Sins of the MothersJoshua Furst gets Plymouth and Dinkytown right in his novel The Sabotage Café (Knopf, $23.95), but fumbles on the Galleria. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad (who grew up visiting a parent in the western suburb) apparently has been in New York City too long to know that there is no way security agents at the Edina shopping mecca would tolerate a group of ragged marauders (though you may see “men shaped like hockey pucks, wearing pleated chinos”). In every other respect, this story of a troubled woman watching her teenaged daughter repeat the mistakes of her own youth is heartbreakingly true. The suburban runaways decamp to a boarded-up restaurant and try to elevate their damaged lives through bellicose politics, music, and sex.
Superior SeriesLike sweet corn and the state fair, William Kent Krueger’s novels are an annual summer highlight. Thunder Bay (Atria, $24) is the beloved St. Paul author’s seventh mystery featuring Cork O’Connor. The former sheriff of Tamarack County hopes to live more peacefully in his hometown of Aurora, Minnesota. Working as a private investigator, he is asked to locate an Ojibwe medicine man’s son. As O’Connor says, “Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.”
America (2024 Records)Romantica’s second album is filled with memories of schoolyard soccer dreams, first crushes, Ulster bomb blasts, Mexican machismo, and northern California mountain climbing disasters. Ben Kyle, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, is better than most at getting outside his own head and into other worlds, other lives, writing with an especially strong sense of place and the people he’s loved and lost. Perhaps this is because he was raised in Belfast, before moving to Minnesota in 1995. Northern Ireland has endowed him with the gentle vocal lilt that tops these gems of lightly orchestrated Americana pop, to the delight of Irishphiles. Despite its somber moments, America is infused with the joy of discovery and happiness in the New World. Some critics have even accused the group of smooth sweetness. Kyle doesn’t deny his addiction to hooks, singing in “How to Live in a Modern World,” I haven’t tried to go crazy / just walking ’round looking for a melody. He’s found what’s he’s looking for, and a whole lot more.
* Click here to visit our Music Clips page and listen to a song by Romantica.