Lisa Shea

  • Matter of Taste

    Like the mix of ingredients used to make the titular dessert in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender’s novel is a blend of old-fashioned coming-of-age story and newfangled horror tale that becomes a less-than-satisfying confection about love, loss, and lunacy, and what they taste like in the preternaturally sensate mouth of one little girl. Bender, author of the story collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) and Willful Creatures (2005) and the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000), continues to explore a predilection for a kind of American-gothic postmodern realism


    Best known for his jaunty, ruminative nonfiction books on such redoubtable topics as bachelorhood, melancholy, and the male body, Phillip Lopate last produced a full-length work of fiction in 1987—The Rug Merchant. Whence, then, this tart, mischievous set of novellas—Two Marriages—paired some twenty-one years later into one deceptively trim, provocatively entertaining volume? Such is the mystery out of which fiction, like married life, is made—and into which Lopate lustily delves.

    In the first and longer work, The Stoic’s Marriage, a well-off forty-eight-year-old Spanish Catholic first-generation


    When nineteen-year-old Ukrainian schoolgirl Irina Blazhko arrives in the English countryside to begin life as a farmworker in Marina Lewycka’s new novel, Strawberry Fields, she first notices “the dazzling salty light dancing on the sunny field, the ripening strawberries, the little rounded trailer perched up on the hill and the oblong boxy trailer down in the corner of the field, the woods beyond, and the long, curving horizon” and dreamily thinks to herself, “So this is England.” Never mind that she has traveled by bus from “Kiev to Kent in fortytwo hours” and was met off the ferry in Dover

  • The bloody era of sectarian violence between nationalists and Unionists known as the Troubles that marked Northern Ireland from 1969 until the late ’90s comes boldly to life in Louise Dean’s astonishing second novel, This Human Season. From her scrupulously fashioned prose emerges a sprawling saga, structured in alternating chapters, of two Belfast families—the Catholic Morans and the Protestant Dunns—torn from without by their warring loyalties and from within by their own demons during the two months leading up to Christmas 1979.

    The English-born Dean—her first novel, Becoming Strangers,