The Romantic by William BoydStarring: Cashel Greville Ross, who is born in 1799 County Cork, Ireland, but leaves as a teen to travel the world and seek his fortune.
What happens: In this picaresque tale that covers decades, Ross sees history unfold (such as fighting at Waterloo), encounters a wide variety of people (including Lord Byron and the Shelleys in Italy) and becomes a soldier, brewer, explorer, writer, and father.
Reviewers say: "A smart, colorful entertainment" (Kirkus Reviews); "holds the reader spellbound" (Publishers Weekly).
Witness by Jamel BrinkleyWhat's inside: ten lyrical New York City stories that feature unforgettable characters -- children, siblings, grandmothers, delivery drivers, and ghosts -- and shows what happens when they either act, or don't, on things they've seen.
Stories include: "Blessed Deliverance," "Comfort," "Witness," "Bartow Station," and "The Happiest House on Union Street."
For fans of: atmospheric, perceptive short story collections, like Deesha Philyaw's The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.
Save What's Left by Elizabeth CastellanoThe beginning: When her husband, Tom, wants a break and sets out on a world cruise alone, middle-aged Kathleen Deane leaves Kansas for a New York coastal town and her own fresh start.
A new house: She arrives to find a massive modern monstrosity that breaks regulations being built next to the tiny cottage she's bought sight unseen. She teams up with a neighbor to fight town hall, and then Tom shows up in an Airstream that he parks in her driveway.
Read this next: Tara Conklin's Community Board, Amy Fusselman's The Means, or Beck Dorey-Stein's Rock the Boat.
Sun House by David James DuncanWhat it's about: Taking place over the course of many years, this nearly 800-page humorous epic ponders life, death, and spirituality, and features a large cast of characters, including an actor, a Jesuit, the victim of a violent assault, a folk singer, a woman learning Sanskrit, and others.
The first line: "Extremely implausible accidents do not feel innocent."
Author buzz: While this is the long-awaited third novel from David James Duncan after the bestsellers The River Why (1983) and The Brothers K (1992), he's also published short story and essay collections.
Time's Mouth by Edan LepuckiThe beginning: Born in 1938 in Mystic, Connecticut, Sharon realizes at 16 that she can travel back in time in her mind, to her own past. Running away to the west coast at 17, she renames herself Ursa.
Through the years: She ends up in San Francisco, becomes the leader of a cult, and gives birth to a son, Ray. Later, Ray and his pregnant girlfriend run away to Los Angeles, where their child, Opal, grows up.
Is it for you? Time's Mouth mixes time travel, abuse, intergenerational trauma, family relationships, counterculture California, and more into an "emotionally intense, wildly imaginative novel" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Apartment by Ana MenéndezWelcome to... The Helene, a 1940s art deco apartment building in South Miami Beach.
The people in 2B: Over seven decades, this apartment has had multiple residents, from Texas newlyweds to a troubled Vietnam veteran, and these interlinked tales showcase them all. But the book lingers longest on the latest to dwell there, a young Cuban woman.
Why you might like it: Featuring richly drawn characters and elegant writing, The Apartment examines memory, community, loneliness, and what makes a home.
Fireworks Every Night by Beth RaymerFlorida or bust: After her used car salesman dad burns down their Ohio business for the insurance money, 12-year-old C.C. Borkoski grows up in 1990s Florida playing basketball as her dysfunctional family spirals.
Is it for you? Moving back and forth across different times in C.C.'s life, including her marriage into a wealthy New York family, this darkly humorous coming-of-age story deals with various types of abuse.
Author buzz: Beth Raymer's gambling memoir, Lay the Favorite, was made into a 2012 movie and starred Rebecca Hall as Beth.
The English Experience by Julie SchumacherThe setup: On short notice, professor Jason Fitger is voluntold to lead Payne University's "Experience: London" over winter break.
What happens: Beleaguered Jason navigates a foreign country and his own issues while keeping watch over 11 undergrads he doesn't know, including one who has never been away from her cat, another who is claustrophobic, one with a juvenile detention record, and an ex-couple.
Series alert: This is the delightful final entry in a smart, satirical trilogy that wryly depicts life in American academia. The first two books are Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement.
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