The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi HahnWhat it's about: The eventful life of a Korean girl named Junja, from her early days as a haenyeo (one of the remarkable all-female group of divers on the island of Jeju) to her final days as a well-respected elder in Philadelphia's Korean American community.
Witness to history: Junja's dramatic and sweeping story begins during the Japanese occupation of Korea and is also deeply marked by the events of World War II, the Communist rebellion, and the 1950s American military occupation, which mold her into a tenacious survivor.
In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van HeemstraWhat it is: a reflective and stylistically complex story of the search for historical truth that wrestles with questions of inheritance and moral responsibility, inspired by the author's own family and their activities during World War II.
Starring: Dutch writer and expectant mother Marjolijn, who sets out to learn more about an uncle who allegedly fought with the anti-Nazi resistance after her grandmother suggests naming her baby after him.
Try this next: Gurjinder Basran's Someone You Love is Gone, which also explores the self-discovery to be found in difficult family legacies.
The Arctic Fury by Greer MacallisterThe premise: Inspired by the true story of the doomed Arctic voyage of British ships H.M.S. Terror and H.M.S Erebus, this candid and suspenseful story follows Bostonian Virginia Reeve, hired by a captain's widow to discover what she can about what went wrong.
The problem: Virginia's own voyage returns from the ice with an incomplete crew and its own mystery to solve -- what really happened in the frozen north, and was one of the team really capable of murder?
About the author: Greer Macallister writes a regular column for the Chicago Review of Books and has published other historical novels including Woman 99 and The Magician's Lie.
Outlawed by Anna NorthWhat it is: The fast-paced and compelling story of apprentice midwife and erstwhile doctor Ada, whose inability to bear children leads her to develop a unique kinship with a group of female and nonbinary outlaws, whose defiance of social expectations offers Ada a chance for life on her own terms in the Dakota territory.
You might also like: other westerns about gutsy social outsiders like All God's Children by Aaron Gwyn and How Much of These Hills is Gold by Pam C. Zhang.
The Whale: A Love Story by Mark BeauregardWhat it's about: novelists Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose brief yet intense friendship coincided with some of their most iconic work.
Read it for: extracts from real letters the authors exchanged; the flesh-and-blood portrayal of Melville, whose self-deprecating humor and emotional honesty make him a compelling and relatable narrator.
Want a taste? “I feel that this Hawthorne has dropped germinous seeds into my soul. He expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate him; and further, and further, shoots his strong New-England roots into the hot soil of my Southern soul.”
A Single Thread by Tracy ChevalierWhat it is: an engaging and bittersweet story of life after loss, and making a place for yourself in a society that seems determined to leave you behind.
Featuring: thirty-eight year-old Violet Speedwell, who, 14 years after she lost her fiancé during the Great War, discovers purpose and healing when she joins a group of women who embroider the seats and kneelers at Winchester Cathedral.
For fans of: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which also features likeable female characters who find solace and meaning in an unlikely circle of friends.
The After Party by Anton DiSclafaniStarring: rebellious glamour girl Joan Fortier and Cece Buchnan, her "best friend since infancy, her modern-day lady-in-waiting." Inseparable since childhood, the women's complicated bond is unraveled by Joan's increasingly alarming behavior.
Why you might like it: Set amid the debutante balls, cocktail parties, and garden-club luncheons of 1950s Houston, Texas, The After Party boasts in-depth characterizations and strong period atmosphere.
The Pull of the Stars by Emma DonoghueWhat it is: the richly detailed and moving story of three days in a Dublin maternity ward during the worst days of the 1918 Flu Epidemic.
Why you should read it: The moving and well-researched portrait of dedicated but overworked health care workers trying to get through a major disease epidemic is especially poignant and timely.
About the author: Irish novelist and Man Booker finalist Emma Donoghue has written both contemporary and historical fiction including Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, Room, and Frog Music.
Lost Roses by Martha Hall KellyWhat it's about: the upturned lives of three young women in the wake of the Russian Revolution -- aristocratic Sofya Streshnayva, a Romanov cousin; Eliza Ferriday, a New Yorker visiting her school friend Sofya's homeland; peasant and young mother Varinka, who feels caught between her family's safety and her revolutionary ideals.
Series alert: Lost Roses is the 2nd entry in a series of historical novels about life during wartime starring the Ferriday family, which began with Lilac Girls.
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