Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: March 21-25, 2022

Keeping Two

Book Cover
Jordan Crane
Fantagraphics
Hardcover $29.99 (304pp)
978-1-68396-518-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A young couple confronts feelings of fear, loss, grief, and love in Jordan Crane’s transcendent graphic novel Keeping Two.

Tense from arguments and traffic, Connie and Will arrive home and make a deal: he’ll wash the dishes in the sink, she’ll go to the store and rent a movie. When Connie runs late, Will begins to imagine the worst. Soon after, a similar situation arises in which she’s forced to envision a life without him. Through flashbacks, projections, and a parallel story within the novel they’re reading, the connection between Will and Connie is explored, with a gorgeous and unforgettable ending.

The art style has its quirks, like the use of short, thick black lines to indicate motion or sound, and the critical differences between hard-line bordered panels that take place in the present, and the softer-edged panels or unlined borders that indicate flashbacks, dream sequences, or the story from the book. The fresh absence of loved ones is shown with dotted outline ghosts, resulting in many poignant and affecting scenes. Like a unique dialect, it takes some time to grow accustomed to the storytelling style, but once its mechanisms are understood, it results in intense, profound communication.

Twenty years passed between the publication of the first part of this story and this complete edition. Deceptive in its complexity and rewarding of multiple readings, Keeping Two is a romantic graphic novel with deep emotional impact.

PETER DABBENE (February 27, 2022)

The Shadow Glass

Book Cover
Josh Winning
Titan Books
Softcover $15.95 (400pp)
978-1-78909-861-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Childhood nostalgia and resentment coalesce into a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Josh Winning’s novel The Shadow Glass.

To the world, Jack’s father Bob was the beloved, eccentric creator of The Shadow Glass, a 1980s fantasy film and cult classic. But to Jack, Bob was a negligent alcoholic so immersed in his work that he became convinced that his puppet characters—and the magical realm they inhabited—were real. The discovery that Bob was right all along sends Jack on a quest to save two worlds, and to reevaluate his father’s complicated life and legacy.

A tense, atmospheric beginning gives way to thrilling suspense and action. Jack’s childhood dreams and nightmares erupt to life before his eyes in a way he hasn’t dared to imagine. Indeed, Bob’s personal failings overshadowed his son’s love for The Shadow Glass. Though Jack despises the film and the memories it evokes, he requires the aid of a fan club devoted to his father’s work. Their enthusiastic loyalty contrasts with Jack’s bitter disdain for everything his father ever did. Together, they have to defeat a wicked queen and a twisted fanboy whose puritanical vision threatens to destroy the world he claims to love.

Jack faces a growing army of impossible creatures and learns to cooperate with mythical heroes whose lives and personalities are so much more complex than they were on screen. The sacrifices that Jack and his allies have to make, however, prove all too real. An explosive finale forces Jack to confront his past and the thorny personal wounds upon which his entire adventure hinges. His ultimate decision—and its consequences—will satisfy anyone who has ever fallen in love with a story.

The Shadow Glass is a fantasy epic about the double-edged swords of imagination and obsession.

EILEEN GONZALEZ (February 27, 2022)

A Body Across Two Hemispheres

Book Cover
Victoria Buitron
Woodhall Press
Softcover $18.95 (259pp)
978-1-949116-99-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Victoria Buitron’s memoir A Body Across Two Hemispheres works across two languages and cultures to confront bureaucratic and sexist assumptions that were designed to punish immigrants and women.

Born in Ecuador, Buitron moved to Connecticut when she was five. She lived in the US until she was fifteen, when her grandfather’s illness drew the family home. Somewhere between the nations, she grew into a woman.

Buitron was slow to assimilate back into Ecuadorian culture, trading potato chips for mangoes, and English for Spanish. Alongside the family illness, she dealt with first love, but also the noise of wolf whistles blared at women from the street. Still, she came to value events like crab feasts, where forty family members celebrated life with food and each other. Buitron covers challenges like being questioned about her hair, her legitimacy as a citizen, her beliefs in Ecuadorian religious practices, and US borders. Covering those experiences, her essays are vulnerable, angry, and authentic, showing how people are expatriated from their countries, families, and selves.

A translator by profession, Buitron plays with language’s nuances, too: there are multiple meanings to words to grapple with, and cultural connotations too, with slang and dictionary definitions competing. And the book’s concerns grow in concert with Buitron’s own development. She discusses her family’s status and the challenges that her fiancé faced to attain a green card. She discusses watching as one of her nations imprisoned children at its border. The personal and the political intertwine in powerful, painful ways throughout: here, women’s bodies are viewed by men, are subject to mercurial legislatures and medical establishment dismissiveness, and have their strengths tested by their owners, too.

A Body Across Two Hemispheres is a collection of embodied essays about the changing meanings of home; it is wrenching, joyous, and compelling.

CAMILLE-YVETTE WELSCH (February 27, 2022)

Songs by Honeybird

Book Cover
Peter McDade
Wampus Multimedia
Softcover (329pp)
979-898503530-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Peter McDade’s original, quirky novel Songs by Honeybird riffs on the 1960s Southern rock scene.

In Atlanta, Ben and Nina’s relationship falls apart, even as they move in together. She claims that her dog, Sid, is a reincarnated being and can talk; it’s an assertion whose wildness Ben cannot accept. Alternating between Ben and Nina’s perspectives, the book begins in the epic squalor that follows their breakup, then traces their late-night texts, innermost thoughts, and deepest fears. Their conversations ring with verisimilitude, whether conducted via text, social media, or in real-life exchanges.

In the midst of their relationship changes, Nina also seeks the truth about her father’s death, while Ben is busy with his dissertation. His subject is the South’s first integrated rock band, Honeybird; the band met a tragic fate, and he sifts through interviews and archival materials to learn more. That research is a grounding force that balances the book’s weighty symbolism and charged, incisive social critiques.

The prose is resonant, holding reverence for music that is evinced in its procession of knowing allusions and inspired depictions of a rock band in action. Though it toggles between the contemporary era and the past, it captures both with convincing details. The sins of history haunt the present; the implications of the past are teased out to maintain intrigue, as when Ben discovers that Harlan Honeybird’s father was a segregationist politician and realizes he found his dissertation’s direction. After some unexpected twists, the narrative reaches a satisfying conclusion in which Ben and Nina both gain needed perspective and look toward their futures with promise.

Compelling, stylish, and profound, Songs by Honeybird is a novel about relationships, the South, anger over past wrongs, and new beginnings.

JOSEPH S. PETE (February 27, 2022)

I Love You, Blue

Book Cover
Barroux
Flyaway Books
Hardcover $18.00 (40pp)
978-1-947888-36-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In this primer on the impact of plastic waste in our oceans, a young boy turns from rescuee to rescuer when his new friend is in peril. The boy’s small red boat is no match for the roaring, watercolor sea. After a whale, Blue, comes to his rescue, the boy visits Blue every day. One day, Blue is nowhere to be found; the boy goes in search of him, culminating in a lesson on taking care of the ocean and its creatures.

DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (February 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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