Like all good scary stories, Rooms begins with a death. When Richard Walker passes away, his estranged family must return to the erstwhile family home to sift through a household—and lifetime—of memories and belongings. But Richard’s ex-wife Caroline and troubled children, Trenton and Minna, are not alone as they work to rid the house of the traces of the man who once lived there: Their actions and emotions are acutely observed by two former residents of the home, Alice and Sandra, each so different from the other, yet both bound to the house by dreadful tragedies.
Three novels exploring the complexity and resilience of the human spirit make great picks for reading groups this month.
Fans of historical fiction will be drawn to The Miniaturist, a fantastical tale from British debut novelist Jessie Burton that takes place in 17th-century Amsterdam. The story begins as 18-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at the home of her wealthy merchant husband, Johannes Brandt. Surprisingly, though, he is nowhere to be found. In his stead is his strictly religious sister, Marin; housemaid Cornelia; and his manservant, a former slave named Otto. Nella, a country girl, is forced to forge her way alone as head of the household.
British author Jessie Burton's first published book, The Miniaturist, has been building buzz in publishing circles since 2013, when it was one of the most sought-after books at the London Book Fair. Now this historical novel, set in a 17th-century Amsterdam that Burton evokes with great skill, is poised to win over readers.
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.
Three of the most highly anticipated novels from 2013 are now available in paperback, and they're sure to spark discussion in your reading group.
It takes real talent to concoct a plot about our celebrity-obsessed culture that’s as outrageous as the stories we can consume every day with the click of a mouse or remote control. Following on his impressive fiction debut, the somber What Happened to Sophie Wilder, Christopher Beha has pivoted away from that novel's dark tone to create a wicked satire that’s every bit the equal of its predecessor in tackling serious moral issues.
Debut author Josh Malerman returns the reader to the thrilling dread of the apocalypse tales of yesteryear by keeping his narrative simple and refusing to allow the “other” in his tale to become known in his novel Bird Box.
In a world where writers are eternally reminded to “write what you know,” debut novels are often thinly veiled memoirs, or at least tentatively tied to the author’s own experience through location or life experience. Not so for screenwriter Laline Paull, whose ambitious first novel, The Bees, doesn’t feature a single human character—and it’s set in the labyrinthine world of the hive.
A beehive is a place of order, control, maybe even oppression. In Laline Paull’s debut novel, The Bees, Flora 717 is a sterile worker bee from the lowest caste of an orchard hive. Like her sisters, she is bound by the motto to accept, obey and serve. But during a period of famine and environmental crisis, Flora is asked to take on new tasks: first, feeding the newborns in the hive’s nursery and then becoming a forager, flying freely in search of pollen and nectar. Her size and strength make her a formidable worker, and she proves to be a quick learner.