An Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
One of The New York Times top ten books of the year and a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.
The story focuses on two families transformed by a 1996 explosion in a crowded Delhi market. The Khuranas, who are Hindu, lost two young sons in the blast, while the neighboring Ahmeds, who are Muslim, nearly lost their son, Mansoor.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
If you are looking for one of those books where you begin skipping lines accidentally because you want to know what happens next, then this book is for you. Heck, it could keep you up all night.
The story takes place in a picturesque small-town near Sydney (Australia) and begins at an elementary school trivia night where there is a death – or was it murder??
Quickly jumping back six months to kindergarten orientation, we get to meet the Moms, all of whom have kindergarteners. There is tightly-wound, remarried Madeline with a fondness for impractical designer footwear who has to endure sharing a school year with her ex-husband and his new age wife and their 5-year-old. Gorgeous rich Celeste, who is a kind “mum” harboring a dark secret. And their new friend – shy, young single mom Jane who is new to town and harbors secret doubts about her son.
A random act of schoolyard bullying, sets the story in motion and pretty soon it becomes apparent that you have no idea what is really going on behind closed doors and that the big little lies told to survive may prove lethal one day. Moriarty takes a powerful stand against domestic violence and bullying, but don’t worry interwoven into the book are plenty of funny moments.
This dark comedic portrait of the kind of well-intentioned parents who might just be a little crazy at times is being adapted by HBO for miniseries starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Alexander Skarsgard!!
Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories by M.R. James
These classic nineteenth-century ghost stories reach out from beyond the grave and wreak peril (sometimes supernatural) in seaside towns and on country estates
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction.
A quality read!
The story is inspired by the life of Watson’s own great-aunt.
The heroine, (the fictional) Miss Jane Chisolm, was born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage.
Watson succeeds in bringing to life the sadness and cruelty of Chisolm’s life and a woman whose inner strength and generous spirit cannot be limited by her physical self.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
The debut novel of an immensely talented 25-year-old.
The coming-of-age story of three young people growing up in a tight-knit African-American Christian community in Southern California.
Nadia Turner is finishing up high school when she falls for the pastor’s son – handsome Luke Sheppard, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a local restaurant. The trio is rounded out by Aubrey, Nadia’s conservative best friend. The two girls are slowly drawn to each other by the fact that they’re both motherless. Nadia’s mother recently committed suicide, and Aubrey’s long ago abandoned her.
At 17, Nadia gets pregnant and decides to abort the baby, a decision she hides from everyone for as long as she can. **I highly recommend checking out her very popular essay on race!!!
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Pulitzer prize-winning author and part-time Maine resident Elizabeth Strout has crafted an honest if not heartbreaking story told in fewer than 200 pages.
The novel begins with its protagonist Lucy Barton telling a story about what happened to her many years earlier.
A young mother of two, she was recovering from surgery complications, when her own mother to whom she had not spoken in many years, came to sit at the foot of her bed and keep her company for five days.
Her mother tells fun, gossipy stories about neighbors in her hometown of Amgash, Illinois, and everything seems to be ticking along well, until Lucy reveals to us in small ways the poverty of her upbringing, her hunger for her mother’s love and their difficult, at times abusive relationship.
The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke (1987)
The first of twenty Dave Robicheaux novels.
A seriously good detective novel with the perfect balance of suspense, intelligence and grit.
Robicheaux is a New Orleans homicide detective haunted by his infantry days in the Vietnam War who struggles with alcoholism and depression.
When he becomes involved in the case of a young prostitute whose body is found in a bayou he is thrust into the world of drug lords and arms-smugglers.
I recommend getting to know the fascinating Burke a bit more in this Garden & Gun magazine interview.
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE DESCRIPTION:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
The People in the Castle, Selected Strange Stories by Joan Aiken
(1924–2004) was born in Rye, Sussex, England
An anthology of fantasy stories by a 20th-century master of the ghost story. My favorites:
Bumblepuppy – The endearing story of a puppy’s ghost found trapped in an old storage box.
Listening – After hearing a lecture on the connection between music and everyday noise, a professor discovers strange connections in his ordinary life.
The People in the Castle A non-traditional fairytale between a small town doctor and a princess. There is no moral to be learned here, only a story to be told.
The Spy by Paulo Coelho (2016)
The book brings to life one of history’s most enigmatic women: Mata Hari. From a penniless young woman to a popular exotic dancer who shocked and delighted audiences with her powerful performances. As an independent woman in the first decades of the 20th century she defied convention and risked everything to live the lifestyle she aspired to – and she paid the ultimate price.
Mata Hari was the stage name Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle took when she became one of Paris’ most popular exotic dancers on the eve of World War I.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (2016)
Truman Capote’s swans are all here – Barbara “Babe” Cushing Mortimer Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, C. Z. Guest, Pamela Churchill, and Marella Agnelli.
During the 1950s and 60s these were the most beautiful, stylish, wealthy and envied women in all of New York. When a photograph of Babe with a scarf tied to her handbag ran, it created a trendy tidal wave that millions of women emulated.
For years Capote had been the confidant of high society women – primarily Babe Paley – but that all changed with the publication of his nasty article “La Côte Basque ” in Esquire magazine in1975. The main characters were thinly veiled characterizations of the main women in his life and after reading the article they never spoke to him again. The story takes place after Babe Paley died of lung cancer and after Capote had been ostracized from New York society. The former swans look back on how it all began.
Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology edited by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert
35 tales of haunted houses, vengeful spirits, spectral warnings, invisible antagonists, and motiveless malignity from beyond the grave, every one guaranteed to generate the pleasurable shudder.
The Last House in C — Street (1856) Dinah Mulock, The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (1868) by Henry James, and The Kit-bag (1908) Algernon Blackwood
Ghost stories were something at which the Victorians excelled. In an age of scientific progress the idea of a vindictive past able to reach out and violate present held an especial potential for terror, and throughout the nineteenth century fictional ghost stories developed in parallel with the more general Victorian fascination for death and what lay beyond it.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
I swallowed in one gulp.
How far will you go to achieve a dream? That’s the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy, compete.
And thus we enter the highly structured world – the sacrifices, the obsession – of an Olympic hopeful.
Then a mysterious death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they Knoxes have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.
While trying to navigate the next few months, Katie is forced to consider whether there’s any price she isn’t willing to pay to achieve Devon’s dream.
NON-FICTION will publish next weekend. ox
*Photo of Babe Paley by John Rawling for Vogue Magazine (1946)