I am so spoiled. It’s only mid-July, and already I’m lapping up a stack of review copies of fall releases. They conjure cool breezes to come, and each one is absolutely gripping.
Hemingway in Love: A Memoir is a quick read by Ernest Hemingway’s longtime friend A.E. Hotchner. Over several decades, Hemingway confided the details to Hotchner of his breakup with his first wife, Hadley, and the affair with Pauline Pfeiffer that led to the divorce. Because it would likely have wounded her, the story was sealed until Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary, died. We learn that Hemingway deeply regretted the intrusion of Pauline into his marriage and lived with the knowledge that he had bungled his relationship with the woman he spent the rest of his life searching for. October.
Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story, by David Payne. Payne, a gifted novelist who lives in Hillsborough, gives us a memoir so intimate it’s almost mouth-to-mouth. Payne’s younger brother George, a brilliant, bipolar stock broker, lost his career, his marriage, his compass. He visits David in Vermont to help pack up his house, and driving a rental truck behind his brother on the way back to North Carolina, George fishtails and instantly dies. Suicide? Perhaps. David examines his stew of feelings about George, digging into their shared past and his own crumbling marriage, noting how patterns repeat through the generations. Powerful, gripping, raw and tender. August.
My Southern Journey: True Stories From the Heart of the South, by Rick Bragg. I don’t love “grit lit,” that genre that’s so down-home Southern it makes me want to head for Alaska. But no matter Bragg’s subject (it can get peach cobbler-y), nobody matches his lyricism or his timing. On coleslaw: “Don’t let it go bad. When it does, do not put it under the noses of good people.” Other subjects: “stuffing,” Yankees, mothers, stillness. “Sometimes in summer, we sit on the porch of our old house in Fairhope (Alabama) to watch the dark fall, but sometimes the neighbors get to hollering about, well, living, and how do you go over and say, ‘Excuse me. but you are messing up my dark.’” September.
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Did You Ever Have a Family, by Bill Clegg. A debut novel for Clegg, a literary agent and memoirist (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man). If you’ve ever imagined how you could possibly survive if everyone you loved suddenly died, this is your book. A house fire on the eve of a wedding. Four deaths. A mother left on her own. September.