Book Picks from Elaine & Luisa

Book Passage President Elaine Petrocelli and Book Passage buying director Luisa Smith select their favorite new books and provide reviews about their selections in each issue of the Book Passage News & Reviews.

These books are also displayed in each branch of the Bank of Marin, as part of the program Partnership for Literacy sponsored by Book Passage and Bank of Marin. Visit any branch of the bank to find out more about this program.

Click here for an archive of Elaine and Luisa's previous picks!

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March 2021

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The Soul of a Woman Cover Image
$22.99
ISBN: 9780593355626
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ballantine Books - March 2nd, 2021

One of our favorite writers, Isabel Allende, shares the history of her lifelong engagement with feminism in this powerful memoir. From her earliest years, Allende recognized the imbalance of power between men and women and actively strove to define her own role in a deeply patriarchal society. Her intelligence and humor are evident as she shares stories from her own life and discusses subjects such as love, family, and the changes in the world around her. Once again Allende inspires us not only with her writing, but with her philosophy on how to lead a meaningful and joyful life.


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Klara and the Sun: A novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593318171
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - March 2nd, 2021

In a brilliant masterstroke, Kazuo Ishiguro proves his unique ability to address classic themes in a fantastical setting. Klara is uncommonly observant and curious of the world around her—two qualities that would make her the perfect companion for the right child. Which is good news as Klara is an AF—or Artificial Friend—and while no longer considered top of the line, her unique gaze upon the world captures just the right eye. But navigating the emotional minefield of her new home is complicated by grief and secrets. As Klara searches for answers, it becomes clear that in a world corrupted by our reliance on technology, human beings will not hold a monopoly on humanity.


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The Lowering Days: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062994134
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - March 2nd, 2021

Gregory Brown’s richly textured descriptions of human nature and the beauty of the Maine wilderness are the foundation of this insightful story of a town torn between industry and the environment. Set along Maine’s Penobscot river on land claimed by the Indigenous Penobscot people, a fire at the paper mill sets residents against each other as long-held prejudices and grudges come to bear. When the publisher of the local newspaper prints a letter written by an Indigenous teen claiming responsibility for the fire, she unknowingly starts a series of events that will have long term repercussions on her family. The Lowering Days is a truly moving story made all the more powerful by the perfectly observed details that bring it to life.


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Infinite Country: A Novel Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781982159467
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster - March 2nd, 2021

“It was her idea to tie up the nun” might be the best opening line of the year and the story that follows lives up to the promise of this charged image. Infinite Country is a story of immigration, family, heartbreak, and hope, starting with Talia as she breaks out of a prison for youth offenders in the mountains of Colombia and fights her way back to her mother and siblings in the U.S. From there we follow the love story of her parents and the repercussions of her father’s deportation. While slim in size, Patricia Engel’s powerful new book manages to say all that needs to be said about the trials people are willing to put themselves through for those they love.


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The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781419754302
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: The Overlook Press - March 9th, 2021

There is a phone booth in a garden, attached to nothing but the wind, linking you to those you have lost. This is the story Yui hears on her radio show and provides a glimpse of relief from her own grief. Yui lost her daughter and mother in the Tsunami of 2011 and is drawn to the phone booth and its promise. Other people also find their way to this unusual garden, and as they unbottle all the words they have been holding inside, they discover a path forward from the tragedy that has often become the center of their lives. Yui isn’t sure she can do this, but as she connects with fellow travelers, she begins to blossom. Based on a real phone booth in a small Japanese village, Laura Imai Messina captures the quiet struggles held by so many and the beauty that results when those struggles are shared.


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Vera: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781501157523
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - March 2nd, 2021

The word moxie was created for a girl like Vera. Daughter of the most famous Madam in San Francisco, she is what others would describe as too smart for her own good and curious to a fault. But these qualities are exactly what is needed when the world dramatically shifts beneath her feet in April, 1906. The city she has known is now reduced to rubble, but her fighting spirit remains as she navigates among thieves and socialites to find the strength to move forward. Readers of historical fiction will be delighted at the lively descriptions of turn of the century San Francisco. But Vera is more than just a glimpse into the world of our past—it is an examination of what it means to fight against conforming to the expectations of others.


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The Consequences of Fear: A Maisie Dobbs Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062868022
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - March 23rd, 2021

One of our most beloved sleuths returns in Jacqueline Winspear’s latest, The Consequences of Fear. It is 1941 and the Blitz is in full force when a government messenger witnesses a murder while attempting to dodge the bombs as he travels the darkened streets of London. When the authorities dismiss his claims, he turns to the intriguing woman he met through his work, Maisie Dobbs. Torn between her work for the Home Office and her complicated home life, Maisie sets out to do what she does best, get to the bottom of a tangled mystery. Winspear excels at bringing the war time England to life and infusing her famous protagonist with warmth and intelligence. Consequences of Fear might be our favorite Maisie Dobbs adventure yet!


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We Begin at the End Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250759665
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - March 2nd, 2021

Chris Whitaker has not only written a moving portrait of tragedy in a small town, he has also graced us with two of the most unforgettable characters to charge across the written page: a sheriff committed to protecting his ex-con best friend, and a young girl determined to fight her mother’s fights. When their good intentions set off a tragic sequence of events—from coastal California all the way to the plains of Montana—both must learn to how to escape a past that doesn’t want to let go. Part mystery, part redemption story, and all heart, We Begin at the End reminds you that our favorite heroes always come with flaws.


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The Committed Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780802157065
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - March 2nd, 2021

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the most thematically adroit author of our time. You need not look further than his latest book, The Committed, to see how fluidly he combines history, culture, and philosophy into both an unsparing tale of twentieth century immigration and a thrilling story of revenge. Here, the conflicted protagonist from The Sympathizer has successfully fled Vietnam and now finds himself navigating the dark underbelly of Paris, the City of Light. Contemplating the fractures of his psyche, partly due to his nature and partly born from years of trauma, he is fascinated by the divergent narratives of his new city. The path of the immigrant is not softened by the charm and eloquence the French are known for, but that does not stop him from doing what must be done to get ahead—even when that path leads a philosophical man toward death.


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Of Women and Salt: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250776686
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - March 30th, 2021

Of Women and Salt is a multigenerational story of strength, trauma, and the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters. Moving from present day Miami to 19th century Cuba we meet women, challenged by circumstances, and burdened by inherited baggage as they navigate the politics of their time. From Maria Isabel, a cigar roller in Camaguey Cuba who delights in French literature, to her great-great-granddaughter Jeanette, a recovering addict in Miami who decides to help a girl left behind after I.C.E. deports her parents. Each vignette painstakingly details the power of the choices made or taken away, and the remarkable resilience needed to survive. Of Women and Salt is a beautiful novel that examines immigration, family, and humanity underlying the stories we are told.


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The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women's Rights Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9781476760735
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - March 30th, 2021

The Agitators tells the story of three allies—Harriet Tubman, Martha Wright, and Frances Seward—in the fight for abolition and women’s rights. These women worked to end the great injustices of society with clear-eyed vision to the future at a time when it would have been easy to remain on the sidelines. Their courage, intelligence, and resolve shines through in Dorothy Wickenden’s recounting of their work and friendship. Wickenden’s keen journalistic eye transports us to the cross-roads of history as the incomparable Harriet Tubman led the way and Seward and Wright both used and rebelled against their positions in society to aid her in the fight.


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Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer: A Novel Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781948226882
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Catapult - March 2nd, 2021

A powerful and magical debut, Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer weaves together threads of love, loss, and folklore to tell the story of a brother and sister caught in the undercurrent of their mother’s death. Jamie Figueroa’s writing alights on all of your senses as she brings to life this struggling family, the town of Ciudad de Tres Hermanas, and the spirits watching over them all. An unforgettable introduction to a formidable literary talent.


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The Baddest Girl on the Planet Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781949467161
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Blair - March 2nd, 2021

Like the feisty girl of the title, this slim book packs an outsized punch. On an island off the North Carolina coast, we meet Evie, a girl of imagination and grit who got struck by young love and an unexpected pregnancy. Unlike her sometimes idol, Mike Tyson, she isn’t much of a fighter or all that bad, but she has made some poor choices and now she has to figure out if she should fight for a different future. Filled with unexpected humor and raw honesty, The Baddest Girl on the Planet reminds us that change is possible, even for a bad girl.


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Eternal Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780525539766
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - March 23rd, 2021

In Eternal, Lisa Scottoline transports us to the Trastevere and Ghetto areas of Mussolini’s Rome. The passion, heroism and betrayals of the characters makes the history of the Romans before, during, and after WWII both fascinating and personal. Mussolini, his thugs, and those “upstanding” Romans who enabled him feel very familiar. Eternal is a truly important novel.


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Saving Grace Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781613162064
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scarlet - March 16th, 2021

Debut author Debbie Babitt will hook you with this riveting psychological suspense novel grounded in complex characters and a terrifying struggle between good and evil. Mary Grace is the first female sheriff of the town of Repentance, Arkansas. While she grew up within the city limits, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t always been a bit of an outsider. Her independent spirit seems to have gotten her far both in terms of work and as a single parent, but when girls begin to disappear in a manner similar to a shocking crime from her youth, is she the prepared to find out who is to blame, and what evil has touched this town yet again? Babitt surprises us again and again as she peels back the layers of deceit that have protected Mary Grace from the truth. A strong entrance to the suspense scene and an exciting new author to watch!