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  • Writer's pictureNicole Stewart

January Midwest Connections Picks

A memoir about fatherhood, family, and what it means to be a man in America.

Midwest Connection: Calvin Hennick grew up in Iowa and Once More to the Rodeo makes stops across the Midwest on this father and son road trip.

Target Readers: Parents, books clubs, readers who enjoy travel memoirs, family stories, humorous books, and books with diverse characters.

Similar to: Wild by Cheryl Strayed Son of a Gun by Justin St. Germain Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary

Praise for Once More to the Rodeo: “In this powerful memoir, Calvin Hennick -- a white father trying to prepare his tenderhearted brown son for an often-hostile world -- attempts to come to terms with the scars left by his own painful family history. Once More to the Rodeo is a hilarious and deeply moving journey, simultaneously optimistic yet also clear-eyed about the difficulties of fatherhood and race.”    -- Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

“A tender and engrossing travelogue that fully embodies “what it means to be a man and a father.”    -- Kirkus Reviews - Starred Review

“Raw, wry, and perceptive, Hennick’s memoir overflows with anxious love.”    -- Booklist

One of the most anticipated books of 2020!

Midwest Connection: Kiley Reid earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded the Truman Capote Fellowship and taught undergraduate creative writing workshops with a focus on race and class. She lived in Iowa up until recently.

Target Readers: Readers of literary fiction, women's fiction. For readers of Tayari Jones, Curtis Sittenfeld, Brit Bennett, Emma Straub, Celeste Ng, Meg Wolitzer, and Zadie Smith.

Similar to: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Staff Review (by Nicole):

Wow, I did not see this novel coming! From the beginning, I was immersed in the story of these characters, all of whom seemed slightly flawed, but mostly well-intentioned. The incident in the supermarket (described on the book jacket, so not a spoiler) was jarring, yes; upsetting, definitely. But, as is often the case, life just seemed to roll along more or less the same. The second half of the book firmly yanked me out of my comfort zone and immersed me in unsettling reality. Reid deftly unspools character backstories and slowly reveals details forcing you to question everything you thought you knew and understood about this world and these people. Ultimately, this story packed a huge emotional punch that literally left me gasping. This is the kind of book that you absolutely have to discuss with other people (it would be an amazing book club pick) and I know that I will be thinking about it for a long time to come…

Praise for Such a Fun Age: "With a story that bounces between the three viewpoints, Kiley Reid’s debut novel features a wonderfully engaging and wiser-than-she-thinks-she-is heroine and is alternatingly inspired, infuriating, hilarious, and thought-provoking, touching on race, class, gender, friendship, dating, and motherhood, and filled with a whole mess of bad advice from everyone concerned. Lots of bad advice!"    -- Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

"Empathetic and observant as the best domestic fiction, but plotted and paced like a binge-worthy TV show, Such a Fun Age is a smart, cool, and snappy debut. The characters are rounded and believable, the action is full of humor and anxiety in equal measure, and the plot delivers surprises time and again - I love this book so much!"    -- Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN

“An exquisitely choreographed train wreck of class, race, and the hair’s breadth generational gap between millennials and slightly-older-millennials. Woe to they who doesn’t make space for Such a Fun Age at the top of their TBR pile…”    -- Charlotte Colaluca, Mystery to Me, Madison, WI

"Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age is a strong contender for the title “Great Millenial Novel.” One night, under mysterious circumstances, Emira is called to take the child she babysits to the grocery store. At 11 pm. In her club outfit. At the store, Emira is detained by a rent-a-cop who questions why a black woman is with a white child at that hour. The fallout from this confrontation (caught on camera, of course), plus the fraught relationship between Emira and her employers, makes for a social comedy with sharp meditations on race, privilege, and the failings of even the most well-intentioned white people."    -- Danny Caine, The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS

"Such a Fun Age is a book you pick up and don't put down until it ends. Complex characters, racial divides, and socio-economic tensions combine to create what is sure to be one of the most talked about novels of 2020. Kiley Reid may be a debut novelist, but this work is on par with the heavy hitters of literary fiction. This is outstanding reading and an absolute gold mine for book club discussions."    -- Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

Set in the waning years of the Cold War, a stunning debut novel about a trio of young Armenians that moves from the Soviet Union, across Europe, to Southern California, and at its center, one of the most tragic cataclysms in twentieth-century history—the Armenian Genocide—whose traumatic reverberations will have unexpected consequences on all three lives.

Midwest Connection: Chris McCormick is a graduate of the University of Michigan MFA program and now lives and teaches in Minnesota.

Target Readers: Literary fiction readers. Fans of Michael Chabon and Marlon James.

Similar To: Moonglow by Michael Chabon A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James  Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett Praise for The Gimmicks: The Gimmicks is a gorgeous epic that astounds with its scope and beauty. With empathy and humor, McCormick unravels the ties between brotherhood and betrayal, love and abandonment, and the fictions we create to live with the pain of the past. This novel will blow you away.”

—Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers

“I borrow from the book’s cover and concur that the novel is, ... with unique humor and startling beauty, illuminates the impact of history and injustice on ordinary people. I would never have thought a story as found in this book could do what it does for the ”Arminian Genocide”, but it does. At first you think you are in for a novel about the crazy world of professional wrestling in Russia to California, but no this book is so much more.”    -- Larry Yoder, The Bookies, Denver, CO

“Chris McCormick’s The Gimmicks, is a history lesson, a testament to brotherhood, an inquiry into radicalized minds and culture, a tracking of the Armenian diaspora, a love story, and a drive-by past the world of professional wrestling. McCormick takes a triad of people; Ruben, a young intellect radically fixated on the Armenian genocide, Avo, Ruben’s brother and complement/foil, and Mina, a talented backgammon player and Ruben’s rival. How many different configurations can three people take on in each others’ lives? McCormick lovingly, skillfully, shows us; tracking them from Armenia to Europe to America, while they all grapple with the permanence of their actions on themselves and each other. McCormick is dizzyingly smart too, exploring concepts of love and devotion through the language of violence and wrestling that you will feel, viscerally. Messy and exquisite, The Gimmicks is a force.”    -- Charlotte Bruell, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Blending the piercing humor of Alexandra Kleeman and the jagged satire of Black Mirror, an audacious, eerily prescient debut novel that chronicles the rise and fall of a massive high-rise housing complex, and the lives it affected before - and after - its demise.

Midwest Connection: Sean is a resident of Des Moines, IA.

Target Readers: Readers of literary satire and absurdist fiction, fans of Black Mirror.

Similar To: The Warehouse by Rob Hart Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller Severance by Ling Ma

Praise for The Heap:

“Like Snowpiercer's train, a George Saunders amusement park, or the fractured cityscape from a Donald Barthelme story, The Heap is a sardonic monument to our decadent culture…”

— Chandler Klang Smith, author of The Sky Is Yours

“Los Verticales was more than a tower, it was a huge monument to a self-sustaining society; a form of Utopia. Like all Utopias, it collapsed, quite literally, killing everyone. Well, almost everyone. Bernard starts transmitting over the radio station that he worked for and the whole world starts listening and calling in. His brother, Oliver, has joined the dig to attempt to unearth him. Oliver phones into Bernard's studio every night, which has been a ratings boost for the station. When the head of marketing attempts to recruit Oliver to sprinkle in some product placement while in conversation with Bernard, Oliver gets a bit indignant. From there the story starts to gather momentum into crazy coincidences and some amazing characters. This is the first book in 2020 to read, you won't be able to put it down."    -- Jason Kennedy, Boswell Books, Milwaukee, WI

"The Heap is the story of Orville Anders and his search for his brother, Bernard, who is the sole survivor of a the collapse of a massive Babel-esque structure. Orville, and others like him, labor endlessly in the Heap, trying to shift all the detritus of the collapsed skyscraper, hoping to find . . . something? Orville, and others like him, would say that they hope to find Orville's brother (who, somehow, is still transmitting via a local radio tower). Others would say their efforts are merely an attempt to find meaning for their lives. Survivors of the collapse have their own story to tell--a story about a society that became wrapped up in its own internalized struggles. Regardless, Sean Adams delivers a quirky speculative novel that is equal parts J. G. Ballard and Matt Ruff, with a dusty layer of Kafka and Orwell mixed in. Recommended."    -- Mark Teppo, A Good Book, Sumner, Washington

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