Starting moments after the close of Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout’s latest finds Lucy Barton in lockdown with her first husband William in a small town in Maine. The joy of Lucy is in her astute observations; the peril is that her heightened sensitivity and sometimes passive nature can lead her into many a fraught relationship. I loved the way Strout showed that Lucy is a citizen of Strout’s Yoknapatawpha, with appearances not just by Bob Burgess, but also Olive Kitteridge’s aide at the assisted living center. Reading Lucy by the Sea recaptures every small memory of early COVID, from the panic about surfaces and the desire to escape urban environments to the eventual politicization of the virus, so beautifully that I was willing to relive them.
— Daniel Goldin
If you think you heard the last of Arthur Less, last seen in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning, around-the-world journey, you’re wrong. This time the writer in a pretty much continuous midlife crisis must navigate the United States as he is shaken by the death of an old lover, and despite a seemingly perfect current beau, Arthur takes a whole bunch more gigs, most of which do not go as planned, as he searches for some variation on inner fulfillment and maybe some acceptance from his dad. But sometimes it seems not everybody wants more Less. Greer is tops in capturing types and bringing them to glowing life, from his late lover’s widowed ex to the impulsive science fiction writer who demands Less interview him (but why?!). On top of that, Greer can make any situation funny, even German translation, and yet, through all the guffaws, there's a chunk of heart too.
— Daniel Goldin
A riveting, fast-paced, and enthusiastic look at the world of tennis through the eyes of Carrie Soto, the world's finest athlete. It's been five years since Carrie Soto retired as the reigning champion of women's tennis, and it's all about to be taken away by powerhouse Nicki Chan. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carrie decides to step back onto the court to remind everyone who the world's greatest player is. Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers a gripping comeback novel with a fierce character you will be rooting for until the very last page. A must read!
— Jen Steele
How do I even begin to write a rec?! Simply put, Ithaca is one of the best Greek myth retellings I have ever read! Hera, Mother Goddess, Goddess of Queens tells the story that only women tell and poets will ignore, the story of Penelope, Queen of Ithaca. Watch the mortals cry, grieve, rage, and love along with Hera. Penelope is so much more than what the poets have told us; she is strength, grace, brilliance, and cunning. Claire North delivers an elegant novel of epic proportions that will take your breath away.
— Jen Steele
This third installment in The Locked Tomb series feels like the beginning of the end, with a story that had me under its thrall from beginning to end. Muir's humor and incredibly distinct character voices shine through as usual, but Nona is decidedly brighter than the previous two books' narrative styles. Even through Nona's sunny eyes, readers will see signs of a coming apocalypse around every turn: chaos and uncertainty surrounding her as she goes to school, pets a very good dog named Noodle, and plans a party. And just as pressing as the chaotic present is the unraveling of the past, chapters which I had to hold myself back from skipping to in order to find out how the path of humanity veered toward a future of Necromancers in space 10,000 years from now. Where many dystopian and sci-fi books fail when it comes to a “how we got here” storyline, Muir handles it as expertly as the character dynamics and truly, perfectly unhinged humor. Now is the perfect time to dive into The Locked Tomb series!
— Oli Schmitz
In a sort of prelude to the main narrative, August Helm (last seen at the age of 10 in Jewelweed) is working as a graduate student at the University of Chicago when two significant events occur – he falls in love with a wealthy and beautiful corporate executive, and he interrupts his boss having sex with a student. Both do not end well. With his tail between his legs, he returns to Words, Wisconsin in the Driftless region, where familiar friends and family await. But things are different – folks have aged, relationships have formed, and most notably, a compound of super-wealthy city dwellers have carved out a private space where they live a luxurious life a bit in fear of the locals – kind of a rural gentrification. Can August navigate this new life without repeating his past mistakes? And can David Rhodes continue his conversation about community and culture while weaving in class conflict, the roots of power, the biology of attraction, and some speculative elements? It’s a tall order, but I think he succeeds mightily, as long as you accept and even savor the philosophical digressions and a completely unexpected resolution.
— Daniel Goldin
It’s early 1960s Memphis, and Sara King, on the run from trouble in Chicago, has taken a job at a boarding house run by Mama Sugar, the aunt of her close friend. There she finds a new community of friends, found family, and even a possible beau, but there’s trouble too, in the form of Mama Sugar’s errant son and the even shadier type after him to repay a loan. Steeped in Memphis’s Civil Rights struggles and packed with a treasure trove of references great Black writers, musicians, and artists, West’s second novel is a powerful and emotional story of a woman trying to find her place in a world. And while the book works completely on its own, readers of Saving Ruby King will savor West bringing one of the secondary characters of that novel to vivid life.
— Daniel Goldin