There's a cafe, and in that cafe there's a seat, and from that seat a person can travel in time. There are a lot of rules (you can't leave your seat or you are instantly transported back), a time limit (you must finish your coffee before it gets cold) and you must except that you can't change the present, no matter what you do. Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a story told in four parts, four different people have a desire to travel in time for various reasons. There are some seriously sad moments in this book, but overall it's really a story about these characters having a moment they wanted back just so they can move on in their life without the a huge what-if weighing on them. The story is simple, the emotions complex, and I really enjoyed my time spent in the hole-in-the-wall cafe.
This was a charming and disarming book, perfect in its written simplicity and perfect in the power of its messages. We all wonder about alternative paths in our lives. In a very simple setting - a tiny coffeehouse - four people travel in time (three backward, one forward) and gain wisdom from a very brief encounter with important people from their lives. They don't necessarily get what they want; they get what they need. Kawaguchi’s book is inventive, a joy to read that is packed with the punch of a much longer book.
— Kay Wosewick
People don’t get swept up by history, they make it. Walter’s latest is a grand and sweeping Western saga of the Wobblies 1909 free speech fight in Spokane. Over the course of a year, two vagrant brothers, a bawdy vaudeville performer, and firebrand labor activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn take actions big and small that change the West and America forever. Walter gets deep under the skin of people living during a time of upheaval, in a world that’s ever-shifting, bending, and changing – though he reminds us: when isn’t it? With moral obligations and the arc of history on the line, what’s a young dreamer to do? Which side are you on? Hopefully, the right one.
— Chris Lee
If I were to take Walter’s Beautiful Ruins and reflect it through the prism of The Sisters Brothers, I might come up with The Cold Millions, a period novel set during the rise of the IWW or The Wobblies. Gig and Rye are two brothers, the first a self-proclaimed hobo (mind you, not a bum or tramp) in early twentieth-century Spokane, and the second, his younger brother who seeks him out after their mom dies. The two become embroiled in a complicated scenario involving industrialists, organizers, prostitutes, sleuths, and bounty hunters, starting when Gig is arrested during a labor action and Rye unwittingly agrees to pass information. Keeping a plot as complicated and double-cross-filled as this one is no small feat, nor is creating what many would say is a modern take on Steinbeck. I love that this is the Spokane-iest book I’ve ever read. But once again, as in Beautiful Ruins, the thing that takes it home is the emotional heft, and with Rye, who slowly is revealed to be the center of this terrific novel, you’ve got that too.
— Daniel Goldin
Jess Walter carries us back to the Pacific Northwest of the early 1900s, using vivid details to show us the raucous, vibrant, fast growing town of Spokane. The heart of the story is two Dolan brothers jumping trains to get work, fighting for workers’ rights with the hard-nosed bosses and cops who routinely use men and then dump them as bums. Workers want decency. They have fearless leaders, but the people with wealth and power aren’t giving anything away. They don’t play nice, and they have ways of controlling it all. The brothers believe in the cause, but they're also looking to settle down in this new whirlwind home. Their stories and the way they turn phrases had me smiling ear to ear, and then shaking my head in amazement at their resilience. I think I’ll remember their hard-earned wisdom forever. It’s a suspenseful novel, a window into early days of labor battles, delivered with a sharp, clever style. It’s entertaining, and also very timely considering the gap between rich and poor has never been greater than it is now. The plot twists and characters are fascinating, many based on real events and people. The ending is satisfying. I stayed tied to each page.
— Tim McCarthy
Leave the World Behind is the kind that asks people find out who they are when the crisis comes. When strangers knock on the door, when the technology fails, when the animals start acting weird and the whole world becomes a threat. Yet these people aren’t ex-military-loner action movie heroes, they’re not the plucky last-girl-standing from your favorite slasher flick. They’re just your average, all-American family of the dwindling middle class. Alam’s magic trick here is his ability to draw you so close to these characters with such intimate detail that within a few chapters they become as familiar as a reflection. So by the time things become, let’s say, strange, it’s not just one family’s worst fears on display. Alam is holding up a mirror so we can see some of our own. This is a book about all the ways the vast world can so quickly reduce us to the animals we’ve always been - scared, fragile, and oh so human.
— Chris Lee
Two very different families reluctantly agree to temporarily share a remote Long Island house owned by one of the families. Over the course of three days, all six individuals encounter odd phenomena, usually while alone. Eventually, they all are well-aware that something strange is happening, but no one can articulate what it is. Rumaan's portrayal of a world suddenly turned upside down, and his characters' unfolding reactions to it, are unsettlingly credible.
— Kay Wosewick
This book was one of the most stunning ways to begin 2021. I absolutely love this book. First, this is my only (but surely not the last) experience with Matt Haig’s writing. He crafts his story by masterfully taking the reader by the hand and - quite literally - jumps through time and space of the main character’s life (or, lives). The story is easy and enjoyable to follow. It was definitely a satisfying page turner that remained thought provoking even when I wasn’t reading. Second, I am a nerd for how words are strung together to convey descriptions. For example, when the reader is faced with the physical sensations of how depression grips the main character’s body, it’s some of the most beautiful yet painful sentences I’ve ever read. From what I know about the author, perhaps only someone who has truly experienced the physicality of such low moments could be able to illustrate them so clearly. And, if one can relate to these sensations, it makes the writing all the more powerful. Haig’s descriptiveness allows the reader to share in the lows and highs of every emotion and situation the main character gets into, and it’s part of what makes this novel so great. The reader is placed in her shoes, exploring life with her - if not as her. Lastly, I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in existential questions that deal with the self and introspection or philosophy that deals with solitude and the development of the self. Overall, it’s such an inspiring and refreshing read.
— Rose Camara
When Noemí Taboada’s father receives a most troubling letter from his niece, he sends Noemí as the family’s ambassador to determine if Catalina is in any danger. Immediately upon arrival it is clear to Noemí that she is an unwelcome visitor. Her cousin’s new family are the Doyles; an English family that lives in High Place, a crumbling mountaintop estate where nothing is what is seems and something sinister lurks. Mexican Gothic has everything you want in a gothic novel - gloom and doom, mystery and romance, monsters and nightmares. Silvia Moreno-Garcia cranks up the melodrama to thrill and delight readers. Unputdownable!
— Jen Steele
This book put me through the heart pounding, adrenaline rushing, emotional ringer! A poignant and dynamic novel about humanity, sacrifice, and hope. When Lydia and her son Luca survive a brutal massacre, Lydia knows that they must leave everything behind and endure the brutal journey north. Trying to stay alert for every waking moment, trying to outthink the man that wants to see them dead takes a toll; Lydia will do everything in her power to ensure her son lives. As they make this arduous crossing, pushing themselves to the brink, Lydia and Luca will encounter people of all walks of life, many who seek to do harm and many more who will shine a hopeful light helping them see the good in people. Jeanine Cummins delivers a powerful glimpse into the lives of people seeking a better life, a safe life with dignity and grace. American Dirt is one of those books that will stay with you forever.
— Jen Steele