The Barrowfields 
Phillip Lewis, 2017
Crown/Archetype
368 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780451495648


Summary
A richly textured coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, home and family, recalling classics by Thomas Wolfe and William Styron, by a powerful new voice in fiction.

Just before Henry Aster’s birth, his father—outsized literary ambition and pregnant wife in tow—reluctantly returns to the small Appalachian town in which he was raised and installs his young family in an immense house of iron and glass perched high on the side of a mountain.

There, Henry grows up under the writing desk of this fiercely brilliant man. But when tragedy tips his father toward a fearsome unraveling, what was once a young son’s reverence is poisoned and Henry flees, not to return until years later when he, too, must go home again.
 
Mythic in its sweep and mesmeric in its prose, The Barrowfields is a breathtaking debut about the darker side of devotion, the limits of forgiveness, and the reparative power of shared pasts. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1971 (?)
Where—the state of North Carolina, USA
Education—B.A., University of Carolina; J.D., Campbell School of Law
Currently—lives in Charlotte, North Carolina


Phillip Lewis is an American attorney and author who was born and raised in the mountains of western North Carolina. His debut novel, The Barrowfields, was published in 2017. His law practice focuses primarily on real estate law in his home state.

In addition to writing literary fiction, Phillip plays several musical instruments, collects rare books, and studies language. Phillip also enjoys distance running, kayaking, and riding his mountain bike at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. He is a member of the Thomas Wolfe Society and the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Adapted from Hortak Talley.)



Book Reviews
The Barrowfields, with its almost Victorian title, offers in its own ways the pleasures of older novels, with their coziness and sweep, and their tacit belief that family is destiny. The prose has the beautiful attention to detail that embeds us in place.… At the core of this story is an alcoholic father stuck on notions of his own genius — a figure left over from the last century. My one quibble with the book was that I was waiting for Lewis to suggest a critique of this myth. Assumptions have changed. That said, The Barrowfields is a work of abundant talent.
Joan Silber - New York Times Book Review


In this charming, absorbing, and assured debut novel, a young man tries to make sense of his father’s life and the passions that unite them—namely, a devotion to literature.…  [Lewis's] prose is bracingly erudite. This debut has the ability to fully immerse its readers.
Publishers Weekly


[S]mall discrepancies…detract from the novel's credibility. Verdict: The devil is in the details in Lewis's first novel, which is wide in scope yet somewhat uneven in pacing and in the particulars. —Susanne Wells, Indianapolis P.L.
Library Journal


In his evocative debut about disenchantment and identity, Lewis captures the longing of a southerner separated from his home, his family, and his ambition.… Like fellow North Carolinian Thomas Wolfe, Lewis tackles the conflicting choice between accepting one’s roots and rejecting the past, and he does so with grace, wit, and an observant eye.
Booklist


Amid family tragedy, a young man flees the peculiar home of his youth only to return years later.… Promising but unfocused, this finely wrought debut novel would've benefited from more ruthless editing.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Discuss the nature of the town of Old Buckram in the mountains of North Carolina. Have you ever been to a town like this? Do you think it is based on a real place in North Carolina or elsewhere?

2. Talk about the decaying gothic mansion in Old Buckram where the Asters lived. Do you think the house served as another character in the story? Was the house haunted? Did Henry, as the narrator, try to dispel the notion that the house was haunted through his descriptions of it over time?

3. Discuss Henry’s relationship with his father, first as a 10-year-old child, and then later as a 16-year-old boy. Did Henry’s view of his father change during this time? What was most responsible for bringing about the change? Did Henry ever see his father as a hero, and if not, should he have?

4. Why did Henry’s father feel so compelled to complete his magnum opus (his novel) before the death of his mother, Maddy? What prevented him from doing so?

5. Why was it important for Henry that his father intercede to prevent Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying from being banned by the county and later burned on a pyre? Discuss the repercussions of this event for both Henry and his father.

6. Did you blame Henry for never returning to his mother or sister after he left for college? Why was he unable to return?

7. Discuss Henry’s relationship with his sister, Threnody. Why were they so close at an early age, and why did Henry allow them to grow apart?

8. Despite a physical attraction, what was it about Story that drew Henry’s attention to her so dramatically? Did he suspect that she had a traumatic event in her past that might link the two of them?

9. Are Henry’s efforts toward helping Story address her issues with her own father a way for him to repent for his abandonment of Threnody? What was it about Story and her relationship with her father that brought about Henry’s reconciliation with Threnody?

10. Does young Henry’s repression of painful memories as a psychological defense mechanism shape the way and order in which he tells his father’s story, as well as the story of his relationship with Threnody?

11. Discuss the role of the Barrowfields in the story. Were the Barrowfields intended to be representative of a larger theme in the book (for example, pertaining to Henry’s father)?

12. Discuss the role of “burning” in the story, and the irony of Henry’s father saving Faulkner’s book from destruction while not his own.

13. Given the numerous opportunities in the book for magical realism or surrealism (such as the macabre gothic mansion, the Barrowfields, and the witch horse), why do you think the author opted to resolve each such opportunity with stark realism?

14. Did you discover that many of the place names and character names have some extrinsic significance? For example, “Old Buckram” refers to “buckram,” which is a material that is used to make book covers (such that much of the story takes place within the covers of an old book). “Avernus,” the family cemetery, derives from a word used to refer to the entrance to the underworld. “Harold Specks,” the mountain priest who gave the sermon at Maddy’s funeral, is based on “haruspex.”

15. Did the ultimate fate of Henry’s father surprise you? What were the two events that were most salient in driving him to his eventual fate, and how were they related?

16. Why was Henry incapable of divulging his father’s fate until the end of the book? Had he been intellectually honest with himself about this father until his discussion with Threnody about their father, and would he have shared this information with the reader if not for the discussion he had with Threnody about the day of his father’s departure?

17. Whose fate in the story was ultimately more tragic: Henry’s father or Henry’s mother?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley 
Hannah Tinti, 2017
Random House
400 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780812989885


Summary
A coming-of-age novel and a literary thrill ride about the price we pay to protect the people we love most.

Samuel Hawley isn’t like the other fathers in Olympus, Massachusetts. A loner who spent years living on the run, he raised his beloved daughter, Loo, on the road, moving from motel to motel, always watching his back.

Now that Loo’s a teenager, Hawley wants only to give her a normal life. In his late wife’s hometown, he finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at the local high school.

Growing more and more curious about the mother she never knew, Loo begins to investigate. Soon, everywhere she turns, she encounters the mysteries of her parents’ lives before she was born. This hidden past is made all the more real by the twelve scars her father carries on his body.

Each scar is from a bullet Hawley took over the course of his criminal career. Each is a memory: of another place on the map, another thrilling close call, another moment of love lost and found.

As Loo uncovers a history that’s darker than she could have known, the demons of her father’s past spill over into the present—and together both Hawley and Loo must face a reckoning yet to come.(From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1972
Raised—Salem, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Connecticut College; M.F.A., New York University
Awards—PEN/Noral Magid Award, Magazine Editing; Alexa Award
Currently—lives in in Brooklyn, New York City

Hannah Tinti is an American writer and the co-founder of One Story magazine. Raised in Salem, Massachusetts, she earned her Bachelor's Degree from Connecticut College in 1994 and her Master's from New York University.

In 2002, Tinti co-founder of One Story magazine for which she received the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing in 2009. She now serves as the magazine's executive editor.

Her first novel, The Good Thief, published in 2008, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; it received the American Library Association's Alex Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her second novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley was released in 2017.

Tinti has also published a short story collection, Animal Crackers, which was among the runners-up for the PEN/Hemingway Award.

In addition to writing and editing, Tinti also teaches creative writing, co-founding the Sirenland Writers Conference in Italy. She has also taught writing at New York University's Graduate Creative Writing Program, Columbia University's MFA  program, City University of New York, and the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Tinti lives in Brooklyn, New York City, where in 2014 she was listed as one of the "100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture." (Adapted from Wikipedia and the author's website. Retrieved 3/25/2017.)



Book Reviews
(Starred review.) [B]eautifully intricate.… [A] convincingly redemptive and celebratory novel: an affirmation of the way that heroism and human fallibility coexist, of how good parenting comes in unexpected packages.
Publishers Weekly


There is enough action and suspense to satisfy thriller fans, but the core of the story is the character development and exploration of relationships common to literary fiction. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Library Journal


(Starred review.) [An] atmospheric, complexly suspenseful saga…with life or death struggles in dramatic settings…and starring a fiercely loving, reluctant criminal and a girl of grit and wonder…a breathtaking novel of violence and tenderness.
Booklist


The daughter of a career criminal explores her family's past along with the family business.… The novel is at its strongest when it focuses on Sam and Lily or Loo.… An accomplished if overstuffed merger of coming-of-age tale and literary thriller.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

(We'll add specific questions if and when they're made available by the publisher.)

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The Wanderers 
Meg Howrey, 2017
Random House
384 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780399574634


Summary
In an age of space exploration, we search to find ourselves.
 
In four years, aerospace giant Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshihiro Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the historic voyage by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation ever created.

Constantly observed by Prime Space’s team of "Obbers," Helen, Yoshi, and Sergei must appear ever in control. But as their surreal pantomime progresses, each soon realizes that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space.

The borders between what is real and unreal begin to blur, and each astronaut is forced to confront demons past and present, even as they struggle to navigate their increasingly claustrophobic quarters—and each other.

Astonishingly imaginative, tenderly comedic, and unerringly wise, The Wanderers explores the differences between those who go and those who stay, telling a story about the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
AKA—Magnus Flyte
Birth—N/A
Where—Danville, Illinois, USA
Education—American School of Ballet
Awards—Ovation, Best Featured Performance by an Actress
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California


Meg Howrey is an American ballet dancer, actress and author. Novels under her own name include The Wanderers (2017), The Cranes Dance (2012), and Blind Sight (2011). Along with Christine Lynch, Howrey has also written two books under the pseudonym Magnus Flyte: The City of Lost Dreams (2013) and The City of Dark Magic (2012). 

Raised in small town Danville, Illinois, Meg claims she wanted to be a dancer from the age of three when she thrilled to her mother's recordings of Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond. She left home at 12 to study dance and landed in the big leagues at 15, when she went to study at The School of American Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet, both in New York City.

She went on to perform with the Joffrey in New York and on tour. Later, she danced for the City Ballet of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Opera. In 2001 she won the Ovation Award for Best Featured Performance by an Actress for her role in the Broadway National Tour of "Contact." Howrey now makes her home in Los Angeles, California. (Adapted from various online sites.)



Book Reviews
Howrey subtly explores the tensions between our inner and projected selves. Thanks to her wry sense of humor, it totally works.… [A]n often funny story that grows poignant in its final chapters.
Washington Post


Straddling the fine line between outer space and the world we know, The Wanderers is a breathtakingly honest and incredibly beautiful examination of the heart and soul of humankind. The further you progress into the astronaut limbo, the more difficult it becomes to parse through what’s real and what isn’t—and the more it becomes clear that this is a book that isn’t like anything you’ve ever read before.
Newsweek


(Starred review.) Three astronauts and those who know them best explore the limits of truth and love in Howrey’s genre-bending novel.… With these believably fragile and idealistic characters at the helm, Howrey’s insightful novel will take readers to a place where they too can "lift their heads and wonder."
Publishers Weekly


Compelling and timely, these parallel tales of exploration, both through the galaxy and within, should win over a wide variety of readers. —Jennifer B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast
Library Journal


[C]onfronts ageless questions of why humans explore, what they are looking for, and what happens when they find it. Evoking the authenticity of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves with the literary sensitivity of Ann Patchett, Howrey has made the mission-to-Mars motif an exquisite exploration of human space, inner and outer.
Booklist


(Starred review.) Three astronauts and their families must endure the effects of a pioneering deep-space mission.… Howrey, through the poetry of her writing and the richness of her characters, makes it all seem new. A lyrical and subtle space opera.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
  1. Like Luke and Nari, do you have a favorite astronaut? If so, who? What about a favorite family member?

2. On p. 20, Mireille thinks "If her mother goes to Mars, then that will be the only story of Mireille’s life. It will wipe out everything." What do you think Mireille means? Discuss Mireille and Helen’s relationship. Is Helen a good mother? Is Mireille’s resentment justified?

3. In what ways do Helen, Sergei, and Yoshi work well together? In what ways do they frustrate one another? Discuss how their dynamics change throughout the novel.

4. At one point Dmitri thinks "The thing about pride, though, is it doesn’t fully occupy you. It’s like holding a sparkler. Basically, you just stand there with a light in your hand and look up" (p. 41). How do Dmitri’s feelings about pride shape his character? How does he feel about his father’s role as an astronaut? Do his feelings toward Sergei change by the end of the novel?

5. For Eidolon, the astronauts are each allowed to bring a very small bag for personal items. Yoshi brings acorns, while Sergei has photos of his sons. What would you take to remind you of home?

6. Is Madoka an artist? Why or why not? Do you agree with her concept of art?

7. How is marriage portrayed in the novel? Do you think Yoshi and Madoka’s relationship will be different when Yoshi returns? If so, how?
 
8. Discuss the intersection of art and science within the novel. Do these two fields approach exploration and discovery differently? In what ways is their approach the same? What, exactly, do you think the astronauts and their families hope to discover?
 
9. Luke notes that the thing that is most incredible about the astronauts is their level of control. Is this control a good thing or a bad thing? How does it affect the astronauts on their mission? How does it affect their relationships with their families?
 
10. What did you think about the ending? What mission do you believe the astronauts were on?

11. Setting aside the realities of training, if you had the chance to go to Mars, would you? Why or why not?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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In the Name of the Family 
Sarah Dunant, 2017
Random House
448 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780812996975


Summary
 Before the Corleones, before the Lannisters, there were the Borgias. One of history’s notorious families comes to life in a captivating novel from the author of The Birth of Venus.

Bestselling novelist Sarah Dunant has long been drawn to the high drama of Renaissance Italy: power, passion, beauty, brutality, and the ties of blood.

With In the Name of the Family, she offers a thrilling exploration of the House of Borgia’s final years, in the company of a young diplomat named Niccolò Machiavelli.

It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womanizer and master of political corruption, is now on the papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two—already three times married and a pawn in her father’s plans—is discovering her own power. And then there is his son Cesare Borgia, brilliant, ruthless, and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with Machiavelli that gives the Florentine diplomat a master class in the dark arts of power and politics.

What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince. But while the pope rails against old age and his son’s increasingly erratic behavior, it is Lucrezia who must navigate the treacherous court of Urbino, her new home, and another challenging marriage to create her own place in history.

Sarah Dunant again employs her remarkable gifts as a storyteller to bring to life the passionate men and women of the Borgia family, as well as the ever-compelling figure of Machiavelli, through whom the reader will experience one of the most fascinating—and doomed—dynasties of all time. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 8, 1950
Where—London, England, UK
Education—B.A., Cambridge University
Awards—Silver Dagger Award for Crime Fiction
Currently—lives in London, England

Sarah Dunant is a writer, broadcaster and critic. She was a founding vice patron of the Orange Prize for women's fiction, sits on the editorial board of the Royal Academy magazine, and reviews for the Times, Guardian, and Independent on Sunday. She teaches creative writing at The Faber Academy in London and biennially at Washington University in St. Louis in its Renaissance studies course. She is also a creative writing fellow at Oxford Brookes University. She has two daughters and lives in London and Florence.

Early career
Dunant was born in London. She attended Godolphin and Latymer School and studied history at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she was heavily involved in theatre and the Footlights review. After a brief spell working for the BBC she spent much of her twenties traveling (Japan, India, Asia and Central and South America) before starting to write. Her first two novels, along with a BBC television series, were written with a friend. After this she went solo.

Since then she has written ten novels, three screenplays and edited two books of essays. She has worked in television and radio as a producer and presenter: most notably for BBC Television where for seven years (1989–1996) she presented the live nightly culture programme The Late Show. After that she presented the BBC Radio 3 radio programme Night Waves.

Books
Dunant's work ranges over a number of genres and eras. Her narratives are hard to categorise due to their inventive treatment of time and space, and a favoured device of hers is to run two or more plot strands concurrently, as she does in Mapping the Edge. A common concern running through her work is women's perceptions and points of view, with other themes included.

Her first eight novels were broadly written within a thriller form. Their setting was contemporary and allowed her to explore such themes such as the drug trade, surrogacy, terrorism, animals rights, cosmetic surgery and sexual violence.

Then in 2000 an extended visit to Florence rekindled her first love: History. The novels which followed—The Birth of Venus (2003), In the Company of the Courtesan (2006), and Sacred Hearts (2009) were extensively researched historical explorations of what it was like to be a woman within the Italian Renaissance. The trilogy looked at marriage, the culture of courtesans and the life of cloistered nuns. They were all international best sellers and were translated into over 30 languages.

Her 2013 novel Blood & Beauty centers on a depiction of Italy's Borgia dynasty. It sets out to offer a historically accurate vision of a family who have been much maligned by history. Dunant states in her afterword that she plans to write a second, concluding novel, about the family. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/22/2013.)



Book Reviews
Beyond the attraction of the characters and the history, [Sarah] Dunant has a great immersive style. Her hallmark is the penetrating detail.… In the end, what’s a historical novelist’s obligation to the dead? Accuracy? Empathy? Justice? Or is it only to make them live again? Dunant pays these debts with a passion that makes me want to go straight out and read all her other books.
Diana Gabaldon -  Washington Post


Dunant has a storyteller’s instincts for thrilling detail and the broad sweep of history. This, and her glorious prose, make Dunant’s version irresistible.
Times (UK)


Reading In the Name of the Family, I began to smell the scent of oranges and wood smoke on the Ferrara breeze. Such Renaissance-rich details fill out the humanity of the Borgias, rendering them into the kind of relatable figures whom we would hope to discover behind the cold brilliance of The Prince.
NPR


Renaissance doyenne Dunant turns her sights once again on the Borgia family [with] Pope Alexander VI.… Dunant is at her best focusing on the three Borgias, especially the conflicts between Cesare and his father as both gain in power and stature, and most particularly on the life of Lucrezia.
Publishers Weekly


Full to the brim with vivid historical details both gory and beautiful, Dunant's … [s]killfully drawn characters and an excellent sense of place will entice readers of historicals. —Pamela O'Sullivan, Coll. at Brockport Lib., SUNY
Library Journal


With a vibrant cast of characters both iconic, including the vastly influential Niccolo Machiavelli, and rarely highlighted, Dunant’s captivating Renaissance Italian saga will thrill her fans and bring more into the fold.
Booklist


Another sojourn with the infamous Borgias.… In Dunant's hands, she is a whole person, and that alone might keep readers captivated. Flawed but not without interest—sort of like the Borgias themselves.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The Borgias have had a rough ride in history and popular culture—though even when one tells the truth about them, they are hardly angels. How did knowing and understanding more of the society they came from affect your views about them? When it comes to the men, is it possible to can you admire someone you don’t like? Or like someone you can’t admire?

2. There would have been no Borgia history to write if it hadn’t been for Rodrigo himself. This extraordinary political player (the author Sarah Dunant herself has said he has "the mind of Putin and the body of Pavarotti") is seen here moving into old age, which can bring with it a certain vulnerability and nostalgia. How did that affect your impression and feelings about Rodrigo?

3. The Oedipal relationship between father and son can be powerful in all families—but here it is also shown to affect history. As the tension grows between Cesare and Rodrigo, do you side with either or both? How is their conflict mirrored by that Alfonso and his father Ercole d’Este?

4. Being a woman in renaissance Italy was not easy. Equally, it is not always easy for modern women to understand renaissance women, their limitations and their power, to see the world through their eyes. How does this book help you to do that, be it Lucrezia, Guilia Farnese or Isabella d’Este?

5. In particular what do you make of Lucrezia’s journey, how she copes with her setbacks, plays the cards she has been dealt, such as:

• Her marriage to Alfonso?
• The leaving of her son?
• The relationship with her father-in-law?
• Her "affair" with Pietro Bembo? (Some claim their relationship was consummated. Having studied the available evidence—and his history and personality—the author decided it was not. What do you think?)

6. When it comes to Cesare Borgia, all evidence points to a man who was bi-polar, added to which we know he suffered from syphilis (in those days, called the pox). Do you think his character was driven by illness? Or does it simply complement an already powerful personality? Do you share Machiavelli’s fascination with him?

7. Machiavelli himself has not had a much easier time in history than the Borgias. His analysis of power is often described as immoral and—well, Machiavellian. Having spent time in his company and the world that produced him, what did you make of him?

8. Machiavelli’s wife is almost unknown to history. There is just one letter remaining from her, quoted in the epilogue and mentioned in a few other chapters, which  results in her character being the most "invented" in the book. What was your impression of her character? Does the author succeed in bringing this relatively unknown historical figure to life?

9. The Italian renaissance produced some of the greatest works of art the world has ever seen, many of them paid for by the institution of the church—which was, at the time, appallingly corrupt. How do you feel about the Sistine chapel or the new St. Peter’s Basilica being paid for by selling pardons or indulgences? What is the true price of priceless art?

10. Everything you have read in this novel is based on historical truth—though there are imagined conversations and inner feelings, all the events, even down to the reports of Machiavelli and many of the quoted letters, are historically accurate. As a reader of historical fiction, how much does it matter to you that what you read is accurate? Do writers have a duty to the past to make it "truthful" as well as entertaining?

11. Novels set in history are always at some level speaking to us about the present as well as the past. Did reading In the Name of the Family bring to mind any parallels about/to the world around you now?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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Dead Letters 
Caite Dolan-Leach, 2017
Random House
352 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780399588853


Summary
A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel that will keep you guessing until the end—for readers of Gone Girl and The Girl Before.

“Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my ‘death’ hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.”

Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. n Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past.

Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.

Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette.

But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister.

Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers.

Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?

Featuring a colorful, raucous cast of characters, Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—N/A
Where—Finger Lakes region, New York, USA
Education—Trinity College (Dublin); American University of Paris
Currently—lives in Paris, France


Caite Dolan-Leach is an American writer and translator currently living in Paris, France. Born in a small town in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York, she studied French in high school; by her senior year, as she claims in a Paris Review Daily interview…

French was the only class I bothered to attend with any diligence. I was too busy organizing my escape to far-flung climes; a foreign language was the most likely thing to help me secure this imagined, overseas future.

In her first "escape to farflung climes," Dolan-Leach attended Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She has since lived in Italy, South Africa, and France, where she attended the American University of Paris and now lives.

Dolan-Leach's first novel, Dead Letters, was published in 2017, and she has co-translated of two other novels: Orphans (U.S., 2014) by Hadrien Laroche and Newspaper (U.S., 2015) by Edouard Leve. (Adapted from various online sources.)



Book Reviews
Dolan-Leach’s clever thriller explores the fraying ties that bind twin sisters.… When it comes, the answer may feel somewhat contrived, but on the way to it readers will enjoy this full-bodied novel about a family of vintners.
Abigail Meisel - New York Times Book Review


Ava, the star of this atmospheric debut, isn’t convinced her calculating twin sister, Zelda, is really dead—especially after she starts getting enigmatic emails from Zelda’s account, propelling her on a complicated hunt for the truth (The Must List).
Entertainment Weekly


The disappearance of Ava’s wild-child twin is just the beginning of this roller-coaster read that’s as enthralling as it is WTF?!
Cosmopolitan
 

(Starred review.) [A] smart, dazzling mystery with a twist that…leaves the reader hunting for the next clue. Dolan-Leach revels in toying with both Ava and her audience, placing small hints and red herrings throughout her text, and the result is captivating.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) [A] compelling mystery with only hints of murder…that centers on family and particularly on the power of genetics, sisterhood, and loss. A story as compassionate and insightful as it is riveting.  —Michele Leber, Arlington, VA
Library Journal


Considering questions of identity, loyalty, and reliance, Dolan-Leach’s tautly crafted crime debut will resonate with fans of Gillian Flynn’s and Paula Hawkins’s domestic psychological thrillers.
Booklist


Ava discovers a burner phone that Zelda left behind, and soon she's getting messages from beyond the grave.… Dolan-Leach nimbly entwines the clever mystery of Agatha Christie [and] the wit of Dorothy Parker.… A sharp, wrenching tale of the true love only twins know.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for Dead Letters…then take off on your own:

1. In what ways are the twins different from one another, and how are they similar? Describe their relationship, as well as the different path in life each has followed.  Why, for instance, did Ava run off while Zelda stayed put?

2. What do the "dead letters" tell us about each of the young women?

3. What role does Nadine play in all of this? What do you think of her?

4. At what point does Ava suspect that her sister is still alive, and why? What about you—did you think likewise?

5. What red=herrings (false leads) does Caite Dolan-Leech set out for readers to lead us off track.

6. Did the ending catch you off guard? If not…when did you begin to suspect the truth? Go back over the text and suss out the hints that were there all the time. Did you pick up on any of them…or skip right over them (come on, be honest).

7. How does the twist change your understanding of the novel's title?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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