The world as we know it today is gone. In its place is a world of water with merciless Raiders claiming rule over everyone and everything in their path. Myra and her daughter Pearl live a quiet life on their boat, fishing and trading. Myra trusts no one, not since her husband left her pregnant and alone, taking their 5-year-old daughter, Row with him. Eight years may have passed, but that doesn't mean Myra has given up. She is determined to rescue her eldest daughter from a horrible fate. But will she have to sacrifice one daughter to save the other? I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of one woman's determination to embark on a journey filled with hardships at every turn. After the Flood is a climate change dystopian sparking a torrent of heart pounding action, nail biting anticipation, suspicion and deceit, all with a fierce mother at the helm!
— Jen Steele
A gripping story of one mother's harrowing journey to survive a flooded earth and save her daughters from the dangers that surround them. Life after the great flood is treacherous, and lethal groups of raiders steal food, medicine, and children, killing those who would stand in their way. With flawed, relatable characters, After The Flood is a real thought-provoker. It demands you ask yourself: what would I do to survive? This passionate tale of survival and determination is not one to miss.
— Kelli O'Malley
Victor Tuchman is dying. A longtime Connecticut businessman, and a crooked one at that, relocated to New Orleans to be near his family. Or are there other reasons? It’s hard to ask his son Gary, as he refuses to come home from a work trip to California, and his wife Twyla is prone to crying fits. Mom won’t open her mouth, either to eat or to reveal her husband’s awful stories. And daughter Alex? She’s caught in the middle, wondering how much her parent’s tortured family history has affected her own broken marriage. All This Could Be Yours uses a round-robin narration style to bring to life a particularly dysfunctional family, all in orbit of a patriarch whose only apt descriptor is vile. Sharp writing, more in the vein of The Middlesteins than Attenberg’s two more recent novels.
— Daniel Goldin
Ross Gay is flying among the giants with this one. His poetry is playful, grinning, and unbelievably generous. And too, he’s a master of formal invention; this work follows the arc of Dr. J’s arm as it swings magnificently, impossibly through the air under a hoop during the 1980 NBA finals, and from that point traces lines through histories personal, political, and emotional. Gay is so clearly fascinated by the ways humans reach for each other – the ways people connect and regard each other, by how we hold and behold one another. I also love the sneaky way this poem is low-key an ode to the late night YouTube obsessives, watching in wonder (and frame-by-frame slo-mo) the same clip over and over to discover and connect the hidden bits of the past that have been boxed out to the edges of the frame. In Be Holding he’s created something like a collective history – perhaps even a poetics of - black bodies flying through the air, soaring, reaching for joy.
— Chris Lee
I remember reading The Song of Achilles and loving it. Madeline Miller is back with another Greek retelling with Circe. Circe is the lesser daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and her mother is an Oceanid naiad named Perse. After angering Zeus (plus she is not really liked but tolerated by her family), she is cast out to live on an island all alone. Even though she is a god, her powers have never really presented themselves until she comes to the island. Here she meets all manners of famous names from the myths: from Hermes, the Minotaur, Athena, Daedalus and his son Icarus, to Odysseus. Circe comes into her own on this island, defying the Gods by not remaining quiet and confined. This brilliant book is so well written and researched that I may just have to read it again for the fun of it.--Jason
Reed King paints a bleak, dystopic portrait of our future, and he will make you cry and laugh about it all at once. The journey that Truckee embarks upon is full of danger and wonder, and in his pursuits, he picks up a ragtag group of individuals that are perfect companions to go on this treacherous path. Reed King thinks of all ways our country and society could mess things up and rip apart at the seams: political instability, environmental catastrophe, corporate greed, foreign invaders, and just plan complacency are here in spades. The world building is smart and detailed, and it left me blown away by how King slowly unveiled his world through twists and turns in the plot. Pick this book up - it's jaw-dropping brilliant!-- Jason
Master of Horror Joe Hill is back with more short stories that will thrill you to your core. Plunging into the murky depths of human nature, Hill shows his readers that sometimes the things that truly scare us can ignite from the simplest of sparks. You will be ripped from the comfort of your reality and forced to survive a book that sinks its rusted hooks deep. The only way out is through the end, will you survive?
— Kelli O'Malley
Cep weaves together parallel stories of the Reverend Willie Maxwell and the illustrious Nelle Harper Lee, one an immaculately kept and perfectly mannered serial murder suspect and the other an American legend struggling to create a true-crime classic long after her publication of To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee was always drawn to mysterious crime. Just after Mockingbird was published, she was her close friend Truman Capote’s right hand as they researched and organized the material for his landmark crime novel In Cold Blood. A dozen years later, Lee tried unsuccessfully to write a second book of her own, the story of Maxwell, a Reverend so feared in the small towns of her home state of Alabama that nobody would look him in the eye. Rumors were rampant of his Voodoo practices and even his return from the dead. Cep is both an exacting and an entertaining writer. In showing the humanity of everyone involved, she uses exhaustive research to arrive at smart, sweeping conclusions. She gives us remarkable depth in biographical pictures of Maxwell, Lee, Capote, and others, and along the way she captures the mood of both the landscape and the politics of civil rights era Alabama and New York, where Lee split her time. Cep has done marvelous work, expertly bringing a degree of closure to a monumental literary loss.
— Tim McCarthy
Jessica, a forty-something lawyer, hires a service to take her and her daughter Nina on a college tour of top-rated east-coast schools. They are not doing this alone – along for the tour is a highly-motivated degree-less father and his son, an academic mom who has her son’s life scheduled in hour increments, and model-turned-film exec’s wife and her influencer daughter. Jessica’s dealing with some serious workplace sexism that is preventing her mentee from getting promoted, while Emily’s got her own problems with a cheating scandal at school. And why are they on a tour to schools like Princeton when Emily’s rocking B’s? By the end of the tour, let’s hope that mother and daughter see each other for who they truly are. If you loved The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, fear not – they may not be organizing author events and book clubs, but Emily’s got a lot in common with Nina. The interpersonal relationships are great and Waxman’s comic charms shine brightly. I give it an A!-- Daniel
Jessica Burnstein and her 16-year-old daughter Emily are off on a week-long college tour. While Jessica hopes for some mother-daughter bonding time, a crisis at work may end up interrupting her plans. For Emily, dealing with the pressure to go to college and get good grades is very stressful, and she's unsure how to tell her mom what she really thinks. Along the way they have fights, awkward encounters, unspoken truths, and an overzealous college tour guide to deal with. Funny, emotional and relatable, Abbi Waxman delivers another feel good novel! -- Jen
Set in South Africa during the historic election of Nelson Mandela, this follow-up to Hum If You Don’t Know the Words is the story of two white sisters - Ruth, a much-married socialite, and Delilah, a nun-turned-aid-worker - who find a black baby on their doorstep. What they don’t know is that the baby is Zodwa’s; her mother left the baby there in hopes of a better life for both her daughter and granddaughter. The story alternates perspectives of the three, as they struggle with whether to sell the family farm, how to deal with the neighborhood Afrikaner nationalist group, the revelations of past sexual abuse, the realization that Baby Mandla is HIV+, and several other complications. That is indeed a good amount of drama for one family, but if you’ll roll with that, you’ll be completely hooked on this story and fall in love with our three unforgettable heroines of If You Want to Make God Laugh.-- Daniel
Even though I'm still haunted by certain scenes from his novel, The Underground Railroad, I needed more Colson Whitehead, and man did I get more! The Nickel Boys tells the story of Elwood Curtis, who was a good kid. Always. He loved to learn, did the right things under his grandmother's protection, and felt the urgent need for change that he heard on his record album of Martin Luther King's speeches. It was the best gift he ever got. He was on his way to take college classes as a high school student in the early 60s when he stumbled into trouble and was sent to Nickel Academy, a fictional Florida reform school based on a real-life version of hell. Whitehead learned a lot about Marianna, Florida's Dozier School for Boys from the Dozier survivors' website and from the University of South Florida archaeologists who excavated the secret graveyard where so many boys' bodies were dumped after their "discipline." Elwood held on tight to Dr. King's ideals during his time there. I needed more Colson Whitehead because he's such a great writer. In his steady hands, with his understated style, I can feel that the book, and the life it represents, will continue through the horror. And I feel inoculated by Whitehead against any tiny temptation to believe reactionary white voices. Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization?! Please do not claim to understand terror until you've read one of Colson Whitehead's portraits of how it was inflicted on African Americans.-- Tim
What a remarkable and haunting novel! A must read for anyone who wants to understand the true meaning of white privilege. It doesn’t mean that white people are necessarily wealthy or that we don’t have problems. We can have all kinds of problems. Privilege simply means not look over your shoulder in fear all the time. It means always being one step up, no matter what. The Nickel Boys is not only thought-provoking, but also has one of those gasp-out-loud endings I love, complete with a twist I never saw coming. --Jenny
There was a lot of buzz about Sally Rooney’s first novel, Conversations with Friends, but it seems like her second, already winner of the Costa Prize for fiction and long-listed for the Booker, will be greeted at stateside publication with a deafening roar. Marianne is a wealthy but emotionally isolated high school student, while Connell is relatively popular, but bares the shame that his mom is Marianne’s amily’s maid. The attraction is immediate, but something’s always getting in the way of them being together - from Connell’s desire for respectability to Marianne’s legacy of abuse. I love the structure of the book, from the way story is a series of moments with time lapses laid out to the delicate way the no-quotation-marks dialogue is integrated into the exposition. I’m drawn to the tone, which is a mix of sad and awkward. But mostly I love Marianne and Connell, an unforgettable couple star-crossed not by outside forces but by their own demons. --Daniel
Lillian hasn’t seen Madison since her boarding school years, and despite an occasional missive, it’s a little surprising when Lillian, who isn’t doing much besides working two grocery store jobs, is asked to take a bus to Franklin, outside Nashville. It appears that her old friend, driven to the core, has married well, but with baggage: the kids from her Senator husband’s previous marriage spontaneously combust when agitated. And boy, do they have reason to be agitated – the Senator is a pill! Can Lillian calm them down before these kids grow up to be the next Carrie? So yes, I’ve got that Stephen King setup in my head, but Lillian kind of reminded me of Nina Hill in Abbi Waxman’s recent novel. It’s a combo I didn’t expect to like, but much like Wilson’s story, ‘Wildfire Johnny,’ I found it irresistible.
— Daniel Goldin
Overstory will challenge if not entirely change the way you view trees—and perhaps all plant life. Powers does this seamlessly while telling wonderful stories of eight very different individuals/couples whose lives eventually merge around the subject of trees. Brilliant and uplifting. My favorite book of 2018.--Kay
In Hendrickson’s biography of the famed architect, it’s the 1914 mass murder at Taliesin (for those who don’t know, his mistress, her two kids, and four folks in his employ were axed by servant Julian Carlton) is his defining moment; most aspects of his life before that lead up to it and those after spin out from it. From Cecil Corwin to Mameh Cheney to Edgar Kaufmann to Carlton, few friends, relatives, patrons, and workers are left unexamined in this exhaustive biography, which also seeks to correct the untruths that have been passed along as gospel. The journey of Plagued by Fire is meandering but always fascinating, detouring to many of Wright’s most famous works, and driven by Hendrickson’s attempt to better understand Wright’s life.
— Daniel Goldin
At the publishing house where she is employed, Violaine Depage worked her way up from the readers’ room, where manuscripts from the slush pile are discovered, to Editorial Director. But after an unfortunate accident that left her in a coma, she’s recovered to find the publisher in a sticky dilemma. It turns out that the hit novel Sugar Flowers (a reader’s room discovery) has just been longlisted for the Prix Goncourt, and Lepage is hiding that she doesn’t know who the true identity of Camille Désencres, the book’s author - what publishers might call a Full Ferrante. What Elena’s publishers didn’t have to deal with is a visit from the police – several of the murders documented in the novel have been duplicated in real life and are now under investigation. The mood is a little darker than Vintage 1954, but the results are no less Antoine-esque. Each character is brought to life with the quirky details Laurain does so well, a few literary figures make an appearance (though aside from Stephen King, perhaps more illusion than reality), and the offers up connections to Laurain’s past works, including French Rhapsody and The Red Notebook, which was recently on the Duchess of Cornwall’s quarantine reading list.
— Daniel Goldin
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, I sure do love European crime dramas, but I wonder what they would be like under pen of a French novelist who delights in toying with all the twists and turns an ‘ordinary’ life can take - well then, have I got the book for you! Laurain is as charming as ever in his latest, and he uses his signature narrative detours to build up a mystery around a hit novel’s missing author and its editor’s missing memories. Particularly enjoyable are the peeks into the world of French publishing – the career twists of an editor, the craze of awards season, and the trials each manuscript faces as it makes its way from its author’s pen to a reader’s hands. While maybe it’s not the right book for the hardest-boiled mystery fans – Laurain more gestures at the genre than fully embraces it, though he does dial up the gritty to multiple-murder levels - anyone who likes a novel that zips from city to city and from decade to decade throughout France with Marcel Proust’s walking stick in tow is going to want to spend an afternoon in The Readers’ Room.
— Chris Lee
Jacqueline Woodson’s latest dreamily moves between characters and across time as she chronicles the lives of two families brought together by a teen pregnancy and fractured when the still-teenage mother leaves them behind for a far-away college. Issues of race, class and sexual identity play out in the family, from memories of the Tulsa Race Massacre to the two family’s economic differences, to the mother’s secretive relationship with a fellow student in college. Music swirls through the narrative, from the jazz clubs of Oakland to a 1990s Wu Tang Clan concert to the sounds of Prince at a coming-of-age party. And words swirl through the story too; Red at the Bone might be called a novel, but it’s surely as much a poem, a shimmering ode to survival.
— Daniel Goldin
Red at the Bone is a view inside the thoughts of several family members during their new life after a teen pregnancy. Melody is the wonderful unexpected child at the center of their story, with its three generations of hard-won survival and success. Family traditions are challenged, and Woodson cuts to the heart of what we are as people, what makes us afraid, what triggers our love, why we get confused, and why we’re desperate for certainty. The pain and the beauty of being human are always piercing in a Woodson novel. It happens so quickly in her writing, small details that suddenly open whole worlds of emotion. It’s amazing. She’s magic!
— Tim McCarthy
The third book in the Lady Astronaut series turns its focus from Elma York, who was hurtling toward Mars in the last book and still is in this one, to Nicole Wargin. Married to the Governor of Kansas, which is where the capital is located due to the meteor strike in the first book, she is a fierce astronaut in her own right living on the moon colony. With the climate starting to heat up, the stakes in this book do as well. The Earth Firsters are up in arms about the space program eating the money up and being used to save the few, when the many will never get off the planet. Shouldn't the focus be to save as many people as possible? When extinction is on the table, then all bets are off. Nicole Wargin is trapped on the moon with at least one member of the Earth Firsters, who is bent on sabotaging the space program at any cost. Mary Robinette Kowal does an amazing job at looking at the personal ramifications as well as the political and social ones of a world hurtling towards disaster. Can't wait for the next volume!--Jason
his utterly heart-warming story allows you to vicariously join four of the primary wolf packs formed during the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone starting in 1994. The stories of original alpha males and females and their offspring are stunning in their detail. Without anthropomorphizing, McIntyre observes markedly unique personalities, a genuinely amazing variety of games that teach life-long skills and build bonds among individuals both young and old, fascinating family dynamics, and fierce loyalty and bravery on the hunt and against threats from outside such as grizzlies and other wolf packs. This is the loveliest and most vibrant wild animal story I’ve ever read.
— From Kay's Staff Recommendations
The years-long wait for a follow up to The Night Circus was worth every interminable minute! Erin Morgenstern’s new novel is a breathtaking tribute to both the magic of libraries and to the art of storytelling. Most thought provoking are the shifting roles Time and Fate play in our lives and in fiction. Graduate student Zachary finds an old book of short stories in the library at his university. Morgenstern plays with the idea of a book within a book, delicately weaving each tale together with Zachary’s reality. He’s more than a little disconcerted when he finds one of the of the stories is about a strange occurrence from his own life, one that happened years earlier. But the book is clearly far older, and Zachary never spoke about the moment from his past to anyone. The quest to unravel this mystery takes him searching for keys and hunting for clues on the other side of several secret doors that all lead to a library below the earth’s surface. A memorable cast of characters, and Zachary’s delightful romance with one of the more untrustworthy of them, makes The Starless Sea exactly the captivating read I’d hoped for.--Jenny
When the son of a fortune teller stumbles up a mysterious book in a library, he is thrust into a hidden world of magical doors, an underground library, and the stories that bind him to his destiny. The Starless Sea is an entrancing tale of love, magic, and taking chances with fate. Morgenstern weaves an incredible narrative that feels like a marvelous waking dream. The story itself is both lyrical and timeless yet somehow expertly manages to include current cultural references without feeling like it jars you out of the story. I was enthralled with each chapter always wanting to know where each tale was heading. Fans of The Night Circus will not be disappointed and should not hesitate to add this to their own library. --Kelli
After a virus put animals on the brink of extinction (humanity helped by killing all animals they thought could get them sick, too!), you would think we would become Vegans. Guess again. Cannibalism has become state sanctioned, and Marcos heads up one of the meat processing plants. Agustina Bazterrica takes us brutally by the hand and drags us through the entire process, from the ranchers that raise the ‘cattle’ to the meat processors and tanneries. To say that some of the descriptions are disturbing is putting it mildly. The story really kicks off when Marcos gets a gift from El Gringo, a female FGP. Not understanding what to do with her (as he says, 'he kills head, he doesn't breed them'), he ties her up in the barn and goes off to work. Through Marco's eyes we see and hear all the horrific ways humanity has created 'special meat' for the world to eat, and how that meat is treated, hunted, and used. This book is not for the squeamish - I LOVED IT!--Jason
There are instances in this book that make you cringe, that make you want to toss the book to the side and scream, and for all that Jeannie Vanasco tells us, I still couldn't put down her story of confronting the person who sexually assaulted her in college. It was person she trusted, a person she counted on as a friend. It wouldn't be the last time. Yet, Jeannie does an amazing and courageous feat of contacting him years later and engaging him in a meaningful dialogue. She examines her own feelings around the assault, and she sees with more clarity as time has given her space. She's not giving him a voice but rather making him own up to what he did and finding out what his motives were. He destroyed more than trust and more than friendship. Jeannie's writing grabbed me as few memoirs ever do, and it brings such strength to her story.--Jason
“It’s the late ’90s in Topeka, and high school senior Adam Gordon is partying, going to school, and preparing for a national speech and debate competition—living a life he expects to reflect back upon with irony and detachment in some urbane, imaginary future. Lerner shifts between perspectives, stealing stylistic bits from autofiction and documentary; he reinvents the way narrative can place the moments of our lives in the context of history, both global and hyper-local, exploring how history inflicts trauma onto us and how we, in turn, inflict that trauma back onto history. And he does all this while toying with language and the spaces where it breaks down as we attempt to self-define. Simply put, The Topeka School is a work of genius.”
— Chris Lee
Jonathan Safran Foer does an excellent job of not being overly preachy about what humanity has done and is currently still doing to the world. He realistically is looking forward at how we can extricate ourselves from extinction. The arguments against eating meat and factory farming have been done before, however, by weaving this together with his research and antidotes, he proposes the idea of eating vegan before dinner. It is the single one thing that everyone can do to make the biggest impact on carbon and methane emissions. Foer knows that going vegan is not practical for our world but this could be a doable compromise to help save the world. He presents many interesting stories of selfless acts that a population has done for the greater good, to help us realize that this is not an impossible thought. Even so, I have little faith that any idea to combat climate change is going to work, but the ideas presented in this book would help, if we could all get behind the fact that the world's climate is changing. And not for the better. An ingenious book, I hope that the discussions that stem from this book spurs actions for the greater good.--Jason
Only a genius like Alice Hoffman could delve into one of the darkest times of history and find a remarkable story about the human capacity for love. Just as France is falling to the Germans in 1941, a mother is driven by desperation to make a selfless and heartbreaking decision, forever intertwining the lives of three young women and one magical creature. Ava is a golem. She appears human, but she isn’t, and her only reason for existence is to keep Death from claiming the soul of one Jewish girl. Amid the devastation of the war, Hoffman’s latest is filled with magic, unexpected romance, and impossible choices. In addition, she asks us to look inward at our own perceptions about immigrants. Ultimately, I loved this book for the courage of characters who undermined the Nazi’s power, a reminder that people are still capable of acting with compassion and bravery even when doing so puts their own lives at risk. Long-time Alice Hoffman fans will feel right at home, and new readers will immediately want to look for all of her other titles!
— Jenny Chou