Undercover: 'Sorrow'

This book, which truly delivers sadness, puts publisher Braddock Avenue Books on par with a major publishing house.



Some authors like to be coy when titling their work. Aimee Bender’s "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" could be an instruction manual for depressive pastry chefs. Thomas Pynchon’s "The Crying of Lot 49" is a veritable ode to inscrutability. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I first saw Tao Lin’s "Richard Yates" only to learn that it wasn’t a biography of the great writer. Catherine Gammon does not play those kinds of games. Her new novel is called "Sorrow," and sorrow is what she delivers.

Anita Palatino is a young woman living with her mother in a rundown New York City apartment. Anita survived years of childhood sexual abuse, but she finally has reached a breaking point. The corrosiveness of what she had suffered, her near inability to connect with other people and her virtually somnambulant existence all detonate as a result of one violent act. To disclose more about the plot would be a disservice to the reader. Suffice it to say that Gammon understands the benefits of a heavy dose of suspense.

For much of "Sorrow," I felt I was reading a masterpiece. Gammon is that good. She takes the reader by the hand and walks him or her through Anita’s consciousness, burrowing so deep into the character that you can almost hear her heart beating.

"Sorrow" is not perfect, though. There are moments when the narrative stops unnecessarily and tries to explain itself; for example, Anita receives a long letter late in the story by someone who attempts to smooth over a plot detail that feels a little too deus ex machina. This hurts the momentum of the book, which has been so masterful in its depiction of Anita’s world that the reader would surely forgive the absence of certain explanations.

Nevertheless, "Sorrow" is one of the finest novels I have read this year. Gammon’s control and sensitivity are wonders. This book puts publisher Braddock Avenue Books on par with a major publishing house like Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "Sorrow" is the announcement of a major new voice in fiction.

(Braddock Avenue Books, $16; braddockavenuebooks.com)
 



 

Mason Radkoff likes to describe his debut novel, "The Heart of June," as a coming-of-middle-age story. It’s an appropriately wry characterization — one that understates the deep reservoirs of emotion on display in this accomplished work.

Walt Farnham, once a college history professor, is a contractor of great ability, yet he has little to no discipline when it comes to completing a job. He lives above the garage of the house he previously owned, a residence that now belongs to his ex-wife and her husband. Walt tools around in a broken-down truck, which leaks oil wherever he goes. Most notably, he cares for Hardwick, the estate of Miss June Bonwell Creighton, an aging heiress whose family once hobnobbed with the Fricks and Carnegies. Miss June raised Walt after his father, who also looked after the estate, died at an early age.

Following years of watching Walt float through life without direction, Miss June sets him the challenge of finally completing a serious project by restoring her grand parlor, which felt the blows of a fire surrounded by whispered rumors. Walt needs to grow up.

It’s a pure delight to delve into Radkoff’s characters. His dialogue is crisp and filled with the jokey back-and-forth indicative of people who have known each other for years. Much like Richard Russo’s beautifully layered, heartfelt novels about small-town lives and the little victories therein, Radkoff’s "The Heart of June" is a book you’ll want to return to again and again, just to spend a little more time with the people within its pages.

(Braddock Avenue Books, $16.95; braddockavenuebooks.com)



 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.
Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

Oscar-Winning Actor Chosen to Portray Andy Warhol in Biopic

The movie is the first non-documentary to focus solely on the pop artist’s life.
How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

How to Build a Playground in Pittsburgh in Less Than a Day

The state-of-the-art playspace is expected to keep more than 100 children entertained.
Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Funny: Sofia Vergara Describes Life with Steelers-Fanatic Hubby

Joe Manganiello's wife told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” that she's learned to accept his Steelers' obsession but also admits “in the beginning it was kinda weird.”

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz: The Penguins' Unassuming Hitmaker

Chris Kunitz wants to dish out a couple hundred more hits, play a couple hundred more games and win a couple more Cups.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Finn and chef de cuisine Becca Hegarty to bring salads, sandwiches, house-baked bread, wine and more to the refurbished Café Carnegie.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

The puck drops for the opening of training camp on Friday, and once that happens the Penguins must transition from “champions” into “defending champions.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Work It

Work It

A new handbag from Sandra Cadavid’s is perfect for work — or play.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

Also: If you’re looking to redo a room to invite relaxation, PPG Paints promises a wide variety of soothing colors for 2017.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments