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Tuesday, 16 Aug, 2022

6 Hudson Valley Books to Check Out in March|Books

click to enlargeThe Accomplice Liza LutzBallantine Books, 2022, $28.00 Masterful storyteller Lisa Lutz (The Swallows), keeps the reader guessing..


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The Accomplice

Liza Lutz
Ballantine Books, 2022, $28.00

Masterful storyteller Lisa Lutz (The Swallows), keeps the reader guessing and engaged throughout her new crime thriller with literary sleight of hand—split timelines, surprising twists, shifting narratives—to unravel two equally provocative murder mysteries that surround the main characters, Owen Mann and Luna Grey. It is the cast of well-developed minor characters, however, that make this book a compelling, character-driven literary work that interweaves stories of and touches upon the complexities of friendship, dysfunctional families, finding oneself, loyalty, love, marriage, money , tragedy, and betrayal.

The story unfolds in two timelines: The first is set in the present day after the death of Owen’s wife, Irene. The second is in flashback, starting when Owen and Luna met in college 17 years prior, marking the beginning of their interesting and unusual, platonic friendship.

Owen first notices Luna during an ethics seminar at Markham University, a small, liberal arts college in the Hudson Valley. Markham is renowned for its self-directed independent study programs and its reputation as a “haven for lazy stoners who wanted a break from life.” It had been Luna’s first choice and Owen’s third choice, but, as a charming and talented artist, he quickly became a very popular man on campus. Fascinated by the way Luna carries herself and sensing that she was a girl “roiling with secrets,” he is determined to get to know her and learn about what she is hiding. When they meet at the library the first time, Luna, an epileptic, has a seizure and Owen does not leave her side. This was “the day it all began. Luna and Owen. Owen and Luna. Their names would be inextricably linked for years to come.”

College life brings with it the usual drama involving roommates, friends, and hook-ups, but they find their people in a small and loyal group that includes the mellow and kind resident weed dealer, Mason, his future wife, Casey, and Ted, Luna’s love interest, who wants more than she wants to give. Also in the mix is ​​Scarlet, a young woman who misinterprets her drunken college rendezvous with Owen as love. A relationship with him is something she desperately wants and something Owen, just as desperately, does not. Scarlet is persistent in her pursuit of him and attaches meaning to their encounters that he only thinks of as casual, insignificant.

When Owen discovers that Luna is going to spend the Christmas break alone on campus, he insists that she come home with him to his parents’ house in the Berkshires. This glimpse into Owen’s wealthy but dysfunctional family makes their bond even stronger. When Scarlet finally is able to reach Owen, who did not inform her of his Christmas break plans, she manages to get invited too (much to Owen’s dismay as his brother Griff, who Luna later begins a relationship with, had a hand in it) . Scarlet’s visit ends abruptly, however, when she betrays Owen during a game of Truth or Dare by asking Luna, “Who is sending you hate mail and why?” Revealing that she knows Luna’s secret, as well as exposing to Luna that Owen had gone through her things when Luna, against her better judgment, agreed to let him crash alone in her room to avoid seeing Scarlet. Disgusted by her cruelty, Owen commits to ending it with Scarlet. Several weeks later, Scarlet goes missing. Owen immediately comes under suspicion and the investigation that follows has serious implications for life as he knows it.

Several years later, with Scarlet’s death behind them, Owen and Luna remain inseparable, living with their spouses in the same small Hudson Valley town. When Irene, Owen’s wife, goes missing on her morning run and is later found murdered, Owen and Luna find themselves, once again, living under a cloud of suspicion.

Is there a connection between these two deaths in which they are the common denominator? Why do Luna and Owen seem to attract death and drama and what lengths have they gone to protect each other? What secrets do they have and will their friendship survive yet another tragedy? All of these questions are at the foundation of this intriguing tale filled with mysterious undertones; flawed, all-too human characters; biting and vivid dialogue; and a well-constructed, plausible plot full of surprises and suspense.

—Jane Kinney Denning

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Knocked Down: A High Risk Memoir

Aileen Weintraub
University of Nebraska Press, $21.80, 2022

After her father dies, Weintraub leaves her Jewish Brooklyn community and moves up to the Hudson Valley. In quick succession she meets her husband, becomes pregnant, and faces complications with her pregnancy. The commitment-phobic Weintraub is prescribed five months of bedrest by her doctor, laid up in her husband’s ramshackle (and possibly haunted) farmhouse in Accord. While Weintraub struggles with her health problems, her husband struggles with home repairs. As the house falls apart, Weintraub’s marriage does the same. Balancing bleakness with humor, Weintraub provides a look into this difficult time from the other side, with her child safely delivered.

Spitting into a river

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Mary T Altobelli
Independent, $12.99, 2021

In the early `70s, shopgirl Altobelli turned a blind eye while her friend Charlie swiped money from her department. To pay her back, Charlie gave her film reels of John Lennon he found in a trash bin. In the footage, the superstar dances in Central Park, eats an Italian ice, and plays cards in front of Tiffany’s. Altobelli sells this footage to a mysterious Beatles superfan who only answers to the name Sergeant Pepper. With Sergeant Pepper’s money, Altobelli fulfills her dream of sending her daughter to college. Chester resident and artist Altobelli illustrates her experience with photographs and drawings of her own.

Hearts Blooming: Through Intuitive Mentoring

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Maria Blon
Independent, $19.98, 2021

Blon felt directionless when she quit her job as a college professor. Even after volunteering and starting her own yoga business, something was missing. That changed when she began looking after Rose, a friend’s daughter with Down Syndrome. Blon had found her new calling, and she shares her observations from that calling. She begins her chapters with general advice, such as “Remain Calm,” “Embrace Silence,” and “Get in Synch.” Then Blon shares a story about someone she has worked with, and the tactics she used to reach them. The Middletown-based author ends each section with pointers that she calls Heart Blooming Tools.

Essays Two: On Proust, Translation, Foreign Languages, and the City of Arles

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Lydia Davis
Farrax, Straus and Giroux, $19.29, 2021

SUNY Albany creative writing professor Davis is most renowned for her flash fiction. But in these love letters to language, Davis discusses the art of translation and her personal methods of learning a foreign language. To learn Spanish, she reads Las Aventuras de Tom Sawyer without consulting a dictionary. She dives into the intricacies of “translating” between old British and modern American English. Davis translates not only between languages, but between forms, by turning an ancestor’s memoir into a long narrative poem. She also provides notes on a selection of her celebrated translations, from Proustto Flaubert.

Vegetariana: A Rich Harvest of Wit, Lore, & Recipes

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Naval Atlas
Amberwood Press, Inc., $28, 2021

This classic cookbook, originally published in 1984, now features solely vegan recipes. New Paltz-based author, artist, and vegetarian icon Nava Atlas includes more than just recipes, however. Quotes from vegetarians abound, such as Paul McCartney’s “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Atlas explains the roots of veganism and shares a list of vegetarian historical figures like Rosa Parks and Nikola Tesla. Atlas adds historical anecdotes about traditional uses of fruits and vegetables and the origins of dishes. Small poems and Atlas’s own whimsical illustrations are scattered throughout. Recipes include tofu rancheros, quinoa sloppy joes, and dairy-free cheese sauce.

—Emma Cariello

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