Fiction A to Z
The Gone Dead by Chanelle BenzWhat happens: Billie James has just inherited a ramshackle home in the Mississippi Delta from her father, a respected (if underrated) African American poet who died when she was four. When she visits, she learns of the mysteries surrounding the night of his death.
Why you might like it: Starring a biracial protagonist coming to terms with her complicated family history and distinguished by a strong sense of place and memorable dialogue, this slow-burning debut novel is steeped in Southern Gothic atmosphere.
You've Been Volunteered: A Class Mom Novel by Laurie GelmanStarring: sassy, sarcastic, relatable Jen Dixon, who is once again class mom (this time for her son's 3rd-grade class) -- and now is apparently in charge of the safety patrol.
For fans of: Class Mom, in which Jen took on kindergarten as a third-time parent, as well as other irreverent tales of harried parenthood like Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different or Bunmi Laditan's Confessions of a Domestic Failure.
The Snakes by Sadie JonesWhat happens: London psychotherapist Bea has long been estranged from her wealthy parents, but a visit with her husband to her brother's empty hotel in France brings them back into her life.
Why you might like it: Complicated relationships, slowly revealed secrets, corrosive wealth, and a well-crafted (if leisurely paced) plot make this family drama a dark yet thoughtful one.
Reviewers say: "the real snakes in this twisty story are human ones" (Library Journal).
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire LombardoWhat it is: a sweeping family drama that follows Marilyn and David Sorenson and their four adult daughters over one challenging year. Alternating chapters illuminate the previous 30 years in the Sorenson home.
What kind of challenges? A teenage son given up for adoption at birth reappears, but there's also an unexpected pregnancy, the normal disappointments of early adulthood, and -- of course -- the friction inherent in any loving, close-knit family.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan StradalFeaturing: sisters Helen and Edith, who haven't spoken since an inheritance came between them, and Edith's granddaughter Diana, who brings them back together.
What it's about: beer and beer-making, though you could be a teetotaler and still enjoy this heartwarming story and its complicated, relatable female protagonists.
For fans of: sweeping family sagas like Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread or food-friendly tales like Viola Shipman's The Recipe Box.
Heroes of the Frontier by Dave EggersStarring: newly single mom Josie, who is leaving her failing Ohio dental practice behind and taking the kids on a not particularly well-thought-out trip to Alaska, where she rents an RV and plans, ultimately, to stay.
Why you might like it: lots of things go wrong along the way, but Josie's quest to start afresh is full of humor. While this shaggy dog story won't be for everyone, those who want to float along for the adventures of three complex characters will enjoy the vivid writing.
The Reminders by Val EmmichWhat happens: After the sudden death of his partner, Sydney, Gavin sets fire to everything that reminds him of his devastating loss and flees to friends in New Jersey. There, his hosts' ten-year-old daughter -- who remembers everything that has ever happened to her -- convinces him to help her write the perfect song in exchange for her memories of Sydney.
Read it for: the heartwarming friendship between two quirky characters.
About the author: Actor Val Emmich is the author of Dear Evan Hansen, the novelization of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.
Talk to Me by John KenneyWhat it's about: An ill-timed tirade goes viral and leads to the loss of news anchor Ted Grayson's job and his reputation. Meanwhile his wife wants a divorce and his daughter's not speaking to him.
Why you might like it: Despite his flaws, Ted's growing awareness of his mistakes makes him a character to root for. The sharp commentary about social media and viral videos is on point too.
Reviewers say: "Bittersweet, darkly funny" (Publishers Weekly).
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel KhongWhat happens: After a broken engagement, untethered Ruth agrees to move back in with her parents for a year as her father's memory problems turn to dementia and worse.
The structure: Alternately sad and funny, the book is organized in short vignettes, much like a diary, as Ruth takes care of her parents and takes small steps towards building a future for herself.
Want a taste? "Today a man found Dad's pants in a tree lit with Christmas lights.'"
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillanWhat it's about: Though she's a successful optometrist and has a full life with her daughters and friends, Georgia Young still feels stuck. So she's decided to visit all of her former flames to tell them what they meant to her, and to get some perspective on why those relationships failed.
Why you might like it: Engaging, humorous, and with wonderfully realistic characters, this is a heartwarming tale of a woman finding her way.
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