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Short Takes, May 2011 

The Leaves of Fate
George Robert Minkoff
McPherson & Company, 2011, $24.95
The final volume of Berkshires author Minkoff’s magisterial trilogy is not literary fast food. Exquisitely wrought narration rewards patient readers with a richly detailed chronicle of Captain John Smith’s exile from a beleaguered Jamestown and the rise of tobacco, often in images of startling beauty. Minkoff’s visionary epic has gained a cult following, including Paul Auster and Richard Ford.

The Affair of the Veiled Murderess: An Antebellum Scandal and Mystery

Jeanne Winston Adler
Excelsior Editions, 2011, $24.95
The title and alluring bookjacket suggest a whodunnit, and this work of scrupulously researched nonfiction reads like one, vividly evoking the bustling 19th-century Troy in which two Irish immigrants are poisoned. Amid sexual and political scandal, the glamorous suspect goes on trial incognito and heavily veiled; Adler writes, “Today’s National Enquirer and The Star would have been all over it.”

The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way
Nava Atlas
Seller Publishing, 2011, $18.95
When New Paltz food writer, humorist, and book designer Atlas started wondering why she hadn’t written that novel yet, she turned to a dozen literary foremothers—including Jane Austen, Willa Cather, Anaïs Nin, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf—for inspiration. This bountiful literary quilt of quotations and intimate glimpses of writers’ work lives is an ideal Mothers Day gift for your favorite book mama...or yourself.

Silverlands: Growing Up at the Actors’ Orphanage
Judy Staber
Troy Bookmakers, 2010, $17.95
One might assume that the wards of a British orphanage in the 1940s and ’50s had lost parents in WWII, but during Staber’s 12 years at Silverlands, her actress mother was very much alive. The Rensellaer County author’s extraordinary tale of childhood abandonment and resilience ranges from Dickensian beatings to bedtime stories read by Marlene Dietrich and field trips with Sir Noel Coward.

The Stone Man and the Poet
Barbara Block Adams
iUniverse, 2010, $18.95
When poet and Pace professor Adams married a larger-than-life stonemason, wives were expected to keep house and keep quiet. That her lusty, hard-living husband suffered from mental illness, and later was ravaged by cancer, made her role even harder. Adams survived her difficult marriage, raised children, and wrote about all of it. Ironic, though: Look who gets top billing in her memoir’s title.

It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living
edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller
Dutton, 2011, $21.95
Horrified by the recent suicides of LGBT teens who’d been bullied, Savage and Miller uploaded a video about their tormented pasts, promising, “It gets better.” Thousands of messages later, the YouTube phenomenon is a best-selling book, with heartfelt contributions by Hudson Valley authors Eileen Charbonneau, “big rural dyke” Krissy Mahan, Wicked’s Gregory Maguire, and dozens more worldwide.

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