Some recent favorites
In a category of literary fiction all her own, Marilynne Robinson completes her amazing Gilead trilogy with Lila's story. Very moving, psychologically astute, and perceptive, Lila's story of growing up with itinerant farmworkers in the Depression is unforgettable.
Set in Chechnya during the aftermath of the First Chechnyan War and amidst the Second, the landscape and characters are in some cases harrrowing, and in others, heroic. I marvelled at the beauty of Anthony Marra's writing and think this is an amazing novel.
At the center of this beautiful novel, set in Haiti, is a seven year old girl whose mother died as she was giving birth to her. The comingling of life and death runs throughout the book--and it is always life that moderates loss, love that upends grief.
Adichie's heralded new novel features a bright, compelling young woman
who leaves her native Lagos to study in America--as all her classmates
want to do if they only had visas. Needless to say, the dream of America
is not the reality. Seen through the lens of her situation, Ifemelu
offers a complex, fascinating look at race in America. Oh, and there's a
love story too.
This brilliant novel is structured by historical trips across the Atlantic. The characters travel with a clear purpose, but what McCann creates for us is not the details of their causes but rather an intimate view of their thoughts. For example, what is Frederick Douglass experiencing while in Dublin raising money for the abolitionist movement? What's inside Geroge Mitchell's head when he leaves his wife and young sons at home when he goes to broker peace?
What ignites the plot of this novel is an experiment. The result of the experiment ranges from comic to tragic, touching to disturbing, absolutely insane to reasonable, unpredictable to obvious. Fowler takes us on quite a ride and I'm quite happy to have taken it.
I absolutely loved this novel by actor, playwright, and disabilities advocate Susan Nussbaum. It's funny, touching, infuriating, and mind-opening. What terrific voices tell the story!
Turn of Mind is a literary thriller about a retired orthopedic surgeon
suffering from dementia and accused of killing her best friend. With
unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante's debut
novel brings us deep into a brilliant woman's deteriorating mind, where
the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a
Tupelo Hassman tells the story of Rory Hendrix, who
is determined to get out of the Reno trailer park where she lives with
her bartender mother. From diary entries, social workers' reports, story problems, arrest
records, family lore, and her grandmother's letters, Tupelo Hassman's
"Girlchild" crafts a devastating collage that shows us Rory's world
while she searches for the way out of it.
A novel about the poetry and the pity of war. The title comes from an
Army marching chant that expresses a violence that is as surprising as
it is casual. Pvt. John Bartle's life becomes linked to that of Pvt.
Daniel Murphy when they're both assigned to Fort Dix before a deployment
to Iraq. Murph has just turned 18, but at 21, Bartle is infinitely more
aged. In a rash statement, one that foreshadows ominous things to come,
Bartle promises Murph's mother that he'll look out for him and "bring
him home to you." The irascible Sgt. Sterling overhears this promise and
cautions Bartle he shouldn't have said anything so impulsive and
ill-advised. In Iraq nine months later, the two friends go on missions
that seem pointless in theory but that are dangerous in fact. They
quickly develop an apparent indifference and callousness to the death
and destruction around them, but this indifference exemplifies an
emotional distance necessary for their psychological survival.
Now in paperback, this coming-of-age novel traces the lives of three brothers growing up in a household that tries to be loving but is unsteady and a turbulent environment outside the walls. The brothers are very tight and have each others back but no one goes unscathed. The writing is wonderfully spare - and enormously powerful!
The second volume in Mantel's trilogy of Thomas Cranwell is every bit as compelling as the first "Wolf Hall". Both have won the coveted Man Booker Prize, deservedly so. The new novel features Cromwell orchestrating the downfall of Anne Boleyn so Henry can pursue his latest love. The politics are absolutely fascinating!
Winner of the 2011 Orange Prize and on almost every critic’s
list as one of the best novels of 2011, this novel is thrilling, literally
speaking. Against the background of the Balkan Wars, Obreht interweaves
reality and folklore to tell a story – using stories within stories - of a
granddaughter’s search to really know her grandfather, with whom she is very
Part adventure story set in the Amazon jungle, part ethical
exploration of a biological experiment and corporate indifference to human
costs, this novel is a page-turner as well as thought provoking at several levels.
Beautifully written, nuanced and complex, Edgarian’s novel
shows us a marriage unraveling under the stress of a failing economy, a sick
baby, a precocious pre-schooler, and a too little time together. Both husband
and wife are smart, witty and well meaning. Minor characters are quirky,
charming and well drawn. Family secrets
are tantalizingly revealed, engaging and surprise the reader to the end!
I'm not sure I could tell you what this novel is "about" - but I absolutely loved reading it. The characters are great, the writing is lively and absorbing, and the unique energy and wit that Smith gives to her work is wonderful!
I love this book. Besides being absolutely charming and
witty, it is a story of two characters unlikely to challenge race, convention,
and tradition to make a home for themselves in the world. It takes a while,
however--especially for the very English Major Pettigrew.
Munro’s newest collection of stories, now in paperback, is,
of course, superb. She is unfailingly brilliant in putting what she sees in the
world into deceptively simple short stories that you keep thinking and
Sara’s new V.I. really is her best yet. Edgy and full of
punch, Body Work is set in a nightclub featuring a performance artist who makes
her naked body the location of other people’s art, imagination, and, as it
turns out, underground communication. The novel also includes an Iraqi vet
accused—falsely?—of murder. V.I. takes some mighty big chances resolving the
dilemmas she confronts in this mystery.
Tremain’s novels, consistently nominated for the Man Booker
Prize, are all excellent and always surprising.
Trespass, her newest, is a dark, suspenseful, tale of two sibling pairs,
their parents, and a handful of others who occupy their universe. It’s
disturbing but rewardingly complex and provocative, leaving the reader to
ponder fascinating parallels and contradictions and to consider intriguing
questions of nature and artifice.
Bateson follows her earlier book, Composing a Life, with one
designed for those of us thinking about useful, satisfying ways to spend
the last thirty or so years of our life. She doesn’t provide a blueprint
but certainly grounds and inspires her readers through her words and experience
as a seventy-year-old woman and those of others she interviewed for the book,
all of whom are leading dynamic, interesting lives post-retirement.
This novel is so striking I can’t imagine it not being on
everyone’s list of the best-written books they’ve ever read. The language
soars, the ideas are grand, and the plot is ingenious. You’ll be reading
sentences in this book to anyone you can get to listen.