All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Scribner '14, $27, 530 pages, ASIN #1476746583.
We've written a bit in these pages now and then about the four industry review outlets (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Library Journal) that evaluate about-to-be-published books (if they feel they merit evaluation) and give a "starred review" to the best of them. So while reviewers for newspapers and other publications make note that a book has won a starred review, it's nothing that we follow slavishly.
When a new book wins two starred reviews, we tend to take increased interest. And when a new work, such as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, cops starred reviews from all four outlets, we're sure to take it from the pile to bring home and read.
The much decorated Anthony Doerr's new book is described in short on the dust cover, designed to whet readers' interest:
"Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel.
"In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure's converge.
Author Anthohy Doerr has won numerous awards on both sides of the pond, including the O. Henry Prize, three Pushcart Prizes, the Rome Prize, and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. He lives in Idaho with his wife and two sons.
Redeemer -- The Life of Jimmy Carter by Randall Balmer, BasicBooks '14, $27.99, 273 pages, ASIN #0465029582. Index, no bibliography, notes, two appendices, unillustrated.
The transformation of American religious and political culture was far off when Jimmy Carter first ran for president, even though he has to credit evangelical voters, who had long avoided politics, for his election. In his new book, Randall Balmer -- a Dartmouth professor and episcopal priest -- describes how and why Carter burst upon the scene in 1976.
Among the topics Balmer discusses in his book are race, abortion, the fight for women's rights, economic equality, energy independence, and universal healthcare. He tells "how Carter, who grew up in a racially mixed environment -- and claimed that his childhood was 'shaped by black women' -- pandered to segregationists in his 1970 gubernatorial campaign, telling Vernon Jordan at the time, 'You won't like my campaign but you will like my administration....'
"Though personally opposed to abortion, Carper was publically pro-choice, and most people still believe that this was one of the major reasons evangelicals abandoned him. But it was his support for desegregation that truly riled the leaders of the religious right, who used his stance on abortion to galvanize people at the grassroots level."
Author Randall Balmer is the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth and has written more than a dozen books. He lives in Vermont.
The Scorpion's Sting -- Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War by James Oakes, Norton '14, $23.95, 207 pages, ASIN #0393239934. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
From the front cover:
"Surrounded by a ring of fire, the scorpion stings itself to death. The image, widespread among antislavery leaders before the Civil War, captures their long-standing strategy for peaceful abolition: they would surround the slave states with a cordon of freedom.
"They planned to use federal power wherever they could to establish freedom: the western territories, the District of Columbia, the high seas. By constricting slavery they would induce a crisis: slaves would escape in ever-great numbers, the southern economy would falter, and finally the southern states would abolish the institution themselves. For their part the southern states fuly understood this antislavery strategy. They cited it repeatedly as they adopted secession ordinances in response to Lincoln's election."
Author James Oakes has written several acclaimed books on slavery and the Civil War. He lives in New York City.