Find it at your library!

This book is kind of hard to read. Dimechkie seems to be one of those writers who takes grim delight in describing icky things in unflinching detail: illness, sex, the adolescent male physique, even the mechanics of eating. Topics that would benefit from lower lighting and less scrutiny are instead thrust under a bald 100-watt bulb.

Fortunately, the plot exerted a strong enough pull to keep me from recoiling too much from the unsavory details. Max and his father Rasheed live in New Jersey. Before, they lived in Lebanon, but Max was too young to remember it, and his father never wants to talk about their past. Rasheed has fully embraced American life and has no desire to maintain ties to their former culture. He tells Max that his mother and the rest of their extended family are all dead, and for a while at least Max accepts his story as truth.

But it's not the truth. Even the most basic facts of Max's existence turn out to be lies, and somehow he will have to come to terms with his new reality. Max's effort to piece together his true history is the most compelling element of the novel. Why did Rasheed lie about something so huge? Is he the hero or the villain of Max's story? Can their relationship survive such a massive betrayal? And the most interesting question to my mind, how will Max reframe his identity after growing up completely severed from his culture, his family?

Despite the squirms it may induce, Lifted by the Great Nothing is a promising debut novel and an interesting exploration of family, love, and deception.

With regards to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale May 19.

Find it at your library!

My local public library is doing a great promotion right now that encourages participants to read books either published or set in different decades within the last 100 years. Normally that's the kind of challenge I might shy away from—I gravitate strongly toward contemporary books, and my to-read list is mostly full of books written within the past few years. What can I say, I'm a creature of the moment.

Then I found out the finisher's prize is a tote bag, and I immediately started hunting for books that would fit the bill. Because (and I'm not ashamed to say this) I would do a lot of things for a free tote bag with a book-related logo on it.

I chose The Giant's House because it was first published in 1996 and the story is set in the 1950s, giving me a couple options for how to record it on my entry form. And it turned out to be a win-win, because not only did it get me one step closer to a tote bag, it was also a good-if-a-bit-weird read.

Dour, slightly misanthropic Peggy is a small-town librarian who at twenty-six has already given up on love. It's hard to be too surprised by this, because her crotchety narration makes it clear that she's not exactly Miss Congeniality. She became a librarian because she loves order and knowledge, but most workdays finds herself silently stamping books and filing cards behind the desk, unappreciated and unacknowledged. Then one day eleven-year-old James comes to the library, and everything changes for Peggy.

James is literally a giant—he's already over six feet tall and will continue to grow for the rest of his life. He's also a sensitive soul and a voracious reader, and Peggy goes out of her way to supply her fascinating patron with a wide variety of books. Over the years, Peggy does whatever she can to stay in James's orbit, despite his mounting physical problems and her own solitary nature.

In order to like this book, you have to not only like love stories, but like them weird. There is nothing normal about a cranky librarian falling in love with an eight-foot-tall man fifteen years her junior. But book lovers will find something to relate to in Peggy—some of her musings about her library and the books in it are humorously memorable. (At one point, she characterizes library books as slutty, opening their pages for anyone who wants to read them, as opposed to the virtuous books purchased in bookstores and married to their owners for life.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to claim myself a tote bag.