ALL THE BEST PEOPLE by Sonja Yoerg


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken…

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.


ALL THE BEST PEOPLE is a family drama spanning three generations, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Does mental illness run in the family? When Carole starts hearing voices, she fears that she will meet the same fate as her mother, Solange: being locked away for decades in a mental institution. Carole shrinks from her family at the time when her daughter Alison needs her most: adolescence.

Overall, I thought this book was beautifully written, and the author handles the subject of mental illness realistically and with compassion. I was really drawn in by Part One of the story, focusing on Carole and Alison in 1972. With Carole’s point of view, the reader gets a strong sense of her fear and confusion as the disease takes hold of her mind.

I wasn’t as engaged in Part Two, which was Solange’s story of her marriage to Carole’s father. It’s a story of class, rich versus poor, and social injustice. The pacing was slower, and to me it felt a bit disjointed from the other part. Another POV came from Janine, Carole’s younger sister, who was an awful, unlikable character, and honestly her part didn’t do much to advance the story.

I wish there had been more magic or magical realism that the blurb alluded to, so the book was a bit different than what I was expecting. Still, it was a touching and heartbreaking story about how one family faced its history of mental illness.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

AMONG THE LESSER GODS by Margo Catts


Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★★


For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.

“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.

Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.

But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.


AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a beautifully written novel and an impressive debut from Margo Catts. I found this book browsing Edelweiss a few weeks ago, and there was something about the synopsis that called out to me. I’m so glad I gave it a chance!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story is set in 1978. The protagonist Elena Alvarez is a young woman stuck in limbo for a few reasons. She’s a new college graduate with no job lined up; she’s faced with an unwanted pregnancy and what she should do about it; and most of all, she’s still burdened with guilt over a deadly fire she caused as a child. The perfect escape comes in the form of a summer job caring for two children in her grandmother’s hometown of Leadville, Colorado.

AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a compelling, multi-layered story of family secrets, self-forgiveness, and new beginnings. Elena’s experiences in the small mountain town will show her she’s not alone in her quest for redemption. The writing was lovely, and I especially enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Leadville and the surrounding mountains. I could easily picture myself there. The novel wraps up with an emotional resolution as secrets from the past come to the surface. Wonderful book!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

HIMSELF: A NOVEL by Jess Kidd


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


Having been abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, lovable car thief and Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives an anonymous note suggesting that foul play may have led to his mother’s disappearance, he sees only one option: to return to the rural Irish village where he was born and find out what really happened twenty-six years ago.

From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony’s presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider ways cause a stir among the locals, who receive him with a mixture of excitement (the women), curiosity (the men), and suspicion (the pious).

Determined to uncover the truth about what happened to his mother, Mahony solicits the help of brash anarchist and retired theater actress Mrs. Cauley. This improbable duo concocts an ingenious plan to get the town talking about the day Mahony’s mother disappeared and are aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, both living and dead.

Himself is a simmering mixture—a blend of the natural everyday and the supernatural, folklore and mystery, and a healthy dose of quintessentially Irish humor. The result is a darkly comic crime story in the tradition of a classic Irish trickster tale, complete with a twisting and turning plot, a small-town rife with secrets, and an infectious love of language and storytelling that is a hallmark of the finest Irish writers.


HIMSELF is one of the most unusual mysteries I’ve read; the experience was like getting pulled into a vivid 20th century Irish folk tale. Set in the small village of Mulderrig, this wild story alternates between the 1970s and 1940s/50s. Mahony grew up in a Dublin orphanage, with very few clues about his beginning. When he finally gets a lead, 26-year old Mahony travels back to Mulderrig determined to find out what became of this mother, stirring up all kind of chaos in the process. The book is full of quirky, funny, tragic characters, both living and dead. Mahony can communicate with the dead, sometimes they’re helpful, other times not so much. Loved that Mahony was referred to as “a [County] Mayo Heathcliff.” I enjoyed the blending of magical realism into the twisted mystery. The lyrical language and dark humor were also a delight. Impressive debut!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.