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"Elspeth Howell was a sinner."
With these opening words and other curious facts at the beginning of his story -- Elspeth is a traveling midwife who must keep lists of her children's names and ages; she can't bear to leave the latest baby she has helped birth; she is walking home through deep snow to her family who live in a remote and isolated country area (in 1897, "an arc unto ourselves") -- James Scott creates questions and tensions in the reader. The answers and the horror she finds propel the reader into this story of love and revenge. Expect the unexpected in this first novel, where the snowy landscape and unending cold become major parts of the story. As Elspeth assumes the identity of a man to help exact her violent payback, we witness a mother's love played out in the extreme. With echoes of the Old West and its frontier vendettas, its tracking of criminals, and its unusual characters, this book will captivate until its stunning conclusion. - Kathy Schultenover, Book Club Coordinator
Here's how it works:
• If you sign up for the Parnassus First Editions Club, we will deliver a signed first edition of a book to your doorstep 10 to 12 times a year.
• The selections will be hand-chosen by the staff of Parnassus, and will include a mix of established authors and potential new literary and non-fiction stars.
• We hope you'll love the books we choose, but in the event that you don't, you can return a selection within two weeks of receiving it.
• To sign up, simply fill out the form below or feel free to stop by the store, where one of our friendly booksellers will be happy to assist you. All books are billed at list price, plus postage.
Please note: Pending charges from this program may appear as "Stripe". This is the payment processor that we use and the description will update to "Parnassus Books" within a week.
If you'd like to see whether we have extra signed copies of any of these titles available for purchase, you may do so here.
This illuminating novel brings to light a period in history that was the genesis of the two emancipation movements that changed American history.
It begins in the early 19th century in Charleston, South Carolina, a town steeped in economic wealth but mired in slavery. At the center are two young women of vastly different circumstances but both of a fiercely-honed intellect and passion. Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a prominent family, is given a special birthday gift on her eleventh birthday: Ten year old Hetty "Handful" Grimke, to be her own personal slave. Even at this early age, Sarah recognizes slavery as the abomination that it is and accepts Handful as her friend, sharing their childhood, teaching her to read -- a criminal offense at the time -- and promising freedom.
The story spans thirty-five years, in which Sarah breaks tradition by leaving Charleston and becoming active in the abolition movement in the North, joined by her spirited younger sister, Angelina. In time, the two women discover that there is also a need to speak out for the rights of women, as well as slaves, as they experience oppression even from their abolitionist brothers-in-arms. Handful remains a slave in the Grimke household but becomes part of a rebellion that has the direst of consequences.
Knowing that this richly layered story is based on historical figures and events causes the reader to be even more engaged, resulting in a page-turner written in lovely but emotionally charged prose. As much as we enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, this novel is a masterpiece of historical literary fiction, which Parnassus is honored to have as our January First Edition Selection. - Mary Grey James, Manager of Books for Young Readers
We all have authors whose work we eagerly anticipate. When finally they have a new book, it goes right to the top of our stack. For me (and most lovers of history), Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of those writers. I am extremely pleased that her latest effort, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, is the December selection for the Parnassus First Editions Club.
Doris Kearns Goodwin is truly one of the great presidential historians of all time. Her ability to capture the essence of these monumental figures is what makes her biographies so compelling. She provides us with an approachable and thoughtful understanding of these leaders and their place in history.
What began as a biography of Teddy Roosevelt grew into more as Goodwin realized that Roosevelt's story and that of Taft were so intertwined that it was impossible to tell one without the other. And their stories were so difficult to separate from the muckraking era that Goodwin essentially gave us three books in one.
We are the lucky beneficiaries of the brand of storytelling she has perfected through her career. It is our pleasure to share with you what may be her best effort yet. - Andy Brennan, Floor Manager
Mother and daughter issues. The immigrant experience. Racial prejudice. The need for love and validation by the opposite sex. All of these universal themes can be found in our latest selection.
Amy Tan draws on her ancestors' stories, her own life, and her vast experience in writing to create The Valley of Amazement. She tells the story of Violet, a half-Chinese and half-American girl being raised by her American mother in a Shanghai courtesan house. When her mother is tricked into following a lover to America during the 1912 Chinese revolution, Violet is left behind to fend for herself. She is sold to another "flower house" and becomes an adult almost overnight. Her story of survival forms the bulk of the novel as she does anything to protect her own child and to try to find real love while reconnecting with her mother in the United States after years of abuse in her life as a courtesan.
Have you ever wondered what being a courtesan is like? You will know after reading The Valley of Amazement -- as well as what mother and daughter can become, what racial prejudice can be, and what the love of another means in life. Amy Tan covers much ground in this lush and wondrous story. - Kathy Schultenover, Book Club Coordinator
If you’ve picked up a newspaper or a magazine in the past month, turned on the radio, tuned into the thrumming book buzz of the universe, you know the talk is all about Donna Tartt and The Goldfinch, her first novel in twelve years and her third novel ever. As you can see, this is a big book. Stephen King, in his rave cover review in the New York Times Book Review, suggested that it should not be dropped on the reader’s foot. It’s also a Big Book for publishing, one of the most important novels of the fall season. Donna’s tour is starting in Nashville and we’re one of only twelve stops she’s making in the U.S. All by way of saying, this signed first edition you’re holding in your hands is something we’re very, very proud to be able to bring you. Membership has its privileges.
But do you know what makes this even better? Aside from being an important event, the book is also fantastically good. It combines a riveting plot, a Dickensian sweep, and a level of artistry and technical brilliance that made me rethink what a novel, and a novelist, is capable of. You might wonder when you’ll have time to read such a big book, but this book will magically find the time for you. I read it in two and a half days. I couldn’t put it down. - Ann Patchett
Every year on her birthday, Claire’s father has to decide whether this will be the year he gives her away. Claire’s mother died in childbirth, and Claire’s father, a poor fisherman, wants her to have the best life possible, even if that means she’s not with him. On her 7th birthday, her father finally decides it’s time for her to go live with a wealthy shopkeeper in town. And suddenly, just as it is decided, Claire vanishes. Disappeared into the night, with no clue on where she might have gone.
So starts this startlingly beautiful book by Edwidge Danticat. The novel travels through time and weaves together the story of the residents of Ville Rose, a fictional poor fishing village in Haiti, as they try to piece together Claire’s disappearance. Claire of the Sea Light is a remarkably luminous tale of love, sacrifice, and the connectivity of our lives to those around us.
This novel is a wonder, and one of the best works of fiction I’ve read in ages. All of us at Parnassus are wholly devoted to Claire the world Edwidge Danticat has created in Claire of the Sea Light. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. - Niki Castle, Director of Events and Marketing
When I was the guest editor of Best American Short Stories 2006, I settled down on the couch with an enormous pile of short stories and pulled one out of the middle of the stack as if I was picking the winning raffle ticket. The story, “Once the Shore," was written by someone I’d never heard of, a young writer named Paul Yoon. It told of a brother’s death in a fishing accident, an event more far reaching and emotionally complicated than the reader might suspect. The writing had at once a lightness and a weight to it that made it seem perfectly balanced, perfectly new. It turns out the reason I had never heard of Paul Yoon was that this was his first published story. It was also the first story I chose for Best American.
Once the Shore later became the title for Paul’s first collection of short stories, and now, thankfully, we have his novel, the stunning and elegant Snow Hunters. It follows Yohan to Brazil after the Korean war as he starts his life again as a tailor’s apprentice. It is a beautiful, lonely story. It made me remember how often we say too much, because in this book the depth of the world is conveyed in a few gestures.
As Publishers Weekly said, “Prose so pristine it feels supernatural.” That pretty much sums it up.
There are a lot of big books coming out this fall. Enormous books. So here at the end of summer, savor this slim gift.
Of all the exciting and memorable books to come our way this season, none has captured me like The Son. This saga of several generations of the formidable McCullough family is an epic of the American West, mirroring the history of Texas and indeed, the United States as a whole, showing how the roots of bravery, ambition and violence have shaped our national character. Over the years, the family endures attacks by Comanches, wars with neighboring Mexican ranchers, the advent of the modern age and its oil boom/bust cycle. The story is woven among three main characters: Eli (1849) who is captured by Comanches and is forever changed, his son Peter (1915), known as "The Great Disgrace," who tries to run the ranch his father founded and continues to dominate, and Jeanne Anne (1945), Eli's great-grandaughter, who must bring the ranch fully into the oil age and deal with being a strong woman in a man's world. The empire of the McCulloughs becomes one of the richest dynasties in Texas, but not without great personal cost to its members. This is a rich, panoramic story with wonderful characters and vivid unforgettable scenes. For me, it was a "can't-put-down read," reminding me of Lonesome Dove and Giant. It's a great addition to our First Editions Club.
The saga of a man who is blessed (or cursed) with the inability to die despite life's best efforts to kill him, Southern Cross the Dog is an epic that covers a tremendous amount of ground--literally and figuratively. Beginning in flood, passing through fire, it is the engrossing story of a brutal and mesmerizing chapter of America's history, when social and geographic boundaries were in massive upheaval. From the microcosmic to the macrocosmic, Cheng's novel encompasses all this complexity without straying from the storytelling compass that makes Southern Cross the Dog, in addition to everything else, a great read.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular. Not since Everything is Illuminated have I read a first novel so ambitious and fully realized. If this is where Anthony Marra begins his career, I can't imagine how far he will go.
Jill McCorkle’s excellent new book Life After Life is a moving portrayal of how lives are changed by chance encounters and rediscoveries of old relationships alike. With a cast of characters who lives revolve around a small town North Carolina retirement home you would think that McCorkle might easily fall into southern stereotypes, but that is not at all the case. The characters are complex, as are the relationships, but it is all handled with a light touch filled with humor and poignancy. This is a book you will remember long after you set it down.
When Strout set out to write her follow-up to Olive Kitteridge, she revisited an old manuscript in which a fatherless family named Burgess were minor characters. Using an actual case in Maine as a model for one of the character’s legal troubles, her own time as both a Maine and New York local, and her expertise as a former lawyer, Strout brought these deeply human protagonists into the present day and made their story the crux of The Burgess Boys. Strout has woven themes of race, immigration, and class into a gripping tale of family loss and the destructive power of secrets. Early readers in-house and beyond have expressed their belief that with this novel—set on a larger canvas and with a more ambitious scope—Strout has produced a novel that surpasses her other work.
Our December and January picks were both nonfiction, and we heard from our club members that they were ready for a novel. I put out a call to people I know in the publishing world and starting reading. After wading through some books that were not good, and some books that were not good enough, a friend recommended I get hold of an advance reading copy of a book called The Antagonist by the Canadian author, Lynn Coady. Jackpot. The entire novel is a series of emails written by the narrator to his old college friend. The book is smart and profane and funny (isn’t funny just the thing for February?) and in every way unexpected. It never went where I thought it was going. It always went someplace better. That’s the great thing about the First Editions Club - one month you get Jon Meacham or Louise Erdrich, books that could easily be called contemporary classics, then the next month you get something that you otherwise might never have found at all.
In this incredibly fascinating and provocative book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond takes us on a tour of the human past as it has been for millions of years and considers what the difference between that past and our present mean for our lives today. As we have come to expect from Diamond, this book provides plenty of food for thought and arms you for a lively discussion.
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gives us a deeply researched look at president Jefferson, a man who tried to balance a vigorous life of a mind with a vigorous life in politics. Meacham is also a recent resident of Nashville and joins the ranks of other celebrated local authors who we have featured in the Parnassus First Editions Club.
Ever since his first published novel, Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane has been recognized as a first-rate novelist with a flair for the darker side of the human psyche. His characters move against the current of the law but in a manner that has his readers pulling for their redemption in the end. And at the heart of the suspense and drama, there is a heart-rending love story. After nine novels, three of which have been made into award-winning films, Lehane has written his most colorful cast of characters inhabiting his most exotic setting. It is for this reason that Live By Night was chosen as the November Parnassus First Editions Club Selection.
We were thrilled to have had the unique opportunity to bring The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling to our Parnassus First Editions Club members. Rowling gave only one appearance in the U.S. for this book -- an interview at Lincoln Center in New York with our own Ann Patchett. Since we were the only bookstore in the country to offer them, these signed copies of The Casual Vacancy were an incredibly rare first edition.
One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.
The Age of Desire tells the story of Edith Wharton's illicit love affair with journalist Morton Fullerton and how it threatened her closest friendship. Fields uses Wharton's real letters and diary entries throughout the book, infusing it with historical accuracy and a personal connection. Set mostly in Paris, it recaptures an era of literary salons, chauffeured motorcars and veiled meetings in secret cafés, the devastating Paris Flood of 1910, and the dark beginnings of World War I.
In this thrilling follow-up novel by the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Little Bee, three cyclists compete to race in the 2012 London Olympics. As tightly paced as a race itself, and filled with beautifully flawed and deeply compelling characters, Gold is an absolute must-read.
"First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later."
So begins what I believe is Richard Ford's best book to date. On the not-too-shabby surface, this is Dell Parson's account of the event -- his parents' bank robbery -- and its aftermath that turned his and his twin sister's life upside down. More so, it is a meditation on the thin line between order and chaos, good and evil, and how easy it is to step over that line. Ford's feat is his creation of Dell's voice, first as a child in all his ignorance, intensity and intuition of concepts more complex than what he has language for; and then as man, arranging, puzzling over, and looking closely at his life and his family, trying to see what's there. The overall effect is profound and deeply satisfying in its ability to capture the truth of how we experience things. Nicholson Baker writes somewhere that we need the art to understand the life. This is a necessary book. - Mary Grey James, Manager of Books for Young Readers
If Nora Ephron feels bad about her neck, Clover feels bad about her entire body when one morning she discovers that she is invisible...and that's not the worst of the situation! She soon realizes that Arthur, her husband of many years, and her son, Nick, don't notice that she's invisible. So begins Clover's search on two fronts: one to discover why she and certain other women she meets are invisible; and 2) why do their nearest and dearest not notice anything peculiar.
Jeanne Ray writes with her characteristic charm and humor, but this time there is an underlying message that readers -- both women and men -- will recognize as a common problem in our relationships with others. - Mary Grey James, Manager of Books for Young Readers
On the day of Emerald Torrington's 20th birthday a disastrous train wreck sends a group of accident victims to Sterne, the Torrington's Edwardian country manor, for care and feeding. The circumstances are unusual to say the least, but as the day passes things continue to get stranger and stranger. Our HarperCollins rep describes this book as "Downton Abbey meets Edward Gorey" and that description is spot on. - Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books Co-Owner
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is about more than the hilarious and profound musings of a young American soldier. It's everything we've become since 9/11 and, truth be told, what's been in the becoming for so much longer: all our groupthink and paranoia, all our well-meaning pretensions, and the near-unshakable wall of patriotic kitsch separating us from even understanding those we call our heroes. Ben Fountain has written the funniest, saddest, and most beautiful book of this young century. Heller has nothing on him. - Tristan Hickey, Inventory Manager
Our first selection is The Song of Achilles, a remarkable debut by novelist Madeline Miller, and we wouldn't have it any other way. In addition to the shared Greek connection, The Song of Achilles encompasses everything that we hope to achieve with our First Editions Club, namely, highlighting spectacular writing that is not only enjoyable but deeply engaging and timeless.
The Song of Achilles is told from the point of view of Patroclus, an exiled prince who finds refuge in the court of King Peleus. Peleus' son, Achilles, quickly takes notice of Patroclus and their friendship deepens into a passionate romance despite the objections of Achilles' mother, the goddess Thetis. What follows is a retelling of the Trojan War from a completely new perspective. In Ann's words, "If you were a fan of The Iliad, or you wished you had a better understanding of The Iliad, here's your chance. She brings this classic roaring back to life with a take on the text that is completely her own." This is a book that is absolutely not to be missed. - Patrik Ward, Operations Manager
Recipient of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction!