Kingdom of Bones, by James Rollins

Kingdom of Bones, by James Rollins (William Morrow, 435 pages)

Jim Czajkowski — you might know him by his pen name, James Rollins — writes about viruses with such authority you might think he has a secret medical degree. That’s almost right.

He was a veterinarian in California before his side gig as a novelist became so successful that he couldn’t do both anymore. He told a veterinary trade publication that at one point he was working 15 hours a day at his veterinary practice while writing a novel a year in between appointments.

Now he’s written 23 novels by himself and co-authored five others. His latest is Kingdom of Bones, the 16th in what is known as his “Sigma Force” series, named for the covert team of highly trained specialists — Rollins has called them “scientists with guns” — called in to save the world from various perils. (Think the Avengers, without the otherworldliness, and with a military war dog.)

The story involves a mysterious malady that emerges in Africa and threatens the human race, which Rollins is somewhat apologetic about, given the ongoing pandemic. He writes in an author’s note that he pitched the book before Covid-19 and had reservations about going forward with the project, saying “it felt insensitive to tackle such a subject at this moment, to seek to entertain with ‘plague fiction’ when the world was suffering.”

He worried needlessly; the book never once feels exploitative, and in fact is at its most interesting when Rollins expounds on topics with relevance to Covid, such as the fact that “Each hour, some thirty-three million viral particles cascade onto every square meter of this planet.” And the fact that some scientists believe that “ancient viral invasions” may comprise up to 80 percent of the human genome. (I could have done without this knowledge; it is far better to think we are made of stardust than viral mutations.)

This is the sort of information that Rollins scatters throughout the story, making Kingdom of Bones a thriller that is deeply intelligent.

It begins in the Congo, where a cadre of large, angry winged ants are floating in floodwater and making their way onto land, where they are attacking humans in a refugee camp with unusual ferocity. While some people who are bitten appear unaffected, others fall into a catatonic state. Before all of the people can be evacuated, the camp is also overrun by a band of aggressive baboons, creatures that had previously been shy around humans but suddenly seemed set on destroying them.

As if this isn’t chaos enough, a band of militants bursts onto the scene and abducts the handful of people that they don’t kill, including a mother and her now catatonic baby, who had been bitten by the ants. All this sets up the bat signal to flash for the Sigma Force and Commander Gray Pierce to step in and try to figure out why animals are suddenly becoming more bloodthirsty and cunning — even moths are turning deadly. As one young doctor says, “It’s as if all of Nature is about to turn against us.”

As the team tries to discover what is infecting the animals, they encounter killer bats, jackals, aardwolves (an animal that looks like a striped hyena and eats insects), and even hippopotamuses that seem to have been weaponized. This leads to snappy dialogue like “We’re about to play the worst game of Hungry Hungry Hippos,” but fortunately, that sort of banter is limited, as is the side story about a sinister mining executive who may or may not have a hand in what’s going on.

Rollins’ prose is generally sophisticated, certainly for the genre, although I confess there came a point where I started rolling my eyes every time a character’s eyes or face “shone.” But that’s more a problem of the editors, not the writer.

I should note that while many of the Sigma Force characters were featured in previous books, Kingdom of Bones works as a stand-alone novel; you don’t have to know the history of the force (I didn’t) although Rollins says the characters evolve throughout the series. I also suspect the book would be easier to digest knowing some backstories. Although the plot is easy enough to follow, the characters are many and complex.

Although the book is somewhat moralistic (ye climate deniers, stay away), and wanders slightly into The Overstory territory toward the end, it doesn’t feel preachy. It’s a solid summer read that raises interesting questions about whether the world at some point will rear back and retaliate for the damage we’ve done to it. (And here I’m not talking about climate but pesticides and exposed power lines.)

Also, it has an opening line that dares us not to read more: “The Reverend William Sheppard silently recited the Lord’s prayer as he waited for the cannibal to finish filing his teeth.” Five stars for that opener, four for the rest of the book. B

Book Notes

Endurance athlete Cameron Hanes is probably the opposite of what we think of when we hear the word “bookish.”

His passion is bowhunting in Alaska and to be prepared for it he runs ultramarathons (200-plus miles) in the mountains. According to his publisher, his goal is to become the “ultimate predator.” In the zombie apocalypse, you want to be on this guy’s team. Somehow, however, he found time to sit down and type things, resulting in a book, Endure: How to Work Hard, Outlast and Keep Hammering (St. Martin’s Press, 336 pages), that’s selling well this month.

If you like to be outside in ways that are a little less extreme, check out Outdoor Kids in an Inside World (Random House, 208 pages) by Steven Rinella.

That’s not to say that Rinella isn’t a man of extremes; he is also the author of 2020’s The MeatEater Guide to Wilderness Skills and Survival (Random House, 464 pages) and host of a Netflix show called MeatEater. But his new book encourages families to get “radically engaged with nature.” I’m not a big fan of hunting, but the opening pages, wherein he describes butchering a deer his 10-year-old had shot, and then feeding the fat to the birds, was rather riveting.

Also out this month to help us channel our inner woodsman, there’s The Rugged Life: The Modern Guide to Self-Reliance (Rodale, 272 pages) by Clint Emerson, a retired Navy SEAL who reminds us of another Emerson (Ralph Waldo) and his call for a “greater self-reliance.”

Got to confess, the title of The Rugged Life is not nearly as compelling as that of Emerson’s first book, 2015’s 100 Deadly Skills. But he promises to teach three essential skills: how to build, how to farm and how to hunt. Pretty good for 272 pages.

And if you’re not too tired after all that, check out The Workout Bucket List (Running Press, 400 pages), Greg Pesto’s compilation of more than 300 “life-changing races, epic challenges and incredible hikes, bikes, lifts and runs” to do before you die. And yes, some are in New Hampshire: he recommends various Pinkham Notch hikes and a climb up Mount Washington.

If you haven’t already figured this out yet, one of these titles might make an excellent Father’s Day gift. Not that women won’t enjoy them, too.


Book Events

Author events

TAMMY SOLLENBERGER Author presents The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Wed., June 1, 6 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

JAMIE RASKIN Author and congressman presents Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Fri., June 3, 11 a.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

PAUL DOIRON Author presents Hatchet Island. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Wed., June 29, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

SARAH MCCRAW CROW Author presents The Wrong Kind of Woman. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., July 19, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

CASEY SHERMAN Author presents Helltown. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Sun., Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit underthemadnessmagazine.com for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.

Out of the Corner, by Jennifer Grey

Out of the Corner, by Jennifer Grey (Ballantine, 335 pages)

She had the time of her life. I’m sorry, but it had to be said.

There’s no other way to sum up the gilded, glossy existence of actress Jennifer Grey (best-known for Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), her much publicized problems with her nose notwithstanding.

I came to Grey’s new memoir, Out of the Corner, with exceedingly low expectations, having read too many celebrity memoirs that exist only because the authors are famous. Shockingly, it turns out that Grey can actually write and has entertaining things to say. Granted, some chapters are more riveting than others — she charges out of the starting gate with an essay on her plastic surgery that’s as good as anything I’ve read in months.

Things necessarily slow down when she fills us in on, say, middle school — there’s really no one famous enough to make me care about what their life was like when they had braces and acne. But even then her life was interesting enough (naked people in a hot tub at Larry Hagman’s house, anybody?) to drag us through the wonder years to return to the interesting stuff.

Grey is the daughter of Academy Award performer Joel Grey and Jo Wilder, and the granddaughter of Mickey Katz. She admits that this star lineage earned her “a certain degree of warmth right out of the gate” whenever she met someone in New York or L.A. In New York, she recalls her parents giving star-studded dinner parties and going to a grand Christmas party each year where famous musicians, actors and directors would stand around a grand piano robustly singing show tunes — accompanied by Stephen Sondheim.

“So even though we were Jews and didn’t have our own Christmas tree, we did okay,” she writes in an understated style.

Her parents led glamorous lives and were often gone for weeks, but were fiercely devoted to their family (which included Grey’s younger brother who was adopted). But for all of Grey’s fond memories, there are glimmers of dysfunction — her mother, for example, would at times walk around the house naked in front of her daughter, once told her that she’d tried to commit suicide by putting her head in an oven, and once told Grey that her brother was beautiful but she was “interesting looking.”

It seems like stuff you tell to a therapist, not put out in the world, but it makes for interesting reading, even though it’s unclear what Grey’s motives are, given that her parents, now divorced, are still alive and she doesn’t seem to hate them.

Side note: Grey’s father, who recently turned 90, came out as gay in 2015 at the age of 82. But in her memoir, Jennifer Grey explains how she and her mother found out years before: when the mother of Matthew Broderick, whom Grey was dating at the time, told her.

“It was like a sniper attack,” Grey writes, saying the knowledge “rattled me to my core” — not because of his sexuality, but because of the deception. It was heartache, she wrote, to know that he had to hide an important piece of his life from the people who loved him.

Out of the Corner is filled with deeply personal revelations like that — often wrapped in a tale about a Hollywood superstar. And she provides a backstage pass to all her movies, telling, for example, how she was cast before Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing and had not wanted him to get the part.

But that isn’t why the book is good. It’s good simply on the strength of its writing, which sent me digging through the acknowledgements to see if there was a hidden ghostwriter. Apparently there was not; although Grey credits an editor, Barbara Jones, who worked closely with her, she says that the novelist Dani Sharpiro told her she needed to write the book herself. (Is there anyone she doesn’t know?)

There are also surprisingly mature themes running through the memoir, such as Grey’s mother’s increasing unhappiness as she sets her own talent and ambition aside to support her husband’s career. “I come from a long line of women who became mothers and wives at the expense of the career they wanted.” That said, Grey herself got married and became a mother at the age of 41, an experience, she writes, “that far exceeded my wildest dreams.”

About that nose — Grey writes that her mother’s attitude was “In case of emergency, break nose” and that when she was young, “I had always felt like my nose needed protection, like a kid sister who regularly got bullied on the schoolyard. I was my nose’s keeper.”

But Grey liked how she looked, and she only succumbed to pressure to have it altered after a surgeon told her that a deviated septum had her breathing at only 20 percent of normal capacity. Two procedures later, it did not go well; on a plane, Michael Douglas (there she goes again) didn’t recognize her. A woman working an airline counter looked at her ID and said, “I’ve seen Dirty Dancing a dozen times. I know Jennifer Grey. And you are not her.”

Grey now seems to be deeply at peace with her nose and her life, and for someone who has seen Larry Hagman naked in a hot tub, seems to be shockingly well adjusted, and even, dare I say, wise. Her book is an unexpected summer pleasure, though it helps if you’ve seen the movies. A

Book Notes

The fiction winner has a title that sounds like a Borat movie: The Netanyahus: An Account of A Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family (New York Review Books, 248 pages).

Joshua Cohen’s novel is described as historical fiction, which assigns way too much gravitas to a novel that looks more to be a merry romp through history enlivened by imagination. I plan to read it not because of the Pulitzer, but because of its title.

Yet someone left a one-star review on Amazon and wrote: “Clueless author.” That didn’t age well.

The Pulitzer for biography went to the late Winfred Rembert — and his “as told to” co-author Erin I. Kelly — forChasing Me to My Grave, an Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South (Bloomsbury, 304 pages). The book intersperses photographs of Rembert’s art with his stories of growing up in Georgia in abject poverty amid undisguised racism, his time in prison and his evolution into an acclaimed artist.

No one could vilify this poignant remembrance or author, but there were only 80 ratings on Amazon, an astonishingly low number, compared to, say, 19,000-plus for Stephanie Myers’ Twilight and 23,800 for Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here.

Finally, the prize for general nonfiction went to Andrea Elliott, a staff writer for The New York Times who spent eight years following the life of a homeless Brooklyn child named Dasani. The resulting book is Invisible Child, Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City(Random House, 624 pages).

This one fared better with Amazon readers — 910 ratings, many of whom followed Dasani’s story as it was serialized in the Times. And most found the book engrossing, despite its formidable length. There were Pulitzers awarded for history and poetry, as well, but these three merit your attention — no matter what anyone on Amazon says.


Book Events

Author events

JAMIE RASKIN Author and congressman presents Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Fri., June 3, 11 a.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

R.W.W. GREENE Author presents Mercury Rising. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Fri., May 20, 5:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

TAMMY SOLLENBERGER Author presents The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Wed., June 1, 6 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

PAUL DOIRON Author presents Hatchet Island. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Wed., June 29, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

SARAH MCCRAW CROW Author presents The Wrong Kind of Woman. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., July 19, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

CASEY SHERMAN Author presents Helltown. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Sun., Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit underthemadnessmagazine.com for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

What We Wish Were True, by Tallu Schuyler Quinn

What We Wish Were True, by Tallu Schuyler Quinn (Convergent, 187 pages)

After Tallu Schuyler Quinn was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2020, she started a journal on Caring Bridge, a website where people struggling with an illness (or their families) can share updates on their condition.

It’s hard to see how she had time — or frankly, the capacity — to write.

Quinn, who had just turned 40 when she became ill, was the leader of a nonprofit she had founded a decade earlier, the Nashville Food Project, and was married with two young children. Her diagnosis was stage IV glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and doctors removed a tumor “the size of a big meaty fist.” The surgery extended her life slightly but also knocked out part of her vision and some of the gray matter that processes words.

“Almost overnight I have had to let a lot of things go,” Quinn wrote. “I’m not cooking as much, I can’t drive any longer, my gardens are overgrown, I can’t really help my kids with their schoolwork, and my own writing comes with a new difficulty and requires a new effort.”

Her cancer battle was relatively short; Quinn died in February. Unlike another young mother and author with a stage IV cancer diagnosis, Kate Bowler (Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved), she didn’t get to see her finished book, which is a collection of short essays about her life, her work and her dying.

It’s a surprisingly upbeat book, given the subject and Quinn’s frank disclosures about her deteriorating condition and her profound grief. She believed in God and even had a master’s degree from a seminary, but was not willing to go gently into the dark night. But she found a way to be grateful for life even as she grieved how the tumors “mix me up in these sad and terrible ways.” She writes of wailing her thanks to God as salty tears poured into her mouth. Whatever the tumors took from her, they left the gift of poetry.

Although Quinn had earned a degree in papermaking and bookbinding, before cancer, she had not planned on being a writer. “After graduating from seminary, with a diploma in hand from a reputable institution, I did what any promising ministerial student would do: I moved to Boston with my friends and started working at a grocery store.” On the night shift, stocking shelves and throwing out aging meat, she started thinking about food waste and spent resources and the immorality of it all. These ideas would later percolate as part of her vision to feed hungry people in Tennessee, but first she spent six months working in Nicaragua, witnessing the kind of need that many Americans never encounter. She tells a wonderful story of a ride in a truck where they kept stopping to pick up people who asked if they could catch a ride, too. “If there’s only one thing I understand from living there, it’s that no expectation of how much I can carry or ask another to carry for me is too swollen,” she writes. It’s apropos of nothing, and everything at the same time.

This is stage IV brain cancer: Weight gain from steroids. Acne. Nausea. Nasal passages so dry they bleed. Constant bruising. Itchy skin. Sleepless nights. Lost words. Confusion. Prayers offered in tears instead of words. Yet still a primal urge to hold onto life. “I am sicker than I have ever been and am still faithfully, scrappily striving to heal. My lips hurt. My throat is dry. My skin is cracked. Come drink this broth with me and we can get quiet.”

Quinn writes that is incredibly lonely being so sick, but at the same time, she is ultimately sustained by the community that springs forth to help her. The quote she chooses for the beginning of the book is from Gunilla Norris’s Becoming Bread: “We become who we are, together, each needing the other. Alone is a myth.”

It’s unclear how much help, if any, Quinn had in writing this book; it’s clear that she was rapidly deteriorating in her final months; she died in hospice and did not enter any new journal entries on Caring Bridge toward the end. The last two pages of the book are her imagining what death might be like, coming back as a leaf, a pelican, a star, a song or a quilt. It feels petty to ask for more from a dying woman writing a book, but I still wished for dates on the essays, some sense of when they were written, given the quick trajectory of her illness. And I also wished for a coda of sorts from her family. For a memoir as intensely personal as this is, Quinn departs too abruptly from it, as from her life. Still, it’s a deeply moving reflection on mortality, a snapshot of an ordinary person who was asked by life to endure something horrible and did so wreathed in courage. B+

Book Notes

New England is well-represented in publishing this spring, with a lovely new reflection from New Hampshire author Sy Montgomery, a smart thriller set in Vermont and a memoir from a former flight attendant who grew up in Rhode Island.

Montgomery’s latest offering is The Hawk’s Way(Atria, 79 pages). Props to her and her publisher for revealing on the cover that the narrative of the slim volume was originally published as a chapter in her 2010 book Birdology (Atria, 272 pages). It’s common for accomplished authors to present previously published material in a new book (as Ann Patchett did recently in These Precious Days) but unusual for this to be revealed right up front.

In this case, however, the repackaging makes perfect sense. The story is a taut and gorgeous telling of Montgomery’s friendship with a renowned local falconer and her own grappling of conscience with a majestic beast of prey and what they represent. (The falconer, Nancy Cowan of Deering, was founder of the New Hampshire School of Falconry and died earlier this year.) There are also 16 pages of color photographs. It’s a great gift for any bird lover in your life.

The novel is The Children on the Hill (Gallery/Scout, 352 pages) by Jennifer McMahon, which has been described as a modern take on Frankenstein. Fellow Vermont author Chris Bohjalian has called McMahon, the author of 10 novels, “a literary descendant of Shirley Jackson.” The story involves three children (two siblings and another child brought into the family by their grandmother) who are obsessed with monsters; one grows up to have a podcast called “The Monsters Among Us” and she returns to her Vermont hometown to investigate a crime and reported monster sightings. There’s buzz about a Gone Girl-worthy plot twist that makes this an especially satisfying read.

Finally, Fly Girl (W. W. Norton, 288 pages) is the book you want to read on your next flight in hopes of getting special attention from flight attendants.

Ann Hood, a native of Warwick, Rhode Island, went to work for TWA in 1978, when flight attendants were still called stewardesses and advertised as onboard “sex kittens,” she writes. Hood is an accomplished memoirist and author, but says when she meets people socially, they’re more interested in hearing about her years as a flight attendant than her writing. This is her answer to everything we want to know.


Book Events

Author events

DONALD ANTRIM Author presents One Friday in April. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., May 17, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

R.W.W. GREENE Author presents Mercury Rising. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Fri., May 20, 5:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

TAMMY SOLLENBERGER Author presents The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Wed., June 1, 6 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

CASEY SHERMAN Author presents Helltown. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Sun., Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

Book sales

SPRING BOOK SALE Bag sale features thousands of hardbacks and paperbacks including fiction, nonfiction, mystery and a variety of children’s books, plus a large selection of DVDs, CDs and audio books. Baked goods will also be sold. Brookline Public Library, 4 Main St., Brookline. Sat., May 14, and Sun., May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit underthemadnessmagazine.com for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

The Homewreckers, by Mary Kay Andrews

The Homewreckers, by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin’s Press, 437 pages)

Mary Kay Andrews is, by many accounts, “queen of the beach read,” although Elin Hilderbrand would probably like a word about that. So would Emily Henry, the Ohio author who published a book called Beach Read in 2020.

It’s a little early for beach reading in New England, but Andrews’ latest, The Homewreckers, is a doorstop of a novel at 437 pages, so if you start now, you might finish by Labor Day. Hard-working readers can get through it quicker, but not without pain.

It’s not that Andrews isn’t an expert wordsmith; she’s written 30 books in 30 years and so has well more than 10,000 hours invested in her craft. It’s just that the story isn’t interesting enough to hold our attention for that long. As either Blaise Pascal or Mark Twain said (depending on which book of quotations you consult), they would have written shorter if they’d had more time. Andrews must have written The Homewreckers very quickly.

The premise is decent enough: A Hollywood producer visiting the charming Deep South town of Savannah, Georgia, encounters Hattie Kavanaugh, a young woman who works with her father-in-law restoring homes. In a bit of slapstick comedy that serves little purpose other than setting up a scene for a TV movie, the producer literally falls through a rotting kitchen floor on top of her.

Although Hattie is a widow who’s still not fully recovered from her husband’s death in an accident, she operates in the high rungs of Maslow’s tiers of self-actualization and is not impressed by the credentials of the man who fell on her while she was crawling around under the house inspecting its plumbing. She merely observes to her friend and co-contractor that Mo Lopez appears to have all his teeth before shooing him away.

Mo, however, has not only teeth but vision. He works for a TV network that specializes in home fix-up reality shows; his most recent was Killer Garages and he needs a new show. He sees past Hattie’s grungy work boots and dirty coveralls and sees a TV star. Also, in case we need to know on page 17 where this is going, he sees “hazel eyes and full lips,” someone who “had that fresh-faced girl-next-door-thing going on, her hair in a careless pony tail. Slender, but curvy in the right places.”

He — and I quote — “couldn’t manage to get Hannie Kavanaugh off his mind.”

At this point, you might be tempted to toss The Homewreckers and look for a mountain read instead, but give the queen of beach reads her due. There are challenges to be overcome here, not least of which is that Hattie Kavanaugh has no interest in being a star of a reality show. She does need money, however, and it doesn’t take long for Mo to convince Hattie to be part of a show called “Saving Savannah” — pitched to her as a sort of love letter to her work. The show would follow her as she takes a deteriorating home with good bones and loves it back to life. Hattie thinks hopefully that something like this might inspire other people to do the same.

In her first reel of video, she says, with sweet sincerity, “I’m Hattie Kavanagh. And I’m saving Savannah. One old house at a time.”

Problem is, the cynical executive back in L.A. doesn’t see anyone watching that sappy drivel. So she renames the show and revamps the concept. “Homewreckers” will be “the space where a dating show meets a flip show.” She sends in a sexy, big-city designer to “help” Hattie, in hopes that there will be real-life sizzle between them, to add to the drama.

Hattie, of course, doesn’t know this. Mo, who knows it, doesn’t like it. But Hattie has signed the contract, and off to the races they go.

This seems enough drama for a beach read, but there’s also a murder mystery entwined, which is kind of distasteful, given the lighthearted fare that surrounds it. “Love, murder and faulty wiring” is the tagline on the cover. Three of these things are not like the others. “Let’s throw in the murder of a 25-year-old mother” to add complexity to a beach read is a painful stretch.

Ultimately, the problem with The Homewreckers is not the bloated verbiage, or the predictable ending, or the never-ending yapping about Savannah, but that I didn’t care about the characters to hang with them as long as was required of me. This was surprising because Hattie is not a one-dimensional character; she is still mourning her husband and has a fraught relationship with her felonious dad; there are layers to this story, and genuine humor. Hattie’s father-in-law is named Tug and has a penchant for exclaiming “Jesus, Mary and Fred.” And Andrews can throw out some good lines as when she has Mo tell Hattie she smells like rainbows and joint compound.

Granted, I’m a person who thinks a beach read is a magazine — something easy to hold and easy to discard when it gets wet and smells like beer. So maybe you’ll love it. But more likely, Elin Hilderbrand has nothing to fear. B-

Book Notes

In this age of body positivity, we aren’t supposed to talk about beach bodies, except in the concept of the meme that says “How to have a beach body: 1. Have a body. 2. Go to the beach.”

True that, but it’s also true that some of us might be a little more comfortable at the beach minus a few pounds. If you are in that camp, please know that everything old is new again when it comes to diet books. In other words, old diet books never die, they just get reissued.

Behold the “New 2022 Edition!” of The South Beach Diet, introduced in 2003 by Florida cardiologist Andrew Agatston. Yep, he’s still around and runs the Agatston Center for Preventive Medicine, which these days promotes intermittent fasting. The South Beach Diet has been so popular for so long that it has its own category on Amazon.

Dr. Agatston did issue a new paperback version of The South Beach Diet in 2020 (Rodale, 336 pages). But the hottest-selling diet and fitness book right now is The Whole Body Reset (Simon & Schuster, 400 pages) by Stephen Perrine. It may or may not be a selling point that Perrine is editor of the AARP magazine, which explains why the book is targeted at people in midlife or beyond. Like South Beach, it promises a flatter belly and overall improved health with a focus on protein with fewer carbs.

Another new health book that promises weight loss is Glucose Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 304 pages) by Jessie Inchauspe. She’s a social media influencer (@Glucosegoddess on Instagram) but, interestingly, has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in biochemistry and comes to the subject well-educated. Worth a look.

Finally, I’m interested to read the provocatively titled Drop Acid (Little, Brown Spark, 336 pages), the latest offering from Dr. David Perlmutter, the controversial physician-author who wrote 2013’s Grain Brain and several follow-up books that posited that grains and sugar are the brain’s “silent killer.” In this book, the villain is uric acid, which is a waste product that circulates in our blood. Perlmutter argues that elevated levels of uric acid, caused in part by consuming too much fructose, are contributing to obesity, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and other ills.

At this rate, there will be nothing left for us to consume but water, which naturally leads to the best title ever for a health book: You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty. For all I know, it could be malarky, but the title is good for a smile. It’s an oldie, from 2003; Warner, 304 pages.


Book Events

Author events

ANDREW BIGGIO Author presents The Rifle. Tues., May 10, 7 to 8 p.m. The Wright Museum of WWII (77 Center St., Wolfeboro). Seating is limited, and reservations are required. Admission costs $5 for museum members and $10 for non-members. Call 569-1212 or visit wrightmuseum.org.

DONALD ANTRIM Author presents One Friday in April. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., May 17, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

R.W.W. GREENE Author presents Mercury Rising. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Fri., May 20, 5:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

TAMMY SOLLENBERGER Author presents The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Wed., June 1, 6 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

CASEY SHERMAN Author presents Helltown. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Sun., Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. Visit bookerymht.com or call 836-6600.

Book sales

SPRING BOOK SALE Bag sale features thousands of hardbacks and paperbacks including fiction, nonfiction, mystery and a variety of children’s books, plus a large selection of DVDs, CDs and audio books. Baked goods will also be sold. Brookline Public Library, 4 Main St., Brookline. Sat., May 14, and Sun., May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Riverman: An American Odyssey, by Ben McGrath

Riverman: An American Odyssey, by Ben McGrath (Knopf, 272 pages)

The curious life and mysterious death of Dick Conant makes for a story that is the lovechild of Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.

Unlike Thoreau’s sometimes tedious account, this is a Riverman that sings. It is a story that author Ben McGrath owns, having spent time with Dick Conant and written about him for The New Yorker, both while he was alive and after he went missing.

Conant was 49 years old when he became a nomad of America’s waterways. You could say he started America’s “Great Resignation” two decades early, having quit his job as a hospital janitor and left his rented house with a dramatic flourish. (He left frozen fish hidden in the attic, “a stink bomb on delayed fuse,” McGrath wrote.) Conant bought a canoe at Walmart, stocked it like a prepper and put it in the water pointed south. And he spent much of the remainder of his life either on the water or preparing to go back out there again.

Conant was not an uneducated man — McGrath describes him as “an old art major with Falstaffian appetites” looking like a cross between Santa and a lobster — who, when he won some money gambling, bought a book, Journals of Lewis and Clark, with his winnings.

Nor, for all his eccentricities (like drinking soy sauce from a bottle), was Conant crazy. The copious journals discovered after his disappearance (McGrath draws on thousands of pages of Conant’s musings) revealed a methodical man who employed the scientific method, if a bit crudely, to solving problems that arose on his travels.

For example, searching for solutions to the age-old bane of outdoorsmen — insect bites — Conant studied the ingredients of expensive store-bought products and realized that many products for itch-relief contained ammonia. So he bought a cheap bottle of plain ammonia and tested it on his skin. Having no unpleasant reaction, he began using it daily. (Probably shouldn’t try this at home, kids.) He was practical and industrious, once fashioning a rudimentary temporary bed out of driftwood.

Like Chris McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild who died after becoming ill in the wilderness of Alaska, Conant took chances most of us wouldn’t take; for example, he drank from some of the rivers he paddled. But unlike McCandless, who likely would have returned to civilization eventually, it was unclear that Conant ever would. His journals reveal a man who expected to die on his travels and was comfortable with that.

His journeys weren’t interludes but his life, unlike Cheryl Strayed’s adventure on the Pacific Coast Trail, detailed in Wild, or Sebastian Junger walking East Coast railroad lines in Freedom. Conant wasn’t seeking publicity or attention; in fact, his life and (presumed) passing might have gone unnoticed by the larger world had he not met McGrath by chance in the riverside town in New York where the writer lives.

The next day, unable to stop thinking about the strange traveler, McGrath literally tracked Conant down the river until he found him, in order to write about him.

Conant proved a cooperative subject, and the men became friendly enough that he stayed in touch, writing to McGrath from the road. He kept McGrath’s phone number on a scrap of paper in the canoe, which is why law enforcement contacted the writer when Conant went missing.

In this book, McGrath engages in what is sometimes known as embedded, or immersive, journalism, having become a part of his subject’s life. This is a perspective we don’t have in reading about another famous “riverman” — the New Hampshire hermit called “River Dave.” Of course, Conant wasn’t a hermit; by all accounts, he was gregarious and made friends easily, many of whom McGrath tracks down as he tries to unravel the mystery that is Conant’s life.

Surprisingly, Conant also had a large family with siblings leading conventional lives. At one point McGrath travels with one of Conant’s brothers to explore a storage unit that reveals more about the sojourner’s hidden life. At age 56, for example, he had applied to (and been rejected by) the University of Nevada School of Medicine. It also turned out that Conant was an artist — the storage locker contained more than 300 original paintings and sketches, done over four decades. In short, the deeper McGrath probes into Conant’s life the more fascinating it becomes. At the same time, the more McGrath learns about Conant during his investigation, the more questions arise.

Conant became a folk hero in river culture because of his travels, but even before he set off in his canoe, his was a colorful and robust life, though one that would not have ever made the pages of The New Yorker. As such, Riverman is, in many ways, the world’s longest obituary, and one of the most beautifully crafted, with the occasional aside into the canons of American river life and literature.

Not long after they met, Conant told McGrath that his life was dangerous and free and exciting, but “at this point in my life, I’ve had enough of this excitement. I’d much rather be home with a woman and a family like you have, than out here on the water. But this is the alternative.”

Those words and Conant’s strange disappearance in North Carolina in 2014 — the canoe was found capsized with the paddle attached, no remains were found — suggest that this story is as much a tragedy as a mystery. Whatever the genre, McGrath’s telling is utterly engrossing. A

Book Notes

Those of us fortunate enough to have a mom who is still living have (checks calendar) a little more than a week to come up with a Mother’s Day gift. Speaking as a mother, a 10-day cruise to somewhere sunny is best, but a book and some flowers will do.

Beyond the boring and predictable (cookbooks and chick lit are to Mother’s Day what grilling books are to Father’s Day), there’s an edgy genre that moms with a wicked good sense of humor might like.

For example: There Are Moms Way Worse Than You(Workman, 64 pages) by comedy writer Glenn Boozan is a Seuss-like ode to offbeat parenting in the animal kingdom and promises to offer “irrefutable proof that you are indeed a fantastic parent.” At first glance it looks like the worst children’s book ever, but it’s actually for moms. Illustrations are by Priscilla Witte.

For moms who like dystopian fiction, check out Jessamine Chan’s The School for Good Mothers (Simon & Schuster, 336 pages), given an “A” here recently.

Nonfiction for the working mom: Ambitious Like a Mother (Little, Brown Spark, 272 pages) by Lara Bazelon examines “why prioritizing your career is good for your kids.”

The Three Mothers, How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation explores a topic that is often overlooked: How the hands that rocked the cradle had an often unacknowledged role in history. The book is from Flatiron, 272 pages.

Also Mom Genes (Gallery, 336 pages) by Abigail Tucker is a scientific exploration of the power of maternal instinct that was well-reviewed.

Maybe not: My Evil Mother, a new short story by Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale) that’s available only on Amazon as a Kindle original. Unless your mother is a witch. Then chances are she will love it. (It’s about a teenager in the 1950s who suspects her mother might be a witch.)


Book Events

Author events

SY MONTGOMERY Author presents The Hawk’s Way. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., May 3, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

Book sales

SPRING BOOK SALE Features thousands of hardbacks and paperbacks including fiction, nonfiction, mystery and a variety of children’s books, plus DVDs, CDs and audio books. Brookline Public Library, 4 Main St., Brookline. Sat., May 14, and Sun., May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly; the next meeting is scheduled for Tues., April 5, from 5 to 7:15 p.m., and will be held virtually over WebEx Meetings. To reserve your spot, email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit underthemadnessmagazine.com for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.

Language

FRENCH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CLASSES

Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.

Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers

Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers (William Morrow, 344 pages)

Is there any good reason for a parochial New Englander to read trade fiction set in the South?

I’d argue yes, although the stories need to be extra compelling, such as Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a book about Black maids in 1960s Mississippi that turned out to also be a decent movie. However, novels that draw much of their oxygen from a particular setting have to work harder to appeal to readers in distant regions.

Adele Myers tries to do that in Tobacco Wives, a story set in her home state of North Carolina, where the tobacco industry reigned in the years after World War II. It’s the story of a teen, Maddie Sykes, who goes to live in a town, Bright Leaf, where almost everyone, from field hands to executives, gets their money from tobacco and worships it like a god.

Tobacco was for more than cigarettes, Maddie was told. “Farmers and gardeners misted their plants with tobacco-soaked water to keep moles and gophers away.” Doctors prescribed it for asthma attacks, “and, of course, we all used tobacco poultices to calm a croupy cough or beat back a bad cold.”

Maddie is an aspiring seamstress like her aunt, with whom she goes to live after her widowed mother decides a teenager in the house is inhibiting her hunt for a new husband. Aunt Etta, who lives alone, makes good money by outfitting the glamorous wives of tobacco executives, and Maddie dives eagerly into that world.

But she soon learns (cue ominous music) that there is an unseen danger in the community, something that seems to be afflicting everyone in the tobacco community.

There is, alas, no opportunity to be shocked at what the villain is ultimately revealed to be, not with Maddie coming home from her first visit to a tobacco factory with grainy black specks all over her hands and body. “My calves, my ankles, even between my toes, were caked in a sticky brown dust that smelled of tobacco. We couldn’t have been in the factory more than fifteen minutes and I looked like I’d been there all day.”

If that wasn’t enough of a spoiler, while Maddie was at the factory, she noted a “tall, forbidding fence covered with yellow and orange signs: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. NO TRESPASSING. RESTRICTED AREA. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED. I didn’t know there were so many ways to say ‘Keep Out.’”

Anyone who’s ever visited an Amazon warehouse has seen similar signs, but I digress. The point is, this is not so much foreshadowing as it is hitting us over the head with a shovel. Tobacco: Bad. Maddie: Good. We get it.

This sort of heavy-handed narration follows Maddie throughout the book, as she gets to know the people of Bright Leaf and starts to be concerned about seemingly unrelated health problems that dog them, from lost pregnancies to chronic asthma. At the same time, a local tobacco company is unveiling a new cigarette called MOMint, targeted for women. The mint-flavored cigarette is to be marketed as something that will calm nerves, ease indigestion and control appetite.

This sets up what little bit of tension there is in the novel: what Maddie should do about her increasing alarm about the effect of tobacco, given the impact it will have on the lives of the people she has grown to care about.

Tobacco Wives seems, in some way, a fictionalized knock-off of Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls, narrative nonfiction of 2017 that exposed the terrible impact of radium on young women who worked with it early in the 20th century, when the element was seen as a miracle substance, not a killer. Their story was also told in a movie and play, and I suppose Tobacco Wives is also headed to a big or small screen, although it feels stale compared to the radium story. To be fair, this is partly because the demonization of the tobacco industry is relatively new, owing to whistleblowers like Jeffrey Wigand (whose efforts were also made into a movie, The Insider, which starred Russell Crowe).

Tobacco Wives is a perfectly serviceable, middle-brow novel, and Myers adds a layer of interest by adding details about the war-related rationing that was going on at the time it was set. (Everyone knows about the tin foil, but I was interested to learn that fabric was also rationed.) But it suffers from a predictable villain made even more predictable by a debut novelist’s overenthusiastic foreshadowing. It might be a laborious read for the people of New England, particularly if they happen to smoke. The good people of North Carolina, however, will surely love the book, unless they happen to grow tobacco. C


Book Events

Author events

WILD SYMPHONY READING AND CONCERT WITH DAN BROWN New Hampshire native and bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown will join the University of New Hampshire Wind Symphony to debut his classical work based on the musical album, released in conjunction with a corresponding children’s book of the same name. Sun., April 24, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Johnson Theatre at University of New Hampshire (30 Academic Way, Durham). Free; purchase tickets in advance. Visit unh.universitytickets.com.

BRANDON K. GAUTHIER Author presents Before Evil: Young Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, and Kim. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Wed., April 27, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

SY MONTGOMERY Author presents The Hawk’s Way. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., May 3, 6:30 p.m. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

Book sales

SPRING BOOK SALE Features thousands of hardbacks and paperbacks including fiction, nonfiction, mystery and a variety of children’s books, plus DVDs, CDs and audio books. Brookline Public Library, 4 Main St., Brookline. Sat., May 14, and Sun., May 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly; the next meeting is scheduled for Tues., April 5, from 5 to 7:15 p.m., and will be held virtually over WebEx Meetings. To reserve your spot, email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit underthemadnessmagazine.com for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.

Language

FRENCH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CLASSES

Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.

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