Before We Were Yours + The Hellfire Club: New paperbacks with New England connections

Among the books with a New England connection out in paperback this week that I’m particularly excited about are one I’ve read and loved, and one that’s getting closer to the top of my #TBR list: Lisa Wingate’s wonderful Before We Were Yours, which I gave five stars on Goodreads, and Jake Tapper’s The Hellfire Club.

Went to college in New Hampshire

I’ll admit that if not written by Tapper—one of my favorite CNN reporters—The Hellfire Club would probably not be a book I’d be excited about right now. A news and political junkie, I find my brain going into overload these days when it comes to Washington lies, scandals and wrongdoings. Whereas I used to binge watch CNN for hours a day, I now take it smaller bites. So the idea of plunging into a lies-full, White House-related political thriller set in Washington, DC—the center of my current daily angst—does not necessarily appeal.That said, I love Jake Tapper and the thoughtful, straight-forward reporting and commentary he brings to CNN and his weekday and Sunday morning shows. A huge historical fiction fan, my interest is also piqued to see how he brings 1950s DC to life as he tells the story of Charlie Marder—an unlikely Congressman who discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance. So I’m giving it a go.

Tapper’s New England connection? He earned his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth in New Hampshire, graduating with a BA in history in 1991.

Like The Hellfire Club, Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours is historical fiction. Alternating between 1930s Tennessee and present-day South Carolina, it flips between the story of five siblings taken from the shanty boat their family lives on and put into an orphanage, and the journey of a Congressman’s daughter to discover her family’s history while nursing her father back to health. (There’s also some political grooming involved.)

Went to elementary school in Massachusetts

I read Before We Were Yours in hardcover. And now that it’s out in paperback, I just might read it again. You should too. Based on a real-life orphanage director who stole poor children and then placed them for adoption with wealthy clients, it’s engaging and compelling from page 1. I’d actually rate Before We Were Yours as one of the most-memorable novels I’ve read in the past few years.

Wingate, who now lives in Texas, spent several years growing up in Massachusetts. She credits her first-grade teacher Mrs. Krackhardt at Peasley School in Northboro with giving her the confidence she needed to eventually pursue a writing career. Said Wingate: “Mrs. Krackhardt wrote on my report card that she expected to see my name in the pages of a magazine one day, and I suddenly felt incredibly special. She started reading my stories to the class, and I was hooked. I quickly discovered the joy of having an audience, and set out on many, many writing projects.”

Mrs. Krackhardt deserves our thanks!

Scissors, please. These Spinster-inspired paper dolls are a must!

Spinster Paper DollsBy Cindy Wolfe Boynton
What’s very possibly one of the best things, in my whole life, that I’ve ever stumbled across? These super-awesome literary spinster paper dolls, which were created to go along with the release of journalist Kate Bolick‘s memoir Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.

Adding to my excitement is that like Bolick herself (who grew up in Newburyport, Mass.), four of the five literary goddesses turned paper play-things have ties to New England. In Spinster, Bolick weaves their lives and choices into her own, showing us the unconventional ideas and lifestyles of:

  • Journalist Neith Boyce, who lived in Massachusetts and is buried in New Hampshire
  • Social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of the must-read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” who was born in Hartford, Conn.
  • Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was born in Rockland, Maine
  • Novelist Edith Wharton, who lived in Massachusetts

Irish writer and essayist Maeve Brennan is also featured.

Download printable versions of the paper dolls here, which are part of a “Spinster Kit” that also includes recipes for each of these writers’ favorite cocktails, a list of their works you should read, and a Spinster discussion guide.

SpinsterIn Spinster, which grew out a 2011 cover story Bolick wrote for the Atlantic, Bolick explores not just modern notions of romance, family, career and success, but why she, and more than 100 million other American women, remains unmarried. She uses her personal experiences as a starting point to delve into the history of the idea of spinsterhood, examine her own intellectual and sexual coming of age, and discover why so many fear the life she has come to relish.

Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton each helped shape Bolick, influencing both her personal and career choices and, ultimately, this book.

Kate Bolick will be one of my guests on the May 11, 2015 Literary New England Radio Show. We’ll also be giving away copies of Spinster, so save the date!

You may also want to mark Friday, May 15, on your calendar. From 5-7 pm, Bolick will be at Edith Wharton’s home The Mount in Lenox, Mass, to give a free reading and signing. Entitled “Kate Bolick’s Awakening at The Mount: A Reading and Reception to Celebrate Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own,” the event will feature hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and, says The Mount website, “conversation about what it means to live independently.” Bolick will also read from Spinster and then sign copies.

If you go, please send photos! I’m so incredibly bummed not to be able to attend.