Tag Archives: Chris Bohjalian

The Sunday Salon: Yet Another Best Books of 2014 List

The Sunday Salon

All the cool kids have one. By the end of this blog post, I will too.

Unless you’ve been living under a literary rock, suddenly everyone who has read anything during the past year has popped up with their Best Books of 2014 List.

My initial reaction to that was somewhere between “Oooooh book lists!”  and “Bah freakin’ humbug.”

I mean, doesn’t it seem too soon for this? I know, I know … there are only 23 days left in the year (!!) and chances are that you’re I’m not going to read that many more books in that timeframe, even though I have 10 more books to go before reaching my yearly goal of 75 and dammit, I am going to try my damnedest to achieve that.

(It’s doable. Completely doable.)

So, a compromise. I’m still planning to do my annual Best Books I Read in 2014 lists, as I do. Those will include books published in any year. Look for those later in the month. In the spirit of things, however, here are my picks for Best Books I Read That Were Published in 2014.

Hope for a Sea Change

Hope for a Sea Change, by Elizabeth Aquino (SheBooks, 57 pages)
I met Elizabeth through the special needs parent blogger world, and her writing – honest, raw, quietly searing – knocks me out with every single post. Elizabeth is a fierce advocate for her daughter Sophie, who has a rare form of epilepsy.  Hope for a Sea Change is about the early days of diagnosis, the desperate search for answers from misinformed specialists, and the emergence of a mother’s strength.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, 288 pages)
In my review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I wrote that “it’s possible to view this novel “as sounding an alarm on the many disasters facing this generation: teenage homelessness, prostitution and sex trafficking, drug addiction, environmental and energy crises, school shootings, absentee parents. Like the [fictional] nuclear power plant [disaster in the novel], our world itself can seem in a perpetual state of meltdown.”

Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan (Ballantine Books, 240 pages)
I read this memoir in less than two days. (It probably would have been quicker, had I not been recuperating from gall bladder surgery.) Glitter and Glue is a follow up, of sorts to Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place, the story of her having cancer at the same time as her father. Here, Kelly writes about her relationship with her pragmatic mother, her time as a nanny for a grieving family, and the life lessons she had to leave the house – and the country – to learn.


Gabriel: A Poem, by Edward Hirsch (Alfred A. Knopf, 96 pages)
In this book-length poem, Edward Hirsch opens the door into his shattered world after the death of his 22 year old son Gabriel. As a society, we don’t often talk about grief in the way that Edward Hirsch does in these 78 pages – and our grief memoirs are rarely left unresolved. We’re used to some big revelation of acceptance, of peace. That’s not this book. This is anger and sadness and disbelief (“I wish I could believe in the otherworld/ I wish I could believe in a place/ Of reunions outside of memory”) and it is haunting.


Perfect, by Rachel Joyce (Random House, 361 pages)
Maybe this doesn’t count as a “published in 2014” book because it was first published last year, but whatever. All that matters is that this novel is a work of art – except for the cover, which is absolutely ridiculous (it’s set in 1972, so that probably has something to do with it). The writing and the plot shines. And the characters … you won’t forget these folks for a second.

Nest. Flight. Sky.

Nest. Flight. Sky. On Love and Loss, One Wing at a Time, by Beth Kephart (SheBooks, 37 pages)
A book by Beth Kephart usually makes it onto my best of lists, and this one is no exception. I would have loved this memoir – which marks the first time in several years that Beth has returned to the form – even if I wasn’t reading it in the middle of the night, wide awake in a hospital bed while recuperating from the gall bladder surgery. This was a book that found me at the right time.

History of the Rain

History of the Rain, by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury, 358 pages)
Nominated for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, History of the Rain was among my favorite books this year. I still think it should have won the Booker, but I also didn’t read all the selections. Still, this story about an Irish family dealing with so much literal and figurative rain is spectacular.Along with the writing, Williams draws you in with unforgettable characters. Ruthie is so smart, so sensitive and insightful  (“Hope, you see, takes a long time to die,”) yet so sad without the ones she loves.

What about you? What books published in 2014 are going to make it onto your best-of list?

For those of you who (like me) can’t get enough of year-end book lists, Penguin Random House is compiling the ultimate collection of best books of 2014 lists on Tumblr.


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Me and Chris Bohjalian in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

Chris Bohjalian returns to Vermont as the setting for his 17th novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, and I return to the Book section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today with my review

When 11th-grader Emily Shepard says her world is ending, she’s not simply being a dramatic teenager. She’s alone, living in the shadowy aftermath of the fictional Cape Abenaki nuclear power plant meltdown, located in Vermont’s picturesque Northeast Kingdom.

By Chris Bohjalian

Doubleday ($25.95)

Emily’s father, an alcoholic who was reportedly drunk on the job, is responsible for the deadly disaster. Both of Emily’s parents are presumed to be among the fatalities. With her dead father the target of the community’s vitriol, Emily runs away to reinvent herself as Abby Bliss, a new identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.   Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/books/2014/07/13/Book-review-CLOSE-YOUR-EYES-HOLD-HANDS-By-Chris-Bohjalian/stories/201407130036#ixzz37Mt4OVVh

As always, my thanks to both the Post-Gazette for this opportunity and to Chris Bohjalian for sharing the review so widely on social media.






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chris bohjalian’s the light in the ruins (and the pendulum of the internet)

One of the benefits of last night’s insomnia:

When you’re not sure if your book review of Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins is being published in the next day’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you can reach for your phone at 2:30 a.m. and see if your byline is on your driveway.

(We still like to get the actual newspaper. And read it while holding it. That makes The Husband and me fossils at 44, I know.)

Bohjalian PG review

And then you can spend some time while the house is blissfully still asleep, curled up under the covers reading Colum McCann’s Songdogs which was due back to the library on Thursday but which you can’t part with just yet. Not while McCann is breaking your heart.

And then you doze off, for a little while anyway, while the Internet awaits and The Husband (bless him) makes the kids pancakes and dippy eggs. (What? You call them sunny side up? Dippy eggs, baby. You may hate the damn things, like me, but that’s their proper cringeworthy name.)

Still under the covers, you sneak a few minutes online, smiling at the likes on your review and clicking like and 🙂 at the comments back.

And then you decide to randomly check your kids’ email accounts, because that’s what vigilant parents do when they are supposedly sleeping, and you see some questionable things and you conference The Husband in the bedroom to strategize and give him a crash course in Pinterest.

And then – this is all before 11 a.m., mind you, and you’ve had very little sleep – you remind the cherubs of The Internet Rules and you make New Internet Rules On the Fly About Bad Words and Hating Justin Bieber and explain that while it is okay to dislike Justin Bieber (you can’t really argue with that much) it’s not always okay to be so vehement about this publicly because nothing is private on the Interwebs and that could cost you a much-needed scholarship someday and all your friends who are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids going off to college this week are making you sober with the thought that you have only 6 more years left of mandatory schooling before that.

And then, only then, you finally make your way to your laptop and open up your blog to write a post about The Light in the Ruins book review being published and how grateful you are to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the opportunity, as always.

And you notice that your blog statistics for yesterday’s post about Kristin are off-the-charts crazytimes with numbers you have never, ever seen.

And you are stunned.

And you are stunned again when you realize that Chris Bohjalian has mentioned you (YOU!) to his 5,534 followers on Twitter.

And his Facebook page. 

Chris Bohjalian. You. Chris Bohjalian.


Author · 15,842 likes
Very big thanks to Melissa Firman and the @[184142654825:274:Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] for this insightful review of THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS: "By using the backdrop of a long-ago war, Bohjalian seems to be reassuring and reminding his reader that in tragedy and unspeakable circumstances such as the destruction of homeland, family, appearance and lives, there is always the ability to see even the smallest glimpse of light." (photo by Victoria Blewer)
Very big thanks to Melissa Firman and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for this insightful review of THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS: “By using the backdrop of a long-ago war, Bohjalian seems to be reassuring and reminding his reader that in tragedy and unspeakable circumstances such as the destruction of homeland, family, appearance and lives, there is always the ability to see even the smallest glimpse of light.” (photo by Victoria Blewer)
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