Check It Out Category: Picks by Jenny

Staff Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Picture of Jenny In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid mostly mirrors reality to follow a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, thrust into the horrific state of civil war in their home country. Shedding light on this human experience, the somber portrayal of their journey toward safety glimmers with writing that may cause your heart to pause, but at the same time wraps you into wanting to know what will happen next to the two lovers.


Staff Pick: Hello, My Name is Doris

Picture of DorisHello, My Name is Doris is the hilariously awkward and thoughtfully heartwarming tale of a woman in her 60s deciding to take action in her life, specifically on her crush on a younger coworker. As a result of the depth of characters played by a stellar cast, the relationships Doris had with people rang painful at times, but they felt honest and allowed for moments of realistic redemption. The combination of comedy, drama, and romance in this made it an instant favorite!

Staff Pick: Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Jenny from Fiction/AV/Teen suggests Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Cover of Did You Ever Have a FamilyIn an instant, June’s entire family died the night before her daughter’s wedding. The house her loved ones were all staying in caught fire while June was outside of the house, and she was forced to watch her life be engulfed at the same time.

One of my favorite parts of this 2015 Man Booker nominee is how the story is told. The town June lives in is small, where everyone thinks they know each other and gossip is rampant. The narration switches from individuals throughout the town, giving us their own perspective on the situation and their own piece in this tragedy.  Ever so slowly, the truth of that night unravels as the characters deal with answering the question, “What now?” As a result we get this beautiful overarching picture of life and grief and time and the connections between people. If you love stories exploring people as they are and as they were, Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg is the book for you.

For more books dealing with grief, healing, and unraveling secrets try…

the untelling book cover
In The Untelling by Tayari Jones, twenty-five year old Aria is struggling to begin a new family with her fiancé. However, the grief of losing her father and sister fifteen years ago in a car accident is weighing on her as she tries to start anew.
the sweet hereafter book cover
Four different narrators reflect on a tragic school bus accident, sharing the town’s journey toward healing in Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter.
in a dark dark wood book cover
In the psychological thriller In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, a reclusive crime writer wakes up in the hospital with several injuries after a weekend away and has to piece together the secrets that lead to a death.
in the wake book cover
Arvid’s parents and younger brothers died in a ferry accident. Six years later, he finally begins to work his way toward happiness.  While the premise is sad, In the Wake by Per Petterson is ultimately a novel of hope and the celebration of family.
my sunshine away book cover
A southern gothic coming-of-age tale,  My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh takes place in a small suburb of Baton Rouge which is shaken when a 15 year-old girl is assaulted. Told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy in the town, his devotion toward her makes even him a suspect in the crime.

Staff Pick: True Sadness by The Avett Brothers

Picture of JennyThe Avett Brothers’ newly released album True Sadness shows off the continued evolution of the band’s blended sound of indie rock and folk. While the band of four address the natural sadness experienced throughout life, there is more upbeat rhythms and hope than the album title may suggest!

Favorite song: “Ain’t No Man”
Favorite lyric: “Call the Smithsonian I made a discovery, life ain’t forever and lunch isn’t free.”  (from “Smithsonian”)

Also available on Hoopla for instant check out with a MPPL card.




Staff Pick: Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

Barbara the Slut and Other“I was thinking I might want to study public health, but I was also thinking I might want to move to the forest and eat berries and mushrooms and hibernate with the bears in the winter.”

Through the ten stories in Barbara the Slut and Other People, Lauren Holmes is able to echo emotional truths you aren’t aware you have (why yes, I do just want to hibernate with bears) and provide ridiculous, often hilarious, story lines.

Staff Pick: Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani

Cover of Becoming AbigailJenny of Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani

A painful story of identity, Chris Abani uses vivid descriptions and striking turns of phrases to share the emotionally horrific story of a young Nigerian girl named Abigail. Her mother and namesake died during her birth and Abigail’s father has turned into a lonely, angry, and depressed drunk. Abani’s writing borders into poetry, allowing for ambiguity and distance to help digest the horrors Abigail is put through. The novella switches from the past to the present, covering Abigail’s forced relocation to London and her struggle to fight for herself. Excruciatingly honest, Becoming Abigail is for the reader looking to sink into a beautiful yet haunting story of a heart that seems so broken, it’s unfixable.

For more lyrical yet understated books, try….

Cover of What You See in the DarkWhat You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz

Set in 1950s Bakersfield, California, Muñoz pieces together the story of two young beautiful locals falling in love, the filming of what would become a famous horror movie, and a murder in this atmospheric story of longing.



Cover of Blue Eyes, Black HairBlue Eyes, Black Hair by Marguerite Duras

Infatuated with a guy he has only glimpsed, a man locks himself away in a room with a woman to talk about their obsessions of love in this intensely charged story of desire.



Cover of Everything Good Will Come

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta

An educated woman with big dreams, Enitan shares the trials of growing up in military-ruled Nigeria after the Biafran war.




Cover of Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Centered around the Biafran War, the lives of three different people are explored: thirteen-year-old Ugwu who is the houseboy for a university professor, Olanna, the young mistress of the professor, and Richard, an Englishman in love with Olanna’s twin sister.



Cover of The TranslatorThe Translator by Leila Aboulela

Sammar, a widowed Muslim, falls for a faithless Middle-Eastern scholar and must grapple with the cultural differences and grief that comes with falling in love.

Staff Pick: The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

Picture of JennyKate Forsyth takes us back to the Napoleonic Wars and into the story of Dortchen Wild, a dreamy girl responsible for telling the Brothers Grimm several of the stories found in their collections. Taut with the tension of trying to believe in the magic and beauty of fairy tales while being faced with life’s cruelties, The Wild Girl vividly seeps into your heart leaving a lingering enchanting darkness.