Here's two debuts in time for the holidays and it appears to be an unconventional mix...History,  crime, and good old dysfunction...What more could anyone want?  Well, maybe a few things, but these will keep you entertained for awhile. 

GOD'll CUT YOU DOWN by John Safran 

This stranger-than-fiction true crime story finds Safran—a white, Jewish documentary filmmaker from Australia—relocating to Rankin County, Miss., to dig deep into the grisly stabbing murder of a 67-year-old white supremacist in April 2010. A 23-year-old African-American man named Vincent McGee pleaded guilty in the case, but this was no run-of-the-mill race crime. With allegations swirling of a money-for-sex relationship between the founder of a white nationalist organization and his black neighbor, the lure was too great for Safran (a self-proclaimed “Race Trekkie”) to resist. Armed with his Dictaphone and a thirst for the truth, Safran tracks down and interviews nearly all individuals associated with the case, resulting in wildly opposing accounts of what happened that spring evening. The result is a bizarrely unsettling, yet often witty book that paints a disturbing picture of the deep South today.    



SINS OF OUR FATHERS by Shawn Lawrence Otto 

This stylish novel from Otto concerns J.W., a smalltown bank president whose gambling addiction causes his life to spiral out of control. One year after his son Chris’s dies in an auto crash while driving stoned, J.W. abandons his harried wife, Carol, and his teenaged daughter, Julie. When J.W.’s embezzlement of bank funds to cover his betting losses is uncovered, his boss fires him and then coerces him into spying on the local competition. J.W. relocates to live in a trailer and spies on Johnny Eagle, who is establishing a new tribal bank on the Ojibwe reservation. Otto's wonderfully vivid debut culminates in a rousing and satisfying climax. 

Sins of Our Fathers

ISABEL'S WAR by Lila Perl 

(This book is appropriate for YA readers as well as adults)

Published posthumously, Perl’s moving WWII novel set in the Bronx traces a Jewish girl’s growing awareness of the atrocities occurring overseas. At first, 12-year-old Isabel views the war as an inconvenience, bemoaning new rationing rules and the growing shortages of luxury items. Similarly, she resents the arrival of Helga, a beautiful German refugee with “a swanlike neck, and luminous gray-green eyes,” who ends up living with Isabel’s family when Helga’s American guardian turns ill. But as Isabel gleans bits of information about Helga’s horrific experiences in Germany and in England, where she was delivered as part of the Kindertransport, Isabel’s heart gradually softens. Now her problem is getting others to believe Helga’s tales and persuading Helga that she is not to blame for what her family suffered. This coming-of-age story offers an authentic glimpse of the 1940s American war effort and corresponding sentiments while introducing a realistically flawed heroine whose well-meaning efforts sometimes backfire.

ISABEL'S WAR by Lila Perl

Be sure to read Publishers Weekly for timely book news...

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I just started US by David Nicholls and so far it's a mish-mash of humor, angst and drama. US was  long listed for the Mann Booker Prize, the main reason I decided to read it. The characters are annoying, but the humor is making them tolerable. I'm hoping things improve on many levels...except for the unusal writing style and format, both engaging...the only reasons I haven't totally abandoned this book.

US by David Nicholls (Fiction)

Douglas and Connie live more or less happily in the suburbs of London with their moody 17-year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells Douglas she thinks she wants a divorce. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie had planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family. Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in their marriage and might even help him to bond with Albie. That remains to be seen.....

Blog readers have been recommending MY SISTER'S GRAVE by Robert Dugoni, labeling it an intriguing and exciting thriller...So if you're in the mood for a Grisham-like book, this is a good choice.
Here's what had to say.....

MY SISTER'S GRAVE by Robert Dugoni (Mystery/Thriller)

I have been a longtime fan of Robert Dugoni, and his talent has only improved with time. MY SISTER’S GRAVE has everything: terrific plotting, well-drawn characters and solid writing. It’s a cross between a legal thriller and a police procedural. While reading it, I was dropped into a zone with a fast-paced story that grabbed me and wrapped me up in the adventure and storyline.

In it, Tracy Crosswhite is a Seattle homicide detective who is convinced that the man who was convicted of murdering her sister, Sarah, is not the right person. When Sarah’s remains are found in a lake bed 20 years after her death, Tracy’s theory becomes more sound. Her childhood friend collaborates with her to take a fresh look at the crime, and the action ramps up fast....

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SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW? (November 2014)

Stephen  King is releasing a new book, which is no surprise. Although it's been touted as a departure from his usual horrifying storylines, it's still pretty horrifying! King followers will revel in REVIVAL. Critics have labeled it "one of King's most disturbing and satisfying books."

If you're into history, ISABELLA by Kristen Downey is an engaging and detailed biography of the fascinating, controversial ruler of Spain. This biography has been labeled a "dramatic page-turner" by critics, so If you're in the  mood for a well researched bio this would be it....

By Stephen King
King mines deeper territory—the transformative power of grief—in a thriller that showcases his unmatched ability to evoke sheer terror through prose. Six-year-old Jamie Morton and the new minister of his church, the Rev. Charles Jacobs, have a shared obsession: the power of electricity. Their lives will intersect strangely over the next 50 years—when Jacobs' life is shattered by a tragic accident and much later when Jamie reaches his own rock-bottom of despair and addiction. King explores the dual meanings of "revival" as the story spins its way to a horrifying conclusion.   


By Kirstin Downey
Most schoolchildren know Queen Isabella of Spain as half of the royal couple that financed Columbus' expedition to the New World. But Downey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, asserts that Isabella was a far more forceful and influential leader than her husband Ferdinand. This engaging biography brings readers all the facets of a remarkable but overlooked woman: from the farsighted ruler who helped to unify Spain to the ardently devout Catholic who pursued a brutal religious Inquisition.

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It's been three years of bookish ramblings or would rumblings be more accurate? Thankyou everyone who has shared their ideas, written a review, made a book suggestion (Many of you), left a comment (Not many of you), and taken the time to read this blog (or at least say you do...) But what counts is you believe what I write and take me seriously (Uh...maybe..).

Ok, enough rambling for now....Happy BLOGIVERSARY to Joyce's Choices...Hope we can all keep turning the pages together for many more years! And check out the kind words below from one of my many fans...

Yup, really love Joyce's Choices!


The Paying Guests. Sarah Waters. Riverhead. 576 pages. $28.95.

Frances has it bad, and that's not good. Normally she's intelligent, reliable, 
and resourceful, a companion to her widowed mother, keeper of a large house on 
Champion Hill. But then Frances falls in love, and the carefully wrought edifice of
 her life collapses in a heap of passion and catastrophe.

Yes, I am reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and I can't put it down.
It's not a great book but it's fascinating, bewildering, intriguing, and sensual.
I'm halfway into its 500 pages. I  have a constant sense of foreboding....

NPR said....
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters' superb, bewitching new novel, is set 
in 1922 London. World War I has recently ended, but not before consuming 
hundreds of thousands of British lives and leaving the nation economically 
Families like Frances' — once wealthy — now find the cupboard bare and
Frances and her mother decide to take in lodgers, the "paying guests"...
Waters is a master of the slow build, of the gradual assemblage of 
tiny random moments that result in a life-altering love. 

(WARNING) This novel is one of the most sensual you will ever read, and all 
without sacrificing either good taste or a "G" rating....

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Over the past 50 years Anne Tyler has published 19 novels, including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, An Accidental Tourist and Digging to America. She's won a Pulitzer and many other prizes. 

Anne Tyler is that rare writer who has literary stature and a wide public following, and has earned that position without self-promotion. For many years she has declined all face-to-face interviews. She has avoided book tours and public appearances, and still continues to do so.

The 71-year-old author has revealed the title of her latest work, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD after announcing that she would not write another novel.

I can't wait for it's February release!


Random House Review...

From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning author--now in the fiftieth year of her remarkable career--a brilliantly observed, joyful and wrenching, funny and true new novel that reveals, as only she can, the very nature of a family's life. 

"It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon." This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family--their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog--is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red's father.

 Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler's hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.

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HE'S BACK.....(OCTOBER 2014)

Yes, a new Grisham is in the house!  Yes, I'll read it and yes, it's typical John Grisham doing his thing! Welcome to GRAY MOUNTAIN, on book stands now!


"In classic Grisham style, the reader is brought into the world of a naive yet resourceful young lawyer who begins to uncover the generations of secrets which want to remain buried. Gray Mountain follows Samantha, a third year associate at New York's largest law firm, who loses her job two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Within a week, Samantha is out of New York and has become an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic in small town Appalachia, where for the first time she deals with real clients with real problems; those real problems start uncovering a sinister world of big coal, with its impacts on the environment, the health of its miners, but, as the only real industry in town, with an overbearing influence on a community and its people. Her character's intelligence and resourcefulness leads her deeper into this world, and, in the vein of many Grisham novels, leads her into deeper and deeper peril.

That a "big law" lawyer could end up in such a situation is spot on. Right during the big crash the economy could not even come close to bearing the quantity of lawyers who flooded the market during that time. I know quite a few young lawyers who were left utterly disappointed with the "big law" world and, post crash, ended up in public service. In fact, numerous big law firms actually helped place their underutilized associates in non-profit and legal aid positions to give them the "real world" experience with the hope that hey might be able to rehire them. That a highly intelligent, resourceful, and driven young woman could end up in deep Appalachia is not as far-fetched as one would think.

Gray Mountain has all of the characteristics of a Grisham classic with its pacing, twists, and turns. The novel does not disappoint. It is a genre that has worked well for Grisham, and is shows true here."
Amazon Review

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 Recently Barbara A. posted comments on Goodreads about An Unnecessary Woman by Rabin Alameddine ( No relation to George Clooney) which debuted about a year ago. Some critics had called it "slow and rambling" while others labeled it "spellbinding." The author is Lebanese/American and gives a clear view of the obstacles women face in Beirut, in this case focusing on an older woman.

The comment below enthusiastically says it all....

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddin

I absolutely adored this book, but it's going to be difficult to explain why. If I said that it was about a lonely elderly woman in Beirut who translates books and never shows the products to anyone, would you run out and buy a copy? See? I didn't think so! But I trusted my friend Richard, who recommended it to me, and he was spot-on. I would have devoured this in one reading, so delicious was it, but for reasons of an orthopedic nature, I kept falling asleep. I will assume that this is not an issue for you, so unless you dislike world literature ( not likely, since you're on Goodreads); have a tin ear for classical music; can't stand family feuds; have an aversion to humor, irony,or sacrilege, you need to get this book, in any language or version you prefer, and get cracking.




Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing in the Rain presents a long-awaited new novel in which a boy trying to save his parents’ marriage uncovers a vast legacy of family secrets. shared this review of A Sudden LIght.....

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant whole trees and is set on a huge estate overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch the ailing and elderly Grandpa Samuel to a nursing home, sell off the house and property for development, divide up the profits, it goes....

Secrets, hidden rooms, a dark past and unconventional characters contribute to this spellbinding novel.  Garth Stein has another best seller on his hands.

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I've been a fan of Jane Smiley for many years. She won the Pulitzer for A THOUSAND ACRES in 1992, probably her most famous book, which was also adapted to film. I've been waiting for something new and now she's come up with a trilogy.  Volume one combines history, births, deaths, name it!  Sounds like a never-ending story ...which is a good thing if you're into it.

BookPage interview Jane Smiley

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author (A Thousand Acres) launches an inventive and appealing new project with the first volume of a trilogy that will follow a single extended family through an entire century. Devoting one chapter to each year, Some Luck introduces readers to the Langdon family, with young Walter Langdon trying to scratch out a living on an Iowa farm when the story begins in 1920. Smiley writes about farm life with particular acuity, and her blend of historical detail and relatable characters will leave readers eager to see the story

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It's October and in one month it will be the anniversary of Joyce's Choices..What was I thinking?  For almost three years I've been blabbing about books...some people are listening and some are not...Who cares? I have over 40,000 viewers and lots of friends...the best kind of friends too, mostly silent! (Meaning, I don't get a lot of comments...)

And so the blabbing continues. Here's a few choices for October reads......

THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER: Stories by Hilary Mantel (Fiction/Short Stories)
The latest work from the celebrated author of the historical novels WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES is a collection of 10 stories, Hilary Mantel’s first collection since 2003’s LEARNING TO TALK. Many of these contemporary tales play with the conventions of genre; there’s even a vampire tale. But the title story, about an imagined attempt on the former Prime Minister’s life, will, not surprisingly, get the most attention. 
THE NEWS SORORITY by Sheila Weller
THE NEWS SORORITY: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour -- and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller (Biography)
For decades, women battered the walls of the male fortress of television journalism. After fierce struggles, three women --- Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour --- broke into the newsroom’s once impenetrable “boys’ club.” Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, THE NEWS SORORITY reveals the hard struggles and inner strengths that shaped these women and powered their success. Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth, founder of

BURN: A Detective Michael Bennett Thriller by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Thriller)
Back in the city that never sleeps, Detective Michael Bennett takes over a chaotic Outreach Squad in Harlem, where he receives an unusual call: a man claims to have seen a group of well-dressed men holding a bizarre party in a condemned building. With no clear crime or evidence, Bennett dismisses the report. But when a charred body is found in the same building, he is forced to take the caller seriously --- and is drawn into an underground criminal world of terrifying depravity. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.


Ewan McEwan has done it again. THE CHILDREN ACT, his latest release, held my interest immediately...and that's saying a lot. My negative vibes usually kick in after a few pages.  Although Fiona, the main character needs a good kick in the pants! Hopefully she'll get her personal life together and stop acting like a doormat....

Here's a summary...

In the late summer of 2012, a British judge faces a complex case while dealing with her husband’s infidelity in this thoughtful, well-wrought novel.

Fiona Maye, at 59, has just learned of an awful crack in her marriage when she must rule on the opposing medical and religious interests surrounding a 17-year-old boy who will likely die without blood transfusions. The cancer patient, weeks shy of the age when he could speak for himself, has embraced his parents’ deep faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses and their abhorrence of letting what the Bible deems a pollutant enter his body. The scenes before the bench and at the boy's hospital bedside are taut and intelligent, like the best courtroom dramas. 

The ruling produces two intriguing twists that, among other things, suggest a telling allusion to James Joyce’s 17-year-old Michael Furey in “The Dead.” Meanwhile, McEwan (Sweet Tooth, 2012, etc.), in a rich character study that begs for a James Ivory film, shows Fiona reckoning with the doubt, depression and temporary triumphs of the betrayed—like an almost Elizabethan digression on changing the locks of their flat—not to mention guilt at stressing over her career and forgoing children. As Fiona thinks of a case: “All this sorrow had common themes, there was a human sameness to it, but it continued to fascinate her.” Also running through the book is a musical theme, literal and verbal, in which Fiona escapes the legal world and “the subdued drama of her half-life with Jack” to play solo and in duets. (Scroll down for another review and a graphic)

The following book recommendation was sent to me by a member of my summer book group. I trust her judgement.....

B said .....

I have just completed reading THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr for my West Hartford  book club.  It is a book not to miss! It is a poetic, lyrical, story taking place during WWII, spanning time from 1944-2014 in Germany and France, featuring a blind French girl and a German boy in alternate chapters.  The story reads like poetry, it flows like music and its emotional/intellectual range is satisfying and impressive. If you read it,  I can't wait to hear your reactions.......B


September is coming to an end and my TBR (To Be Read) list is overwhelmingly long.  Here's three more releases that sound compelling, created by some notoriously well known authors. So if you're in the mood for a bit of history or a few thrills, the following titles should fulfill your needs. They're on my list....

PERFIDIA by James Ellroy (Historical Fiction)

America stands at the brink of World War II. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans --- but now, war fever and race hate grip the city, and the Japanese internment begins. The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm center that illuminates these four driven souls --- comrades, rivals, lovers, history’s pawns. 

THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman (Supernatural Mystery)

Newly reassigned to a Special Projects squad he didn’t even know existed, Detective Jacob Lev is sent to a murder scene far up in the hills of Hollywood Division. There is no body, only an unidentified head lying on the floor of a house. Seared into a kitchen counter nearby is a single word: the Hebrew for justice. All that Detective Lev has believed to be true will be upended --- and not only his world, but the world itself, will be changed. 

THE EYE OF HEAVEN by Clive Cussler and Russell Blake(Thriller/Adventure)

Husband-and-wife team Sami and Remi Fargo are on a climate-control expedition in the Arctic when they discover a Viking ship in the ice filled with pre–Columbian artifacts from Mexico. As they plunge into their research, tantalizing clues about a link between the Vikings and the legendary Toltec feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl --- and a fabled object known as the Eye of Heaven --- begin to emerge. But so do many dangerous people.

Thankyou for the comments.
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Two Blog readers recommended this bizarre sounding debut novel. Would I read it? Not sure, but in the spirit of  openmindedness and diversification, I'm including WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle on my blog.
"Quiet, mysterious, menacing, taking you places you will never, never get out of your head.” 

 Is that a good thing? Some blog readers think so. 

(Wednesday September 24th,  WOLF IN WHITE VAN was nominated for the National Book Award)

Here's a summary from

Wolf in White Van

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of “Trace Italian”—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. 

Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, and are explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tracing back toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live. 

Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds backward in time until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling.

Check out author John Darnielle at ( You're in for a surprise)

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Man Booker Prize 2014 Shortlist

Previously open to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe, the 2014 Man Booker Prize reflects the diversity of the novel in English regardless of the author’s nationality. This year’s shortlist features two America authors, Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler; one Australian, Richard Flanagan; and three British authors, Howard Jacobson, Neel Mukherjee and Ali Smith. I read The Lives of Others by Mukherjee and highly recommend it, however, I boldly predict Joshua Ferris's To Rise Again At A Decent Hour as the winner...But don't be surprised if I delete my prediction if I'm wrong!

(Thankyou to The Reading Room for contributing to this post.)

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferriswant_to_read_buttonPaul O’Rourke is a Manhattan dentist with a thriving practice leading a quiet, routine-driven life. But behind the smiles and the nice apartment, he’s a man made of contradictions, and his biggest fear is that he may never truly come to understand anybody, including himself. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the real thing.

J - A Novelwant_to_read_buttonAfter the devastation of WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, all that should remain is peace and prosperity. Everyone knows his or her place; all actions are out in the open. But Esme Nussbaum has seen the distorted realities, the fissures that have only widened in the twenty-plus years since she was forced to resign from her position at the monitor of the Public Mood. Now, Esme finds something strange and special developing in a romance between Ailinn Solomons and Kevern Cohen. As this unusual pair’s actions draw them into ever-increasing danger, Esme realizes she must do everything in her power to keep them together—whatever the cost.

The Narrow Road to the Deep Northwant_to_read_buttonIn the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

How to be Both by Ali Smithwant_to_read_buttonBorrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

The Lives of Otherswant_to_read_buttonCalcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note. The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselveswant_to_read_buttonMeet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion … she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.

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