Meredith, Alone by Claire AlexanderIntroducing: Meredith Maggs, whose voluntary isolation began long before COVID. She works from home and seems happy day-to-day. However, the only people she's seen in the last 1,214 days are her best friend Sadie and Sadie's children.
What happens: Meredith's contented exterior masks deep-seated trauma. Unexpected new friends (and her approaching 40th birthday) prompt her to confront and heal her past.
Read it for: an optimistic, feel-good read that sensitively treats serious subjects (sexual abuse, mental health).
When We Were Sisters by Fatimah AsgharWhat happens: Orphaned Muslim American sisters grapple with grief and hardship. Kausar, the youngest, is increasingly torn between a desire for independence and loyalty to her sisters.
Read it for: "[A] tender coming-of-age tale" (Publishers Weekly) executed in lyrical prose that is "perfect for poetry readers" (Booklist).
Try this next: American Fever by Dur E Aziz Amna.
The Singularities by John BanvilleStarring: released prisoner Felix Mordaunt (not his real name) and the eccentric Godley family, whose aging patriarch is a noted quantum physicist.
What it's about: Parallel universes and made-up science frame juicy explorations of characters' hidden selves. Ulterior motives, fake identities, and how the past catches up with the present are the real story.
For fans of: fascinating character studies written in luxurious prose (think James Joyce).
A History of Fear by Luke DumasMeet...Grayson Hale, a sensitive if neurotic grad student studying in Edinburgh. A childhood fraught with neglect and religious fanaticism have left him ill-prepared for adulthood.
What happens: Grayson reluctantly agrees to ghostwrite a book about the devil. Grayson's teetering sanity soon dissolves, leading to a brutal crime. Did the devil really make him do it?
Try this next: The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell.
Dr. No by Percival EverettBond, but not Bond? Mathematics genius Wala Kituw specializes in nothing...as in the theoretical concept "zero." Billionaire John Sill wants to turn everything into nothing and hires Kituw to help fulfill his evil plans.
Read it for: "A deadpan spoof of international thrillers, complete with a megalomaniacal supervillain, a killer robot, a damsel in distress, and math problems" (Kirkus Reviews).
For fans of: Ian Fleming's Dr. No, the Austin Powers films, or Seinfeld.
They're Going to Love You by Meg HowreyWhat happens: Carlisle once delighted in annual vacations with her father Robert and his partner James -- until, at age 24, she severs all contact. Nineteen years later, Carlisle's father is dying, and she must resolve her feelings to bid him a final farewell.
Read it for: a tender family drama set in New York City's professional ballet scene during the 1980s AIDS epidemic, and in present-day Los Angeles.
For fans of: Rebecca Makai's The Great Believers.
All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey LienVietnamese-Australian author Tracey Lien sets this taut mystery in Cabramatta, a small town on Sydney's outskirts. An enclave of North and South Korean immigrants -- and their first-generation children -- struggle against racism while trying to adapt.
What happens: Ky Tran's beloved younger brother Danny is murdered on the night of his high school graduation. Dismissive police and tight-lipped witnesses leave Ky no choice but to find Danny's killer on her own.
Who it's for: fans of Celeste Ng, Roselle Lim, or Sonya Cobb.
Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson1996: Meet Zeke (a gifted artist) and Frankie (an aspiring writer), outsider teens in rural Tennessee
What happens: The bored teens pen and illustrate a tale about creepy drifters, which winds up posted anonymously all over town as a prank. Locals mistake the threat as real and panic spreads. Decades later, a journalist confronts Frankie (now an established author) about her role in the "Coalfield Panic," forcing her to come to terms with its consequences.
Read it for: an homage to1990s adolescence; a persuasive meditation on the power of art.
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