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Stay with Me by Ayobami AdebayoDespite cultural pressures for her husband to take a second wife, Yejide knows that Akin would never do so. Until, after four years of failing to conceive a child, he does. Mimicking Nigeria's unstable political system, their marriage falters. Under the intense pressure to provide a child, both husband and wife keep secrets from the other in their efforts to save their relationship. Told in alternating chapters from both characters' perspectives, and taking place in the late 1980s and 2008, this is an "emotionally powerful first novel" (Library Journal) that captures both the agony of infertility and the turmoil of life in Nigeria.
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John BoyneIn 1945, Cyril Avery was born to an unmarried teenager (the book opens with a dramatic scene in a rural Irish church that sets this up with relish) and adopted by a wealthy if rather eccentric Dublin couple. As readers, we visit Cyril every seven years, as he grows and comes to terms with his homosexuality in a violently repressive Ireland, flees his home country, and falls in love. With richly drawn characters, plausibly life-altering choices, and an absorbing, often humorous writing style, The Heart's Invisible Furies may well appeal to fans of John Irving's work (it is, in fact, dedicated to him).
Class Mom by Laurie GelmanJen Dixon has three kids -- two in college (born back when Jen was an INXS groupie) and one in kindergarten (with Baby Daddy #3, who's also Husband #1). She's older (make that wiser) than the rest of the parents in his class, and her style of communication (and humor) don't always go over very well. Snarky and sarcastic but never mean-spirited, Jen and her experiences as class mom will ring true to anyone with a kid in school, and her real-life confessions will appeal to fans of Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different or Bunmi Laditan's Confessions of a Domestic Failure.
Rebellion by Molly PattersonStraddling several generations and two continents, this sweeping, sprawling debut tells the stories of several strong women who rebel against cultural expectations. In 1890, Addie becomes a missionary in China, while her sister Louisa moves to Ohio and avidly reads her letters...until they stop arriving in the midst of the Boxer Rebellion. In the 1950s, Louisa's daughter Hazel fights for her independence when she is prematurely widowed, a struggle that begins again when she moves into a nursing home in 1999. And in present-day China, college graduate Juanlan falls into an affair while trying to figure out what to do with her life. "Addictive reading," says Kirkus Reviews.
Focus on: Fathers & Fatherhood
Perfume River by Robert Olen ButlerThis painful, often thought-provoking novel is about war and its effects on family -- in this case, the Vietnam War and the North Florida family of veteran Robert Quinlan. Though the war is nearly 50 years in the past, its hold is strong on the Quinlans: while Robert enlisted, his younger brother Jimmy fled to Canada, where he's been living ever since, out of touch with his family. Their now-elderly father's shattered hip brings them together for the first time in decades. Robert himself hasn't come to terms with his own actions during the war, which continues to affect him every day.
The Precious One by Marisa de los SantosTaisy Cleary has long been estranged from her father, a demanding college professor, ever since he abandoned his family for a new one decades ago. So when he calls from his deathbed, asking her to visit (and ghostwrite his memoirs), she is surprised -- but agrees. Both Taisy (age 35) and her half-sister Willow (16) have pretty strong preconceptions of each other (and view each other as rivals for their father's attention), and the novel is as much about their burgeoning relationship as it is about their father. Character-driven and moving, The Precious One features authentic, well-developed characters.
Winter Street by Elin HilderbrandWinter Street was bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, but there are now four of the holiday-oriented series set in Nantucket (the latest, Winter Solstice, will be published this October). This one begins with a family reunion at Kelley Quinn's inn, which is upset by the personal dramas of his four adult children and his wife's infidelity -- with Santa, no less (or, OK, the guy who's played him for years at the inn). Dramatic but heartwarming nevertheless, this family-oriented tale is a good one to save for the run-up to Christmas.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin KwanCrazy Rich Asians introduced readers to the over-the-top lifestyle of unimaginably wealthy Chinese expats. In China Rich Girlfriend, an impending wedding brings together the disparate (and in some cases, unknown) elements of the bride's and groom's families. Specifically, future-mother-in-law Eleanor shows up with bride Rachel's heretofore unknown birth father. But that's only one of many high-drama sub-plots; there are makeovers, potential betrayals, and gossip galore. And it's hard to ignore the top-notch dialogue and detailed depictions of lavish spending. If you've read and enjoyed both, pick up the 3rd, Rich People Problems, which was published earlier this year.
Two by Two by Nicholas SparksNicholas Sparks is known as an author whose work will tug at your heartstrings, but his stories tend to be built around (successful) romantic relationships. That's not the case here. Not only does Two by Two center on the love of a father for his child, but the relationship between the parents seems to be falling apart. So be warned when you open this one -- you may be reaching for a hanky, but this tearjerker is different than the romantic ones Sparks is known for.
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