February’s Best Books

Christine Sneed’s debut novel, a riveting tale of family secrets, and new short stories from Karen Russell

‘Little Known Facts’ by Christine Sneed

Five years ago, Salman Rushdie was so impressed with fiction writer Christine Sneed that he included her work in 2008’s Best American Short Stories anthology. But the Evanston resident has kept a low-profile, occasionally producing more short stories in the years since.

That’s about to change, though, with the publication of Sneed’s elegant first novel. Little Known Facts (Bloomsbury, $25) charts the life of an aged movie star, Renn Ivins, and the corrosive effects of his celebrity on his two ex-wives and adult children—especially his spoiled son, Will, who wants to find his own career but dreads living in his dad’s shadow. Little Known Facts follows Sneed’s 2010 book of short stories, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry, which earned rave reviews—Publishers Weekly said Sneed, now 41, “writes with the care of a fine stylist and the heart of a sympathetic reader.” Hear her read from her novel on February 21 at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.).

Two more lit recommendations: After Visiting Friends (Scribner, $25), GQ editor Michael Hainey’s account of his own investigation into his reporter father’s sudden death in Chicago when Hainey was six, expands into a riveting tale of family secrets…Vampires in the Lemon Grove (Knopf, $25), a short-story collection by Northwestern grad and Swamplandia! author Karen Russell, flits between the fantastic (the titular vampires) and the horrific (a mutilated scarecrow with an eerie resemblance to a bullied classmate).

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