Knot Centre arrives in West Mills, North Carolina in 1936 as an intensely independent young woman with a teaching job and a serious taste for moonshine. Down the lane, Otis Lee Loving keeps an eye out for his new neighbor, pushing past her prickliness to become her most dependable friend. Decisions made during their decades of friendship test them and their families and reveal the secrets and promises they’ve built their lives around. I loved these characters, their vivid conversations, and their small community’s stories.
This devastating story about a Syrian family’s unimaginable loss and harrowing escape to England is one of the most moving novels I’ve ever read. Media reports have given us horrific images of the Syrian refugee crisis, but Christy Lefteri deepens our understanding of the broken lives behind those images. Knowing this story reflects those she heard while volunteering at a refugee center in Greece makes it even more powerful and poignant.
An exchange program promises fifteen-year-old Ilya an escape from his bleak refinery town in northwest Russia. But as Ilya adjusts to life in Louisiana, he can’t let go of questions about his brother Vladimir or his conviction that Vladimir did not commit the murders that put him in prison. As compelling as the story is, it’s the connections between the characters and the contrasts between their lives that really resonate. Lydia Fitzpatrick convincingly conveys the despair of Ilya’s hometown, his discomfort with the easy affluence of his American host family, and his complicated relationships.
The Pack Horse Library Project is a fascinating piece of Depression-era history, and Kim Michele
Richardson tells the story so well through the voice of Cussy Mary Carter. A fiercely determined
young woman, Cussy Mary overcomes rugged terrain, scarce resources, and suspicious mountain
folk to deliver books to some of the poorest and most remote areas of eastern Kentucky. Her path
is made even harder by the prejudice she faces as one of the last blue-skinned people of Kentucky, a
challenge she faces with grit and grace.
If you need an escape to the vineyards of Burgundy, this is your ticket. When San Francisco
sommelier Kate returns to her family’s French vineyard to prepare for the Master of Wine
examination, she is forced to face an old love and secrets her family has buried since World War II.
A thoroughly enjoyable novel about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and James Smale, a young writer
who is completely unnerved by the opportunity to work with her. His awkwardness makes him fun,
funny, and the perfect foil for his astute, assured editor, who graciously pushes him to resolve
problems in his novel and his relationship with his mother.
Lisa Howorth perfectly captures the voice of eight-year old John as he describes the freedom,
friendships, and heartbreak of the summer of 1959. In a quiet neighborhood outside Washington,
John and his friends find their own way through the aftermath of World War II, cold war tensions,
family crises, and the drama that is Washington, understanding much later they “were merely
flotsam and jetsam on the crazy river that life is…”
Shifting between past and future, real life and counterlife, seeing and not seeing -- this is a chilling
story about lives impacted by the implosion of a Ponzi scheme. The disparate characters – loosely
linked by their connections to Jonathan Alkaitis, the man behind the scheme, or Vincent Smith, the
woman who posed as his wife for three years -- have deceived themselves or others and are haunted
by ghosts, shadows, or alternate versions of their lives. Some find themselves living in previously
unimaginable worlds -- the kingdom of money or the frightening shadowland “beneath the surface
of society.” I raced through The Glass Hotel, then marveled at how Mandel put all the pieces together.