Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Freebie: The Emily St. John Mandel collection

Congratulations to Yvonne Jefferson, winner of last week's Friday Freebie contest: The Bully of Order by Brian Hart and The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker.

This week's book giveaway is a special Emily St. John Mandel collection, in honor of her new novel Station Eleven.  The Millions calls it "her best, most ambitious work yet."  This week's book bundle features her earlier work published by Unbridled Books.  Two winners will each receive the following novels: Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun and The Lola Quartet.  While Station Eleven isn't included in the prize package, I urge everyone to walk, run, drive, fly, swim, crawl or pogo-stick to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy.  By the way, this Friday Freebie is brought to you courtesy of the great Greg Michalson, co-publisher at Unbridled Books, who generously provided the box o' books for the giveaway.  (Thanks, Greg!)  Here's more information about the trio of novels going out to this week's lucky readers:

Last Night in Montreal, centers around Lilia Albert who has been leaving people behind for her entire life.  She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities.  In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop.  Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along the way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years.  Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe.  Last Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession.  “This book is almost too good to be true, it has that onion effect, where you think it's going one way and then suddenly switches tones, but only slightly and goes another direction.  And while you're catching up, the story peels another layer on top of the one you've just read.  This isn't a book that comes out of a woman who is thirty years old, more like a woman who is sixty years old and has done some living.  I don't know if the world is ready for a book this good, something this profound, shockingly real and so hard to put down....Above this wonderful character piece are moments of pure beauty and clarity.  Mandel writes setting and scene better than anyone working today...There is a relaxed muscularity to this prose, a kind of educated style that is both impressive and shows a great deal of restraint.  It's spare but extremely effective.  (Jason Rice, Three Guys One Book)

The Los Angeles Times had this to say about The Singer's Gun: “Mandel's talent is clearly visible from the get-go....The beauty of the novel is that its key truths are those the reader arrives at on his or her own, without the help of a straight-line narrative or a dominating perspective.  Instead, Mandel feeds off of our need to make connections, even when the pattern they form doesn't really exist.  We start with anxiety and end with it, thrumming in the background for us to listen in--or ignore, at both cost and reward.  Here's what goes down in the novel:
Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents deal in stolen goods and his first career is a partnership venture with his cousin Aria selling forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens. Anton longs for a less questionable way of living in the world and by his late twenties has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager. Then a routine security check suggests that things are not quite what they appear. And Aria begins blackmailing him to do one last job for her. But the seemingly simple job proves to have profound and unexpected repercussions.
More praise: “The Singer's Gun begins like a straightforward crime thriller...But Emily St. John Mandel's novel is something far rarer than this classic noir opening suggests.  She introduces us to haunted, often fugitive individuals stranded in places from New York to Italy, from the past to the present.  And her book strikes a perfect balance between introspection and eminently satisfying thriller.  (The Washington Post)

In The Lola Quartet, Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work.  It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression.  The last thing Gavin wants to do in return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.  Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago.  Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.  In her most ambitious novel yet, Emily Mandel combines her most fully realized characters with perhaps her most fully developed story that examines the difficulty of being the person you'd like to be, loss, the way a small and innocent action (e.g., taking a picture of a girl in a foreclosed house) can have disastrous consequences.  The Lola Quartet is a work that pays homage to literary noir, is concerned with jazz, Django Reinhardt, economic collapse, love, Florida’s exotic wildlife problem, crushing tropical heat, the leavening of the contemporary world, compulsive gambling, and the unreliability of memory.

If you’d like a chance at winning all three books, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Sept. 11, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Sept. 12.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

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