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.
Hello, 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!
Jenny from Fiction/AV/Teen suggests Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
In 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…
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.
Four different narrators reflect on a tragic school bus accident, sharing the town’s journey toward healing in Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter
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.
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.
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.
Family Life by Akhil Sharma contains a quiet firecracker of emotion. Eight-year-old Ajay Mishra has high hopes when he and his older brother move from Delhi to join their father in America. However, tragedy suddenly spirals Ajay’s life into the impossible choice between duty toward one’s loved ones and duty towards oneself.
The 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.
I started The Turner House for the modern Detroit setting, its National Book Award nomination, and curiosity for how Angela Flournoy would tell the story of 13 adult siblings. I was easily won over by the authentic and heartfelt exploration of the growing pains of a struggling family growing older together.
“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.
Jenny 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….
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.
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.
An educated woman with big dreams, Enitan shares the trials of growing up in military-ruled Nigeria after the Biafran war.
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.
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.
Kate 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.
This poetic gem translated from Italian is weighted with sorrow. Written in flashbacks spanning three generations, a girl shares the story of her Sardinian grandmother who has been in search for perfect love and declared mad as a result. Milena Agus’ From the Land of the Moon is a study of unreliable narrators, misunderstanding, and the reaches of the heart.