The Southern Bookseller Review Newsletter for the week of 29 December, 2020

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December 29, 2020

Re-envisioning Jane Eyre, and the writer's dread of the second book.

Jane Eyre

Some stories take hold of us and refuse to let us go. Not satisfied with having read them, we rewrite them in a hundred variations and permutations, each in its own way a tribute to the original that has lodged itself within our hearts. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is such a book. Romance, mystery, Gothic ghost story, feminist morality tale, Jane Eyre is a story we never tire of re-telling.

The latest incarnation of Jane comes to us in Rachel Hawkins' new novel, The Wife Upstairs. "A modern Jane Eyre set in Alabama? Sign me up!" says Amanda Gawthorpe of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina. "This was a fun read. A gripping, smart, and engaging retelling with enough nods to the original to make you feel smart."

Jane Eyre fans have a chance to meet Rachel Hawkins online in the next edition of the Reader Meet Writer Author Series. (See below)

Also in this edition of SBR, read how Amiee Molloy overcame the dreaded "second book syndrome" that haunts every debut author.

More bookseller reviews at SBR:

Read This Now | Read This Next | The Bookseller Directory

Coming up next week on the Reader Meet Writer Author Series:

The Wife Upstairs with Rachel Hawkins
Thu Jan 7th 7:00pm - 8:00pm 2021

The Wife UpstairsRachel Hawkins

What booksellers are saying:

I was completely riveted by this taut, Southern Gothic re-imagining of Jane Eyre. I blew through this in a day and was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
--Sami Thomason-Fyke Square Books Oxford, Mississippi

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS is everything I could want in a Jane Eyre retelling. No one can be trusted, Jane has agency, and the first wife gets her due.
--Faith Parke-Dodge Page 158 Books Wake Forest, North Carolina

There are many re-imaginings of Jane Eyre's classic story on the market, but THE WIFE UPSTAIRS is one of the most original and captivating of them.
--Karyn Cumming Fountain Books Richmond, Virginia

RACHEL HAWKINS is the New York Times bestselling author of multiple books for young readers, and her work has been translated in over a dozen countries. She studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature at Auburn University and currently lives in Alabama. The Wife Upstairs is her first adult novel.

Coming up in January:

The Uncollected Stories of Allan GurganusThe Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus with Allan Gurganus
Tue Jan 12th 5:00pm - 6:00pm | REGISTER

Allan Gurganus is widely translated, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Adaptations of his fiction have earned four Emmys, and his stories have been appearing in The New Yorker since 1974. He lives in a small town in North Carolina.

Wilmington's LieWilmington's Lie with David Zucchino
Thu Jan 14th 7:00pm - 8:00pm | REGISTER

David Zucchino is a contributing writer for The New York Times. He has covered wars and civil conflicts in more than three dozen countries. Zucchino was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his dispatches from apartheid South Africa and is a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his reporting from Iraq, Lebanon, Africa, and inner-city Philadelphia. He is the author of Thunder Run and Myth of the Welfare Queen.

Read This Now!

Recommended by Southern indies...

Leave the World Behind


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Ecco / October 2020

More Reviews from novel.

Leave The World Behind is an interesting take on how people react in the case of an emergency surrounded by unknown causes. Amanda and Clay leave Manhattan with their children to escape to a secluded Airbnb on Long Island for vacation. Late in the evening of their first night, an elderly couple claiming to be the owners of the house knock on the door and ask to stay because of a blackout in the city. And more weird things continue to happen…thousands of deer trek pass the house… a sonic boom of sorts cracks all the windows…live flamingos start showing up in the backyard pool…and Amanda and Clay’s son becomes violently ill with no explanation. This book took me a while to get into because the first few chapters are incredibly dense with metaphors and adjectives. I’m glad I stuck with it though, because once you start getting the internal dialogue of the characters…tension and suspicion abound due to the differences of race/social class between the two families. And the scariest part of the novel isn’t necessarily all the natural phenomena, it’s the fear of not knowing why things happen as they do and what kind of darkness that ignorance might bring out of our human nature.

--Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Cinders and Sparrows


Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann
Greenwillow Books / October 2020

More Reviews from Itinerant Literate

Cinders & Sparrows is so perfectly atmospheric and spooky! I loved rooting for Zita as she came into her powers and her self-confidence, all while unpuzzling the many mysteries of her new home.

--Itinerant Literate, Itinerant Literate Books, LLC in North Charleston, South Carolina

Root Magic


Root Magic by Eden Royce
Walden Pond Press / January 2021

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More Reviews from Bookmarks

Root Magic  is an own-voices magical realism story about two Gullah Geechee twins, Jezebel and Jay, who start to learn rootwork from their uncle after their grandmother’s passing in 1963. A perfect blend of historical fiction, supernatural fantasy, and a classic story of family and friendship, Root Magic  will capture readers, teleporting them to the mysterious marsh inhabited by supernatural beings. Scarier than hags, though, is a local white police officer who has taken to threatening the Turner family. Luckily, Jezebel’s growing affinity for rootwork may save the day. This magical book is sure to be one of my favorites for young readers!

--Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

No Surrender


No Surrender by Christopher Edmonds
HarperOne / October, 2020

More Reviews from The Country Bookshop

Chris Edmonds tells the story of his father Roddie who served in WWII and spent time as a POW in Germany. Standing up to his German captors, Roddie saved the lives of 200 Jewish American POWs and almost 1,300 total American POWs. This is a powerful story of a man who chose to do the right thing and changed the lives of countless others.

--Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Among the Beasts & Briars


Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston
Balzer + Bray / October 2020

More Reviews from Books and Books

I absolutely adore this clever, cozy, flower-dotted novel that manages to be gentle and whimsical and yet serve up scenes of truly spine-tingling eldritch horror. Written in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones and featuring the absolute Very Best Fox of young adult literature, this is a story that spans the gap between middle grade and adult fantasy readers. I would recommend this to fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and An Enchantment of Ravens equally, and I cannot wait to read more Ashley Poston.

--Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

Read This Next!

Books on the horizon: Winter 2021 favorites from Southern indies...

The Push


The Push by Ashley Audrain
Pamela Dorman Books / January, 2021

More Reviews from Story on the Square

Blythe cannot connect with her daughter Violet since birth. Her husband tells her she’s imagining the dislike from her daughter but when she has her son Sam, motherhood is everything she imagined. Tragedy strikes in their family and leaves Blythe wondering everything: Are the women in her family cursed? Is she imagining and being dramatic about Violet? Or is her husband not being a listening partner? This book will suck you in about the beauty and ugly of being a mother. It shook me to my core!

--Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

Bookseller Buzz


Spotlight on Goodnight Beautiful by Amiee Molloy

Aimee Molloy

Writers sometimes talk about "second book syndrome" -- that dreaded point where, with one successful book completed, you have sit down and be brilliant all over again. Amiee Molloy, whose debut novel The Perfect Mother was a New York Times bestseller, spoke a little bit about that pressure in a recent interview. "The Perfect Mother had been a very private experience," she said, "but for Goodnight Beautiful, it became a much more public experience. If I write another book, I’ll try to mimic the experience of my first novel, in that nobody knows I’m writing it."

Molloy seems to have beat her "second book syndrome." Goodnight Beautiful sets out to subvert the usual role of women in the thriller genre, and the general consensus is that it does so with compelling and compulsive success.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

What booksellers are saying about Goodnight Beautiful

  • Molloy has crafted a novel takes the unreliable narrator and turns the volume up to eleven. --Faith Park-Dodge, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NCA

  • You don’t know twists and turns until you’ve read this fast-paced thriller. The plot is chilling, complex, all consuming, and brilliant, with a surprise ending that will leave you stunned! --Nancy Humphreys, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

  • A really fun mystery with a cool twist in the middle. The writer does an amazing job at a bait and switch to say the least. I love a book that keeps you guessing, don’t assume you know what’s going on. Great weekend read! -- Joy Whitaker, Story on the Square, McDonough, GA

About Amiee Molloy

Aimee Molloy’s debut novel, The Perfect Mother, was a New York Times bestseller. She is also the co-author of several nonfiction books, including However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters


Southern Bestsellers

What's popular this week with Southern Readers.

Hamnet Wintering The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Braiding Sweetgrass The Silver Arrow

[ See the full list ]

lady banks bookshelf

Parting Thought

More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free
--Helen Keller, Midstream: My Later Life

Publisher: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance /
Editor: Nicki Leone /
Advertising: Linda-Marie Barrett /
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