Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It

After two exceedingly good novels (Liars and Saints was shortlisted for the Orange Prize), Maile Meloy has returned with a full collection of the terse, emotionally compact short stories that she nails with precision and grace. This collection is loaded with daddy issues. Taken together, they create an interesting arc about the effect of a father's love or lack thereof on young girls: The daughter of a single father is unnerved when he can't protect her; a father confronts the girlfriend of his daughter's killer; two brothers, a ski bum and a bourgeois doctor, despise one another but compete over their fierce love for the doctor's teenage daughter, whom he regards as "the best thing had ever done." Meanwhile, a wealthy Argentinian patriarch who discovers his former mistress is now working as maid, can look at his two indulged daughters and think that "children were experiments and his had failed." Many of these stories take place in Meloy's native Montana, with its big skies, vast spaces, and freakish summer snow. She is particularly deft when describing men of few words and compelling actions: In "Travis B.," a small-town ranch hand courts a big-city lawyer by showing up to take her to dinner on his horse. And in the exceptional "Lovely Rita," a young factory worker, confronted with death and a love he can't quite seem to grasp or even acknowledge, chooses to exile himself from his home as a way to distance himself from regret. Each one of these stories is a tiny, perfectly crafted masterpiece.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).