Book Review

Journalist and book reviewer Suzanne Tobias reviews the latest books and such for KMUW on air and right here. Discover new reviews on alternate Mondays. You can also listen to KMUW book reviews through iTunes. Listen or subscribe here

Early in Ann Patchett’s new novel, “The Dutch House,” the narrator, Danny, poses a question to his sister, Maeve:

“Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?”

For people around the world – and particularly in Kansas – Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka is a symbol of extremism and hate.

In her debut novel, “The Dearly Beloved,” author Cara Wall tells the story of two couples over decades of love and friendship — all of it centered on the exploration of faith and the struggle to find meaning in life.

Since her groundbreaking autobiography, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Jacqueline Woodson has used spare prose to tell rich, multilayered stories in a fraction of the space other writers require.

“Even in death the boys were trouble.”

From its opening line, Colson Whitehead’s new novel, “The Nickel Boys,” vividly tells the story of a spot in the Florida panhandle where construction crews unearthed a brutal history. 


I’m not enrolled in any classes this fall, but all those pencils, notebooks and forced-smile back-to-school photos in my Facebook feed have me thinking about one of my favorite literary genres: the campus novel.

Mary Beth Keane’s novel, “Ask Again, Yes,” opens on a New York City street in 1973. Rookie cops Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope respond to an armed robbery in progress, and while Francis checks a victim’s pulse, he considers larger issues:

For eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo traveled the country and embedded herself with ordinary women in an attempt to explore a topic few people talk about – female desire.

As first sentences go, Helen Phillips’s new novel, “The Need,” packs a dramatic punch:

“She crouched in front of the mirror in the dark, clinging to them. The baby in her right arm, the child in her left. There were footsteps in the other room. . . .”


In interviews about her new novel, “City of Girls,” author Elizabeth Gilbert said she wanted to write “a sort of fizzy, joyful, sex-positive book” – one that would go down like a champagne cocktail. And this one is crisp and fun, even as it explores serious topics of female desire, friendship and the consequences of the choices we make.

Pages