THE MOONFLOWER VINE
Jetta Carleton (Harper Perennial, 318 pages, $14.99)
First published in 1962, this lush book was a bestseller and then, inexplicably, fell out of print until Jane Smiley named it one of 100 classics. Set in rural Missouri, "The Moonflower Vine" is a saga spanning two generations of the farming Soames family. Matthew and Callie Soames are old when the book opens, but the story dips back in time to when they were young and ambitious, just setting out. Carleton traces their lives -- Matthew's endless longing for other women, Callie's sharp and watchful instincts, the coming-of-age of their four daughters, each causing the parents a different kind of heartbreak. Of the four, it is Mathy -- the strange, willful, now absent third daughter -- who holds the book together. And it is Mathy who provides the key to the mysteries of her parents' lives.
WAKING UP IN EDEN
Lucinda Fleeson (Algonquin Books, 308 pages, $13.95)
Fleeson had been a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 15 years when dissatisfaction began creeping into her perfect life. Journalism was changing, she was getting scolded for not writing puff pieces -- and then an old source suddenly offered her a job in Hawaii. "I'll never leave journalism," she said, but within a few days her thoughts changed to, "Why not? Why the hell not?" She moved to Kauai and ended up living in a dilapidated house in the midst of incredible verdant beauty. Through her job at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, she quickly learned just how fragile that beauty is. The environment in the Hawaiian Islands is one of the most endangered on the planet, and Fleeson takes us on a sensual journey of the island, and of her life. She will be at Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., at 6 p.m. July 11.
REQUIEM FOR A PAPER BAG
edited by Davy Rothbart (Fireside, 235 pages, $15.99)
Rothbart's magazine Found is devoted to letters, notes, grocery lists, photographs, journals -- items that somebody lost, or threw away, and somebody else found. Its devoted followers now mail Rothbart bits of paper that they find, which he posts or publishes. For this anthology, Rothbart commissioned writers and celebrities to tell stories -- fact or fiction-- about things that have been found. The result is a strange collection of pieces by Tom Robbins, Charles Baxter, Billy Bragg and a lot of others -- short stories, graphic stories, essays. I'd like them better if they were all true (and it's not always clear which are true and which are not), but they are quirky and fun. They all start with a small, specific moment ("On a flight from Beijing to Shanghai, I found this uniquely worded scrap of paper. ... ") and then just explode from there.
SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU
Peter Cameron (Picador, 229 pages, $13)
Just out of high school, intelligent beyond his years, James Sveck works in his mother's art gallery in New York, trolls the Web looking for houses in the Midwest and frets. James is supposed to start at Brown University in the fall, but he's thinking he just can't stand to be around so many yammering people his own age. He doesn't get along that well with his mother, his father, or his sister, either. The book takes place entirely inside James' head, and though he's bright, sarcastic and funny, he's not exactly a reliable narrator. We are privy to his twisted philosophy, and can only watch as he leads himself down dangerous pathways that sound quite logical but -- we fear -- lead straight to doom.
THE ROAD HOME
Rose Tremain (Back Bay Books, 411 pages, $14.99)
When his beloved wife dies, Lev leaves his home in Eastern Europe and heads for London, seeking a new beginning. At first, he wanders the streets, sleeps in back gardens, tries to figure out where he belongs, but eventually he finds a way into the colorful back-alley world of immigrants. He works in restaurant kitchens, falls in love, breaks a few hearts, finds his dream. Lev is an appealing character -- easygoing but hard-working, ambitious but bewildered. He's a good soul, one that lost souls are drawn to. Tremain has created a vivid story with sharp, full characters, if a slightly sweet plot. A New York Times Notable book of the year, and the winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.