Expertly crafted and wonderfully authentic, Mary Doria Russell’s novel Doc is a crackerjack account of the life of Doc Holliday. Raised in the South, trained as a dentist—and dying from tuberculosis—Dr. John Henry Holliday, at the age of 22, leaves his Atlanta home for the West in a last-ditch attempt to save his own life. With the hope that the dry air of the frontier will cure what ails him, Doc settles in Dodge City, Kansas, opening a dentist’s office and earning money as a gambler. When a boy named Johnnie Sanders is found dead, the murder puts lawman Wyatt Earp on high alert. Doc, as it turns out, also has an interest in the crime. The friendship of these two larger-than-life legends is memorably rendered by Russell, who writes expertly about one of the richest chapters in America’s past.

In The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon offers a stirring tale about two unlikely lovers: Homan, a deaf black man, and developmentally disabled Lynnie, who is young and white. The time is 1968, and the place is the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. In the midst of the school’s oppressive atmosphere, Lynnie and Homan develop serious feelings for one another and decide to escape. When Lynnie gives birth to their baby, she’s forced to leave the infant with a kind widow named Martha. Brought back to the school by authorities, Lynnie finds herself hopelessly separated from Homan, who gets away safely. Simon skillfully develops their separate stories into a narrative that spans 40 years, tracing the arc of their growth into parents and successful communicators. This is a poignant story with sensitive subject matter at its heart, yet Simon never lapses into sentimentality. Her courageous novel is at once an unforgettable love story and a moving look at the lives of the disabled.

Set in Stellar Plains, New Jersey, Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel takes its provocative premise from an ancient Greek play. When high school drama teacher Fran Heller holds rehearsals for Aristophanes’ Lysistrata—in which the women of Greece stop having sex in an effort to end the Peloponnesian War—a mysterious change overcomes the town’s female population. Losing all desire for sex, the women of Stellar Plains distance themselves from their partners. The condition affects long-established couples and new lovers alike, from ardent English instructors Robby and Dory Lang to their young daughter Willa. Matters come to a head when Marissa Clayborn, who plays Lysistrata, begins a personal demonstration against the war in Afghanistan. Providing the reader with plenty of food for thought regarding the impulses that drive both genders, The Uncoupling is a highly illuminating and wonderfully humorous novel.

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