The Light of Luna Park by Addison ArmstrongWhat it's about: In this character-driven debut, 1950s teacher Stella Wright copes with a major career setback by delving into her recently deceased mother's past as a nurse who worked to save premature babies.
Read it for: the courage the strong female characters bring to the adversity they face; a look at the early days of incubator technology and the ethical issues they raised.
Did you know? In the early 20th century, Polish American doctor Martin Couney popularized the use of neonatal incubators, work that he financed through "exhibitions" of the technology in action at Coney Island and in Atlantic City.
The Manningtree Witches by A.K. BlakemoreThe setting: 1643, in the small Essex town of Manningtree, which is populated mostly by women and children while the men are away fighting in the English Civil War.
A stranger comes to town...calling himself the "Witchfinder General" and promising to "save" the women of the town from the temptations of witchcraft, which he is determined to root out at any cost.
Why you might like it: The women of Manningtree are complex, well-realized characters whose stories touch on compelling topics like suspicion, forgiveness, repression, and bodily autonomy.
Emily's House by Amy Belding BrownWhat it is: the moving and lyrical story of Margaret Maher, a lively Irish immigrant whose life changes forever after she takes a "temporary" job with the Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts, and forms a deep bond with their daughter Emily.
Why you should read it: the engaging and richly detailed portrait of Margaret and Emily's relationship; Margaret's role in preserving Emily's poetic legacy by disobeying the order to dispose of her body of work.
Reviewers say: Author Amy Belding Brown's "sensitive, intuitive, immersing prose is supremely apt for this gentle, compelling story" (Booklist).
Once Upon a Wardrobe
by Patti Callahan Henry
What it's about: When her younger brother, who doesn’t have long to live, asks her to find out where Narnia came from, brilliant Oxford scholar Megs Devonshire, as her gift to him, sets out to find the truth, and, when the answer Is revealed, discovers her brother’s gift to her: hope.
Reviewers say: Heartfelt characters will win over sentimental readers. Callahan's fans will love this. (Publishers Weekly)
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
What it is: a beautiful and intimate story of a woman who embarks on a journey through her family’s past, helping her embrace her full heritage, which is the story of the Black experience in itself.
Why you should read it: for the immersive storytelling and the deep dive into the history of Black women in America, interspersed with the words of W.E.B DuBois.
Reviewers say: “A story filled with suffering, resilience—and a surprising twist.” (New York Journal of Books)
The Perfume Thief by Timothy SchaffertWhat it's about: the disappearance of a famous French perfumer, Monsieur Pascal, from Nazi-occupied Paris and the risky endeavor to recover his book of recipes from a Francophile German bureaucrat.
Starring: Clementine, a 70-something American expat, who dusts off her skills as a former con artist to get close to the Nazi culture vulture who acquired Pascal's recipes and has taken up residence in Pascal's home.
Reviewers say: The Perfume Thief is "a rich and rewarding tale, as original and unique as the handiwork of its eponymous character" (Publishers Weekly).
When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret VerbleWhat it's about: Narrated from multiple perspectives, this character-driven and intricately plotted story centers on people from the margins of society who dare to carve out places for themselves in 1920s Tennessee.
Featuring: the titular Two Feathers, a Cherokee novelty performer who accidentally discovers a desecrated Native burial ground under the zoo that employs her; Hank Crawford, a Black horse handler at the zoo wrestling with his complex family history; and Clive Lovett, the white zoo manager and World War I vet haunted by wartime trauma.
Is it for you? Author Margaret Verble incorporates supernatural elements to evoke the violent historical legacies that hang over her characters, which might not appeal to some readers.
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