These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy CardStarring: Abel Paisley, a Jamaican immigrant to the U.S. who, decades earlier, faked his death and assumed another man's identity. Now on his deathbed, he's reaching out to the family he left behind.
Why you might like it: Spanning eight generations and 200 years of Jamaican history, this complex debut's large cast of characters provides insight into a family lineage that bore slavery, trauma, and deep regrets.
Read it if: You enjoyed Jennifer Nansumbuga Makumbi's similarly themed (though Uganda-set) Kintu.
Greenwood by Michael ChristieWhat it's about: Ecological devastation and one Western Canadian family's ties to its root causes and consequences.
What it is: part multi-generational family saga, part ecological fiction, and a wholly engaging tale of "greed, betrayal, destruction, and endurance" (Booklist).
For fans of: Richard Powers' The Overstory.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita MontimoreWho it's about: 18-year-old Oona, who passes out on New Year's Eve and awakens the next day, aged 51 but with only 18 years of experience behind her. And as each new year starts, she wakes in a different, non-chronological year of her life.
Reviewers say: "delightfully freewheeling" (Booklist).
For fans of: other time-warped stories like Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot, Rebecca Serle's In Five Years, and, of course, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.
New Waves by Kevin NguyenWhat happens: Fed up with constant discrimination, an unfulfilled Asian American sales rep and a talented black programmer steal their employer’s user database. Though this act of revenge is successful, things quickly start going very, very wrong.
Read it for: the workplace satire, a send-up of start-up culture, and pointed commentary on racism, privilege, and technology, all told in sales rep Lucas' engaging and sometimes humorous, sometimes regretful voice.
Real Life by Brandon TaylorStarring: biochem grad student Wallace, who is black, gay, and whose research is potentially being sabotaged.
What it's about: Wallace is not truly comfortable at his midwestern university, where all of his friends and colleagues are white and straight...including Miller, with whom he's just begun a turbulent relationship.
Reviewers say: "a sophisticated character study of someone squaring self-preservation with a duty to tolerate people who threaten it" (The New Yorker).
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine CenterThe plan: recent divorcee Helen Carpenter will embark on a three-week wilderness survival course with a rag-tag crew of fellow hikers, including her brother's irritating best friend.
The outcome: The physical discomfort and mental challenges promote a sense of camaraderie, while Helen learns a number of unexpected lessons.
Read it for: the humor, the memorable characters, a little love story, and Helen's personal growth.
The Great Alone by Kristin HannahFeaturing: 13-year-old Leni, whose volatile father, a Vietnam vet, has moved their family to a remote part of Alaska, where they don't have access to electricity or indoor plumbing.
What happens: As the violence at home increases, Leni finds refuge in a boy at her one-room school.
Read it for: the skillfully drawn mid-1970s setting, Alaska's wild beauty, and the tightly knit community of homesteaders who keep Leni safe.
The River by Peter HellerThe premise: Best friends and experienced outdoor enthusiasts Jack and Wynn are spending a break from college on a canoeing trip in the beautiful but rugged woods of northern Ontario.
The problem: Their summer gear is insufficient for a sudden, rapidly advancing cold front; from the other direction, a forest fire is gaining ground. But they're really put to the test with the discovery of a gravely injured young woman.
Read it for: the complex characters as they battle against nature and the girl's unknown assailant.
Sal by Mick KitsonStarring: resourceful 13-year-old Sal and her ten-year-old sister, Peppa, who have run away into the Scottish wilderness and plan to survive on their own.
Why you might like it: Practical and creative, Sal is a character you'll root for: having planned for a year, she has plenty of survival skills (gleaned from YouTube) -- and some emotional trauma to heal from.
Read this next: Gabriel Tallent's My Absolute Darling, which likewise features a loss of innocence and a strong will to survive.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig RiceThe situation: Power outages aren't uncommon in this close-knit northern Ontario Anishinaabe community, but this one goes on far too long...and then a food shipment fails to arrive, and a newcomer brings news of chaos in the south.
What happens next: Community relations splinter as the food supply dwindles, the winter gets harsher, and the newcomer sows discord.
Read it for: the intensifying tension, the own voices depiction of Anishinaabe culture, and the realization that the end of the "civilized" world is maybe not the end of the world for everyone.
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