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Check out what Caroline has been reading below!
When Gil Coleman runs out of a bookshop to follow a woman he believes to be his long-dead wife, he suffers a terrible fall, mobilizing his daughters to return home to help. Flora and her sister bring him back to the house they grew up in, settling in together amidst a wash of memories and his stacks of thousands of books. As a distraction from her current reality, Flora immerses herself in the other reason she came back– to search for her mother. Swimming Lessons alternates between the perspectives of these two, one preserved in hidden letters written years before, to give us a complete understanding of the consequences of loss and the nagging hope that trails it, which has the power to bring anything and anyone back to life. In urgent, moving prose, Claire Fuller delivers a compelling portrait of a family trapped by the truths, known and unknown, that haunt them.
Born to an immigrant mother in New York, Deming's first six years of life are spent between America, China, to live with a grandfather he's never met, then America again. He adjusts to a childhood with his mother in a colorful New York City only to be torn away again, this time by child protective services after his mother disappears from her job at a nail salon. Without warning, he's dropped into what feels like an alien, all-white suburb upstate and becomes the adoptive child of two professor parents— Deming Guo is now Daniel Wilkinson. This pattern of early upheaval sets Deming definitively on a path that will only ever be his own, one marked by difference and isolated in varying degrees from each of the communities he moves through. As Deming's story continues to unfold, gradually, his mother's testimony also comes to light, filling in holes and ripping others open, until finally, side by side, the disparate journeys of our two protagonists form one complete portrait of the resilience of the spirit. This a heartbreaking, poignant, beautiful, beautiful book that will stay with you for a long time.
Here she is again, in all her glory. Zadie Smith turns our attention in Swing Time to two girls growing up in a poor neighborhood in London, keepers of each other as much as they are their own selves. Inseparable in childhood, a shared dream to become dancers sets a foundation for their respective journeys, Tracey to live out exactly that, and our unnamed narrator to study its different threads– rhythm, song, blackness, and the meaning behind it all. As adult realities weigh in, the two spin apart. Our narrator is increasingly swept up in her new life as assistant to a famous music star, and moments with Tracey come less and less. But rather than fading from focus, she haunts our periphery until she's re-affirmed her place in our world. This book captures the magic that so often exists within female friendships without romanticizing it, and so just as we see their relationship for the well of strength that it is, we're also made to understand its capacity for violence. With the hard-hitting insights we've come to expect, Zadie Smith explores the making of a self, and reminds us that roots will never disappear.
"LaRose is a portrait of the oldest and most intuitive form of justice - that of the human heart. Tracing generations of a family and the wounds that mark them, Louise Erdrich delivers characters entangled in a web of their own making. When one grave tragedy threatens to unravel everything they know, the families turn to ancient tradition to guide them through their pain. In the name LaRose lies the promise of healing, and it becomes clear that hurt does not belong to one person alone. With sensitivity and lyric wisdom, Erdrich explores the contours of love and loss in lines that dance off the page. She leaves you with a better understanding of community, and a wash of relief after weathering a storm with people you've come to hold most dear."
Technically set in a rural, coastal village in Ireland, it's perhaps more accurate to place this debut in the self-contained space of a mind. We're delivered to the quiet and delicate dreamscape of a young woman's interior, where we encounter musings on nature, career, sexuality, and the everyday that pay special tribute to the minutiae of it all. Bennett has created a new language for our most deeply-experienced solitude, and in so doing captured what lives buried just beneath the surface of our own consciousness. Painted in 20 short vignettes, this work moves both forward and backward in time, exploring one woman's interactions with herself and her surroundings in a way that's never been done before.
Art, Violence, and the Body. Writing that exists in a space very close to the author, straddling both truth and fiction. A young Eastern European girl is captured in the flash of an explosion, caught in time in a photograph that goes on to win critical acclaim. When the image lodges itself in the psyche of a writer, the worlds of both grow closer and closer until they eventually weave together. This slim novel serves as an expansive exploration of trauma and healing, the boundaries of self and story, and "daughters of fire."
This is shattering, rich, musical prose. Gayl Jones writes from her an interior space that is all her own, working through themes of ancestral memory, blues and the oral storytelling tradition, and the psychological and sexual traumas still very much alive in slavery's legacy. We follow Ursa, a woman struggling under the weight of her past as well as the burdens passed on from the women who came before her.
Written for the workers of a Mexican juice factory, this book serves as a hilarious but touching exploration of worth and valuation. "Highway" is many things: collector, auctioneer, world traveler. Through him, we embark on a witty romp you won't forget for a long, long time.
It's Warsaw in the mid 1930's. As a brilliant young university student, Irena Sendler surrounds herself with an informal collective of other thinkers and activists guided by the great Dr. Helena Radlińska, individuals who can't know yet the crucial role they'll play in the coming years. The city is soon invaded by the Nazis, the Jews forced into a tiny section of the city, and terror sets in. Using networks and methods already familiar to her as a social worker, Irena leads her friends and coworkers in forging the necessary documents to secure safety for as many people as she can, as well as food and medical supplies smuggled in for the Jewish ghetto residents. After obtaining a rare pass that allows her to move freely in and out of the ghetto walls, Irena begins at once her efforts to spirit out as many children as she can. Over the course of the war, she will save 2,500 children, enduring physical torture, the deaths of those closest to her, and miraculously escaping her own execution to do so. The courage that sings out of this book sends a message of hope and impassioned call to action still very applicable today.
Babst writes of her native New Orleans with tenderness and a deep knowing. When Del returns home from New York, it's to a city and family uprooted and reeling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her sister, Cora, ignoring the mandatory federal evacuation order, had stayed behind as neighbors and friends left their homes. The specifics of what she endured during that time hang heavy in mystery—all her family knows is that it involves a woman with a bullet in her head. Always seen as fragile, Cora's catatonic state now becomes central to everyone's concern, and the family's movements circle around her, with Del's instinct being to cover her sister's tracks, their mother's to bring Cora to a psychiatrist colleague, and their father's to retreat. Babst's characters belong to a Creole family with roots that reach to the foundation of the city itself. Above all else, this book captures the author's sentiment that after the storm, "if you were blind, suddenly you saw."
As a retired classics professor, Richard is accustomed to order and routine. His days are cushioned by predictability, that is until one fateful day when he passes a group of hunger strikers in Berlin's Alexanderplatz. He learns that they are African refugees protesting under the slogan "We become visible," a demand that compels him to investigate further. The novel unfolds and the retired professor adapts to a new routine, one that includes regular German lessons at their makeshift housing facility, and sitting with the men to record their stories. He warms to the men, and they to him, and slowly, they gain each other's trust. The details of the stories they share give a face to the policy and numbers that exist for many westerners only in the abstract. Through fiction, Erpenbeck manages to deliver a scathing critique of the attitudes, current asylum laws, and restrictions imposed on the refugees – not allowed to work or travel, this leaves only madness, induced by empty periods of waiting and forced inaction. As Richard undergoes an inner transformation, readers, too, are called to act. Brought to English speakers by the magnificent Susan Bernofsky, Jenny Erpenbeck's Go, Went, Gone promises to stay with you for a long time.