An accessible read inspired by the author’s academic research and personal ancestry. Focusing on the early years of emancipation in Barbados and other Caribbean islands, RIVER SING ME HOME explores the journey of a mother whose family was fractured by slavery. Through her journey to reunite with her children, we see the ways in which people fought to bring their freedom from name into reality at massive personal risk and cost.
Strange and sensual, surprising and intimate, Nell Stevens weaves a meditation with music and sensation that interprets human life as a collection of rapid and urgent desires, pleasures, pains, tastes, jealousies, and reveries. The historical facts are merely the stage for Stevens’ story to dance over–irreverently, longingly, ultimately full of life.
I understand why this book took the world by storm. Moving fictionalized account of the many personal wars within World War II being fought by the women who soldiers left behind at home… The novel is both treacly and horrific at the same time.
WWII reads are always tough for me. I hate thinking about the fact that all this unthinkable evil really happened to real people, scarring human history forever.
I understand the sensational appeal. Despite its sometimes outright soapy-ness, the immersive quality of Owens’ writing is nothing less than seductive. The marsh is the true unforgettable character in this book, and the relateable pull of Kya’s loneliness would tug the coldest heart. The ending was not fully realized in my opinion, but this book deserves its place as a bestseller.
Isabel Cañas brings a dreamy haunted song of a story into the world with her debut, The Hacienda. Deeply atmospheric and psychological, this novel explores the costly war for the soul of one house that is both isolated from and shaped by the social unrest that surrounds it. Cañas brings us a tale that is dark and beautiful, that will make you want to light at least one candle against the late hours of the night, examine the unspoken yearnings of your heart… and listen to your walls.
I can’t pinpoint the exact origin of the magic by which Laura Stanfill creates her enchantment of a novel Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary. It might be the delectably detailed knowledge of a little-known instrument’s history woven into the plot. It might be the sumptuous descriptions of Old Word France village life in the 1800s. It might be the is-it-or-isn’t-it? treatment of superstition and fate. It might be the determination to create a book that is both relentlessly positive and relentlessly real about the human heart. It’s probably all of this and more. If you’re looking for something to whisk you away–something entirely free of cell phones and instead draped with bobbin lace–this is it.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.
I read this book at my cousin’s recommendation during the 2020 U.S. election–a stressful week-plus of national tension that required pure escapist fantasy. L. M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame) was a master of such tales, and this one is as dramatic, witty, romantic, and treacly as they come. This novel does what every Hallmark movie is forever trying to equal, and it did it first. I came to be swept away and was! May we all have such happy endings and affirmations of our truest selves.
John Larison breathes new life into the Western with Whiskey When We’re Dry, a book with a new edge on the genre that smells like gunsmoke and lets us fully into the body of an American person who represents so many of us, past, present, and future. Jesse’s voice explores so much–what we do or don’t owe our family, our gender, our employers, our friends, our lovers. A remarkable, whip-smart read that feels vintage and fresh at the same time.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s sea-soaked novel The Mercies is as unflinching as it is intimate. Told through the perspectives of two women brought together by circumstance and hardship, it is as much a love story as it is an impeccably researched account of what it might have felt like to live as a woman at the northern edge of the world during a time when the smallest deviance could become a witchery death sentence. Hargrave’s book is moving, menacing, and marvelous.