Friday, August 28, 2020

Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine

Wil has been on her own for over a year now, ever since her mom and Lobo, her mom's boyfriend, left for California. And they left Wil in charge of the farm and the marijuana crop they've always been known for. But this is the second year that spring hasn't returned. The crop is all gone and their tiny town is going to crap. Wil isn't sure what to do until she gets a postcard from her mom, prompting her to head their way. 

But Wil isn't going alone. And she isn't going unprepared. With stragglers alongside her and a pack of seeds held close, she knows the road is going to be rough. And when her group upsets a violent cult leader, it only gets worse. 

Holy hell! Alison Stine is a powerhouse of a writer! 

Set in the near now (I won't even say near future because there is no date) in a perpetual winter, Stine's debut explores the fall of society as we know it as almost everything we've come to rely on—technology, industry, and even mother nature herself—fails. This is the kind of book that sucks me in so completely, by the time I came up for breath at the midway point I was actually somewhat surprised (and possibly unsettled) to find that it was still mid 90s outside and the sun was shining. 

That said, this is a bleak book with glimmers of hope (those seeds and Wil herself) that is a bit hard to swallow right now. In fact, it's a story that seems all too possible as we're in the midst of a pandemic and two storms are barreling down on my hometown. 

I loved Wil from the start. She's smart and resourceful. Her mother has been dating a man who runs the illegal marijuana trade in their part of Appalachian Ohio. And because of that, Wil's surprisingly in a bit of a better place to handle the issues that are coming. 

Wil has a knack for growing things. And she works hard. Which is why, even though she'd been distanced a bit from the business growing up (schooled on how to avoid spilling the beans, but also living away from the actual operation), she's four years out of high school and trustworthy enough to be in charge of their little operation when Lobo and her mom decide to hit the road. 

But Wil also has heart. Which is how she ends up traveling with companions rather than alone. 

I thought that given everything this book would be a big downer to read. And it certainly had it's moments. And yet, Stine's writing is so utterly wonderful that I found myself reading further in spite of the niggling unease that the story is a bit too real for true comfort. 

And it's easy to see why. Though this is her debut, Stine has written extensively on poverty and Appalachia, actively covering Covid related stories of late that are thoughtful, thought provoking, and eye opening to anyone who doesn't live in that region and has never experienced the kind of life she writes about. 

Stine is a truly admirable talent and this book is one that I think really does deserve a wide readership. I think there's a lot to grapple with in the reading, but I'm positive that for most readers even the daunting prospect of reading something that feels like it could be 2020's own next bombshell will fall by the wayside as soon as you meet Wil!

For more on Alison Stine and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Huge, huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to take part in the promo tour for this fabulous book! It doesn't officially hit shelves until September 1 but you can preorder it through all the expected venues: Harlequin - Bookshop - Barnes & Noble - Books-A-Million

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

1935: Kangchenjunga, the mountain that has so far conquered most who try to summit. Stephen's brother is intent on doing so, however, having idolized and studied those who have gone before him. But from the moment they set off, it seems the mountain has an eye to making sure they don't succeed. The team doesn't abide by superstition, but their sherpas certainly do. And the signs for this trek are bad indeed. 

Stephen is a last minute addition to the team. Invited because they needed a medic, not because his brother wants to share the glory with him. In fact, the two have a strained relationship. 

Stephen gets off on the wrong foot from the get go. Kits had hoped to have a talk with the only surviving member of the Lyell expedition he'd read about so many times. Stephen instead has the opportunity but botches it, getting all of them ousted from the man's house. Stephen himself isn't even sure what he's done, but the man's silence about the expedition is legendary. 

Of course that's what really sets the tone for the book. Stephen himself bucks any and all superstition shown by the support team of locals. And it's not until things start to go very badly for the expedition that he begins to believe there might be something to all of the rumors about the mountain.

This is my first read by Michelle Paver. It was also my first time hearing about Kangchenjunga at all. The third largest mountain in the world, it definitely doesn't get the glory and attention that Everest gets. But it's funny that I hadn't heard of it considering my draw to these kinds of stories. 

Paver's story is fiction as is the Lyell expedition the team is so focused on following, succeeding where that team did not. But the other climbs she mentions are real. Interestingly, Kangchenjunga was summitted (sort of—there was a longstanding tradition of not quite going to the top until just recently) by a team led by Aleister Crowley, no less. 

Also interesting, Kangchenjunga is the center of a pretty big yeti legend! 

It's clear from the start, though, that Paver's book isn't about a yeti. The subtitle is "A Ghost Story."

And a ghost story it is! 

But it's the build along the way that's oh, so deliciously creepy and atmospheric. One of the reasons I'm drawn to mountaineering stories is because it's something I have no desire ever to do. Heights terrify me, I hate the cold, and I'm happy if the most rigorous activity I take part in is turning the pages of a book about rigorous activity :) So going into it, this was actually a pretty perfect kind of horror story for me!

Thin Air is a slow burn, so probably not the book you want to dive into if you're looking for a quick read full of jump scares. Instead, it's a book that seeps into your very core. Stephen's discomfort and eventual isolation are much more of a focus than the actual ghost. By the time the really scary stuff starts, you've already been sufficiently discomfited by Stephen's entire experience on the mountain. 

Readers, I loved it! (Though I'd also now love a yeti horror!)

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Excerpt: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'm excited to be sharing an excerpt from Nancy Jooyoun Kim's debut, The Last Story of Mina Lee. But first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

This book is pretty high on my most anticipated list, so I am really excited to be able to give you a sneak peek today!



Margot's final conversation with her mother had seemed so uneventful, so ordinary—another choppy bilingual plod. Half-understandable.

Business was slow again today. Even all the Korean businesses downtown are closing.

What did you eat for dinner?

Everyone is going to Target now, the big stores. It costs the same and it's cleaner.

Margot imagined her brain like a fishing net with the loosest of weaves as she watched the Korean words swim through. She had tried to tighten the net before, but learning another language, especially her mother's tongue, frustrated her. Why didn't her mother learn to speak English?

But that last conversation was two weeks ago. And for the past few days, Margot had only one question on her mind: Why didn't her mother pick up the phone?


Since Margot and Miguel had left Portland, the rain had been relentless and wild. Through the windshield wipers and fogged glass, they only caught glimpses of fast food and gas stations, motels and billboards, premium outlets and "family fun centers." Margot’s hands were stiff from clenching the steering wheel. The rain had started an hour ago, right after they had made a pit stop in north Portland to see the famous 31-foot-tall Paul Bunyan sculpture with his cartoonish smile, red-and-white checkered shirt on his barrel chest, his hands resting on top of an upright axe.

Earlier that morning, Margot had stuffed a backpack and a duffel with a week's worth of clothes, picked up Miguel from his apartment with two large suitcases and three houseplants, and merged onto the freeway away from Seattle, driving Miguel down for his big move to Los Angeles. They'd stop in Daly City to spend the night at Miguel's family's house, which would take about ten hours to get to. At the start of the drive, Miguel had been lively, singing along to "Don't Stop Believing" and joking about all the men he would meet in LA. But now, almost four hours into the road trip, Miguel was silent with his forehead in his palm, taking deep breaths as if trying hard not to think about anything at all.

"Everything okay?" Margot asked.

"I'm just thinking about my parents."

"What about your parents?" Margot lowered her foot on the gas.

"Lying to them," he said.

"About why you're really moving down to LA?" The rain splashed down like a waterfall. Miguel had taken a job offer at an accounting firm in a location more conducive to his dreams of working in theatre. For the last two years, they had worked together at a nonprofit for people with disabilities. She was as an administrative assistant; he crunched numbers in finance. She would miss him, but she was happy for him, too. He would finally finish writing his play while honing his acting skills with classes at night. "The theatre classes? The plays that you write? The Grindr account?"

"About it all."

"Do you ever think about telling them?"

"All the time." He sighed. "But it's easier this way."

"Do you think they know?"

"Of course, they do. But..." He brushed his hand through his hair. "Sometimes, agreeing to the same lie is what makes a family family, Margot."

"Ha. Then what do you call people who agree to the same truth?"

"Uh, scientists?"

She laughed, having expected him to say friends. Gripping the wheel, she caught the sign for Salem.

"Do you need to use the bathroom?" she asked.

"I'm okay. We're gonna stop in Eugene, right?"

"Yeah, should be another hour or so."

"I'm kinda hungry." Rustling in his pack on the floor of the backseat, he found an apple, which he rubbed clean with the edge of his shirt. "Want a bite?"

"Not now, thanks."

His teeth crunched into the flesh, the scent cracking through the odor of wet floor mats and warm vents. Margot was struck by a memory of her mother's serene face—the downcast eyes above the high cheekbones, the relaxed mouth—as she peeled an apple with a paring knife, conjuring a continuous ribbon of skin. The resulting spiral held the shape of its former life. As a child, Margot would delicately hold this peel like a small animal in the palm of her hand, this proof that her mother could be a kind of magician, an artist who told an origin story through scraps—this is the skin of a fruit, this is its smell, this is its color.

"I hope the weather clears up soon," Miguel said, interrupting the memory. "It gets pretty narrow and windy for a while. There's a scary point right at the top of California where the road is just zigzagging while you're looking down cliffs. It's like a test to see if you can stay on the road."

"Oh, God,” Margot said. “Let's not talk about it anymore."

As she refocused on the rain-slicked road, the blurred lights, the yellow and white lines like yarn unspooling, Margot thought about her mother who hated driving on the freeway, her mother who no longer answered the phone. Where was her mother?

The windshield wipers squeaked, clearing sheets of rain.

"What about you?" Miguel asked. "Looking forward to seeing your mom? When did you see her last?"

Margot's stomach dropped. "Last Christmas," she said. "Actually, I've been trying to call her for the past few days to let her know, to let her know that we would be coming down." Gripping the wheel, she sighed. "I didn't really want to tell her because I wanted this to be a fun trip, but then I felt bad, so..."

"Is everything okay?"

"She hasn't been answering the phone."

"Hmm." He shifted in his seat. "Maybe her phone battery died?"

"It's a landline. Both landlines—at work and at home."

"Maybe she's on vacation?"

"She never goes on vacation." The windshield fogged, revealing smudges and streaks, past attempts to wipe it clean. She cranked up the air inside.

"Hasn't she ever wanted to go somewhere?"

"Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. I don't know why, but she's always wanted to go there."

"It's a big ol' crack in the ground, Margot. Why wouldn't she want to see it? It's God's crack."

"It's some kind of Korean immigrant rite of passage. National Parks, reasons to wear hats and khaki, stuff like that. It's like America America."

"I bet she's okay,” Miguel said. “Maybe she's just been busier than usual, right? We'll be there soon enough."

"You're probably right. I'll call her again when we stop."

A heaviness expanded inside her chest. She fidgeted with the radio dial but caught only static with an occasional glimpse of a commercial or radio announcer's voice.

Her mother was fine. They would all be fine.

With Miguel in LA, she'd have more reasons to visit now.

The road lay before them like a peel of fruit. The windshield wipers hacked away the rivers that fell from the sky.

Excerpted from The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Jooyoun Kim Published by Park Row Books

Huge, huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to be part of the tour for The Last Story of Mina Lee!

For more on Nancy Jooyoun Kim and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

The Last Story of Mina Lee is officially out in bookstores on September 1. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

When I Was You by Amber Garza

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the blog tour for Amber Garza's latest, When I Was You

Kelly Medina is lonely. Her son is in college and her husband works away from home most of the week, leaving her alone in an empty house until the weekends. She keeps busy spending time with her best friend and attending yoga classes, all very exciting. 

But then something strange happens. Kelly receives a call from her son's old pediatrician's office reminding her of a well baby appointment. When Kelly lets them know they're mistaken they let slip that there's another Kelly Medina in town. 

Curious, Kelly arranges an "accidental" meeting with the other Kelly, befriending the young mother and taking her under her wing. 

But the elder Kelly's friends are worried. Even her husband expresses concern. And it seems they may be right. Kelly becomes more and more focused on the other Kelly's life and her young son. But how can she be sure they're even real when everyone else around her is certain they aren't? And just what is the younger Kelly hiding or hiding from?

When I Was You is so twisted! 

When we first meet Kelly Medina, it quickly becomes clear that she's a woman who is unsatisfied by her current situation. Hints are sprinkled throughout about just how bad things have been for her of late—her relationship is rocky, she misses her son, and there's clearly been some sort of incident that's left those around her concerned about her. 

In short, she's adrift. 

At first, finding out there's another Kelly Medina in town is a curiosity. Clearly there are other Kelly Medinas everywhere, as she soon learns, but this one is in her town. And her baby is registered with the same pediatrician that Kelly used to take her own son to see. Not only that, but it appears this new Kelly has also used the same yoga studio.

Soon, Kelly is so intrigued that she can't help but try to meet this other Kelly. 

And she quickly decides this new Kelly needs her. In fact, she's certain the young mom and her son are lucky to have met her. 

A sense of purpose and a desire to help aren't bad things, but again there's that niggling feeling that something is off. And those hints along the way...

Garza's thriller is a fast read that sucked me in from the very start! I was dying to know what was going on with the Kellys, especially once Garza teased more and more tiny details about each of their lives. Before long, I found myself completely unable to set the book down. I just had to know!!!

Huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to take part in the tour!

When I Was You releases next Tuesday, August 25.

For more on Amber Garza and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Hi, readers! Today I'm super excited to be part of the blog tour for Megan Goldin's latest thriller, The Night Swim!

Rachel Krall's podcast has blown up. Now in its third season, Rachel has worked hard to make sure she delivers the kind of programming and content that her listeners crave. Which is why she's traveled to the tiny town of Neapolis. 

Neapolis is the site of an upcoming court case that has literally split the town. A golden boy has been accused of rape and everyone has an opinion. Rachel strives to be impartial, sharing the facts as they're presented, but when she's approached by a woman who all but begs for help in solving her sister's murder, Rachel finds that being impartial is becoming more and more difficult. 

The murder in question is over two decades old and has nothing to do with the current trial, but similarities between the victims are impossible to overlook. And that case from so long ago is starting to haunt Rachel. As she splits her time and focus between the two cases, she begins to realize that Neapolis is hiding some very dark secrets!

I will admit that I had high expectations of The Night Swim, given how much I enjoyed Goldin's debut, The Escape Room. And I'm happy to say that this book did not disappoint! 

Rachel is on her way to Neapolis when the book begins. She's on her own, thanks to an accident that has left her producer, Pete, hospitalized. Being alone isn't really a concern except that Rachel's podcast has grown more and more popular with each season. But it's her voice people recognize, not her face. 

At least that's what she thought. 

Before she's even arrived, Rachel has been spotted by someone. A woman calling herself Hannah has left Rachel a note on her windshield. In the note, the woman asks for Rachel's help, claiming it's the third time she's done so. She's desperate, that much is clear to Rachel. But Rachel has a job to do—a trial to attend and a podcast to put together. She doesn't really have time to investigate a second crime. 

Plus, she's used to people asking for her help. And she's only got so much she can give. 

Still, something about the letter intrigues her. She finds herself drawn into the case in spite of her reservations. And as it turns out, there's something to the case after all. 

The small town setting is perfect for the kind of dramatic story that Goldin has built. And interspersed between chapters of Rachel's investigation and her attending the court case she's actually in town for, are episodes of the podcast and Hannah's letters. 

Weaving together so many different threads can be a precarious thing and it doesn't always work, but Goldin manages it quite well. I never felt pulled out of the story or anxious to get back to any one part. I thought the whole thing worked and flowed so well together that the narrative moved along at a great pace. 

I also had the chance to bounce back and forth between the audio book and the physical book, which was fortunate because it meant that I never really had to put the story aside (which I was in loathe of having to do!). The audio is particularly well produced, featuring three different voice narrators—Bailey Carr, January LaVoy, and Samantha Desz. 

Considering the book revolves around a podcast, I would highly suggest the audio version! You can listen to a sample over on Libro.fm

The Night Swim is out now and is an excellent thriller that especially hits home during summer. 

Huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to take part in the tour!

For more on Megan Goldin and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox

Happy Book Birthday to Phoebe Fox! Her latest, A Little Bit of Grace, is out today!

Ever since her husband left, Grace has held out hope that they can reconcile and be together once again. They grew up together, after all. They were best friends. They were meant for one another! But ever since Grace learned that she can't have children, things between them have been different. And since they work together and live next door to one another, it makes things a bit...awkward. 

Things become even more awkward when her ex brings home another woman, dashing all of Grace's hopes for getting back together. 

And that's when Grace discovers something. Correspondence from Florida: a note for her mother from someone who clearly was unaware the woman had recently passed. Now, Grace, not quite bereft but certainly alone, realizes that she may not be alone after all. 

Throwing all caution to the wind, Grace books a flight to Florida to meet the woman who claims to be her long lost aunt. Not only does it mean a little bit of freedom and adventure, but it also means a chance to learn some things about her mom and her family that she never expected!

Phoebe Fox's latest is a sweet read about family secrets and forgiveness. 

It's also a book about finding who you are, no matter what your age!

Grace has never really lived a life of her own. She did what was expected of her: she went to school for law, took over the family business, and married her best friend (who also happened to be the son of her mother's best friend/business partner). And when her mother got sick, she took care of her until the very end. 

Aside from her father, who abandoned her and her mother and has a new family of his own, Grace has no one but her ex. 

Until she finds a note to her mother from Florida. Grace imagines the letter is from an old friend or maybe even an old lover. She certainly never expected it to be from her mother's aunt! Until now, Grace never even knew her mother had an aunt! 

The discovery is fortuitous because Grace could really use some time away. But Grace is pretty averse to change of any kind and even the last minute plane ride to Florida is almost too much for her to handle. 

Fortunately for Grace, her Aunt Milly is exactly what she needs!

Milly has lived a life full of adventure and she's only too willing to help Grace open up. But Grace desperately wants to know why Milly was never mentioned. She wants to know this almost as much as she wants to know what her mother was like as a child. Because, as it turns out, her mother was a bit of an adventurer and dreamer as well. Very different from the woman Grace always knew. 

I enjoyed Fox's latest. It's charming and breezy! It's a beachy read in more ways than one, and one that'll ultimately make you smile!

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Book of Atlantis Black by Betsy Bonner

 In 2008 a body is found in a Tijuana hotel. The ID is that of a woman named Atlantis Black. The body itself is noted as not matching the ID but it is cremated before fingerprint or dental analysis is done. 

Betsy Bonner still isn't sure if the body found in the hotel room was her sister. She still isn't sure if her sister is dead or alive. She still isn't sure exactly what happened in June 2008. 

What she does know is that her sister was trying to get out of charges of which she vehemently claimed she was innocent. Atlantis also mused about finding a way to get out of the country. And her Facebook posts from the months prior point to someone on a very dark path. 

This is the story of Atlantis Black as told by her sister Betsy. 

The Book of Atlantis Black is not at all my typical read. It's non fiction—a memoir with a hint of true crime flair. It's a sister trying to suss out the maybe final days of her missing sibling. It's also a sister trying to deal with grief and loss. 

And the story itself is absolutely bonkers! I mean that in a good way. This is undeniably an incredibly compelling read. I mean, it begins with the discovery of a body!

Betsy talks about her and her sister's upbringing. Their home life, their mom and dad (both of whom had a lot of issues). She talks about the fact that Atlantis's path of destruction seemingly began before she was really old enough to know any better. 

It's a tragic story, honestly. It's not a pleasant read by any means. But it is a story that pulls you along. It's filled with paranoia and conspiracy theories, the kind you reach for when there seems to be no other logical explanation as to a mystery this bizarre!

I had the pleasure of attending a virtual cocktail hour with Tin House and they were raving about this book, which of course meant that I had to find out for myself. They were right! This is a book that you really can't put down once you begin. It's also the closest thing to a one-sitting read that I've had in a while!

Admittedly, this is a book that should come with lots of warnings. But if you're ok with dark and disturbing stuff (it's fortunately not terribly graphic for the most part) and you're drawn into sort of cold case, unsolved mysteries, this is a book you'll absolutely gobble up!

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Feature: Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

Happy Book Release Week to Roselle Lim whose latest, Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop, released yesterday!

I have been looking forward to diving into this one since it was announced! Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes—or misfortunes—in tea leaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.

Roselle Lim debuted last year with Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune, charming readers with an #OwnVoices story that blend of magical realism, family drama, and food! And her latest sounds to be much of the same stand out elements again, but set in Paris!

If you're in the mood for a little bit lighter fare these days, Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop is perfect. Fair warning, though, you may want to stock up on appropriate snacks :)

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Excerpt: Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

Happiest of Book Birthdays to Ellen Feldman whose latest, Paris Never Leaves You, finally releases today! I'm excited to be sharing an excerpt from the book, but first, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

Living through WWII working in a Paris bookstore with her young daughter, Vivi, and fighting for her life, Charlotte is no victim, she is a survivor. But can she survive the next chapter of her life?

Alternating between wartime Paris and 1950s New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is an extraordinary story of resilience, love, and impossible choices, exploring how survival never comes without a cost.

Feldman's book is one of many that was delayed thanks to Covid-19. And also one of many hitting shelves during the mess it's created in the industry, but at long last it is out on shelves! And thanks to the publisher, I have an excerpt to pique your interest!


New York, 1954

Charlotte spotted the letter as soon as she stepped into her office.There was no reason it should have caught her eye. The desk was littered with papers and envelopes. Stacks of manuscripts and books filled the shelves of the small cubicle and spilled over onto the two chairs. Certainly the airmail envelope didn’t make it stand out. Most of the books she published were American editions of European works, and a good deal of her mail arrived in those tissue-thin blue envelopes. The only explanation for its attracting her attention was that she’d already gone through her morning mail and the afternoon delivery hadn’t yet arrived. Perhaps the letter had gone to another editor by mistake, and he or she had left it on Charlotte’s desk while she was upstairs in the art department. Or perhaps the mailroom had overlooked it in the morning sorting.

Gibbon & Field was a prestigious publishing house, but a certain loucheness lurked behind the scenes. That was the fault of Horace Field, the publisher. He was too forgiving, or perhaps only cannily manipulative. She’d had her earliest inkling of the trait the first Christmas after she’d come to work at the house. Leaving the office one evening at the same time, she and Horace had entered the elevator together to find a young man from the production department struggling to balance two or three oversize art books and several of a more conventional trim size. When he saw Horace, he colored an unhappy Christmas red.

“I see you’ve taken our ads to heart, Seth,”Horace said. “‘There’s a book for everyone on your Christmas list.’”

The young man turned a deeper red and shot out of the elevator as soon as the doors opened. That was unusual. The staff usually deferred to Horace getting on and off elevators, and everywhere else.

“Are you going to take the books out of his salary?” she’d asked as they’d followed him across the lobby.

“Not on your life.”

“It would teach him a lesson.”

“The only lesson I want to teach him, Charlie, is to work his tail off for the greater glory of G&F.”

“And you think encouraging him to walk out the door with an armful of purloined books will do that?”

“I think the next time he asks for a raise and doesn’t get it, he’ll remember all the books he’s filched and feel guilty, or at least compensated. Same with the expense accounts the editors and travelers turn in. They think they’restealing me blind, but a guilty conscience breeds contrition. Maybe evenloyalty. They feel they owe the house something in return. That’s why I worry about you. Those expense accounts you file are a travesty. If the other editors get wind of them, they’ll never forgive you for spoiling the game.”

Horace’s philosophy permeated the entire publishing house from the grand larceny of the production department, run by a man rumored to have ties to the Mafia, to the petty pilfering and general slacking off of the mailroom. That must be why the letter had been delivered late. And the timing was the only reason she noticed it. It had nothing to do with a sixth sense, in which she definitely did not believe.

She sat behind the desk and picked up the envelope. Her name and the G&F address were written, not typed. The handwriting wasn’t familiar. There was no return address on the upper left-hand corner. She turned it over. As soon as she saw the name, she realized why she hadn’t recognized the handwriting. When had they put anything in writing? No, that wasn’t true. He’d written her once, a year or so after the end of the war. The letter had taken months to wind its way through the Drancy records and the various agencies to reach her in New York. She’d taken solace in that. He didn’t know where she was, and he was still in Germany. She’d never answered that letter. The return address on this one was Bogotá, Colombia. So he’d got out after all. She was glad. She was als orelieved. South America was still a long distance away.

What troubled her was not where he was but that now he knew where she was. She’d thought she’d been so careful. Neither her address nor her telephone number was listed in the book. The people who had tried to help her settle into her new life—social workers and do-gooders from various refugee organizations; her colleagues here and at other publishing houses; Horace Field’s wife, Hannah—had found the omission foolish and antisocial. “How do you expect to make a life for yourself in a new country,” Hannah had asked, “if no one can find you?” Charlotte hadn’t argued with her. She’d merely gone on paying the small fee to be unlisted. Gradually Hannah and everyone else had stopped asking and chalked it up to what she’d been through. No one, including Hannah, knew what that was, but that didn’t stop them from speculating.

She wasn’t much easier to find in the office, though apparently he’d managed. Her name didn’t appear in the list of editors that ran down the left-hand side of the company stationery. Most publishing houses didn’t list editors on the stationery but that was another of Horace Field’s peculiar indulgences. A year after she’d come to work at G&F, he’d asked if she wanted to beincluded.

“Think of it as a sop,” he’d said.

“A sop?” She spoke four languages, could read two others, and had taken her degree at the Sorbonne in English literature, but in those days she was still having trouble with some American slang.

“Compensation for the slave wages we pay you.”

“At least you didn’t suggest I make up the difference by stealing books,” she’d said, and added that she didn’t want her name on the stationery but thanked him all the same. Nonetheless, despite her absence in the phonebook and on the company stationery, her name did occasionally turn up in acknowledgments in the books she worked on. And my gratitude to Charlotte Foret for steering my vessel safely through the turbulent waters of American publishing. My thanks to Charlotte Foret, who first saw that a book about the Dutch Golden Age written by a Dutchman would appeal to American audiences. The question was how he’d managed to get his hands on a US edition in Europe, or now South America. The various consulates had libraries to spread the American gospel among the local populations, but the books she published rarely spread the American gospel. Nonetheless, he must have found one. Or else he’d tracked her down through a refugee agency. Once in America, she’d distanced herself from the émigré or immigrant or refugee—choose your term—groups, but she’d had to file the usual papers and obtain the necessary documents to get here. She was traceable.

From Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman. Copyright © 2020 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today! I hope this little taste is enough to whet your appetite and send you running to buy a copy!

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