As we kick off another academic year and say goodbye to summer, Rachel Wachman ’24, an English and French double major from Massachusetts, takes over reviewing books written by alumni and offers a selection for those in search of their next great read. The volumes, sent by the alumni authors, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and are made available to the Wesleyan community.
Steve Almond ’88, All the Secrets of the World (Zando, 2022)
When Lorena Saenz and Jenny Stallworth, two girls from vastly different backgrounds, are partnered together by their teacher for a school science fair project, a string of events unfolds that will upturn the lives of the girls and their families. As the girls’ unlikely friendship develops, Lorena, who shares a small apartment with her immigrant mother on the outskirts of the district, gets pulled into Jenny’s glossy suburban world—and into her family. But the disappearance of Jenny’s father and the subsequent blaming of Lorena’s older brother shatters the illusion of tranquility stretching over Jenny’s seemingly perfect family.
Almond’s latest novel, set in Sacramento in 1981, explores the corruptive influence of money, politics, and media, as well as exposes the brokenness of the criminal justice system. Lorena embarks on a quest for the truth amidst all the lies and power abuses around her, especially those of the Stallworth family. This highly researched social novel, now being adapted into a limited series by 20th TV, holds readers in its grips until the very end, offering an intricate and critical view of American social, racial, and class structures during the rise of Reagan.
Steve Almond ’88 is a short story writer and the author of a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction, including William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life, and Bad Stories. Almond also co-hosted the New York Times podcast Dear Sugars for four years and has published his own DIY books.
Maya Sonenberg ’82, P’25, Bad Mothers, Bad Daughters (Notre Dame Press, 2022)
Sonenberg’s stunning collection of 23 short stories follows women and their familial ties, exploring the question: “What happens when the urge to ditch your family outpaces the desire to love them?” In this winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction, mothers and daughters navigate their obligations to their families and their explorations of self amidst societal constraints and throughout multiple generations.
Bad Mothers, Bad Daughters draws inspiration from fairy tales, realism, and experimental forms which include academic papers, newspaper articles, and letters adapted by Sonenberg into the fictions she weaves together. These stories feed off of raw emotions and showcase the often complicated forms that love can take. From a grown daughter who deserts her elderly mother to a mother who finds herself loving one child more than her others, the characters in this collection provide a strikingly truthful display of life’s inherent messiness and the rarely discussed intricacies of being a woman. From parent-child relationships to sibling connections to spousal dynamics, this book’s insightful prose does not shy away from depicting life as it can sometimes be.
Maya Sonenberg ’82, P’25 is a professor of English in the University of Washington’s Creative Writing Program. Her short story collection Cartographies won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She also penned the collection Voices from the Blue Hotel, in addition to other works of fiction and nonfiction that have been published in Fairy Tale Review, Web Conjunctions, and numerous other places.
Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03, The Matchmaker: A Spy In Berlin (Pegasus Crime, 2022)
In 1989 Berlin, American translator Anne Simpson believes her husband is just another man from East Berlin until he disappears and is believed dead. The CIA and West German Intelligence approach Anne, who learns her husband was a spy for the Matchmaker, a counterintelligence officer from East Germany who runs a network of Stasi “Romeo agents” who marry women in West Berlin as cover. The CIA needs Anne to help them find the Matchmaker, but the Berlin wall is about to fall and chaos will consume Germany.
The Matchmaker, Vidich’s fifth novel, takes readers on a chilling Cold War quest that forces Anne to question everything she knows about her world and her husband, who may not be dead after all. Named one of the most anticipated crime novels of 2022 by CrimeReads, The Matchmaker weaves a web of intrigue entwined with history through one woman’s determination to learn the truth. Readers who pick up this book will not be able to put it down, with Vidich’s carefully spun spy tale enthralling them to the last word.
Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 is the author of five crime novels. Before he switched career paths to writing, he worked in the media and music industries. Now, Vidich lives in lower Manhattan. In addition to penning mysteries, he serves on the boards of several arts foundations, including Poets & Writers.