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5

THURSDAY

Cosmopolitan book editor John Searles has spent his career sussing out what liberal, middle-class white chicks want to read at the beach. So who better to crank out soap-operatic, plot-driven novels with just enough social commentary to make the lurid seem worthwhile? Searles’ 2002 debut, Boy Still Missing, was a twisty circus of adultery, secret pregnancies, and kidnapping set in pre–Roe v. Wade Smalltown, U.S.A. His newest, Strange but True, sticks to themes of motherhood and desperate family dynamics, this time topped with a sprinklin’ of the mystical. Returned home from the Big City after an accident, Philip lives with his bitter mother in the suburban Pennsylvania house they used to share with his father, who ran off with another woman, and his brother, Ronnie, who died in an accident five years ago. When Ronnie’s old girlfriend shows up pregnant, claiming long-dead Ronnie is the father, well…reapply the sunscreen, ladies, and mix up another batch of mai tais. Searles reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books and Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Anne Marson)