Read in 2016

The Wonder (Emma Donoghue) — This is my favorite kind of historical fiction — it takes a little-known incident/phenomenon and spins a page-turner from it. The Wonder is about a young girl in 19th century Ireland who claims not to have eaten for four months. Is she a saint, or a hoax? The author says that the book was inspired by almost fifty cases of “Fasting Girls” between the 16th and 20th centuries.

Sweetgirl (Travis Mulhauser) — Although Sweetgirl  takes place in northern Michigan, it reminded me of Daniel Woodrell’s crime novels set in the Missouri Ozarks. Woodrell refers to his work as “country noir”, and that seems like a good term for Sweetgirl as well. (These kinds of novels are often called “gritty”.) A teenage girl ventures into a blizzard to find her drug-addicted mother, and finds a neglected infant instead. I stayed up late to find out what would happen next.

Born a Crime (Trevor Noah) — I loved this book, and so did one of my coworkers — here’s her review: “It would appeal to anyone who like The Tender Bar (and who didn’t?). Born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by 5 years in prison, Trevor recounts stories of his childhood that are funny and dramatic at the same time. Coming of age during the end of apartheid, Trevor Noah gives the reader a deeper look into the complexities of race, gender and class. Highly recommended. He’s very funny!”

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (J.D. Vance) — Hillbilly Elegy has been receiving a lot of praise and publicity since it was published in June. It’s two books in one — a very personal story of growing up poor in southern Ohio (reminiscent of Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’) and an exploration of the economic and social problems facing “hillbilly culture”.

Enter Title Here (Rahul Kanakia) — This was our YA book group’s selection for November, and I’m sorry to say it was a bit of a dud — especially since I was the one who selected it.  The story concerns an overachieving senior in high school who plagiarizes a YA novel in order to beef up her college applications. It’s based on a true story about a Harvard student who did just that (Kaavya Viswanathan, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life).  Clever idea for a novel, but the protagonist was too unrealistically reprehensible for the book to work for me.

Generation Chef: Risking It All for a New American Dream  (Karen Stabiner) —
Stabiner, a journalist and cookbook author, follows ambitious young chef Jonah Miller as he opens his own restaurant in New York. The risks and stress are overwhelming, and readers will find themselves emotionally invested in Jonah’s venture.

This Old Man (Roger Angell) — Angell, now 96 years old, was fiction editor of the New Yorker for many years. This Old Man is a collection of his writings, including essays, jingles, letters, and literary criticism– in his words, “a mélange, a grab bag, a plate of hors d’oeuvres, a teenager’s closet, a bit of everything.” It’s terrific bedside reading.

The Nix (Nathan Hill) — If Tom Wolfe and John Irving had a baby — it would be The Nix. My favorite “big” book of 2016. Every once in a while, you want to wrap yourself up in a long novel that covers everything from family relationships to social history.

Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult) — I liked this much more than Picoult’s last few books — actually, I think it’s one of her best. What I liked: the plot and its surprising ending, and the courtroom scenes. What I didn’t like: the overall preachy tone of the book.

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing (Jennifer Weiner) — Weiner has a big chip on her shoulder, so she would hate to hear me say that I don’t love her novels because they are “chick lit”. However, I really enjoyed her book of essays, and found myself underlining passages and turning down pages.

The Good Good-Bye (Carla Buckley) — Terrific page-turner that will keep you guessing — and reading way past bedtime. When two college freshmen (roommates and cousins) end up in the ICU after a mysterious fire in their dorm, their parents start to wonder just how well they really know their daughters.

Beneath Wandering Stars (Ashlee Cowles) — This debut novel explores a topic that has been largely ignored in YA fiction: growing up as a “military brat”. Our YA book group, all adults, had a great discussion about the book, which has spiritual overtones.

Commonwealth (Ann Patchett) — Bert Cousins can’t bear to stay home with his pregnant wife and three children, so he crashes Franny Keating’s christening party, where he kisses Franny’s beautiful mother, Beverly — and causes the breakup of two families. Ann Patchett’s novel,  brilliantly structured as a series of nine linked stories that supply bits and pieces of the Keating and Cousins families’ complicated history, spans fifty years in their lives.

A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) — A Gentleman in Moscow is absolutely wonderful — one of the rare books I read slowly towards the end, because I just didn’t want to finish.  It contains all the elements that make me fall in love with a book: a beautifully constructed story connected to historical events, an appealing and multidimensional protagonist, and a sharp and engaging writing style that inspired me to underline dozens of passages.

Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue) — Just before the financial crisis of 2008, Jende Jonga, an immigrant from Cameroon who hopes for a better life for his family in the United States, begins working for a top Lehman Brothers executive, Clark Edwards. This is an insightful story about immigration and the American Dream, but also about marriage.

When in French: Love in a Second Language (Lauren Collins) — Lauren Collins decides to learn French to deepen her relationship with her French husband and his family. Along the way, she gains insight into herself, her marriage, linguistics, and cultural differences. This is a charming memoir, but more than that, it’s an examination of how language defines who we are.

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) — One of my favorites of 2016, Homegoing begins with the story of two half-sisters born in 18th century Ghana and unknown to each other, one sold into slavery and one married to a British slavery. The succeeding chapters (each one a self-contained story) follow their descendants in Africa and the United Sates.

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst (Jeffrey Toobin) — The kidnapping of Patty Hearst is the first news story I remember following. Toobin masterfully sifts through all the craziness of Hearst’s kidnapping and time as a fugitive to create a portrait of an era, and of a very young and malleable woman.

Shelter (Jung Yun) — This is a literary page-turner extraordinaire — it totally absorbed me during a long plane trip. It reminded me of The House of Sand and Fog. A young couple is forced to take in the husband’s parents after a violent incident in the older couple’s home. Things don’t go too well, since the son was estranged from his abusive parents.

Mischling (Affinity Konar) — Reminiscent of The Book Thief, Mischling is the horrifying story of real-life identical twins who were subjects of Dr. Josef Mengele’s medical experiments at Auschwitz.

The Book That Matters Most (Ann Hood) — After her husband walks out on her, Ava North joins a book club that holds a monthly discussion about “the book that matters most” to a particular member. The other members all choose classics, but Ava picks an obscure, out of print book that turns out to have greater significance than she could have known. The Book That Matters Most is a book lover’s delight, full of surprising plot developments. It’s also a moving story of friendship and the connections between mothers and daughters.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (Luke Dittrich) — If you liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is the book for you. “Patient H.M.” was Henry Molaison, a young man who was lobotomized in the 1950s in attempt to cure his severe epilepsy. The twist in this book is that the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery was Dr. William Beecher Scoville, the author’s grandfather. Dittrich provides a fascinating and personal viewpoint about the medical ethics involved with his grandfather’s career, as well as the changing attitudes towards mental illness during the 20th century.

You Will Know Me (Megan Abbott) — Set in the world of competitive gymnastics, Abbott’s eighth novel is a page-turner by anyone’s definition. Sixteen-year-old Devon Knox — and her parents — have their hearts set on the Olympics when a crime in their tight-knit community of gymnasts, parents, and coaches threatens to destroy their dream. Perfect crossover book for older teens.

All Is Not Forgotten (Wendy Walker) — After fifteen-year-old Jenny Kramer is attacked at a party in her Connecticut suburb, she’s given a drug that obliterates her memory of the crime. I can’t say more without revealing key plot points, but if you like your fiction really dark (think Herman Koch), this is the book for you. Jenny’s psychiatrist, who narrates the book, reminded me of Koch’s vaguely sinister narrators.

We Could Be Beautiful (Swan Huntley) — When Catherine West, the veteran of two broken engagements, meets William Stockton, the handsome son of old family friends, she thinks he’s the answer to her prayers. But is he? This debut novel — a very entertaining “beach read” — is fun to read not so much because of its plot (which veers between predictability and ludicrousness), but because of Catherine’s voice, which is singularly funny.

Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home (Pauls Toutonghi) — The title makes this book sound awful, I know — sort of like a hokey Reader’s Digest article. But trust me — it’s a lovely book, about much more than a lost dog. Virginia Marshall, brought up in an abusive home, wants to be the kind of mother she never had. After her adult son, Fielding, loses his dog Gonker on the Appalachian Trail, Ginny and her husband, John, devote every waking minute to helping Fielding find his beloved dog.

Cruel Beautiful World (Caroline Leavitt) — One of those “train wreck” books you can’t stop reading, even though you know something awful is about to happen, Cruel Beautiful World is the story of a young, impressionable girl who runs off with her high school teacher. Things don’t end well, as any reader will suspect from the beginning.

The Lost Girls (Heather Young) — In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans disappears from her family’s lake house in northern Minnesota, and the mystery is never solved. Two generations later, Justine inherits the decrepit house from her great-aunt Lucy, Emily’s older sister, and brings her two daughters there to escape her controlling boyfriend. Young does a masterful job connecting the present-day story and the story of the summer of 1935, building suspense that kept me reading late into the night.

Harmony (Carolyn Parkhurst) — In a last-ditch effort to help their special needs daughter, Tilly, the Hammond family follows child development expert Scott Bean to rural New Hampshire, where they help him set up a family retreat called “Camp Harmony”. Tilly’s younger sister, Iris, and mother, Alexandra, take turns narrating the story of the Hammonds’ decidedly unharmonious attempt to begin a new life.

Siracusa (Delia Ephron) — Two couples — one with an odd 10-year-old daughter, Snow — decide to vacation together on the Sicilian coast. This turns out to be, for many reasons, a really bad decision.

Be Frank With Me (Julia Claiborne Johnson) — Delightful, original, and just plain fun! M.M. (Mimi) Banning, a quirky and reclusive author (sort of a mashup of J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee) is struggling to complete a novel. She needs help with her equally quirky son, Frank, so her publisher sends a young woman to be Frank’s nanny and Mimi’s gal Friday.

The After Party (Anton Disclafani) — I enjoyed Anton DiSclafani’s debut, The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls, and The After Party is just as good — it’s what I’d call a smart beach read. Both books focus on wealthy young women constrained by the mores of their times — Yonahlosee is set in the 1930s, while The After Party takes place in 1the 1950s.

Rich and Pretty (Rumaan Alam) — Two friends (guess what, one is rich and one is pretty) struggle to maintain a friendship as their adult lives diverge. Not much else happens.

Modern Lovers (Emma Straub) — Emma Straub’s The Vacationers was one of my favorite beach books in 2014, and Modern Lovers is just as clever and entertaining. (It’s “too deftly and thoughtfully written to be relegated merely to the beach,” according to the New York Times Book Review.) The novel takes place during one summer in Brooklyn, and like The Vacationers, it focuses on two middle-aged couples with children who are facing crises in their relationships.

If I Forget You (Thomas Christopher Greene) — The author of The Headmaster’s Wife, one of my favorites of 2014, is back with a story of lost love. Henry Gold and Margot Fuller fall in love as students at a small college in upstate New York, only to be separated by forces beyond their control. Many years later, they meet again on a New York street and begin the painful process of reconnecting.

The Excellent Lombards  (Jane Hamilton) — Jane Hamilton is one of my very favorite authors, and it’s been seven years since her last novel. The Excellent Lombards is well worth the wait. It’s a jewel. The story, like so many others I’ve read recently, is about a young person growing up and finding her place in the world. Mary Frances Lombard (“Frankie”) enters a grade school geography bee, learning from her teacher that “‘everything about the place where you live determines Who You Are’”.

Free Men (Katy Simpson Smith) — Katy Simpson Smith’s second historical novel takes a hard look at one of the values our country holds dear: personal freedom. The American South in the late 18th century was a “landscape of merciless individual pursuit”, but people still longed for human connection. If you’re looking for a page-turner, this is not the book for you. But if you want to read a novel of ideas with gorgeous language, you’ll find Free Men rewarding and thought-provoking.

Before the Fall (Noah Hawley) — The older I get, the more likely I am to fall asleep while reading in bed at night. This smart and very suspenseful thriller kept me reading well past my bedtime. A plane crashes minutes after taking off from Martha’s Vineyard, leaving only two survivors. Was one of the people aboard responsible for the crash? Told in alternating perspectives, the story is a puzzle that most readers won’t be able to solve until the very end.

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (Ramona Ausubel) — If I were making a list of novels about WASPs behaving badly, this book would be this summer’s entry. While at their summer home in Martha’s Vineyard, Fern and Edgar learn that their fairy-tale existence will soon come to an end — there is no more money. They make a series of bad decisions that have disastrous results for their children, who turn out to be more resilient than anyone would have guessed. Perfect for fans of Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements.

The Summer Guest (Alison Anderson) — Anderson’s elegantly constructed novel, like all the books I love, engages both the mind and the heart. Readers will learn about Chekhov, Russian and Ukrainian history, and the art of translation, and they will reflect on the meaning of love and friendship.

The View from the Cheap Seats (Neil Gaiman) — How can you not love a book whose author says in the very first essay: “I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do”? Gaiman’s book of nonfiction (essays, book introductions, speeches, etc.) is a joy for any bibliophile.

Wolf Hollow (Lauren Wolk) — Wolf Hollow is one of those rare children’s books that truly is a must-read for all ages — destined to become a classic. Lauren Wolk’s Annabelle, like Harper Lee’s Scout, is a young girl who learns the world is very complicated. But this book is much more than a junior To Kill a Mockingbird, as some reviews have implied. It stands on its own as a beautifully written coming of age story.

The Summer Before the War (Helen Simonson) — Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, brings us a kinder, gentler World War I book than most. The story centers on Beatrice Nash, a young Latin teacher who arrives in the small village of Rye during the summer of 1914. Determined to make her own way after the death of her beloved father, Beatrice is thwarted by the sexist mores of the times. She befriends a local family, the Kents, whose nephews — each for his own complicated reasons — volunteer to serve in France soon after war is declared. Warning: you may shed a tear or two at the end of this lovely, charming book, which is a perfect choice for fans of Downton Abbey.

The Girls (Emma Cline) — The New York Times calls this book — one of the most hyped novels I can recall — an historical novel, and I guess it is. Emma Cline’s writing is extraordinary, but the story strays a little too far for my taste from the actual events of the Manson murders in 1969.

Mission Hill (Pamela Wechsler) — Mission Hill has all the characteristics of a great legal thriller — a smart, likable, yet imperfect protagonist (in this case, a female DA); a setting that functions almost as a character (the city of Boston); and an original plot with plenty of twists and turns. It’s the first in a planned series, and I’m looking forward to reading more about Abby Endicott.

The Atomic Weight of Love (Elizabeth J. Church) — Church’s debut novel was inspired by the lives of her parents and their contemporaries. Meridian (Meri), a young biology student at the University of Chicago, marries her much older professor, Alden, and gives up her own dreams of becoming an ornithologist when her husband is sent to Los Alamos to help develop the atomic bomb. This lovely novel of love, sacrifice, and societal change spans 30 years in Meri and Alden’s flawed marriage.

Britt-Marie Was Here (Fredrik Backman) — Not as good as A Man Called Ove — but what could be?

The North Water (Ian McGuire) — This literary adventure story probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I read it in two days. The North Water was featured on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, so I can’t be the only person who willingly reads about violence aboard a 19th century whaling expedition — gruesome murders, polar bear attacks, animal slaughter, and violence galore.

A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid From the Taliban in Plain Sight (Maria Toorpakai) — Don’t miss this powerful and inspiring memoir, written by the #1 female squash player in Pakistan — who risked her life to become a professional athlete. The human rights abuses thatToorpakai vividly describes are numerous and shocking — as a young girl, she is beaten by a mullah for showing an interest and athletics, and she sees a woman stoned to death.

Mosquitoland (David Arnold) — The high quality of the writing, the originality of the story, and the memorable protagonist make this a terrific novel, not just a terrific YA novel.

The Bridge Ladies (Betsy Lerner) — The author became a regular attendee at her mother’s Monday afternoon bridge club for nearly three years, strengthening her connection with her mother, building friendships with the other octogenarian “Bridge Ladies” — and falling in love with the game of bridge. Lerner, a literary agent and poet, writes beautifully. Her story will resonate with mothers and daughters, bridge players or not.

Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France (Thad Carhart) — If Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Neither Here Nor There had a baby, the result would be Finding Fontainebleau. Thad Carhart’s narrative is a captivating blend of memoir and history, filled with the author’s appreciation and understanding of French culture.

A Spool of Blue Thread (Anne Tyler) — Anne Tyler’s 20th novel covers territory familiar to Tyler’s readers: the complicated relationships between the members of a middle-class Baltimore family. I love Tyler’s writing, which I find comforting and wise at the same time.

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (Vendela Vida) — Narrated in the second person, Vida’s surprising and offbeat novel starts with the mysterious theft of a backpack in Casablanca. My  book group found the book to be a page-turner, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly) — Anyone who loved The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, The Invisible Bridge, or All the Light We Cannot See will find this book both unforgettable and hard to put down. Historical fiction at its best, the novel tells the powerful story of female prisoners subjected to medical experimentation at the han

The Serpent King (Jeff Zentner) — Zentner, a musician and songwriter, is also a talented YA novelist. This story of three friends growing up in a Tennessee backwater (Forrestville, named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest) is original and authentic.

Boys in the Trees (Carly Simon) — I’m not usually a fan of celebrity biographies/memoirs, but this one was a pleasant surprise. It’s well-written and perceptive, filled with just the right number of juicy tidbits.

Terrible Virtue (Ellen Feldman) — This biographical novel about Margaret Sanger — nurse, birth control pioneer,social activist, free love advocate — was too broad in scope, leaving me wanting more detail and depth, but still very much worth reading.

Fortune Smiles (Adam Johnson) — Before I read this collection of longish short stories, I couldn’t understand how it could have won the 2015 National Book Award instead of  A Little Life. I still think A Little Life should have won, but I can see why the judges awarded the prize to Fortune Smiles. Each story is brilliant and memorable.

This Was Not the Plan (Cristina Alger) — Charlie Goldwyn didn’t plan on becoming a widower responsible for a high-maintenance five-year-old. Nor did he plan on losing his job at a high-powered Manhattan law firm. Charlie’s mother is dead, and he’s never had a relationship with his father. Alone and adrift, he finally learns what it means to be a parent — and a son. I loved this witty and poignant story about family and friendship.

Why We Came to the City (Kristopher Jansma) — It’s a formula we’ve read many times before: a group of 20-something friends grapple with adulthood in the big city. But Jansma makes this formula fresh in his new novel, which is very different from his much less conventional first novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. His writing is lovely, and his characters are as real and believable as any I’ve encountered recently.

Under the Influence (Joyce Maynard) — The “influence” in this novel refers not only to the DUI that the unfortunate protagonist, Helen, receives early in the novel, resulting in the loss of custody of her son, but in the mesmerizing power that a wealthy couple, the Havillands, wields over her. (Late in the novel, another character’s conduct under the influence results in tragedy.) The book makes for fairly compelling reading, but I found that it became more unconvincing the more I read — the Havillands were patently manipulative and dishonest.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Sue Klebold) — The question that everyone asked after the Columbine tragedy, Where were their parents?, is partially answered in this painfully honest memoir by the mother of one of the two killers.

Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. 24 Books That Can Change Lives (David Denby) — Denby, film critic for the New Yorker for many years, wanted to learn how schools can foster the love of reading in screen-addicted teenagers. His account of the time he spent observing dedicated teachers fighting this uphill battle kept me reading late at night.

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers (Nancy Jo Sales) — Truly the most depressing book I’ve read in a long time, American Girls is not just about girls — it’s about the degrading culture of pornography that’s permeated and poisoned the lives of today’s young people. Do I sound like a crotchety nut? You’ll be right there with me if you read this book.

Girl Through Glass (Sari Wilson) — If you liked Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me, you’ll love Sari Wilson’s debut novel. It’s much more than a ballet book — like every memorable book, it transcends its surface subject matter and explores universal themes; in this case, art, obsession, sexuality, and family relationships.

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi) — Everyone should read this powerful and heartbreaking — yet inspirational book. It’s a meditation on what it means to lead a worthwhile life, written by a young neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue (Melanie Benjamin) — The surprise in this delightful book is not that Melanie Benjamin paints a complete portrait of Truman Capote, which I expected, but that she brings Babe Paley to life as a lonely and wounded woman. All of Benjamin’s books are entertaining, informative, and well worth reading, but this is my favorite.

The Golden Son (Shilpi Somaya Gowda) — Anil Patel, the “golden son” in Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s insightful new novel, is torn between his desire to pursue an independent life and career in the United States and his obligations to his family and community in India. The story of an immigrant feeling untethered both in his adopted country and his native land is a familiar one, but The Golden Son offers a fresh perspective.

The Lightkeepers (Abby Geni) — Abby Geni’s debut novel is a literary page-turner, perfectly blending evocative writing and deft characterization with a tension-filled — and creepy — plot. The novel is worth reading just for its setting, the isolated and dangerous Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco. I can’t wait to see what Geni writes next.

Challenger Deep (Neil Shusterman) — The 2015 National Book Award winner in the YA category, this novel was a selection of the Lake Forest Book Store YA book club. If you’re confused when you start reading, please stick with it — you will be rewarded! The novel helped me understand mental illness better than anything I’ve ever read.

Salt to the Sea (Ruta Sepetys) — Four teenage narrators, each with a unique and memorable voice, tell the story of the events leading to the worst maritime disaster you’ve never heard of: the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea during the final days of World War II. Nearly 10,000 people died, most of them refugees fleeing from the Soviets. Author Ruta Sepetys brilliantly constructs an addictive historical narrative that will appeal not only to a young adult audience, but also to adult readers who have enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald) — I really, really wanted to love this book. It’s about a small town bookstore, after all . . . but something about it just rang false to me. I liked the love story well enough, but it was predictable in a rom-com sort of way

The Expatriates (Janice Y.K. Lee) — I hate the term “women’s fiction” — but when you have a novel about three women, all expatriates in Hong Kong, who are grappling with their roles as mothers/caretakers and daughters, that’s what it is. But it’s women’s fiction at its very best — tautly written, with well-developed characters and a surprising storyline.

My Name is Lucy Barton (Elizabeth Strout) –I’ve loved everything Elizabeth Strout has written, including this new novel, but it left me a bit puzzled — and wanting more. My Name is Lucy Barton is the story of a young woman from an abusive and impoverished background who (perhaps, she suggests, because she is “ruthless”) becomes a functioning adult and successful writer. The book is very short, with no wasted words; it’s a book that raises many questions and that I won’t soon forge

The Road to Little Dribbling (Bill Bryson) — Some of Bryson’s books are funnier than others, but they’re all amusing, informative, and worth reading. His latest is a follow-up to Notes from a Small Island, a view of Britain from an American expatriate’s perspective, which came out 20 years ago.

The Book of Unknown Americans (Cristina Henriquez) — This deeply affecting story of a family of Mexican immigrants and their neighbors, told from multiple viewpoints, is the best novel about the American Dream I’ve read in a long time.

The Sound of Gravel (Ruth Wariner) — I read this memoir about growing up in a polygamist Mormon doomsday cult in one day. The author is her mother’s fourth child and her father’s 39th. If you liked The Glass Castle, The Sound of Gravel is for you.

The Guest Room (Chris Bohjalian) — I’m adding this to my list of books that made me cringe, but that I couldn’t put down. Does that make sense? As always, Chris Bohjalian knows how to tell a story. In his latest novel, he sheds light on white slavery and prostitution. Think of the movie Taken — but imagine those horrific events taking place in the United States, with the involvement of upper-middle class suburbanites.

 

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