother or the farmer who grew the organic lettuce in her salad. As Rose matures along with her “gift,” she learns about the peculiar history of her family and gains insight into her odd brother Joseph, who suffers, too, but in a wholly different manner.

June 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide