All Grown Up by Jami AttenbergAndrea Bern is about to turn 40 -- and though she's got a good-enough career in advertising, she's convinced that everyone else is doing a better job at being an adult than she is. Or, at least, she's convinced that by not having the husband and the baby that provide benchmarks for adulthood (neither of which she really wants), others don't see her as properly grown up. "Deeply perceptive and dryly hilarious" (Kirkus Reviews), this novel of a woman's desire to find meaning in life is told in a series of raw and honest vignettes. Fans of stories that take place in New York City will also appreciate the dynamic setting.
The River of Kings: A Novel by Taylor BrownIn this powerful, character-driven narrative, two brothers (one a college student, the other a Navy SEAL), are kayaking down the wild Altamaha River, also known as Georgia's "Little Amazon," in order to scatter their father's ashes at sea. In addition to enduring threats from wild animals and dangerous men living along the river, the brothers question whether their father's death was accidental. Scenes from his own hard life appear within the novel, as do episodes set in 1564, when the first French settlers clashed with Native Americans in the area. The three eras -- and their sometimes deadly adventures -- provide vivid imagery of the river, creating a sort of tribute to the waterway; the novel itself has been compared both to James Dickey's Deliverance and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi CottrellHelen Moran is 32, single, childless, and underemployed when she learns that her brother has killed himself. Like Helen, her brother was Korean; both were adopted by the same white couple, albeit from different families. As she searches their Milwaukee childhood home for answers, we see her understanding of herself is no more secure than her understanding of her brother's pain, nor is her connection to her past (she's been estranged from her adoptive family for years). Complex, clever, darkly comic, and grieving, Helen is entirely unique; this debut's treatment of suicide and those it leaves behind is done with "stunning wit, humor, and yes, tender sadness" (The Rumpus).
Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin HamidBestselling author Mohsin Hamid has been a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award (Moth Smoke) and short-listed for the Man Booker Prize (The Reluctant Fundamentalist); we're curious to see where this incredibly timely fourth novel will go. Set in an unnamed country torn apart by violence and repression, it follows two young lovers: independent Nadia, and quiet Saeed, who keep their heads down until the day comes that they must flee for their own safety. For the right price, they are allowed access to portals that lead them to a crowded refugee camp, a cramped London apartment, and a home in California. It's an interesting take on migration (instantaneous!) that those curious about the subject may enjoy exploring.
Edgar & Lucy by Victor LodatoEdgar's father died when he was a baby. Since then Edgar, now eight, has been living with his grandmother and his self-destructive mother. It's not the happiest of situations (the two women fight a lot), but it gets worse when his grandmother (and primary caregiver) dies. Saying much more than that may spoil the plot for some readers; you should know that this two-hankie book is mostly a story of loss, grief, love, and maybe a bit of madness. Engaging, realistic characters populate the dark and emotional tale, told primarily from Edgar's insightful and unusual viewpoint.
Absalom's Daughters: A Novel by Suzanne FeldmanCassie and Judith have just learned that they're sisters (well, half-sisters), and that they may be due a sizable inheritance through their wayward father. Collecting it won't be easy: Cassie is black, Judith is white, they live in Mississippi, it's the 1950s, and they must arrive in Virginia by an appointed date. Their road trip (in a stolen car) is their first step in creating their own futures, and they encounter both the grim reality of racism and the kindness of strangers. Not strictly historical fiction -- there are some elements of magical realism -- this debut novel nevertheless offers a compelling look at the Jim Crow South.
Hidden Riches by Felicia MasonAna Mae Futrell was a housecleaner -- everyone knows that. But what no one in her family knew until now is that she was also very, very rich. Her far-flung siblings (reluctant to return home for Ana Mae's funeral) are now racing to solve clues sewn into a quilt, which will allow them to inherit Ana Mae's 3.8 million dollars. If none of them can solve the puzzle, the money will go to her cats (and the Reverend with whom she shared a special relationship). The money isn't the only secret to be uncovered during their search -- Ana Mae also had a son. Family drama abounds, but Ana Mae's simple values lend an inspirational tone to this engaging tale of acceptance and love.
Orhan's Inheritance: A Novel by Aline OhanesianDepicting a Turkish family caught up in the legacy of the Armenian genocide, this reflective novel follows Orhan, who has inherited the family's kilim rug dynasty in place of his father (breaking with tradition as well as with Turkish inheritance laws). Another surprise in his grandfather's will: the family home has been left to an unfamiliar Armenian woman living in an American nursing home. Orhan has been tasked with convincing her (and her son) to sign the house over, but Orhan is more interested in figuring out her connection to his grandfather. What he learns opens his eyes to some dark and terrible truths; while parts of the story set in 1915 are brutal, the novel ends with "a tenuous sense of hope" (Kirkus Reviews).
Island Girls: A Novel by Nancy ThayerThe will of recently deceased ladies' man Rory Randall explicitly states that his fancy Nantucket house should go to his three daughters (all from different marriages) as long as they all live in it together for one full summer. Though they spent some time together as kids, they haven't seen each other in years thanks to long-standing resentments and misunderstandings. Unsurprisingly, the summer gets off to a rocky start, made worse when their mothers arrive to complicate things. However, the beautiful Nantucket setting and the eventual happy ending make this a great choice for a beach read -- or just an escapist few hours on your couch.
That Summer by Lauren WilligStill reeling from the loss of her job as a stockbroker, Julia finds the perfect escape -- the unexpected inheritance of a house in London. There, she discovers a painting depicting legendary doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative set in the 1840s, beautiful and intelligent heiress Imogene Hadley is imprisoned in an unhappy marriage to an aristocrat who treats his wife more like a possession than a partner. As Julia works with an antiques dealer to discover the origins of the painting, she unearths the heiress' history...and that of the portrait painter commissioned to capture Imogene's likeness but destined to steal her heart. An artful combination of mystery, multi-generational family drama, star-crossed romance, and tragedy make That Summer a compelling reading experience.
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