Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an editor (and the resident nerd) at NPR Books, focusing on fiction, and particularly genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads. You can also hear her on the air and on the occasional episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for All Things Considered on the weekends. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as an audio archivist and producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She still knows how to solder.

On the north side of the river Thames, between a pub and a railway bridge, there's a rickety staircase down to another world. Or rather, several worlds, layered on top of each other and jumbled together in the slightly stinky river mud. It's a bright, blowy day — seagulls are wheeling overhead, barges pass by in the background, and everywhere I look, there are little fragments of history.

Sheila O'Connor's Evidence of V is a novel built around a void, a blank space in O'Connor's own life: The story of her unknown maternal grandmother, a talented young singer who ended up sentenced to six years in a state reform school for the crime of becoming pregnant at 15.

"I did not know her, and I cannot know the truth of her story, but like so much 'missing family' she has occupied a major place in my imagination for most of my life," O'Connor tells me in an email conversation.

Violet Speedwell is a "surplus woman." She lost her brother and her fiancé to World War I, and she's been living quietly ever since, learning to accept that she's not going to have a husband or a family.

Violet is the protagonist of Tracy Chevalier's new novel, A Single Thread. When we meet her in 1932, she's had enough of sitting at home, taking care of her grieving, difficult mother. She wants a life of her own, so she moves to nearby Winchester, where she meets a group of women who make embroidered kneeling cushions for Winchester Cathedral.

Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale ended on a cliffhanger: The rebellious handmaid Offred stepping into a mysterious black van, on her way to freedom — or to arrest.

Petra: It's Saturday! (Or actually, as we're posting this it's now Sunday) I feel the need to reiterate this, lest I forget what day it is or which direction is up! Saturday tends to be the day people bust out their best cosplays — I saw some truly amazing getups, including countless Deadpools (Deadspool?), a lot of women dressed as Loki and Doctor Strange, a really well-done armored Cersei Lannister, Missandei of Naath carrying her own head, and my personal favorite, Logan and Jessica from Logan's Run, complete with life-clocks in their palms.

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