The Wonder by Emma DonoghueFresh from the battlefields of the Crimea (where she was trained by Florence Nightingale), English nurse Lib Wright has seen it all. Or so she thinks, until she travels to the Irish village of Athlone, where 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell reportedly survives on nothing but "manna from heaven." Is she a saint or a fraud? Hired by a committee of villagers to watch over the girl, Lib has two weeks to determine the truth of the matter -- a task complicated by Anna's uncooperative family and the steady stream of pilgrims who travel to the village to witness the "wonder." Faith and family secrets add a layer of psychological suspense to this haunting novel, which is inspired by true stories of "Fasting Girls" in Europe from the 15th to the 19th century.
The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah JefferiesWhen 19-year-old Gwendolyn weds widower Laurence Hooper, she forsakes her native Gloucestershire for her new husband's tea plantation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). But marital bliss eludes the couple due to lingering questions about the mysterious death of Laurence's first wife, Caroline, and their young child. Meanwhile, rising tensions between Sinhalese and Tamil laborers, coupled with growing resistance on the part of the Ceylonese people to British colonial rule, place the Hoopers in a precarious position. With nods to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, this lush and atmospheric novel depicts a failing marriage amid the vivid backdrop of 1920s Sri Lanka.
Mischling: A Novel by Affinity KonarBecause they are Jewish twins living in Poland in 1944, 12-year-old sisters Stasha and Pearl Zagorski are sent to the Auschwitz Zoo, where "Uncle Doctor" Joseph Mengele uses the girls as subjects in his monstrous medical experiments. At first, their strong bond helps them endure; then Pearl disappears. Devastated, Stasha joins forces with Feliks, another twin with a missing sibling, to discover Pearl's whereabouts before the Nazis -- aware of the Red Army's impending arrival -- can destroy all the evidence and bury the truth forever. In spare yet lyrical language, this heartwrenching novel depicts how love sustains even amid horror and atrocity.
I Will Send Rain: A Novel by Rae MeadowsAs dust storms bear down on Mulehead, Oklahoma, destroying the livelihood of the region's farmers, the Bell family struggles to survive. Patriarch Samuel turns to religious fanaticism, while wife Annie reflects on how her life might have been different had she stayed in her Kansas hometown instead of following Samuel to Oklahoma. The Bell children, Birdie and Fred, have their own problems, ranging from the pains of first love to living with chronic illness. This novel's Depression-era setting is evoked through vivid imagery and lyrical prose, while its emotional weight comes from its moving depiction of a family in crisis.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles"Should you ever set foot outside the Metropol again, you will be shot." With these words, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed under house arrest in Moscow's grand Hotel Metropol by the Bolsheviks in 1922. Eschewing despair in favor of "the business of practicalities," Rostov explores his opulent prison and gets to know his fellow residents, particularly a little girl named Nina. Over time, Rostov becomes a fixture of the hotel, which overlooks Revolution Square and serves as a literal window to 20th-century Russian history. At once witty and poignant, this novel by the author of Rules of Civility offers a likable lead character and a strong sense of place.
The King by Kader AbdolahIn 1848, Crown Prince Naser Muhammad Fatali Mozafar becomes Shah of Persia, a declining Empire that his own grand vizier likens to a "terminally ill patient." Is he up to the challenge? (Because it will be a challenge.) Not only must the new Shah contend with the political infighting of his own court, he must also decide how to adapt the ancient traditions of his society to a rapidly industrializing world and how to deal with powerful nations that long to add Persia to their colonial holdings. Based on the life of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, this novel examines the life of a ruler, a contemporary of England's Queen Victoria, who makes history-altering decisions in a time of change.
The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara HamblyShe survived the Civil War and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as well as her husband's assassination and the deaths of three of her four children. Now, her sole surviving son is attempting to have her declared legally insane -- a ruling that would commit her to an institution for the rest of her days. One could forgive Mary Todd Lincoln for her despair. But how did it come to this? The Emancipator's Wife follows its flawed-but-sympathetic protagonist from her childhood in Kentucky as the daughter of a prominent Lexington family through her marriage to up-and-coming Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln, and beyond.
Watergate: A Novel by Thomas MallonA break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, located in Washington, D.C.'s Watergate Complex, ignites a political scandal that brings down the Nixon administration and causes a constitutional crisis. This witty, character-driven novel depicts multiple viewpoints including those of the President and First Lady; Nixon's loyal secretary Rose Mary Woods; presidential aide and "bagman" Fred LaRue; ex-CIA operative-turned-novelist E. Howard Hunt; nonagenarian socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and more. Fans of Tom Wolfe's Radical Chic should enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at insider politics.
Bring Up The Bodies: A Novel by Hilary MantelThis sequel to Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall continues the story of ambitious courtier Thomas Cromwell's career. Having achieved the pinnacle of success as King Henry VIII's chief minister, Cromwell -- who used cunning and political gamesmanship to secure the annulment that dissolved the King's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and severed the bonds between the Anglican Church and Rome -- must once again appease his sovereign. This time, his task is to replace Anne Boleyn, who has failed to produce a male heir to the throne, with Henry's latest obsession, Jane Seymour. However, dispensing with yet another queen is a tricky business, and one false step could cost Cromwell everything.
Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee MinSomething of a social chameleon, the future Madame Mao begins her life as Yuhne, the unwanted daughter of a concubine who subjects her, at the age of four, to foot-binding and, later, to an arranged marriage, before the girl runs off to pursue a career on the Shanghai stage. Changing her name to Lan Ping, she enjoys moderate success as an actress before "subversive" activities lead to a stint in prison -- and to her involvement with China's communist party. Assuming yet another identity, she becomes the mistress and ultimately the wife of communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong. Anchee Min's "stunning, powerful portrait" (Booklist) of a controversial yet undeniably complicated and passionate woman also provides insight into China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution.
Contact your librarian for more great books!