Summer is a wonderful time to pick up a collection of short stories. I recommend Mia Alvar’s knockout debut, In the Country, which has been described by readers as dazzling, phenomenal, and stunning. With a variety of characters as well as settings, these richly detailed stories capture the Filipino immigrant experience in an unforgettable way.
Check It Out Category: Picks by Nancy
If you are in the mood to read something unique, I recommend Beatlebone by Kevin Barry. In this inventive novel, a late-1970s John Lennon is creatively blocked and sets off to find his private island off the coast of Ireland. I loved the unexpected detours, poetic language, and dreamlike setting. Beatles-fandom is helpful but certainly not required to enjoy this surreal story.
Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is an engrossing novel that follows the ups and downs of New Yorker Theo Drecker. It’s a huge book with generous detail and many thought-provoking themes such as art, friendship, and the chaos and beauty of life. The flawed, charismatic characters stayed with me long after I finished the last page. If you missed it when everyone was talking about it in 2013, don’t worry – you can never be too late to the party with this award-winner.
Through a variety of voices, Phil Klay’s Redeployment explores with unflinching detail what it means to serve in the Iraq War. There are intense combat stories as well as vivid accounts of readjusting to civilian life back home. This National Book Award winner is intense and yet several of the tales artfully convey distance and numbness.
In Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me, Joan Joyce, a wife and mother in California, looks back on her time as a professional ballet dancer in 1970s New York, particularly when she helped a celebrated dancer defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. With precise, graceful language that mirrors an elegantly performed ballet, this captivating novel examines choices made and secrets kept.
Nancy of Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
Laurelfield, a grand old estate north of Chicago, is the centerpiece of Rebecca Makkai’s clever novel. The book begins in 1999 with descendants of the well-heeled Devohr family. Zee Devohr and her husband Doug, both academics, are living temporarily in the coach house. Doug hopes to do research on an obscure poet who lived at Laurelfield when it was an artists’ colony in the 1920s, but Zee’s mother is surprisingly protective of whatever files and artifacts might be in the attic. The narrative travels backward in time, leaping to 1955, 1929, and 1900, revealing Laurelfield’s complicated past and its eccentric occupants. In this reverse chronological order, echoes from the past – and future – are well crafted, and the engaged reader will be rewarded. With its rich detail, fine prose, and dark humor, The Hundred Year House is a unique and satisfying read.
For more eccentric characters in grand settings, try…
Escape the winter chill and transport yourself to the South with a collection of short stories by Ellen Gilchrist. The critically acclaimed In the Land of Dreamy Dreams showcases her frank yet warm and lively writing style. Her daring, spirited female protagonists are sometimes flawed but always entertaining.
In Ernessa T. Carter’s spirited 32 Candles, Davidia Jones endures a tough childhood and then reinvents herself as a singer in Los Angeles. When she runs into her high school crush, her attraction is back in an instant, but so is her memory of a hurtful prank. When he pursues a romance, sparks fly. Will she get the “happy Molly Ringwald ending” she’s always wanted?
In Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody, high school musicians and their chaperones gather for a music festival at a huge old hotel. It’s the 15-year anniversary of a shocking crime in Room 712, a blizzard is approaching, and one of the students disappears. This unique premise drew me in, but the sharp writing and eccentric characters kept me hooked.
Why is the respected headmaster of a boarding school wandering naked in Central Park? More questions — and some surprises — are in store in The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene. This stunning novel is an enigmatic tale of love, loss, and regret that will keep you guessing until the very end.