The Third Son by Julie Wu: In the middle of a terrifying air raid in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, Saburo, the least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, runs through a peach forest for cover. It’s there he stumbles on Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise. Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again.
When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival. In Saburo, author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character who is determined to fight for everything he needs and wants, from food to education to his first love.
A sparkling and moving story, it will have readers cheering for a young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick: It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money. Heading Out to Wonderful is a haunting, heart-stopping novel of love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.
What My Mother Gave Me edited by Elizabeth Benedict: In What My Mother Gave Me, women look at the relationships between mothers and daughters through a new lens: a daughter’s story of a gift from her mother that has touched her to the bone and served as a model, a metaphor, or a touchstone in her own life. The contributors of these thirty-one original pieces include Pulitzer Prize winners, perennial bestselling novelists, and celebrated broadcast journalists.
Whether a gift was meant to keep a daughter warm, put a roof over her head, instruct her in the ways of womanhood, encourage her talents, or just remind her of a mother’s love, each story gets to the heart of a relationship.
Rita Dove remembers the box of nail polish that inspired her to paint her nails in the wild stripes and polka dots she wears to this day. Lisa See writes about the gift of writing from her mother, Carolyn See. Cecilia Muñoz remembers both the wok her mother gave her and a lifetime of home-cooked family meals. Judith Hillman Paterson revisits the year of sobriety her mother bequeathed to her when Paterson was nine, the year before her mother died of alcoholism. Abigail Pogrebin writes about her middle-aged bat mitzvah, for which her mother provided flowers after a lifetime of guilt for skipping her daughter’s religious education. Margo Jefferson writes about her mother’s gold dress from the posh department store where they could finally shop as black women.
Collectively, the pieces have a force that feels as elemental as the tides: outpourings of lightness and darkness; joy and grief; mother love and daughter love; mother love and daughter rage. In these stirring words we find that every gift, no matter how modest, tells the story of a powerful bond. As Elizabeth Benedict points out in her introduction, “whether we are mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, or cherished friends, we may not know for quite some time which presents will matter the most.
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt: In 1956, Ava Lark rents a house with her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, in a desirable Boston suburb. Ava is beautiful, divorced, Jewish, and a working mom. She finds her neighbors less than welcoming. Lewis yearns for his absent father, befriending the only other fatherless kids: Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon, Jimmy goes missing. The neighborhood—in the throes of Cold War paranoia—seizes the opportunity to further ostracize Ava and her son.
Years later, when Lewis and Rose reunite to untangle the final pieces of the tragic puzzle, they must decide: Should you tell the truth even if it hurts those you love, or should some secrets remain buried?
Imperfect Harmony by Stacy Horn: For Stacy Horn, regardless of what is going on in the world or her life, singing in an amateur choir—the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York—never fails to take her to a place where hope reigns and everything good is possible.
She’s not particularly religious, and her voice is not exceptional (so she says), but like the 32.5 million other chorus members throughout this country, singing makes her happy. Horn brings us along as she sings some of the greatest music humanity has ever produced, delves into the dramatic stories of conductors and composers, unearths the fascinating history of group singing, and explores remarkable discoveries from the new science of singing, including all the unexpected health benefits.
Imperfect Harmony is the story of one woman who has found joy and strength in the weekly ritual of singing and in the irresistible power of song.
The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead: Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly destroys him. To escape the wrath of the young girl’s father, Henry joins the Marines, arriving in Korea on the eve of the brutal battle of the Chosin Reservoir—the defining moment of the Korean War. There he confronts an enemy force far beyond the scope of his imagining, but the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far. From the steamy streets of New Orleans to the bone-chilling Korean landscape, award-winning author Robert Olmstead takes us into one of the most physically challenging battles in history and, with just as much intensity, into an electrifying, all-consuming love affair.
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clark: A lot of remarkable things have happened in the life of Sam Pulsifer, the hapless hero of this incendiary novel, beginning with the ten years he spent in prison for accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson’s house and unwittingly killing two people. emerging at age twenty-eight, he creates a new life and identity as a husband and father. But when the homes of other famous New England writers suddenly go up in smoke, he must prove his innocence by uncovering the identity of this literary-minded arsonist.
In the league of such contemporary classics as A Confederacy of Dunces and The World According to Garp, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England is an utterly original story about truth and honesty, life and the imagination.
The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate: Award-winning novelist Martha Southgate (who, in the words of Julia Glass, “can write fat and hot, then lush and tender, then just plain truthful and burning with heart”) now tells the story of a family pushed to its limits by addiction over the course of two generations.
Josie Henderson loves the water and is fulfilled by her position as the only senior-level black scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In building this impressive life for herself, she has tried to shed the one thing she cannot: her family back in landlocked Cleveland. Her adored brother, Tick, was her childhood ally as they watched their drinking father push away all the love that his wife and children were trying to give him. Now Tick himself has been coming apart and demands to be heard.
Weaving four voices into a beautiful tapestry, Southgate charts the lives of the Hendersons from the parents’ first charmed meeting to Josie’s realization that the ways of the human heart are more complex than anything seen under a microscope.
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino: In the spirit of novels by Nick Hornby and Tom Perrotta, a smart, funny debut about a disillusioned young man whose fledgling leap from postadolescence to adulthood lands him back in an already overburdened family nest. Calvin Moretti can’t believe how much his life sucks. He’s a twenty-four-year-old film school dropout living at home again and working as an assistant teacher at a preschool for autistic kids. His insufferable go-getter older brother is also living at home, as is his kid sister, who’s still in high school and has just confided to Cal that she’s pregnant. What’s more, Calvin’s father, a career pilot, is temporarily grounded and obsessed with his own mortality. And his ever-stalwart mother is now crumbling under the pressure of mounting bills and the imminent loss of their Sleepy Hollow, New York, home: the only thing keeping the Morettis moored. Can things get worse? Oh, yes, they can.Which makes it all the more amazing that The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac is not only buoyantly fun but often very, very funny. In this debut novel, Kris D’Agostino has crafted an engrossing contemporary tale of a loopy but loving family, and in Calvin Moretti, he’s created an oddball antihero who really wants to do the right thing—if he can just figure out what it is.
West of Here by Jonathon Evison: At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan’s obsession with a brighter future impels the damming of the mighty Elwha to harness its power and put Port Bonita on the map.
More than a century later, his great-great grandson, a middle manager at a failing fish- packing plant, is destined to oversee the undoing of that vision, as the great Thornburgh dam is marked for demolition, having blocked the very lifeline that could have sustained the town. West of Here is a grand and playful odyssey, a multilayered saga of destiny and greed, adventure and passion, that chronicles the life of one small town, turning America’s history into myth, and myth into a nation’s shared experience.
A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein: Pete Dizinoff, a skilled and successful New Jersey internist, has a loving and devoted wife, a network of close friends, an impressive house, and, most of all, a son, Alec, now nineteen, on whom he has pinned all his hopes. But Pete hadn’t expected his best friend’s troubled daughter to set her sights on his boy. When Alec falls under her spell, Pete sets out to derail the romance, never foreseeing the devastating consequences.
In a riveting story of suburban tragedy, Lauren Grodstein charts a father’s fall from grace as he struggles to save his family, his reputation, and himself.
When Angels Sing by Turk Pipkin: Michael was eight years old on the Christmas Day he lost his brother David. The day had started out well-Michael and David opened their presents and, much to their delight, they both received ice skates from Santa. With great excitement they set out to the pond behind their grandparents’ house in New Mexico to try them out. But the pond wasn’t safe, and David never made it out from its icy cold depths. For Michael, the meaning of Christmas changed forever that day. Thirty years later Michael is the neighborhood Grinch. “To me the only wonder of Christmas is not why that tragedy marked me so,” Michael says, “but how the rest of my family can seem so completely unscathed.” He scowls at his neighbors’ fervent holiday traditions and at his own children, who want nothing more than to string Christmas lights through their front yard. But when another holiday disaster strikes and his own cherished young son loses his spirit to live, Michael searches deep within himself to root out the anger, the fear, and the pain of the past. Can he bear to remember exactly what happened that Christmas day? And will he make peace with this past for the sake of his own children? This is a tale of rekindled spirit, mended hearts, and found voices.