In this gorgeously eclectic novel, Beatty tells the story of a black man cast out from his hometown of Dickens, California—a man considered to be a sellout for everything from listening to Neil Young and reading Franz Kafka to growing and selling watermelon for a living.
While away on duty, Army Ranger Van Shaw receives a chilling note from his grandfather: “Come home, if you can.” The last time the two talked was 10 years ago—a conversation that resulted in a bloody brawl. Pride and stubbornness run strong in this family, so for the old man to reach out means there’s something big happening back home.
The World War II era is fertile soil for writers of crime fiction, and Francine Mathews follows hard on the heels of her exceptional Jack 1939 (2012) with a crackerjack espionage thriller, Too Bad to Die, both set in that time. Mathews, a former intelligence analyst for the CIA, knows all the tricks of the trade, and her novel imagines the words and actions of bona fide participants in one of the seminal events of that war—the Tehran Conference in 1943, where Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin come together to plan their final move against Nazi Germany, the invasion of Europe.
Michele Young-Stone’s second novel, Above Us Only Sky, is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s—with a magical twist. Prudence Eleanor Vilkas was born with wings, “heart-shaped, crinkled like a paper fan” against her newborn back. The doctor apologized; later her wings were removed, leaving only scars. Prudence’s parents divorce. She and her mother move to Florida. She struggles through her teens, wondering about her identity as a winged girl.
It is almost impossible to choose the most memorable thing about James Hannaham’s powerful and daring second novel, Delicious Foods (a title suggestive of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”). It might be that one of its narrators is crack cocaine, or that one of its main characters loses his hands. It might be the evocative African-American slang and dialect. Or it might be the way the novel can be read as an extended metaphor for the situation of blacks in America.
If you think you’ve read the story of four friends trying to make it in New York City already, think again. Hanya Yanagihara’s transcendent second novel is much more than its plot summary suggests. A Little Life may be the best book you read this year; it certainly will be the most heartbreaking.
The centuries may differ, but the faith remains the same. From present-day America, to an Atlantic crossing in the 1700s, to a newly established 19th-century Seattle, these three inspirational novels show that while circumstances may vary, the need to trust in God does not.
Lizzie Vogel has grown up in what she, even at age 9, understands is “a very good situation.” She has a nice home with a nanny and a chauffeur, two siblings and a dog. Then one day, her mother learns that Lizzie’s father has had an affair. The next thing Lizzie knows, her parents have split and she has been shuffled off to live in the country with her mother, brother and sister.
Ten years ago, Ian Caldwell and his co-author, Dustin Thomason, struck gold with The Rule of Four, a page-turning academic mystery with emotional depth. Now, after a decade of research, writing and rewriting, Caldwell is back with a solo effort, a new novel that promises to live up to The Rule of Four. And The Fifth Gospel delivers, with compelling characters, impeccable pacing and a central enigma that is as intellectually satisfying as it is emotionally harrowing.
When Nica Baker, a gorgeous, popular 16-year-old, is found dead on the campus of her prestigious private high school, her family, friends and community are shocked and devastated. While the case is closed neatly and quickly—an awkward classmate with an unrequited crush and a bad temper—Nica’s older sister Grace has the sick suspicion that the obvious answer is not always the right one. She goes on a quest to find out what really happened to Nica—and ends up discovering far more than she ever wanted to know about her family, her friends and herself.