Three acclaimed novels focused on history and family dynamics are sure to spark discussion in your reading groups this month.
Surgeon-turned-author Gabriel Weston made her literary debut with a gripping medical memoir. In her first novel, Dirty Work, she again turns to medicine for inspiration, this time investigating one of its most morally fraught procedures: abortion. In a behind-the-book story, Weston explains why she felt drawn to explore this contentious issue, and why she believes the two sides may be closer together than we think.
Though the “overnight success” story tends to make headlines, debut novels are more often the result of years of hard work and dedication. This month, we’re highlighting four debuts that deserve some time in the spotlight.
It’s 7 a.m. on December 23, and Madeleine Altimari is shimmying. In 30-second intervals, the girl attempts to perfect her moves, pausing in between for a quick drag from a cigarette. After each interval, she rates her work on a school-letter scale. She has yet to check off the day’s other rehearsal tasks: singing, scales, guitar.
If a writer should follow Ernest Hemingway’s well-known dictum to write what he knows, then first-time novelist Jess Row just might be in the wrong business.
Lawyer Carrie La Seur makes her debut as a novelist this month with The Home Place, a searing novel about the power of family bonds that is also a compelling whodunit. Set against the stark backdrop of rural Montana, a place that big-city lawyer Alma Terrebonne thought she’d escaped forever, the novel follows Alma’s search for the reasons behind her estranged sister’s untimely death. We asked La Seur a few questions about writing, Montana and the draw of family.
Nobody has ever taken care of Mia Dennett. Her upwardly mobile parents didn’t do it. Her uptight older sister didn’t do it. So the talented inner-city art teacher has learned to take care of herself. Or so she thinks, until an impulsive one-night stand turns into a nightmare far beyond Mia’s control. But why does her abductor seem so uncertain about his plans for her? Why did he choose to hide her in a remote Minnesota cabin rather than turn her over to the man who hired him? Was it an act of mercy, or something else entirely?
Mary Kubica’s debut, The Good Girl, is a constant game of cat and mouse. In this tense psychological thriller, Mia Dennett’s abduction poses questions about relationships, their boundaries and their limits.
At first glance, Ove looks like a Grumpy Old Man with a Saab—a typical curmudgeon, not the type whose depths one is tempted to plumb. In fact, unless you like being scowled at, scolded, insulted and having doors slammed in your face, you might just decide to avoid him altogether. He wouldn’t mind; the only person he wants to see is his wife, who died six months ago.
“There are often two conversations going on in a marriage,” short-story writer Robin Black claims in her debut novel, Life Drawing. “The one that you’re having and the one that you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.” One could suggest that there are two conversations going on in this quiet, yet exquisitely crafted novel: the conversation between Augusta (Gus) and her husband Owen, and the conversation they’re not having, about Gus having cheated on him.