Behold the Dreamers: A Novel by Imbolo MbueCall it a recession novel, or an immigrant tale -- both are true. In 2007, Manhattan-based Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga gets a job chauffeuring for Lehman Brothers executive Clark Edwards, easing the financial strain on his family. At first, all goes well, but problems in the Edwards' marriage lead to problems for the Jongas, and when Lehman falls, both families are caught up in the terrible aftermath. The Jongas -- at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, fearing deportation -- have much more to lose than the wealthy Edwards family, but both provide a perspective on the accessibility (or lack thereof) of the American Dream. And, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, Behold the Dreamers offers a poignant look at globalization and immigrant life.
The Glorious Heresies: A Novel by Lisa McInerneyThis darkly humorous, gritty debut has a lot in common with novels by Irvine Welsh -- foul language, colorful slang, and seedy characters, to start. Though it ostensibly follows the consequences of Maureen Phelan's clubbing of an intruder using a holy relic (she asks her gangster son to conceal the (accidental) death that results), it also addresses the violence, crime, and despair of an Ireland whose economic hopes have been dashed. Five years pass within these pages, as characters young and old alike are forced into bad choices. Give it a go if you're up for something dark, literary, and profane.
Harmony: A Novel by Carolyn ParkhurstPublic school failed Tilly Hammond, a 13-year-old whose inappropriate responses to stimuli put her somewhere on the autism spectrum. Private school was no better; home-schooling a disaster. And that's when mom Alexandra signed them all up to move to the off-the-grid New Hampshire camp of a child-rearing guru named Scott Bean, a charismatic -- but childless -- beacon of hope. Their attempts to pull together as a family (especially as the camp's cult-like atmosphere becomes more obvious) are narrated from the alternating perspectives of Alexandra, Tilly, and Tilly's younger, neurotypical sister Iris.
Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline WoodsonAugust is 35 the year she returns to Brooklyn to bury her father, and a chance encounter with a friend in her old neighborhood prompts a flood of memories from her youth. Having moved to Brooklyn at eight, August's coming of age was marked by a search for belonging, close friendships, freedom, and the little-understood absence of her mother. Her memories explore what it was like to be an African-American girl (and teen) in the 1970s, what possibilities existed -- and what challenges. This tale of friendship, love, and loss cuts back and forth through time and is a "stunning achievement" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittWhen their boss, the enigmatic Commodore, sends gun-toting brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters to kill a gold prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm, the boys set out on a quest that takes them from trail's end Oregon City all the way to bustling San Francisco. But as their target proves elusive, the siblings -- particularly Eli -- begin to question the purpose of their mission. Set during the boom times of the California Gold Rush and narrated by Eli in a matter-of-fact voice that recalls Mattie Ross of Charles Portis' True Grit, The Sisters Brothers is a gritty, darkly humorous Western.
The Flood Girls: A Novel by Richard FifieldThis one's for readers who really like to delve into personal relationships. It concerns Rachel Flood, who returns to her tiny hometown of Quinn, Montana (pop. 956) to make amends for her chaotic past. She is not received warmly -- everyone remembers her as a selfish, self-involved alcoholic who busted up more than one marriage -- but she does have a few allies, including the old men of the local AA group, a gay 12-year-old neighbor, and a volunteer fireman. Fully-realized characters populate a West that's not often written about -- though both humorous and heart-warming, The Flood Girls also addresses such topics as feminism and sexuality.
Robert B. Parker's The Bridge by Robert KnottIn 2005, author Robert B. Parker published the first novel starring roving lawmen Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, Appaloosa, which was followed by three more before Parker's death in 2010. The traditional Western series has continued under Robert Knott. In The Bridge, Cole and Hitch continue their work as Territory Marshals. After a bridge under construction is blown up and the investigating sheriff disappears, the two men turn their attentions to figuring out who blew up the bridge -- and why. With a spare writing style and dry, often witty banter between the two men -- both characteristics that Parker was known for -- this 7th addition to the series is "an extraordinarily entertaining novel" (Booklist).
The Arrivals: A Novel by Melissa MarrSomewhere outside of time, suspended between life and death, lies the Wasteland, which resembles the American Wild West and is inhabited by vampiric bloedzuigers, dragon-like lindwurms, and the Arrivals, humans transported there from various time periods. When 21st-century denizen Chloe wakes up in the Wasteland, she soon discovers that her survival depends on her fellow Arrivals, including gunslinger Jack Reed, his spell-casting sister Kitty, and Prohibition-era bootlegger-turned-bodyguard Edgar. This tiny band of outlaws are the last line of defense against the ruthless Ajani and his gang of thugs, but will the Arrivals' alliance with the mysterious Garuda help or hurt their cause?
The Last Ranch: A Novel of the New American West by Michael McGarrityIn this recently published, close-to-contemporary Western (which also closes the intergenerational trilogy that started with Hard Country), Matt Kerney has returned to his New Mexico ranch from the battlefields of World War II. Though he'd prefer to keep to himself, incursions by the Air Force -- who want his land to expand a missile range -- has him struggling not only with physical and psychological war wounds, but with territory disputes as well. A character-driven novel that strongly depicts the arid New Mexico land and its inhabitants' challenges, this novel can be read alone or as part of the series.
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