What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. ChancyThe setting: Haiti, in the aftermath of 2010's devastating earthquake. This vividly rendered novel of place explores survivors' lives (and those no longer among them). Unified by the story of Port-au-Prince market woman Ma Lou, the novel is also a bold critique of societal rifts created by post-colonialism, which the quake only further exposes.
Why you might like it: After years spent interviewing and speaking with Haitian survivors, the author has crafted a narrative by turns bright, nuanced, and brutally tragic.
Want a taste? "The earth had buckled [falling] upon the earth’s children, upon the blameless as well as the guilty, without discrimination."
The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny ColganThe setup: Sisters Carmen (suddenly unemployed) and Sofia (ever-perfect, now with another baby on the way) aren't crazy about moving in together, but Sofia could use an extra pair of hands.
The hook: Sofia also knows a friend who is trying to revive his ancient bookstore before the Christmas rush. Carmen tackles the task while juggling a romantic dilemma and (hopefully) healing long-standing family tensions.
Read it for: Heartwarming relationship fiction in an atmospheric Edinburgh setting.
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole JohnsonWhat it is: An own voices collection of short stories that explore race, identity, and the shadow of slavery that haunts characters' lives. The titular novella centers on a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, who aids neighbors driven from their home by white supremacists even as she questions her own relationship with a white man.
Why you'll like it: This debut ranges memorably from heart-wrenching and thought-provoking to lyrical and witty.
Try this next: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans.
The wish : a novel
by Nicholas Sparks
A successful travel photographer, Maggie Dawes, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis, is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas with her young assistant and begins to tell him the story of the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.
An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed by Helene TurstenStarring: Eight-eight-year-old Maude, whose life unfolds in six interconnected stories that lead up to the present -- where police detectives have made the grisly discovery of a dead body in her apartment. Maude is also capable of great magnanimity, which may just get her off the hook for that corpse.
Series alert: This book is a follow-up to the author's An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, and both are perfect for fans of Arsenic and Old Lace.
Infinite Country by Patricia EngelThe first line: “It was her idea to tie up the nun.”
What it is: Timely commentary of the U.S. border-crisis, told in multiple perspectives of a divided Colombian family -- with members trapped in various places, but all desperate to be reunited.
Why you might like it: This intricately plotted, issue-oriented novel centers primarily on the willful, determined 15-year-old Talia and will hold special appeal to readers who enjoyed Julia Alvarez's Afterlife.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa GrayThe first line: "You do a lot of thinking in jail."
What it's about: Three sisters lean on one another to survive their dysfunctional childhoods. Younger siblings Lillian and Viola come to the aid of the eldest, Althea, who now faces prison charges that cast the family from respect to disgrace.
Who it's for: This moving novel of family relationships will suit fans of Tayari Jones, Brit Bennett, Jessmyn Ward, and Caroline Leavitt.
Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak SalihThe first line: "That my first encounter with Mitko B. ended in a betrayal, even a minor one, should have given me greater warning at the time, which should in turn have made my desire for him less, if not done away with it completely."
The setup: Childhood friends reunite as thirty-something gay men who find themselves with differing perspectives on what it means to be queer -- from the (often) closeted days of their youth, to the present in which a younger generation can more freely define their sexuality.
The History of Living Forever by Jake WolffThe first line: “I can’t say precisely when the Emperor developed the cough.”
What it's about: As a depressed gay teen, Conrad begins an affair with his chemistry teacher, Sammy. After Sammy's death, Conrad becomes obsessed with continuing his lover/mentor's quest for alchemical immortality.
Why you might like it: Spanning decades and alternating between past and present, this sweeping debut novel delves into the mysteries of love, scientific inquiry, and mental illness.
White Ivy by Susie YangThe first line: “Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never know it to look at her.”
What happens: Ivy Lin, raised through age five by her grandmother in China, has been well-schooled in the fine arts of deception and theft. Ivy's aloof parents bring her back to Boston, where she grows up and eventually falls in love with an upper-crust politician's son. Will Ivy's past catch up and ruin her chances at happily-ever-after?
Reviewers say: "A sophisticated and darkly glittering gem of a debut." (Kirkus Reviews)
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