Homeland Elegies by Ayad AkhtarWhat it is: a thought-provoking literary novel-in-stories about being Pakistani-American before and after 9/11, with clear parallels to the author's own life.
About the author: Ayad Akhtar is, like his protagonist, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan and a Pulitzer-winning playwright known for a complex, controversial play about being Muslim-American after 9/11.
What reviewers say: It's "a provocative and urgent examination of the political and economic conditions that shape personal identity, especially for immigrants and communities of color" (Publishers Weekly).
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa GyasiStarring: Ghanaian American Gifty, a neuroscience PhD candidate studying neural pathways in mice as a way of understanding the loss and suffering in her family -- though she insists that's not what she's doing.
Why you might like it: Gifty's a reflective and observant narrator, nimbly moving from analyzing previous relationships or her childhood church's entrenched racism to noting her lab mate's quirks or her mother's struggles.
Read it for: a complex, non-linear story that examines faith and science, addiction and grief.
Sisters by Daisy JohnsonStarring: September and July, teen sisters who are perceived to be abnormally close by their teachers. After an incident so destructive that July, who helps narrate, cannot remember it, their mother moves them back to a tumbledown family home on England's North York Moors.
What happens: essentially abandoned by their mother, who is fighting her own demons, the relationship between the two girls shifts...but to say more would ruin this unsettling novel.
For fans of: dark, character-driven stories with overtones of Gothic fiction or horror.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie LyonsWhat it's about: the end-of-life decisions of a world-weary octogenarian, who unexpectedly forges a bond with an exuberant child, who drags her out into a brighter world.
Read it if: you can't get enough of cantankerous older characters and their unlikely friendships, such as in Frederik Backman's A Man Called Ove, Elizabeth Berg's The Story of Arthur Truluv, or Beth Morrey's The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo MedieStarring: young Ghanaian Afi Tekple, who escapes poverty with an arranged marriage to wealthy Eli, who does not attend his own wedding and prioritizes his business (and his mistress) over Afi.
What happens: Making full use of her new family's connections, Afi learns new skills and gains confidence -- and soon wants to be the only woman in her husband's life.
What reviewers say: "an emotional rollercoaster" (Booklist).
The Turner House by Angela FlournoyWhere it's set: The Turner family has owned their home on Detroit's East Side for more than 50 years, but their historically Black, working-class neighborhood has deteriorated badly and it may be time to let go of the now empty house.
What it's about: focusing on three of the 13 Turner siblings, this engaging family saga traces both family and social history, incorporating a family ghost and flashbacks of their late father's early years in Detroit after the Great Migration.
For fans of: the sweep of history found in Ayana Mathis' The Twelve Tribes of Hattie; the importance of home in Naima Coster's Halsey Street and Ann Patchett's The Dutch House.
Lost and Wanted by Nell FreudenbergerWhat it's about: Wealthy, stylish Charlie (who is Black) and nerdy scholarship student Helen (who is white) were best friends and roommates in college. Twenty years later, Charlie is dead...but Helen continues to receive texts from her.
Is it for you? This complex, leisurely paced novel is as much a character study of Helen, now a respected scientist, as it is a story of female friendship. Deep discussions of physics add an intriguing layer of appeal.
Night Theater by Vikram ParalkarStarring: a village surgeon somewhere in rural India, whose last three patients of the night are a family recently killed by highwaymen. They've been told by an angel that if the doctor can fix their bodies by dawn, they will live again.
Why you might like it: With a fable-like feel -- albeit with realistic medical descriptions, fairly straightforward writing style, and some clever humor -- this curious tale tackles big questions of mortality and death.
This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. StaplesWhat happens: Marion Lafournier, a young Ojibwe man in a relationship with a deeply closeted white man, follows the ghost of a dog to the grave of a local basketball star murdered ten years previously, launching him on a quest to find the truth -- and to repair ties within his own family.
Why you might like it: Wry humor and a nonlinear narrative distinguish Ojibwe author Dennis Staples' debut, which captures the crushing lack of options in his Minnesota reservation hometown from multiple perspectives.
Past Perfect by Danielle SteelWhat it's about: a wealthy family has moved from Manhattan to San Francisco, but their new home, grand as it is, seems still to be occupied by a family who used to live there...a century ago.
What happens: The 21st-century Gregory family and the ghostly Butterfields of the early 1900s get along just fine, dressing for dinner, sharing the gossip of their day, and learning about each other's times.
Read it for: a story of family and friendship, and detailed depictions of life for the rich and famous in 1917 -- just be willing to suspend your disbelief before jumping in to this fantastical tale.
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