Lisa Ko’s timely debut novel “The Leavers” examines the complex nature of assimilation and identity. The story follows Deming Guo, a boy abandoned by his undocumented immigrant mother, as he moves from the Bronx to upstate New York, changing his name to Daniel and occupying a dual-consciousness to cope with the muted, but persistent buzz of subconscious discrimination. This thoughtful portrait of a first-generation American thoroughly explores the impact of displacement and systematic racism — trauma without brutality — in both Deming and his mother, as she grapples with the mistakes of her past.
Word’s pick: “Isadora” by Amelia Gray
Amelia Gray first novel, “Isadora,” a haunting portrayal of Isadora Duncan, the mother of modern dance, as she reels from the tragic drowning of her two young children. At the height of her career, Isadora is faced with this unimaginable loss and struggles to recover from the shock. Essentially abandoning her lover and family, Isadora turns to dance as a coping mechanism, becoming increasingly unhinged as she fuels her art with her despair. Gray’s feverish depiction of Isadora’s emotional upheaval is a visceral exploration into the effects of grief.
— Alison Gore, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
I’m a bit of a tenderfoot when it comes to crime fiction, so it was with some trepidation that I took up George V. Higgins’s minor masterpiece. Turns out, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is not only a nasty diamond of ’70s noir, but a formally daring piece of dialogue-driven modernism, like a Henry Green novel, if all the characters were cutthroats and crooks out for an easy buck. Peter Yates made it into a very fine movie with Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle, so double your fun some afternoon. As for me, I’m hooked.
— Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun
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