Noteworthy paperbacks

February 16, 2013 

Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois. (Picador) Even before the devastating 2010 earthquake, Haiti was known as a benighted place of poverty and corruption, insurrection and suppression. In this authoritative history, Dubois, the author of “Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution,” traces the “authoritarian political habits” and mercenary intrusions of foreign powers that have hamstrung the nation since it declared independence in 1804.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones. (Harper Perennial) Set in post-Edwardian England, Jones’ novel is a drawing-room comedy, a ghost story and, most improbably, a love story. The doleful Torringtons are planning an elegant party, but the celebration is forestalled by a nearby train derailment that floods their manor house with a throng of down-market passengers and one demonic aristocrat, all in need of shelter.

Sometimes There Is A Void: Memoirs of an Outsider by Zakes Mda. (Picador) In his gregarious memoir, the South African novelist and playwright chronicles the upheavals that sharpened his skills as a wide-ranging social observer.

The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler. (Ballantine) Mourning is both a rite of passage and a process of discovery in Tyler’s incisive 19th novel. After losing his wife when a tree crashes onto their Baltimore home, Aaron Woolcott feels “erased” – until he starts receiving visitations from his wife’s ghost.

In Our Prime: The Fascinating History and Promising Future of Middle Age by Patricia Cohen. (Scribner) Cohen, a New York Times reporter, presents a lively, well-researched account of the social and scientific forces that have brought “middle age” – a concept that’s both a symbol of power and influence and a metaphor for decline – to its current state in America.

Watergate by Thomas Mallon. (Vintage) Narrated from multiple points of view, Mallon’s boisterous reimagining of the Watergate scandal proposes surprising motives for the break-in and the 18-minute gap, and conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency.

Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer. (Grove) Treuer, an Ojibwe novelist, surveys life on American reservations – the result is a penetrating amalgam of history, memoir and polemic that addresses treaty rights, local justice systems, the casino business, cultural traditions and family tragedy.

All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley. (New American Library) In Mosley’s fourth Leonid McGill mystery, the shady but honorable bruiser-for-hire tries to atone for a past misdeed by protecting a woman falsely implicated in the $58 million robbery of a Wall Street firm.

New York Times

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