What we're reading: Reviews from Bartleby's Books, Feb. 22

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"The Followers" by Megan Angelo

Following the lives of three women interconnected women, this page turner is a warning of what future lies ahead. The novel is set during two different time periods, 2016 and 2051, before and after a catasclymic event referred to as "the Spill." In both cases, the focus is on how Americans are able to find and share information instantly (and often carelessly), are obsessed with celebrity, and are freely giving their privacy away. The women are lonely, bored, restless, and brutal in the lengths they will go to be seen. Angelo wants you to believe they are this way because of their reliance on their devices, the technology that is supposed to make them feel more connected, more knowledgeable, forever entertained. I couldn't put this book down. The characters were fully developed and the propulsive plot felt terrifyingly plausible. I think Angelo has achieved what she has set out to do: write a terrific social commentary novel that leaves the reader thinking about how relying on technology has created a void in their own lives.

— Maria Cunningham

"A Long Petal of The Sea" by Isabel Allende

This beautifully written novel begins in Spain during the late 1930's, when that country was in the grips of civil war. As the Fascists take over, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee. This story follows Victor and Roser from Spain to Chile on their search for a place they can call home. It is a story of war, love and family and the sacrifices that one must make. It is a gripping novel written with an historical backdrop. Allende is able to seamlessly blend both the fictional and historical characters to create this masterful novel. It is a work of beauty and sensitivity and one that I highly recommend.

— Betty Hillman

"The Free" by Willy Vlautin

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One of the best parts of working in a bookstore is comparing notes with other avid readers. It is always fun to see where our mutual love of reading intersects, but the real treat is in finding a new favorite author who hadn't previously been on your radar. I had the pleasure of learning about a new-to-me author just recently when an editor from Harper Collins came through Bartleby's and we traded our little-known favorites lists. Her recommendation to me was Willy Vlautin, who is the author of five novels, all written with a stark and observant eye for the characters persevering in the face of heartbreak.

I have started with "The Free," a novel which follows three disparate characters who are loosely tied through experience: Leroy, an Iraq War veteran whose narrative is channeled through the inner life he leads following a failed suicide attempt, Pauline, a self-sacrificing nurse who works at the hospital where Leroy is being cared for, and Freddie, the attendant who had been on duty when the Leroy made his suicide attempt. Vlautin's gift is in bringing unlikely protagonists to life and deftly intertwining their contrasting worlds in simple but meaningful ways. Each of their personal hurts and hopes are brought quietly but vividly to life by this compassionate author.

Vlautin is a wonderful writer whose novels I am so glad to have found. I encourage everyone to give his books a try.

— Ana McDaniel

"Daisy Jones and the Six" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Now in paperback, "Daisy Jones and the Six" is one of my favorite novels of 2019. The novel, written in interview style, is the story of a 1970s rock band told by its members. As the story unfolds we learn about the rise of the original band, the addition of Daisy Jones as one of the lead singers and the complications that arise. This book is sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but also a love story. At times I forgot it was a novel because the voices seemed so real and raw. A fantastic read, and also excellent as an audio book.

— Lisa Sullivan

Bartleby's Books is at 17 West Main St. in historic downtown Wilmington and is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. year-round For more, call 802-464-5425 or visit myvermontbookstore.com.


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