Stern Men
By Elizabeth Gilbert

Before she wrote the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert penned this humorous, warm-hearted novel about life in 1970s New England, now reissued in a new paperback edition. The islands of Fort Niles and Courne Haven—two lobstering communities off the coast of Maine—have a rivalry that's several centuries old and grounded in the competition between local lobstermen. Ruth Thomas is a native of Fort Niles and the daughter of one of the island's most ruthless fishermen. Returning home after four years at a private school, she plans to ignore her rich grandfather's wish that she attend college and follow her own ambition, which is to become an island regular. But finding her place on Fort Niles turns out to be harder than Ruth thought, and when she falls in love with a man from Courne Haven, her life becomes even more complicated. Gilbert fleshes out this charming narrative with plenty of lobstering history, and the plot is further thickened by the inhabitants of Fort Niles, a group of off-the-wall islanders—including the beautiful Mrs. Pommeroy, mother of seven sons, all of them inbred—who have their own conflicts and eccentricities. When Ruth is reunited with her mother, who abandoned her many years ago, she realizes she must come to terms with what she wants for the future—and try to end the territorial rivalry that threatens the people she loves most. This is a spirited, engaging novel that should delight Gilbert's many fans.
A reading group guide is available online.

Chasing Windmills
By Catherine Ryan Hyde

The best-selling author of Pay It Forward offers an old-fashioned tale of romance set in modern-day New York City. Sebastian Mundt, who is about to turn 18, has lived a sheltered life with his father since his mother died. Home-schooled and over-protected, Sebastian is not allowed to have relationships with outsiders. One night, after his father takes a sleeping pill and passes out, Sebastian sneaks into the city and takes a long subway ride. On the train, he meets Maria Arquette, a young woman trapped in a violent relationship. He connects instantly with Maria and begins meeting her in secret on the subway at night. Together, they plan and dream, hoping to escape to the Mojave Desert, to a town full of windmills that Sebastian visited as a child. But reality stands in their way: Maria has two children (something she hasn't told Sebastian), whom she can never abandon. The novel is narrated from the perspectives of both young people, and Hyde shifts deftly between them. She writes convincingly from their viewpoints, creating well-rounded young characters who are transformed by passion and who struggle to make life-altering decisions. A contemporary West Side Story with a few twists, this is a tale of forbidden love that transcends the romance genre.
A reading group guide is available online.

Lush Life
By Richard Price

Set in 2002 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Price's latest novel is a fast-paced tale of life in urban America. The fatal shooting of Ike Marcus, bartender at a fancy restaurant, turns out to be a tough case for detectives Matty Clark and Yolonda Bello. Their first suspect is Ike's friend, Eric Cash, an aspiring writer who managed the restaurant where Ike worked, and who witnessed the murder. Eric claims that a pair of muggers committed the crime—a story that conflicts with accounts provided by others who saw the shooting. Through the detectives' questioning of Eric, the stories of the accused—Tristan Acevedo and Little Dap Williams, two teens from a housing project—are introduced into the narrative. Price skillfully weaves their backgrounds into the fabric of the story, creating a searing portrait of their lives and adding an extra layer to the narrative. As Ike's distraught father, Billy, hassles the police, who are short on clues, the novel races toward an unforgettable conclusion. Gritty yet poetic, dynamic yet thoughtfully composed, this is a brisk, thrilling narrative that features pitch-perfect, street-smart dialogue and taught suspense. As usual with Price, the best-selling author of Clockers and Freedomland, there's never a dull moment.

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