The Mothers: A Novel by Brit BennettThe main characters in this compelling debut are Nadia, whose mother committed suicide when Nadia was 17; Luke, the pastor's son she fell in love with as he healed from a devastating injury; and motherless Aubrey, who is damaged in less obvious ways. Set in Southern California and narrated by the elder church women of their black community, the novel provides the perspectives of both these wiser, cooler heads as well as the firsthand, painful experiences of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey. Betrayal, loss, casual racism, and the long-term consequences of difficult decisions follow the three throughout the 17 years this novel encompasses. There's something here for fans of New Adult fiction, coming of age stories, and literary fiction alike.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade ChangAfter emigrating from China to the U.S. as a young man, Charles Wang built a fortune -- until the economy tanked and took his wealth with it. Charles' decision to round up his family and attempt to regain his ancestral lands in China results in a comical cross-country drive from California to New York's Catskills (where the eldest daughter, a disgraced artist, lives) in the car they'd donated to their maid. The loss of their lavish lifestyle is hard on teenager Grace, a fashion blogger pulled out of private school, and aspiring comic Andrew, who is also withdrawn from college. Likable characters and strong familial bonds make this debut an enjoyable take on family dysfunction.
A Change of Heart by Sonali DevTwo years after his wife Jen's brutal rape and murder -- she'd uncovered a black-market organ transplant ring in Mumbai -- Nikhil "Nic" Joshi is still drowning his grief with Jack Daniels while working as a doctor on a luxury cruise ship. The visions he's been seeing of his wife turn out to be a Bollywood dancer named Jess who wants to continue Jen's work and who is also the recipient of Jen's heart -- or so she says. As Nic and Jess work together to track down evidence against the black-market gang, their mutual attraction grows. Combining romance with a fair amount of danger -- Jess isn't being entirely honest with Nic -- this is a "riveting, heart-pounding drama" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Next: A Novel by Stephanie GangiFor Laney, caring for her dying mother gives her something to do instead of floating aimlessly in newly gained adulthood, but for her sister Anna, it just makes life chaotic. As for their patient... well, Joanna spends her remaining days obsessing over her ex, Ned, and stalking him and his new love via social media. Death doesn't stop her, either -- her sex-obsessed ghost is bent on revenge. Told in the alternating perspectives of Joanna, Ned, Laney, and Anna, this fast-paced debut novel is often quite funny as Anna and Laney work out their grief, Joanna gleefully wreaks havoc from the after-life, and Ned struggles with feelings of guilt (and the messes that ghost-Joanna leaves behind).
The Mortifications: A Novel by Derek PalacioIn 1980, Soledad and her young twins, Isabel and Ulises, emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as part of the Mariel boatlift. Her husband Uxbal, was left behind to continue to fight for the revolution. In Connecticut, the three emigres start new lives but it isn't to last -- none of the three is able to escape Uxbal's pull, even as the twins become young adults. When Isabel -- now a nun -- disappears and Soledad is sickened with cancer, Ulises tries to discover Isabel's whereabouts and the family receives a letter from Uxbal calling them home. This philosophical take on cultural clashes, spiritual crises, and exile may appeal to fans of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia EngelReina's brother, on death row for throwing his girlfriend's baby over a bridge, has just committed suicide in his cell. Haunted by his death, she moves from Miami to the Florida Keys to escape her painful family history. There, she finds work at a tourist dolphinarium and also befriends Cuban exile Nesto, who helps her find peace. As he teaches her about Yemayá, goddess of the oceans, Reina also begins to find a way to let go of her family's violence. A tragic and painful story, this novel offers descriptive language as it depicts Nesto's close connection to the ocean.
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan EvisonStyled a bit like that mid-century game show This Is Your Life, this amusing if bittersweet novel jumps around in time, showing clips of Harriet Chance's life from childhood, young adulthood, and the present day, when she's a 78-year-old widow being visited by the ghost of her husband. She's also embarked on a somewhat ill-conceived cruise to Alaska, joined by a daughter she's not close to. It's an illuminating trip for Harriet, exposing her relationships (and her mistakes) with her daughter, her husband, and even her friends.
Pym by Mat JohnsonSophisticated literary references, whimsical adventures, and surreal imagery abound in this sardonic, witty, and offbeat tale of a frustrated man undertaking a strange and unexpectedly eventful sea journey. It follows Chris Jaynes, a professor of African American studies who has been passed over for tenure. Obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, he devises a plan to discover the lost black-inhabited island (somewhere near Antarctica) mentioned in Poe's novel, thus discovering the key to America's racial problems. All does not go smoothly. Fans of biting social and racial commentary and provocative plotting (as in Paul Beatty's novel The Sellout) will enjoy this insightful novel.
The Cat's Table by Michael OndaatjeIn 1953, 11-year-old Michael boards a ship in Ceylon and travels -- unsupervised -- for 21 days until he reaches London and his divorced mother. With the run of the ship and other children to get into trouble with, these three weeks are full not only of mischief but also of learning opportunities that stay with Michael for the rest of his life. Chapters from his youthful perspective alternate with those by Michael as an adult, reflecting years later on his relationships with others on board and with the things he saw but did not then understand. "Quietly enthralling," says Library Journal.
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