Posts Tagged Porter Square Books

book review: On Turpentine Lane

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On Turpentine Lane  by Elinor Lipman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt| February 2017| 305 pages | $24.00| ISBN: 978-0-544-80824-9

RATING: ****/5*

Faith Frankel, a thirty-two-year-old single woman, moved back to her hometown and works in stewardship at her alma mater, a private school. She recently purchased a house with a questionable history. Faith’s fiancé quit his job to trek across the country living off of Faith’s credit cards. He’s not walking for a cause but to find himself and Faith’s rather bothered by the photos with various women  he keeps posting to social media. Faith’s father has become a painter, specifically making Chagall knock-offs and personalizing them. He becomes involved with a younger woman setting off some issues with her parents and the rest of the family (mainly Faith and her brother). While juggling her fiancés antics with her father’s new career and her mom’s meddling, her brother hustles with his snowplow business in the small western Massachusetts town.

Why someone so smart and independent would remain engaged to this unaware guy? What’s appealing about Faith is that she’s not obsessed with getting married even though she did get engaged to her boyfriend before he embarked on his cross-country walk. She enjoys her work but isn’t obsessed with it. While her friends can’t understand why Faith moved back home from Manhattan, she’s thrilled to make a cozy home on Turpentine Lane. She’s content with her straightforward comfortable career and her new house.

Author Elinor Lipman describes Faith’s position as writing thank-you notes (by hand!) to donors. I have worked in stewardship and never wrote notes by hand. But I let it go as it’s a small town and a private school and a novel. In the Q & A that arrived with the press materials for the novel there’s this question: “Faith works at a private school as Director of Stewardship. Is that a real job?” Do people, particularly in publishing and writing, not know about it? At another point in the novel there’s mention of a landline. I don’t know anyone under 50 who still uses a landline.

The local police keep searching Faith’s basement for murder evidence based on an anonymous tip. After finding a creepy photo album in her attic, Faith invites her handsome coworker, who recently split with his live-in girlfriend, to become her housemate. It’s not long before the longtime friends become romantically involved. Her brother and her mother end up helping Faith investigate the strange photo album and its connection to the past owner. This all sounds rather madcap and it could go terribly awry. In Lipman’s hands it’s a clever and delightful read.

A native of Massachusetts, Lipman graduated from Simmons College. I am also an alumna. I’ve read every one of Lipman’s novels. My favorite is The Inn at Lake Devine. I also really like Isabel’s Bed and Then She Found Me (which was adapted into a film starring Helen Hunt). Her novels tend to be witty, engaging and feature multifaceted, appealing and flawed female characters. Is there any more intriguing kind of woman? If you’re looking for a sharp and entertaining read, On Turpentine Lane will definitely satisfy.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Elinor Lipman will read at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass. on Thursday, March 2, 2017.

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Boston-area book readings of note in May

heat and light

Jennifer Haigh, Heat & Light

Brookline Booksmith

Monday, May 2 at 7pm

RE Jane

Patricia Park, Re Jane

Beijing Bastard

Val Wang, Beijing Bastard

Porter Square Books

Monday, May 2 at 7pm

in the country we love

Diane Guerrero, In the Country We Love

Brookline Booksmith

Tuesday, May 3 at 7pm

history of great things

Elizabeth Crane, The History of Great Things

Porter Square Books

Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm

everybodys fool

Richard Russo, Everybody’s Fool

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm

the honeymoon

Dinitia Smith, The Honeymoon

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, May 10 at 7pm

modern girls

Jennifer S. Brown, Modern Girls

two-family house

Lynda Cohen Loigman, The Two-Family House

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 11 at 7pm

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Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here

Brookline Booksmith

Wednesday, May 18 at 7pm

the gene

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History

Harvard Bookstore

At Brattle Theatre

Wednesday, May 18 at 6pm

a country road a tree

Jo Baker, A Country Road, a Tree

Brookline Booksmith

Thursday, May 19 at 7pm

porcelain

Moby, Porcelain: a Memoir

Brookline Booksmith

Friday, May 20 at 7pm

labor of love

Moira Weigel, Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating

Harvard Book Store

Monday, May 23 at 7pm

noise of time

Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time

Coolidge Corner Theatre/ Brookline Booksmith event

Thursday, May 26 at 6pm

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book review: We Love You, Charlie Freeman

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We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge. Algonquin| March 8, 2016| 326 pages | $25.95| ISBN: 978-1-61620-467-9

RATING: *****/5*

We Love You, Charlie Freeman stands out as a thoughtful and provocative novel which effectively and creatively winds together numerous subjects from coming-of-age, first love, adolescence, sisterhood, race, anthropology, history and family dynamics. In 1990, a family relocates from Dorchester, Massachusetts to the Berkshires to teach sign language to a chimpanzee at the Toneybee Institute for Great Ape Research.

Mainly Laurel, the mother, will work with Charlie, the chimpanzee. Both daughters– teenager Charlotte and 11-year-old Callie– know sign language and the entire family with live with Charlie as if he’s another member of the family, sort of a brother. That’s the intent. Charlotte and Callie went to a “black, deaf overnight camp in the backwoods of Maryland.” Charlotte surmises it was for the two to make friends. She notes: “In Dorchester, our constant signing, our bookish ways and bans from fast-food restaurants and booty music, assured that me and Callie were unpopular on the block.” Debut novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge grew up in Boston and accurately describes Dorchester, the Berkshires and race in Massachusetts. The family soon learns about the institute’s notorious reputation, insidious rumors and unusual history.

Greenidge rotates points-of-view between the family members as well as a black woman name Nymphadora with an unusual association with the institution in 1929. Nymphadora describes herself: “I am a thirty-six-year-old unmarried, orphaned Negro schoolteacher, in charge of a room full of impressionable young colored minds and every night, I sing a dirty nursery rhyme to help me go to sleep. It is enough to laugh, if I did not always feel like weeping.”

Nymphadora lives in the mostly black Spring City. Back then researcher Dr. Gardner hires Nymphadora as a model to sketch. He sketches her nude and asks her to pose in unusual style. One day Nymphadora comes across the sketches Dr. Gardner made but instead of her face they contain the face of one of the chimpanzees. Appalled and upset, Nymphadora takes one of the sketches with her and writes to Dr. Gardner. Attempts and fails to collect an explanation or apology. The layers to Dr. Gardner’s shocking studies highlight misconceptions and stereotypes about race. Greenridge writes beautifully about the relationship that develops between Nympahdora and Dr. Gardner. She’s naïve. She trusts him enough to expose herself fully to him. He takes advantage and embarrasses her as well as many others.

In her new high school, although she’s one of few black students, Charlotte enjoys being rather anonymous. She notes: “Here, in Courtland County, I had the benefit of being unknown. Back home in Dorchester, I had been with the same kids since kindergarten and they all remembered me as the know-it-all who got uppity and insulted everyone in a secret language she spoke with her hands.” Charlotte’s dealing with a crush at school on another black student named Adia Breitling who teaches her many things about black culture, its history, the music and provides her information about what’s rumored about the institute. Charlotte notes that according to the Breitlings: “Black people could love Joni Mitchell but still claim to hate white singers. According to them, these were the things black people did not do: eat mayonnaise; drink milk; listen to Elvis Presley; watch Westerns or Dynasty; read Time magazine; appreciate Jack London; know the lyrics to Kenny Rogers’s songs; suffer fools; enjoy the cold or any kind of winter.”

One day Charlotte even finds her mom breastfeeding Charlie which leads her to question the entire situation. It’s clearly upsetting and weird for her. She also comes across information about the experiments conducted on black people by the institute in the 1930s. She speaks out at a dinner with Ms. Julia Toneybee-Leroy one evening and throws everyone into a frenzy. I preferred and appreciated Charlotte’s point-of-view most of all and it might have been as effective if she told the Freeman’s story.

Immediately bonding with Charlie, Laurel carries him around like a baby. He’s instantly attached and rather protective of their relationship. He wants no one to come between him and Laurel. This position at the institute training Charlie could change everything for Laurel. She’s always insisted on using black sign language versus white. “She should have started signing white again, at least get a shot at the better jobs, but Laurel was stubborn. She truly believed that she could win people over to her side of things. They only had to see black sign language, she was certain, to understand that is was special.” And Laurel does in the end choose Charlie over everything and everyone.

Callie grows jealous that her sister has a new friend and that her mom spends most of her time with Charlie. She starts over-eating and gains lots of weight. Charles, the father—who teaches at the school Charlotte attends–begins to grow apart from Laurel, abhors the entire experiment and decides to move out. This once close-knit family feels increasingly strained and pushed by Charlie the chimpanzee and Laurel’s fervent devotion to him. Eventually everything implodes.

–review by Amy Steele

Kaitlyn Greenidge will be reading at Porter Square Books on Thursday, March 17, 2016.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Algonquin Books.

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purchase at Amazon: We Love You, Charlie Freeman: A Novel

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MARCH Boston-area Book Readings of Note

georgia

Dawn Tripp
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’ Keefe
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm

blackass

A. Igoni Barrett
Blackass
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, March 1 at 7pm

couple mechanics

Nelly Alard
Couple Mechanics
Porter Square Books
Wednesday, March 2 at 7pm

glad about you

Theresa Rebeck
I’m Glad About You
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 3 at 7pm

lay down your weary tune

W.B. Belcher
Lay Down Your Weary Tune
Porter Square Books
Tuesday, March 8 at 7pm

oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi
What is Not Yours is Not Ours
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 9 at 7pm

highest glass ceiling

Ellen Fitzpatrick
The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency
Newtonville Books
Thursday, March 10 at 7pm

civil wars of julia ward

Elaine Showalter
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography
Harvard Book Store
Monday, March 14 at 7pm

don't let my baby do rodeo

Boris Fishman
Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, March 16 at 7pm

edge of the orchard

Tracy Chevalier
At the Edge of the Orchard
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm

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Kaitlyn Greenidge
We Love You, Charlie Freeman
Porter Square Books
Thursday, March 17 at 7pm

the lonely city

Olivia Laing
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone
Brookline Booksmith
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

giril through glass

Sari Wilson
Girl Through Glass
Harvard Book Store
Friday, March 18 at 7pm

the nest

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
The Nest
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, March 23 at 7pm

dark sparkler

Amber Tamblyn
Dark Sparkler
Cambridge Public Library
Tuesday, March 29 at 7pm

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September Boston-area Book Readings of Note

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Christopher Moore
Secondhand Souls
Brookline Booksmith
At Coolidge Corner Theatre
Wednesday, September 2 at 6pm

read my interview with Christopher Moore

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Jill Bialosky
The Prize
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, September 10 at 7pm

girl waits with gun

Amy Stewart
Girl Waits with Gun
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 11 at 7pm

art of memoir

Mary Karr
The Art of Memoir
Monday, September 14 at 6pm
Harvard Book Store at Brattle Theatre

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Ann Beattie
The State We’re In: Maine Stories
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, September 15 at 7pm

marriage of opposites

Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites
Newtonville Books
Thursday, September 17 at 7pm

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Salman Rushdie
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Harvard Book Store at First Parish Church
Monday, September 21 at 7pm

last september

Nina de Gramont
The Last September
Porter Square Books
Monday, September 21 at 7pm

fates and furies

Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, September 22 at 7pm

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J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
Regulating Desire
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 25 at 3pm

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Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic
Harvard Book Store
Friday, September 25 at 7pm

23492600

Michael I. Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett
F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Manageing All Life’s Impossible Challenges
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, September 29 at 7pm

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Jojo Moyes
After You
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, September 30 at 7pm

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Summer Boston-area Book Readings of Note

JULY

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Mia Alvar
In the Country: stories
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, July 22 at 7pm

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Elizabeth Little
Dear Daughter
Harvard Book Store
Tuesday, July 28 at 7pm

art of the con

Anthony Amore
The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, July 30 at 7pm

ambassadors wife

Jennifer Steil
The Ambassador’s Wife
Porter Square Books
Thursday, July 30 at 7pm

AUGUST

regulating desire

J. Shoshanna Ehrlich
Regulating Desire
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, August 4 at 7pm

marriage of opposites

Alice Hoffman
The Marriage of Opposites
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, August 5 at 7pm

never weird on internet

Felicia Day
You’re Never Weird on the Internet [almost]
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, August 12 at 6pm

euthanist

Alex Dolan
The Euthanist
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, August 13 at 7pm

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MAY Boston-area Book Readings of Note

romantic outlaws

Charlotte Gordon
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
Brookline Booksmith
Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm

house of hawthorne

Erika Robuck
The House of Hawthorne
Newtonville Books
Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm

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Sarah McCoy
The Mapmaker’s Children
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, May 6 at 7pm

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John Palfrey
BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More than Ever in the Age of Google
Harvard Book Store
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

dream lover

Elizabeth Berg
The Dream Lover
Newtonville Books
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

daylight marriage

Heidi Pitlor
The Daylight Marriage
Porter Square Books
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

Erika Robuck
The House of Hawthorne
Sarah McCoy
The Mapmaker’s Children
The Concord Bookshop
Thursday, May 7 at 7pm

everything

Celeste Ng
Everything I Never Told You
Porter Square Books
Tuesday, May 12 at 7pm

hospice

Gregory Howard
Hospice
Brookline Booksmith
Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm

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Anne Enright
The Green Road
Harvard Book Store
Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm

Heidi Pitlor
The Daylight Marriage
Newtonville Books
Thursday, May 14 at 7pm

salinger year

Joanna Rakoff
My Salinger Year
Harvard Book Store
Saturday, May 16 at 7pm

9780374280307

Barney Frank
Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage
Brookline Booksmith
Thursday, May 21 at 6pm

women of will

Tina Packer
Women of Will
Porter Square Books
Friday, May 22 at 7pm

Mako Yoshikawa
Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember their Father
Brookline Booksmith
Saturday, May 23 at 5pm

ISIS

Dr. Jessica Stern
ISIS: The State of Terror
The Concord Bookshop
Thursday, May 28 at 7pm

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