Field Notes From An Unintentional Birder by Julia Zarankin ’97 (Douglas & McIntyre)
Zarankin, who was born in the Soviet Union, found herself back in Toronto after a dissolved marriage looking for a hobby that would “exercise my patience.” This led to a birding class that left her frustrated and freezing on the shore of Lake Ontario, missing all the waterfowl that the more experienced birders were identifying with ease. But on the way to the car she spotted a red-winged blackbird perched on a cattail. It was, she writes, “as close as I’d ever stand to dinosaurs.” The fascination lingered as Zarankin gradually became a serious birder. This is a wry, warm, and moving book about family and about love, about being a beginner and about second chances, all told through the lens of birding.
The Little French Bridal Shop by Jennifer Dupee ’96 (St. Martin’s Press)
Larisa Pearl has returned home to the North Shore of Massachusetts to put her late Aunt Ursula’s home, Elmhurst, up for sale. Larisa is freshly jobless and boyfriend-less when she spots a satin gown in a bridal shop window and buys it. There is no wedding on the horizon, but the gossip swirls anyway and Larisa lets it go. She also reignites a relationship with Jack Merrill, a high school friend and caretaker of her great aunt’s house, who is trying to save his own marriage. While this debut at first reads like a comedy, there are truths to be faced as the novel unfolds.
The Effort by Claire Holroyde ’01 (Grand Central Publishing)
An eight kilometer “dark comet” is on its way, set to dissolve life as we know it in a burst of mass extinction. Ben Schwartz, head of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, is tasked with stitching together a team to deflect the comet and save the planet. But they have less than a year to build an intercept spacecraft. This of course requires international cooperation, which is in short supply, and as society begins to unravel, things start looking a little apocalyptic. The action in Holroyde’s debut hops from French Guiana to the Bering Sea to Brazil and eventually into space as this tense novel ticks forward.