The Romanov Bride

by Robert Alexander

Viking, $25

Minneapolis author Robert Alexander (The Kitchen Boy, Rasputin’s Daughter) once again delves into the maelstrom of revolutionary Russia. The Romanov Bride weaves together the tales of Pavel, a proletariat revolutionary leader, and Elisavyeta, a Romanov Duchess—each marching the paths dictated by class during the years surrounding 1917. Themes of revenge and redemption course through the novel, adding depth and intrigue. Alexander’s captivating narration, his grasp of the past, and his ability to humanize both sides of a conflict make this fictional tale seem almost real.


Go If You Think It Your Duty

by Andrea R. Foroughi

MHS Press, $33

Between 1861 and 1865, Madison Bowler and Elizabeth Caleff Bowler shared few face-to-face conversations; when Madison enlisted in the Third Minnesota Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War, his wife, Lizzie, stayed behind at their home in Nininger. The nearly 300 letters the couple exchanged during those years shed light on the trials of military service and on home life in the North, but also reveal tensions that built as the couple’s ideas about devotion to one’s country and family diverged. Foroughi’s annotations give further historical context to these often-stoic letters of affection.
—Allison Wickler


Lull and Clatter

Spaghetti Western String Co.


The clarinet and banjo haven’t sounded this good together since they joined forces in early New Orleans jazz bands. But these favorites of the art-museum circuit also throw in a mandolin and the odd string instrument or two to create a textured collection of organic soundscapes, at once delicate and lively, ancient and futuristic. The album title is apropos, as the music swells between pregnant, quiet lulls and lovely barnyard-like clatter. It’s like the instruments are talking to each other—and they’re having a great time. You’ll want to follow any path these idiosyncratic pied pipers lead you down.

* Click here to visit our Music Clips page and listen to a song by Spaghetti Western String Co.


Left Behind

House of Mercy Band

House of Mercy Recordings

Fallen away from the church? Let the House of Mercy Band woo you back to your prayerful positions. Not religious? No matter. These St. Paul country-gospel gurus worship at the altar of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash as much as any other. Just listen to vocalist Angie Talle’s steady, even upbeat, account of love’s failures on “Never Want You Back.” Also worthwhile are the peppy “In the Woods” and the lazy, sonorous “Rapture Waltz.” Or catch the House of Mercy Band live—regulars at the Turf Club in St. Paul can testify to the band’s, ahem, enrapturing shows.


Essayist Paul Gruchow, once a frequent contributor to Minnesota Monthly, took his own life in 2004. In the new book The Grace of Grass and Water (Ice Cube Press, $17), Gruchow is remembered by Minnesota writers Carol Bly, Bill Holm, and others. Here, a recollection by Jim Heynen: “[Paul said] ‘I’m supposed to call my doctors any time I have thoughts of suicide’ … When I told him how much I, and many other people, wanted him to remain in the world with us, he looked at me, not angrily, but with a rather puzzled look. He almost seemed to be sympathizing with me for not understanding a simple fact: whether to be alive or to be dead was no longer a significant distinction to him.”