Book Club Suggestions
At the start of Donoghue's powerful new novel, narrator Jack and his mother, who was kidnapped seven years earlier when she was a 19-year-old college student, celebrate his fifth birthday. They live in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The sociopath, whom Jack has dubbed Old Nick, visits at night, grudgingly doling out food and supplies. Seen entirely through Jack's eyes and childlike perceptions, the developments in this novel-there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense-are astonishing.
Jordan's poignant and moving debut novel, winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize, takes on social injustice in the postwar Mississippi Delta. Here, two families, the landowning McAllans and their black sharecroppers, the Jacksons, struggle with the mores of the Jim Crow South. Six distinctive voices narrate the complex family stories that include the faltering marriage of Laura and Henry McAllan, the mean-spirited family patriarch and his white-robed followers, and returning war heroes Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson.
Art of Racing in the Rain
Enzo narrates his life story, beginning with his impending death. Enzo's not afraid of dying, as he's seen a television documentary on the Mongolian belief that a good dog will reincarnate as a man. Yes, Enzo is a dog. And he belongs to Denny: husband, father, customer service technician. Denny's dream is to be a professional race-car driver, and Enzo recounts the triumphs and tragedies-medical, financial, and legal-they share in this quest, the dangers of the racetrack being the least of their obstacles.
Cutting for Stone
This story follows a man on a mythic quest to find his father. It begins with the dramatic birth of twins slightly joined at the skull, their father serving as surgeon and their mother dying on the table. The horrorstruck father vanishes, and the now separated boys are raised by two Indian doctors living on the grounds of a mission hospital in early 1950s Ethiopia. The boys both gravitate toward medical practice, with Marion the more studious one and Shiva a moody genius and loner.
The Swimming Pool
LeCraw's thoughtful debut novel tells of two families whose lives are entwined by tragedy, secrecy, and scandal. Marcella Atkinson's heart was broken the night her affair with Cecil McClatchey ended and his wife was murdered. Never entirely cleared as a suspect in her killing, Cecil himself died soon after. Years later, her own marriage destroyed by the affair, Marcella is again thrown into contact with the McClatchey family.
Book clubs in search of the next Kite Runner
need look no further than this astonishing, flawless novel about what happens when ordinary, mundane Western lives are thrown into stark contrast against the terrifying realities of war-torn Africa. Their marriage in crisis, Andrew and Sarah O'Rourke impulsively accept a junket to a Nigerian beach resort as a last-ditch attempt to reconcile. When machete-wielding soldiers appear out of the jungle and force them to determine the fate of two African girls, everyone's lives are irrevocably shattered.
Set in Stockett's native Jackson, MS, in the early 1960s, this first novel adopts the complicated theme of blacks and whites living in a segregated South. A century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black maids raised white children and ran households but were paid poorly, often had to use separate toilets from the family, and watched the children they cared for commit bigotry. In Stockett's narrative, Miss Skeeter, a young white woman, is a naive, aspiring writer who wants to create a series of interviews with local black maids.
With two kids, a Volvo in the garage, and a strong social conscience, the Berglunds allow their good deeds to be tinged with just a hint of smugness (which eventually comes back to haunt them). Weaving in and out of their lives is old college friend Richard Katz, low-level rock star and ultra-hip antihero. Time goes by, the kids grow up, betrayals occur, and the thin line between right and wrong blurs. Fully utilizing their freedom-to make mistakes, confuse love with lust, and mix up goodness and greed-the Berglunds give Franzen the opportunity to limn the absurdities of our modern culture.
Frank Mackey, head of the Garda's Dublin undercover unit, left home at 19. He and Rosie Daly, madly in love, had plans to adopt one of the only career paths available in Ireland in the 1980s: immigration. They planned to meet at midnight and take a ferry to England and forget their dysfunctional families on Faithful Place. But Rosie never showed up. Frank assumed that she'd left without him and joined the police. Twenty-five years later, Rosie's suitcase is discovered in an abandoned house, and Frank must return to the bubbling cauldron of crazy that is his family and his street. Rosie's remains are soon found, and the tightly wound cop is immediately sucked back into the violence, hatred, alcoholism, and ignorance he's been trying to forget.
Neuroscientist and debut novelist Genova mines years of experience in her field to craft a realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland has a career not unlike Genova's - she's an esteemed psychology professor at Harvard, living a comfortable life in Cambridge with her husband, John, arguing about the usual (making quality time together, their daughter's move to L.A.) when the first symptoms of Alzheimer's begin to emerge.
The dying steel towns of southwestern Pennsylvania are the somber canvas upon which Meyer paints this tale of class, crime, and circumscribed choices. Lifelong buddies Isaac and Billy find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now Isaac's on the run, Billy's taking the fall for a murder he didn't commit, and their respective families struggle to make sense of what's happened.
Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping "suite," collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, "Storm in June," chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans.
The second, "Dolce," set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Non-Fiction)
This distinctive work skillfully puts a human face on the bioethical questions surrounding the HeLa cell line. Henrietta Lacks, an African American mother of five, was undergoing treatment for cancer at Johns Hopkins University in 1951 when tissue samples were removed without her knowledge or permission and used to create HeLa, the first "immortal" cell line. HeLa has been sold around the world and used in countless medical research applications, including the development of the polio vaccine. Science writer Skloot, who worked on this book for ten years, entwines Lacks's biography, the development of the HeLa cell line, and her own story of building a relationship with Lacks's children.
In the years preceding the United States' entrance into World War II, radio journalist Frankie Bard broadcasts from London during the air raids. Among her listeners are several residents of a small Cape Cod town. Writing in starkly descriptive prose, novelist Blake offers a revealing and intimate look at this moment in history, moving back and forth between small-town America and war-torn Europe and intertwining the narratives of three unique women along the way.
The Paris Wife
A young Miss Hadley Richardson, with high spirits and lovely auburn hair, meets a handsome aspiring writer named Ernest Hemingway. They marry and make their way to Paris, living in a squalid apartment and spending time in cafe society with fellow expatriates Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Sylvia Beach. Though the post-World War I years offer a great deal of creative freedom for these idle Americans, self-indulgence is the code of the day. Will Hadley choose to step aside as literary success-and another woman-come to take their place in Ernest's life?
The Peach Keeper
In the mountain resort town of Walls of Water, North Carolina, the Osgood and Jackson families' lives have always been tangled up in the history of the Blue Ridge Madam, a derelict Victorian home on the outskirts of town. Now, as president of the Women's Society Club, Paxton Osgood hopes to unveil the extensive renovations her family has underwritten at a gala celebrating the club's 75th anniversary. It would be nice if Willa Jackson, granddaughter of one of the club's founders, could be there, too. But Willa is too proud to accept the invitation, having struggled to overcome her teenage reputation as a devil-may-care prankster. Yet when a human skeleton is unearthed at the Madam just days before the party, Paxton and Willa join forces to identify the remains, a project that forges a surprising friendship and launches more than one love affair.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Fans of Louise Fitzhugh's iconic Harriet the Spy will welcome 11-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce, the heroine of Canadian journalist Bradley's rollicking debut. In an early 1950s English village, Flavia is preoccupied with retaliating against her lofty older sisters when a rude, redheaded stranger arrives to confront her eccentric father, a philatelic devotee. Equally adept at quoting 18th-century works, listening at keyholes and picking locks, Flavia learns that her father, Colonel de Luce, may be involved in the suicide of his long-ago schoolmaster and the theft of a priceless stamp.
Ian McEwan's Atonement opens in an upper-middle-class English home on the eve of World War II and revolves around Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old with an active and creative imagination. The novel traces the effects of Briony's rash actions on her sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of the family's cleaning lady. The book concludes with an epilog in which Briony, now a writer, looks back on her efforts at atonement.
The chance discovery of a long-buried photograph and an accompanying love note gives Glyn Peters evidence of a recent affair between his dead wife and her sister's husband. The discovery causes him to question everything he believes about the past. Although the photographic evidence is unclear-a couple is seen from behind holding hands-the note leaves no doubt that the two were romantically linked. As Glyn shares the discovery with his sister-in-law, the two injured spouses behave as if this were a fresh betrayal.
A Spanish Lover
A three-generation English family is shaken to the core and irrevocably changed when one of its members takes a lover who is not only Spanish but married, Catholic, and middle-aged. When Frances Shore, at 38, meets Luis Gomez Moreno on business and falls deeply in love, her attention is diverted from her family, particularly from her twin sister, Lizzie.
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love.
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (Non-Fiction)
In her history of England's Mitford sisters, who were major figures in the international political, literary and social scenes for much of the 20th century, Lovell rises to the challenges of a group biography, deftly weaving together the narrative threads of six at times radically disparate lives to create a fascinating account of a fascinating family.
The Last Time They Met
Shreve moves the major characters in this novel back and forth in time and place, from a Toronto literary festival in the present, to their first meeting in high school, to an encounter in Kenya. In between, Thomas and Linda have both moved on, married others, had children, and become distinguished writers. More importantly, they have both endured tragedies that have etched their lives with pain. As readers ponder these events, the question becomes, Is there any satisfaction for Thomas and Linda in seeing each other again, or are the memories too heavy, too tragic?
Billy Lynch's family and friends have gathered at a small Bronx bar. They have come to comfort his widow and to eulogize one of the last great romantics, trading tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and unfathomable sorrow. As they linger on into this extraordinary night, their voices form Billy's tragic story and their mourning becomes a gentle homage to all the lives in their small community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, and sustained by the simple dream of love.