When Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Withersoon’s book club, it became an instant must-read. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery, legal drama and love story, I can see why! I came by it through my first HealthTea Book Crate, in which I received a signed copy, and I was excited that it was selected as one of my recent book club reads.
Kya Clark lives in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, and has watched her family leave her one-by-one, until — at the age of 10 — she is left quite alone. As she grows up, Kya chooses to stay close to home, preferring to get her supplies from a small store on the docks, where she can also fill up her boat with gas, rather than venturing into town. This fierce independence earns her the nickname Marsh Girl.
Caroline Hulse’s debut novel The Adults is like a Christmas comedy (Four Christmases comes to mind) meets Big Little Lies. Though Claire and Matt are divorced, they decide it’s best for their daughter Scarlett to experience a “normal” family Christmas. So, they book a weekend away at a woodsy resort and bring their current partners along for the ride! What could go wrong?
Claire’s boyfriend, Patrick, couldn’t be any less like her ex, Matt. Patrick spends much of the novel secretly training for an Ironman, at one point even racing through a lazy river to practice his swimming. Matt takes a different approach to life. He has a laissez faire outlook, often “forgetting” important details and preferring recreational drugs to exercising. His girlfriend, Alex, is smart, extremely patient and would probably be friends with Claire in another life. The characters were almost caricatures of real people and weren’t exactly likable, but they were entertaining.
Whereas years past have seemed to be filled with WWII-centric historical fiction, I don’t think I’ve read a single book about it this year — until The Alice Network. Kate Quinn’s novel was a recent book club selection, and I was excited about it because I also happened to have a newly-purchased used copy at home. Unfortunately, I waited too long to start the 500-page monster and was still 100 pages short when it came time for our book club meeting. Still, despite some spoilers during our discussion, I couldn’t wait to finish the story. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)
The Alice Network follows two storylines — one during WWI (the mid- to late-1910s) and the other just after WWII ends. Both feature uncertain women who find themselves, their strength and their courage over the course of the story. Eve Gardiner is a stuttering typist when she’s recruited to become a spy, part of the so-called “Alice Network,” and go undercover as a waitress in German-occupied France. Charlotte St. Clair, more often called Charlie, is an American who travels to Europe after WWII to take care of a “problem” and find her missing cousin.
I’m a huge fan of John Green and I heard a lot of amazingness about his brother’s first novel, and that’s basically why I picked up An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. Hank did a really good job. He put together a fast-paced, entertaining novel that I couldn’t put down.
April May is like any other twenty-something in New York City until she literally stumbles into something that will change her life — and the world — forever. It’s a giant sculpture standing outside a Chipotle. She calls her friend Andy to come check it out, they make a jokey video where April dubs it Carl, Andy posts the video to YouTube, and April becomes inexplicably tied to the Carls’ fate forever.
I decided to pick up The Book of M by Peng Shepherd after hearing about it on a podcast. The story of a post-apocalyptic world where people inexplicably lose their shadows intrigued me. The novel is told from multiple points of view, each character introduced with impeccable timing and purpose.
First, we meet Ory who is living with his wife Max in an abandoned resort where they set up camp when the first shadowless appeared. A little later, we meet Max who has lost her shadow and wanders away from their home. A mysterious character who has many names shares his experiences starting with when he first lost his memory – not by losing his shadow, but due to a traumatic brain injury.
George Sibley has recently died and left his only son, Eric, an unexpected inheritance. Eric is promised his father’s beloved Aston Martin, but it comes with a catch. He’s only allowed to keep it if he agrees to care for George’s allotment every week for the next two years.
I requested Marie Darrieussecq’s novel Our Life in the Forest from NetGalley because the concept was intriguing. Marie — both the author and the main character, our narrator — describes for us a future world in which wealthy humans of her generation have “halves,” or breathing but unconscious humans that are available should they need spare body parts. If you’re less fortunate, you’ll have a “jar” instead, holding just a backup heart and pair of lungs.
It’s a bleak future, and it’s one that Marie has decided to escape with several others. They have taken their halves and are hiding in the forest, where the drones can’t spot them through the dense treetops. The story is translated from French (a wonderful translation) and Darrieussecq’s writing style is direct; we are treated to very little extraneous description.
Good Morning, Midnight is a low-key post-apocalyptic novel. Augie is an aging but brilliant astronomer who ends up stranded in the Arctic, choosing to stay when everyone else flees because of “war rumors.” He never hears from them again. In space, Sully is the communications specialist aboard the Aether, which is heading back from a mission to Jupiter. As they get closer to home, it becomes worrisome that they’re unable to re-establish communication with Earth.
I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to, but it certainly had gorgeous elements. Lily Brooks-Dalton’s writing was vivid and imaginative. I could picture Sully’s living quarters and appreciated the description of life in space. I could feel the cold as Augie explored the frozen world around him.
Fatima Farheen Mirza’s novel A Place for Us put me at a loss for words (a tough position when I need to write a review…). It was beautifully written, the story woven together so expertly. It’s hard to believe this is a debut.
The story of an Indian-American Muslim family opens at the California wedding of Hadia, the eldest daughter. She and the rest of the family anxiously await the arrival of her younger brother Amar, who they haven’t spoken to in years. From there, we are pulled into the family ourselves, where the dynamics are complicated. The siblings struggle with their loyalty to their parents’ way of life and carving out their own place in society, while still seeking to please them. The parents try to raise their children wisely, but sometimes doing what they think is best leads to unexpected outcomes.
Leif Enger is an award-winning author who I’d never heard of before coming across his latest novel, Virgil Wander. He truly has a gift for language, painting a colorful and complete picture of a Midwestern small town and its inhabitants without overdoing it. I look forward to checking out his previous work, but first, Virgil…
Despite Virgil Wander’s somewhat-aspirational last name, he describes himself as “cruising through life at medium altitude.” That is, until his car unexpectedly flies off the road and into an ice cold Lake Superior. When he wakes up in the hospital, Virgil has lost some of his memories and most of his adjectives.