Books by the Bay: Natalie Baszile's 'Queen Sugar' takes a neophyte heroine to run a plantation in contemporary Louisiana
02/03/2014 12:00:31 PM PST
02/07/2014 12:45:59 PM PST
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Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
Viking, $27.95, 372 pages
New novels by Bay Area fiction writers Natalie Baszile, Andy Weir, Michelle Richmond and David Edison are out this month, taking readers to a Louisiana sugarcane plantation, a Mars expedition, a trek across San Francisco, and a fantasy metropolis called the City Unspoken. A family memoir by Kelly Corrigan is also among February's new releases. "Queen Sugar" by Natalie Baszile (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, $27.95, 372 pages) San Francisco author Natalie Baszile draws on family history in this debut novel set in Louisiana. It begins when Charlotte "Charley" Bordelon, a young widow and mother living in Los Angeles, inherits her father's 800-acre sugar cane farm in New Orleans. The gift comes with a daunting condition -- that she take possession of the land and farm it herself. It's harvest time when Charley and her 11-year-old daughter, Micah, load up the family's old Volvo and move to Louisiana; Charley's ready to learn the intricacies of farm life, but she hasn't anticipated the hurricanes, competition from corporate farms, racism and decades-old family resentments that come with it. Baszile, whose father arrived in California from Louisiana in 1954, knows the region well, and "Queen Sugar" yields a moving tale of contemporary Southern life. She will read from the book Feb. 11 at The Booksmith in San Francisco, Feb. 20 at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, and Feb. 25 at Kepler's in Menlo Park. "The Martian" by Andy Weir (Crown, $24, 384 pages) If the title of Andy Weir's new novel sounds familiar, don't be surprised. "The Martian" started as a self-published e-book, climbing the charts until it joined Amazon's top 200 overall. Early reviews declared it "gutsy" and "gripping," and they were right; now this tale of survival in space is out in hardcover, and it seems destined to become a best-seller all over again. It's the story of Watney, an astronaut on a two-month assignment as part of a manned mission to Mars. Derailed by a dust storm, the mission is aborted -- with Watney separated from the rest of the team and left behind with no way to phone home. Relying on wisecracks and ingenuity, Watney is a smart, funny and enormously likable hero. "The Martian" is science fiction that seems destined for the big screen -- word has it that Hollywood producer Simon Kinberg ("Sherlock Holmes") has already optioned the film rights. Hear Weir in conversation with Pascal Lee on Feb. 13 at Books Inc. in Mountain View, Weir's hometown. "Golden State" by Michelle Richmond (Bantam Trade Paperback, $15, 304 pages) Michelle Richmond's new novel starts June 15; it's Election Day in California, and voters are about to decide whether the state will secede from the union. Julie Walker, a San Francisco medical doctor, is dealing with separation issues of her own. She and her husband, Tom, are still reeling from the death of their only child, and they've decided to divorce. As the day begins, Julie learns that her sister, Heather, has gone into labor in a hospital across town. As Julie makes her way through protests and police barricades, she recalls the past events that have brought her to a life-changing moment. Richmond, the author of four previous books, including "The Year of Fog," delivers a page-turner. Meet the author Feb. 21 at Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley. "The Waking Engine" by David Edison (Tor, $25.99, 400 pages) Death isn't final in San Francisco author David Edison's debut novel, set in a dateless future. The dead are reincarnated in new bodies on strange new worlds; eventually, they reach the City Unspoken, where the title entity -- a beastly, gear-grinding machine -- grants the True Death to a chosen few. When the machine begins to fail, the dead threaten to overrun the universe; it's left to Cooper, a gay New Yorker, to set things right. With a labyrinthine plot and a supporting cast of gods and goddesses, captive angels, fairy queens, murderous Death Boys and mad aristocrats, "The Waking Engine" takes the reader into a bizarre and darkly imagined fantasy world. "Glitter and Glue" by Kelly Corrigan (Ballantine, $26, 240 pages) The title of this frank and funny memoir refers, oddly enough, to Corrigan's parents; when she was still a teen, her pragmatic mother told her "Your father's the glitter, but I'm the glue." Corrigan, an O magazine contributor and author of "The Middle Place" who lives in Piedmont, admits she had no idea what that meant, but travel, time and life experience gave her belated insight into the family dynamic -- and deep appreciation for her mother's words. She will discuss the book March 18 at Kepler's.
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