Fiction A to Z
A Hundred Small Lessons: A Novel by Ashley HayWhat it's about: In Brisbane, Australia, a young family moves into a new house after Elsie, the elderly owner, enters a nursing home. Photos in the attic -- and footsteps in the damp grass -- suggests a connection between old owner and new that only sensitive Lucy, struggling with her new life as a stay-at-home mother, can feel.
Why you might like it: No ghost story, A Hundred Small Lessons is a compassionate, character-driven look at marriage, motherhood, memory, and connection.
The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan HydeWhat it's about: Cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte starts experiencing the physical and emotional pain of animals, a big problem for a man who makes his living from them.
Why you might like it: The complex characters in this heartwarming novel struggle with major emotional challenges, eventually building trust, establishing new relationships, and healing from trauma.
Reviewers say: it's a "touching story of resilience and hope that feels cinematic in scope" (Booklist).
The Ice House: A Novel by Laura Lee SmithWhat it's about: Facing the ruin of his business as well as surgery for a potentially malignant brain tumor, Johnny MacKinnon decides that now is the best time to track down his estranged son, a recovering heroin addict with no marketable skills who is now raising a young daughter alone.
Why you might like it: Set in Florida and Scotland, this engaging novel features flawed but likable characters, a sense of urgency, and humor.
For fans of: introspective family dramas told from multiple perspectives, such as Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere.
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan FallonStarring: Though both have followed their military husbands to Jordan, rule-following Cass and curious Margaret are unlikely friends -- and in fact, Cass is trying to fix their relationship when Margaret goes missing.
Why you might like it: Complex friendships are realistically depicted against a backdrop of cultural and political unrest.
About the author: This is Siobhan Fallon's debut novel, but her short story collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone, also centers on military wives.
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi LaditanWhat it's about: Ashley Keller is no Pinterest-perfect mom; she's simply trying to make it through the day. In her desire to be better at the whole mothering thing, she joins a parenting boot camp, with less than desirable results.
Who it's for: readers looking for a relatable, flawed protagonist or a satirical take on mommy-bloggers and unrealistic expectations alike.
About the author: Author Bunmi Laditan's razor-sharp wit first found its audience with the parenting blog The Honest Toddler; she's published a couple parenting books but this is her first novel.
Ginny Moon by Benjamin LudwigStarring: Ginny Moon, a 13-year-old with autism who has finally been adopted. But her happily ever after is threatened by her desperate desire to be reunited with her Baby Doll, which puts her in communication with her dangerous, abusive mother, a drug addict who threatens the stability of Ginny's new home.
Why you might like it: With an authentic voice (author Benjamin Ludwig is the adoptive parent of an autistic teenager), this moving debut is peopled with realistic characters who share strong family bonds.
Gather the Daughters: A Novel by Jennie MelamedWhat it's about: Told from the perspectives of several different girls, this debut is set in an oppressive, radically patriarchal society. As the girls press against their boundaries, the horrific truths about their community are gradually revealed.
You might also like: other dark, dystopian tales of repressed women fighting back, like Australian author Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things. Gather the Daughters has also been described as a combination of Lois Lowry's The Giver and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason RekulakWhat it's about: Set in the late 1980s, this debut stars 14-year-old Billy and three of his friends; all they want is a copy of Playboy. At least, that's all Billy wants until he meets a girl who shares his interest in computer programming and gaming.
Is it for you? As with Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, if you came of age in the '80s, you'll love the references in this pop culture-infused tale. If you didn't, the irreverent humor and increasingly silly antics that Billy and his friends get involved in offer an entertaining, light-hearted read.
A Kind of Freedom: A Novel by Margaret Wilkerson SextonWhat it's about: Spanning three generations of an African American family in New Orleans, this sweeping, heart-wrenching debut explores the legacy of racial inequality in the American South.
Book buzz: Longlisted for the National Book Award and selected as a New York Times Notable Book, A Kind of Freedom was also a favorite of author Tayari Jones (look for her newest, An American Marriage, in February).
Reviewers say: "This family is worth every minute of a reader's time" (Booklist).
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