Posted June 3, 2018 12:08 a.m. EDT
A selection of summaries from The New York Times Book Review:
RISING STAR: The Making of Barack Obama, by David J. Garrow. (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $34.99.) This doorstop of a biography foregrounds Obama’s love life in his early years, traces his journey-to-blackness narrative and seeks to challenge the near-monopoly the 44th president has on stories about his own life. Garrow’s reporting also provides a ground-level view of 1980s Chicago, where Obama got his start as a community organizer.
MRS. FLETCHER, by Tom Perrotta. (Scribner, $16.99.) A divorced mother and her son, a first-year college student, navigate new terrains of sex. Both attempt to reconcile their desires with their newfound freedom — and the vulnerability that comes with it. The novel, Perrotta’s seventh, may be the sweetest examination of pornography addiction and the thorny issues of sexual consent you’ll read.
THE EVANGELICALS: The Struggle to Shape America, by Frances FitzGerald. (Simon & Schuster, $20.) This balanced account traces the alignment of American Protestantism with the Republican Party, marking a break with white conservative Protestants’ traditional intent to separate from the rest of the world. FitzGerald considers a central question: Why should America’s evangelical faithful care to shape the country at all?
SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS, by J. Courtney Sullivan. (Vintage, $16.95.) It’s 1957 when two sisters, Theresa and Nora Flynn, leave their Irish hometown to join Nora’s fiancé in Boston. Nora settles in as a seamstress and prepares for marriage while her sister is enthralled by her new city’s delights, until she abruptly leaves to join a convent. Years later, Nora is an established matriarch and Theresa is cloistered away in a Vermont abbey, but repercussions from their early days in America still haunt them.
THIS CLOSE TO HAPPY: A Reckoning With Depression, by Daphne Merkin. (Picador, $17.) Unlike so much writing about mental illness, Merkin’s memoir isn’t prescriptive or bogged down with statistics; it’s a cleareyed, insightful account of how she felt during her nosedives into despair. The book is shot through with a self-awareness that helps readers cheer her on, even if they don’t necessarily like her.
BAD DREAMS AND OTHER STORIES, by Tessa Hadley. (Harper Perennial, $15.99.) Hadley, across this collection, shows off a brilliance for hiding the uncanny in the commonplace; in the title story, a child in the middle of the night upends all the furniture in the living room, with profound consequences for her mother. Times reviewer Leah Hager Cohen praised the stories for “serving up the bitter along with the delicious.”