A Perfect Explanation by Eleanor AnstrutherThe premise: The aristocratic Campbell family needs an heir, and after her brother is killed in World War I, independent-minded Enid caves to parental pressure and marries a man she doesn't love.
The problem: Besides losing her sense of self, each of Enid's pregnancies worsens her mental health and drives her deeper into her religion, and desperation soon drives her to leave her family for a Christian Scientist retreat -- a decision that will have dramatic consequences for the next several decades.
To the Edge of Sorrow by Aharon AppelfeldWhat it is: the haunting and heartwrenching story of a group of Jewish partisans who, after escaping from a ghetto, create a hideout deep in the Ukrainian forest and try to save other Jews from the increasingly frenetic pace of concentration camp deportations near the end of the war.
About the author: Romanian-born award-winning novelist and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld became one of the world's foremost Hebrew-language writers, despite not learning the language until adulthood. His most famous works include Badenheim 1939 and Blooms of Darkness. He passed away in 2018.
Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. TurnerWhat it's about: Mary Pearl Prine is a spirited young woman who, in order to evade a wealthy but boring suitor, trades her life in the rugged Arizona territory for the refined Wheaton College, where she experiences a major culture shock but also her first taste of independence.
Familiar faces: Although Light Changes Everything isn't technically part of Nancy Turner's series of novels starring Sarah Agnes Prine, readers of that series will recognize Mary as Sarah's niece.
You might also like: Caroline by Sarah Miller, The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent, and other stories of frontier women trying to make their way in the world.
Run Me to Earth by Paul YoonWhat it's about: As the war in Vietnam spills over the border into Laos, three orphaned teenagers bond with each other and with the French-educated doctor they help scavenge for supplies. After the doctor finds a way for them to escape the country, a freak accident will radically alter the fate of this makeshift family forever.
Read it for: the spare, elegant writing and the haunting settings, such as the beautiful yet decrepit colonial mansion-turned-hospital that brings the characters together.
Did you know? During the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Laos than were used in World War II against Japan and Germany combined.
The Fallen Architect by Charles BelfoureLondon, 1900: Architect Douglas Layton has worked his way up the social ladder from his working-class background, with a successful career and an aristocratic wife to show for it. But when a balcony collapse at a theater he designed kills a dozen people, he loses his career, his family, and his freedom.
Five years later: Released from prison, Douglas takes on a new identity and paints theater sets for booze money, desperate to see his son again. Through his new connections in the theater world, he begins to suspect that the tragedy that derailed his career wasn't just an accident -- and that someone might still be out to get him.
Button Man by Andrew GrossStarring: the three Rabishevsky brothers: Morris, who left school at age 12 to become the breadwinner after their parents' deaths; Sol, who works with Morris in the garment business; and the youngest, Harry, who wouldn't mind at all if the mafia figures he admires finally convinced his brothers to tie their family business with the family business.
Read it for: the richly detailed and authentic portrayal of life for three Jewish orphans in 1930s New York; the emotional turmoil of the fraying relationships between the brothers; cameos by important figures of the day, such as Dutch Schultz and Thomas Dewey.
A Slant of Light by Jeffrey LentWhat it is: a moving and lyrical story of secrets and trauma set in the midst of the religious upheaval of the Second Great Awakening and the social upheaval that followed the end of the Civil War.
What happens: A community in rural New York is sent reeling when Union Army veteran Malcolm Hopeton commits a disturbing act of violence after he returns home to find that his wife left him for another man.
Reviewers say: "piece by subtle piece, the story deftly casts its spell" (Publishers Weekly).
Heretics by Leonardo Padura; translated by Anna KushnerWhat it's about: Seventy years ago, Elias Kaminsky's Polish Jewish grandparents arrived on a ship to Havana, hoping the family's heirloom Rembrandt painting would buy their way into Cuba. Only their son, Elias' father, made it off the ship, and now Elias wants to know how and why the presumed-lost painting has reappeared in a London auction house.
About the author: Considered one of Cuba's most important living writers, award-winning author Leonardo Padura is best known internationally for his Havana Quartet series starring detective Mario Conde, who also appears in Heretics.
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