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<DIV><P>Laura van den Berg’s gorgeous new book, <I>The Isle of Youth</I>, explores the lives of women mired in secrecy and deception. From a newlywed caught in an inscrutable marriage, to private eyes working a baffling case in South Florida, to a teenager who assists her magician mother and steals from the audience, the characters in these bewitching stories are at once vulnerable and dangerous, bighearted and ruthless, and they will do what it takes to survive. </P><P>Each tale is spun with elegant urgency, and the reader grows attached to the marginalized young women in these stories—women grappling with the choices they’ve made and searching for the clues to unlock their inner worlds. This is the work of a fearless writer whose stories feel both magical and mystical, earning her the title of “sorceress” from her readers. Be prepared to fall under her spell. <P>An NPR Best Book of 2013</DIV>
<strong>An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: </strong>In her second short story collection, <em>The Isle of Youth</em>, Laura van den Berg plays frequently with readers' expectations. She surprises and delights with her gift for language and tone. If there's a cohesive bond between these seven stories, it's the women who inhabit them, all of whom are in search of something: luck, love, loved ones. Like all great short story collections, <em>Isle</em> is as much about interior landscapes as they are exterior ones. The centerpiece of the book is "Antarctica," about a woman who travels to the Antarctic Peninsula to recover the bones of her dead brother. It's in the frigid topography of the southernmost tip of the world that we discover a haunted secret, one that reveals a heartbreaking meditation on the weight of grief. <em>--Kevin Nguyen</em>