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December 10, 2018
The story of America reinvented — and retold
December 11, 2018

Best novels to read this fall

Waiting for Eden: A novel by Elliot Ackerman, Alfred A. Knopf, US $22.95, Pp 192, September 2018, ISBN 978-1101947395
Holy Ghost: A Virgil Flowers Novel by John Sandford, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, US $29.00, Pp 384, October 2018, ISBN 978-0735217324
The Winters: A Novel by Lisa Gabriele, Viking, US $26.00, Pp 320, October 2018, ISBN 978-0525559702

Eden Malcolm was severely wounded in Iraq when his Humvee hit a pressure plate in the Hamrin Valley three years ago. Since then, he has been bed-ridden in a burn center in San Antonio, awaiting death. Eden Malcolm cannot hear or speak. His wife Mary spends a lot of time every day on the sofa in his hospital room. We learn of what happened and what goes on in his mind through an unconventional narrator. As Eden lies unconscious, a fellow soldier who died in the same accident in Iraq narrates what happened and what goes on in Eden’s mind. He gets access to what goes on inside Eden’s mind. He tells us that he and Eden were friends in the service and took the same special training and were deployed together. On Christmas, Mary is not at his bedside when Eden gains a little consciousness and is able to stutter some words. As he begins to speak, he blurts out some troubling truths about his life before and after marriage. We learn that the narrator was attracted to Eden’s wife Mary who is herself in pretty bad shape because of her dying husband. We also discover that Mary had difficulty conceiving a child which turned her relationship with Eden a bit bitter. As the narrator and Mary came closer, they became unsure of themselves. Now, Mary is actually facing a moral question whether she should release Eden from his suffering as has been suggested by friends and medical staff at the clinic. Elliot Ackerman explores loyalty and betrayal and what makes life worth living. Ackerman has skillfully weaved this story around the grim reality of a dying man who was once a strong man. It is simultaneously about love, betrayal, and human predicament. This entertaining novel is a tour de force.

About the author

Elliot Ackerman is the author of Dark at the Crossing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Green on Blue. His writings have appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing. He is both a former White House Fellow and Marine, and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

*****

Set in Wheatfield, Minnesota, a sleepy and perhaps moribund metropolis of some seven hundred residents, Holy Ghost is a uniquely entertaining mystery. Wheatfield mayor Wardell Holland ran his election campaign on the slogan “I’ll Do What I Can.” He wanted to make the town known to the outside world. After the mayoral election, John Jacob Skinner, a team member of the Mayor’s team, has a strange scheme to implement Mayor’s plan. Wheatfield mayor Wardell Holland, who lost a foot in Afghanistan, sees no reason why he should not accept the advice from the teenager member of his team. John Jacob Skinner’s plan is to have John Jacob Skinner’s bedmate, Janet Fischer, personate as the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. They have heard the story in which a floating image of the Virgin Mary drawn thousands of people from all over the place and turn the town into a shrine of the Virgin Mary. The pilgrims support the local economy. They want the same thing to happen in Wheatfield. They know that most people will believe this to be true and Wheatfield will come in the limelight. This would support tourism and the local economy. This seems so innocent but the plan is not likely to sail through easily as a series of shootings take place outside the church. Several people have been injured. Iowa visitor Harvey Coates is only mildly injured, but Betty Rice is critically wounded. They must now call Virgil Flowers of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Alarmed at the shootings, Virgil rushes to Wheatfield only to find nothing. There are no suspects, no motives, and no forensic evidence. As he plans to go back, he stumbles on the rotting corpse of Glen Andorra. Glen Andorra was a farmer who owned a popular shooting range. Is the murder of Glen Andorra linked to the shootings outside the church? Virgil Flowers concludes that Andorra was possibly killed by someone who wanted to use his .223 rifle for some long-distance target practice. But who and why? The next target of the shooter is retired health care aide Marge Osborne. Virgil concludes that she’s been the real target of the mysterious shooter from the beginning. But that does not help. Marge Osborne is not someone who would hurt anybody. If it is about money, then where is the money? Holy Ghost will draw you in and leave you breathless as you turn pages. It is a must-read for readers of mystery novels. John Sandford is a brilliant writer.

About the author

John Sandford is the pseudonym for the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of twenty-seven Prey novels, most recently Golden Prey; four Kidd novels, ten Virgil Flowers novels, and six other books, including three YA novels co-authored with his wife Michele Cook.

*****

After a roaring love affair with millionaire New York State Senator Max Winter, 15-year-old stepdaughter finally moves to the luxurious but secluded the Asherley Estate, on Long Island. Senator Max Winter’s wife, Rebekah, recently died in a brutal car crash. Before she met Senator Winter, the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winters was living on Grand Canyon and working for one of the richest women in the Caribbean — the owner of boat charter companies all over the islands. The future second Mrs. Winters used to work at a boat rental where she first met Sen Winters. Although Sen Winters is old enough to be her father, they soon find themselves in deep love. She is orphaned and naïve but hardworking.  When Sen Winters first expresses interest in her, she is incredulous as she always thought she is hopelessly uninteresting. At the Asherley Estate, not everything is going smooth; there is a storm just below the surface. The mansion is full of Senator’s first wife — Rebekah — who haunts the young woman and makes everything look uncertain. The senator’s daughter is determined to make her future stepmother’s life hell. Before even soon-to-be second Mrs. Winters even moved to the Asherley Estate, Dani texts her father: “if you bring ur fucking fling home daddy ill kill myself.” And she also threatens him that her 31,000 followers on the Instagram account will make his life hell. As the days pass, future Mrs. Winters realizes that this is not a place for her. Max and his daughter are very close and scare the young future Mrs. Winters. However, one thing is certain: Max will not allow any woman — dead or alive — to interfere with his politics and political ambitions. As future Mrs. Winter grows more attached to Senator Winter, she equally grows more scared of his daughter. At the same time, she starts discovering the family’s dark secrets that put her life in danger. The Winters is the story of a family that cannot overcome or forget its past. It is an amazing piece of fiction. It will hold you spellbound until you finish it.

About the author

Lisa Gabriele is the author of two literary novels. Her writing has appeared in GlamourVice, and Salon as well as various anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She lives in Toronto, where she is an award-winning television producer.

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