Truth is stranger than fiction, as Alexis Coe's Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis proves. It's the 100 percent true story, sourced from hundreds of original letters and documents, of 19-year-old Alice Mitchell, who planned to pass as a man to marry her girlfriend, 17-year-old Freda Ward, in 1890s Memphis. But when the women were found out and forbidden from seeing each other, Alice slashed Freda's throat. It was a murder that was well-known at the time, but has faded into history today; Coe brings it alive with all the detail and precision of a novel, and explores how perceptions of sexuality have changed (and haven't changed) in the century since.
Eimear McBride wrote her novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing in 2003, at the age of 27, then spent the next nine years fruitlessly attempting to get it published. The result was worth the wait: the Irish author's debut, about a young girl's relationship with her brain tumor-afflicted brother, is now being called a modern classic, and is one of the year's most acclaimed books. Written in a fascinating stream-of-consciousness style, it's not the easiest read, but it has compelling depths of emotion that merit the effort.
Appearances: Green Apple Books, 10/22
Four readings for the price of one is a pretty good deal, especially when all the authors originate from cool Chicago independent publisher Curbside Splendor. This road show features Erika T. Wurth, whose Crazy Horse's Girlfriend deals with a drug-dealing Native American teen longing to escape her broken small town; Dmitry Samarov, a painter whose memoir/art book Where To? reflects on his experiences driving a cab; Brian Costello, who creates a constellation of mid-'90s Florida slackers in Losing in Gainesville; and Susan Hope Lanier, whose The Game We Play is a collection of ten stories about tough decisions.