Russell Banks’s new novel THE RESERVE is “part love story, part murder mystery”. Taking place in 1936, not long before the World War II, the novel explores questions of class, politics, art, love, and madness. Set in an exclusive wilderness enclave held by families of New York’s highest society as a vacation playground, the novel’s action follows what happens when two intertwined couples violate social conventions and their own morals to follow the dictates of their hearts. Russell Banks is one of America’s best known novelists. He’s the author of many books, including Affliction, Cloudsplitter, and The Sweet Hereafter, which was made into a movie directed by Atom Egoyan. He’s a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and his work has received numerous international prizes and awards. He lives in upstate New York.
When Tahmima Anam went back to her native Bangla Desh to do research for her doctoral thesis in anthroplogy, she gathered testimony from scores of survivors of Bangla Desh’s 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan. The conflict occurred four years before she was born, and she left the country at the age of two, living in Europe and America and eventually attending Mount Holyoke College right here in western Massachusetts. Her novel, A GOLDEN AGE, returns to Bangla Desh’s struggle to become independent to tell the story of one family: a mother and her two children, both on the brink of adulthood. Rehana Haque is drawn by her children into the struggle, partly to pay off a decade old-debt to them. A debt incurred, Rehana feels, when she had to give them up for several years after she was widowed. The novel is a sensitive foray into the bonds of family and patriotism, in the best sense of the word, and how they intersect.