How to Walk Away by Katherine CenterWhat it's about: A devastating injury forces Maggie Jacobsen to reevaluate everything about her life and begin anew, with help from her estranged sister and her gruff physical therapist.
Why you might like it: Full of well-developed characters, How to Walk Away offers quietly inspiring moments (and humor) as Maggie's healing process unfolds along a realistic trajectory.
For fans of: Jojo Moyes' Me Before You.
by Sheila Heti
A daring, funny, and poignant novel about the desire and duty to procreate, by one of our most brilliant and original writers Motherhood treats one of the most consequential decisions of early adulthood--whether or not to have children--with the intelligence, wit and originality that have won Sheila Heti international acclaim, and which led her previous work, How Should a Person Be? , to be called "one of the most talked-about books of the year" (TIME magazine ). Having reached an age when most of her peers are asking themselves when they will become mothers, Heti's narrator considers, with the same urgency, whether she will do so at all. Over the course of several years, under the influence of her partner, body, family, friends, mysticism and chance, she struggles to make a moral and meaningful choice. In a compellingly direct mode that straddles the forms of the novel and the essay, Motherhood raises radical and essential questions about womanhood, parenthood, and how--and for whom--to live.
Mr. Flood's Last Resort by Jess KiddWhat it is: Mystery? Gothic fiction? Ghost story? All of the above? You decide!
What it's about: Take one cranky hoarder in a falling-down mansion; add an unflappable, intelligent caretaker haunted (literally) by long-dead saints; mix in two missing girls and some tragic family history, and you've got the makings of an unusual, quirky, dark story full of Irish vernacular, smart humor...and lots of cats.
Why you might like it: Mr. Flood's Last Resort is equal parts oddly charming and deliciously creepy.
The Mars Room by Rachel KushnerWhat it's about: After an altercation with a stalker turns fatal, stripper Romy Hall is sent to a women's prison for life. Inside, mind-numbing routine and casual violence is the norm, which Romy narrates with heartbreaking insight.
Reviewers say: A moving and unsettling portrayal of the failures of the American justice system, this novel "deserves to be read with the same level of pathos, love, and humanity with which it clearly was written" (Publishers Weekly).
You might also like: the short story collection The Graybar Hotel, by Curtis Dawkins, which also compassionately depicts life behind bars.
by Ray Robertson
It's 1979 and Tom Buzby is thirteen years old and living in the small working- class city of Chatham, Ontario. So far, so normal. Except that Tom's dad is the local tattoo artist, his mother is a born-again former stripper who's run off with the minister from the church where the pet store used to be, and his sister can't wait to leave town for good. And everyone along his daily newspaper route looks at him a little differently, this boy who's come back from the dead, who just might be the only one who understands the miraculous, heart-breaking mystery that is their lives. Set in the year that real newspaper headlines told of North America's hard turn to the right, 1979 offers a smalltown take on the buried lives of those who almost never make the news, and one boy's attempt to make sense of it all.
Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonStarring: Ursula Todd, born on a winter's night in 1910 England -- again and again, as each death brings her back to the same point in time and space. Does Ursula choose her paths in life, or do they choose her?
You might also like: Jo Walton's My Real Children, which also offers a haunting meditation on fate and free will by recounting an ordinary 20th-century British woman's alternate lives. Or try Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us, which considers the consequences of certain choices by sharing three different versions of a couple's lives, told in parallel.
After the Crash by Michel BussiWhat it's about: After a plane crashes in the Swiss Alps, a three-month-old baby is the only survivor. But is she Lyse-Rose de Carville, or Emilie Vitral? When a judge releases her to the impoverished Vitrals, the wealthy de Carvilles refuse to accept it.
Why you might like it: Told both in 1980, when the crash occurred, and 18 years later, as the private investigator hired by the de Carvilles finally determines the girl's identity, this novel by bestselling French writer Michel Bussi offers surprising twists, intrigue...and murder.
Before We Sleep by Jeffrey LentWhat it is: a coming-of-age story and a moving meditation on the effects of war.
What happens: Two parallel storylines unfold, one following Katey, a teenager in the 1960s, as she seeks to illuminate family secrets, and one in the late 1940s, as her father's return from World War II alters their family forever.
Read it for: strong characterization, descriptive writing, and two vividly depicted eras.
After You by Jojo MoyesWhat it's about: Eighteen months after the end of Me Before You, Louisa Clark is living in London, still deep in mourning and struggling to move on.
Is it for you? Did you love reading about Lou and her family in Me Before You? If so, you'll enjoy all the family dynamics at play in this sequel, which offers the same humor and well-developed characters that fans have come to love.
Series alert: The 3rd in the series, Still Me, published this past January.
Before I Go by Colleen OakleyStarring: Daisy Richmond, who the day before her third cancer-free anniversary learns that it's back -- and she has only months to live.
What happens: Though stricken by her diagnosis, Daisy is equally worried about how her husband will handle her death, and sets about finding a new wife for him.
Why you might like it: Though an incredibly emotional read (you'll want to have tissues handy), author Colleen Oakley includes plenty of humor in this tale of the different ways that humans handle grief.
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