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ALMOST, Elizabeth Benedict's fourth novel, is "her most spirited to date" (New York Times Book Review). Forty-something narrator Sophy Chase has just begun a lighthearted, romantically adventurous life in New York City when she learns that her almost ex-husband has been found dead on the New England resort island where she left him just months before. Lured back to the island by feelings she thought she had left behind, Sophy must navigate treacherous emotional terrain involving her grown stepdaughters, a former lover who is now a celebrity lawyer, the mystery of her husband's death -- and her own darkest impulses.
This celebrated coming-of-age novel moves from Manhattan during the early days of Mad Men to the swinging, chaotic 1970s: A sensitive girl burdened with her mother's drinking and long string of husbands becomes a special young woman when her best friend's family opens her eyes to artEsme Singer is a resilient girl from Los Angeles, new to Manhattan, who takes better care of her beautiful, alcoholic mother than her mother does of her. A former fashion model and extra in the movies, her mother attracts a series of husbands and boyfriends as Esme watches in fascination and sometimes horror. Esme's father comes and goes, forever riding the wave of the latest get-rich-quick scheme. As Esme becomes a teenager, she turns to her friend Leah's cultured, exotic family for inspiration and solace--especially Leah's father, a well-known photographer who encourages Esme to cultivate her gifts. Might art--and a favorite teacher--become the answer to some of her troubles?The Beginner's Book of Dreams is an insightful, sophisticated, sometimes wickedly funny, always sharp-eyed portrayal of a young woman inventing and discovering her own independent spirit.
Best Contemporary Women's Fiction: Six Novels includes works by some of the finest novelists of today. Almost by Elizabeth Benedict chronicles the attempt of writer Sophy Chase to come to terms with the death of her almost ex-husband -- who may have committed suicide on the New England resort island where she left him just months before.Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum follows Trudy, a professor of German history, as she investigates her mother's past and the truth surrounding her life in Germany during WWII. Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame. The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss is a heartwarming, greatly satisfying story of a young woman with the rare talent of "gentling" wild horses and the unexpected and profound connections between people and animals. The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husband's estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell is a gothic, intricate tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth that will haunt you long past its final page. The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett tells the story of a secretive magician's death that sets in motion his partner's journey of self-discovery.
For Denis Johnson, it was Leonard Gardner's cult favorite Fat City; for Jonathan Safran Foer, it was a brief encounter with Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai; Mary Gordon's mentors were two Barnard professors, writers Elizabeth Hardwick and Janice Thaddeus, whose lessons could not have been more different. In Mentors, Muses & Monsters, edited and with a contribution by Elizabeth Benedict, author of the National Book Award finalist Slow Dancing, thirty of today's brightest literary lights turn their attention to the question of mentorship and influence, exploring the people, events, and books that have transformed their lives. The result is an astonishing collection of stirring, insightful, and sometimes funny personal essays. In her communications with contributors, Benedict noticed a longing to thank the people who had changed their lives, and to acknowledge them the best way a storyteller can, by revealing the intricacies of their connection. These writers look back to when something powerful happened to them at an unpredictable age, a moment when a role model saw potential in them, or when they came to understand they possessed literary talent themselves. As most of these encounters occurred when the writers were young -- unsure of who they were or what they could accomplish -- several pieces radiate a poignant tenderness, and almost all of them express enduring gratitude. When Joyce Carol Oates describes her public-rivalry-turned-wary-professional-acquaintanceship with Donald Barthelme, we are privy to the fascinating sight of one of today's most important writers being directly, personally affected by another influential writer. When Sigrid Nunez reveals what it was like to be Susan Sontag's protégé, we get a glimpse into the private life and working philosophy of a formidable public intellectual. And when Jane Smiley describes her first year at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974, she offers an intimate portrait of a literary milieu of enduring significance for American literature. Rich, thought-provoking, and often impassioned, these pieces illuminate not only the anxiety but the necessity of influence -- and also the treasures it yields. By revealing themselves as young men and women in search of direction and meaning, these artists explore the endlessly varied paths to creative awakening and literary acclaim.
When Eric Lavender meets the attorney Colleen O'Brien Golden, his position as one of Manhattan's chic psychotherapists and most eligible bachelors suddenly loses its appeal. The sexy, stylish Colleen lures him to live with her and her young daughter in the exclusive suburb of Scarsdale. To his amazement, Eric is besotted and soon settles into the unexpected bliss of marriage and domesticity with their new baby and his loving stepdaughter. He even becomes a local hero when the police turn to him for help in resolving a hostage crisis. But Eric's transformation comes to an abrupt halt when the police knock on his door again -- this time with handcuffs. He and Colleen are caught up in an explosive conflict of interest involving their clients. When Eric discovers that Colleen has gone to extreme lengths to conceal her secret past, she retaliates with horrendous charges against him. Eric must uncover the truth before his children, his career, and his freedom are taken from him forever. As she did in her bestseller Almost, Elizabeth Benedict navigates the turbulent waters of love, law, psychology, and ethics with biting wit and penetrating insight. The Practice of Deceit is a razor-sharp novel of marriage -- and divorce -- gone awry.
Finalist for the National Book Award: A sassy, cynical professional woman's notions of love--and its apparent impossibility--are thrown into question by a man who challenges everything she thought she knewThough a talented young immigration lawyer, Lexi Steiner is in trouble. The legal organization where she works in Los Angeles may soon go under. Her habit of engaging in daring flings with charming--and sometimes not-so-charming--men is losing its luster. And her most intimate relationship of all, the one with her college best friend, Nell, is about to be threatened by two men: Nell's serious new lover, and Lexi's: a divorced investigative reporter who does the unthinkable and falls in love with her.A fast-paced, sexy, and very serious novel about love and ambition, about bicoastal best friends and enduring lovers, Slow Dancing is a captivating look at lives and hearts in transition, moving forward one tentative step at a time.
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