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Episode 222: Marie-Helene Bertino

BY MEGAN LABRISE • June 29, 2021

‘Parakeet’ Found: Marie-Helene Bertino’s fresh, fascinating sophomore novel returns in paperback.

On this week’s episode, Marie-Helene Bertino discusses Parakeet. This stellar sophomore novel from Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and professor Bertino (2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, Safe As Houses) was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and longlisted for the Joyce Carol Oates Award for Fiction in 2020. One of host Megan Labrise’s favorite novels of… well, ever… Parakeet is now available in paperback from Picador.

Kirkus on Parakeet: “One week before her wedding, The Bride—that’s how the main character, our narrator, is known—is confronted in her Long Island hotel room by the spirit of her dead grandmother, embodied in the form of a parakeet, who begs her to reconnect with her estranged brother, a reclusive playwright who has made his career by staging the worst moment of The Bride’s own life.…The book’s linguistic pyrotechnics and the shimmering, miragelike nature of Bertino’s images demand a lot of the reader, but the relatability of The Bride’s honest and earnest attempts to do her best with the uncooperative life she has been given resonate on a deep, perhaps even universal, frequency. A vivid book about lives visited by violent strangeness but lived with authentic humor and hope” (starred review).

Bertino and Labrise talk about Bertino’s relationship to Parakeet at this point in time; weddings in literature (it’s a thing); how “frisson”—aka “aesthetic chills”—sounds like a fancy lettuce; whether Bertino would like to be known—as a writer—for her technical accomplishment or something else; the super-well-attended free online writing class she gave in celebration of the Parakeet paperback launch (“Disrupting Realism: Magic, Humor, and Other Disturbances”); and much more.

Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, and Laurie Muchnick join with their weekly reading recommendations.

 

Editors’ picks:

Best Day Ever! by Marilyn Singer, illus. by Leah Nixon (Clarion)

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury)

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown)

 

Also mentioned in this episode:

Hilary McKay’s Casson Family series

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (Levine/Scholastic)

 

Thanks to our advertisers this week:

A Night in October by Robert Illo

Carta de Tita Bety para mi nieto Leo: Dichos que aprend by Beatriz Ruiz Silva

Till Times Are Done by Matthew Marullo

Innocence and Gold Dust by Frances Webb

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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