It is a cool October night on Falstaff Island, about nine miles off of Prince Edward Island, and Scoutmaster Tim Riggs is enjoying a sip of scotch. He can hear his five 14-year-old scouts talking and laughing in the next room, most likely telling ghost stories before they fall asleep. All six are completely unaware of the horrifying turn their annual camping trip is about to take.
An epistolary tale told through emails, interoffice memos, legal documents and handwritten notes, The Divorce Papers is a witty and engaging first novel from author Susan Rieger. As is obvious from the title, the book features a divorce at its center. However, Rieger makes it about much more as she covers topics ranging from childhood trauma and fresh romances to office politics and literary theory.
Is there anyone who hasn’t wondered which actions and incidents most gave shape to their lives? In Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl, Stella is the author of her own life, recounting her story in a series of gracefully drawn but honestly expressed episodes starting in the 1960s and running to the present day.
If you’re very observant and know a little something about the wilder shores of human genetics, then you may be able to figure out the big mystery of Carol Cassella’s new novel by, oh, page 260 or so. Oh yes, the title also gives one a hint as to what’s going on with one of the book’s well-drawn characters. But we should start at the beginning.
Kim Church has created an unforgettable and gripping tale about a young woman’s passage to adulthood in a small town in North Carolina in her excellent debut novel, Byrd. There are books we like to read because they provide a window to a world wholly unfamiliar, but there are others like Byrd that give insight into our own lives: our hopes and dreams, what we’ve done right, opportunities missed.
The death that launches Yiyun Li’s second novel, Kinder Than Solitude, has been a long time coming. Twenty years before, Shaoai was mysteriously poisoned by someone close to her, leaving her crippled and diminished. Her death comes as a great relief for the novel’s three main characters, Moran, Ruyu and Boyang—once childhood friends in China, but now estranged. But with that sigh of relief comes the truth.
Reimagining a well-trodden fairy tale is tricky business. Rely too much on the tropes of the original story, and the plot becomes wooden, predictable and dull. Drift too far, and it’s easy to lose the point of the exercise. Few writers can pull off this balance, but with While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell proves she’s one of them.
Ellen Litman gives a new twist to the familiar coming of age/boarding school story (think A Separate Peace, Prep, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) in her second novel, Mannequin Girl. Set in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, it features the precocious daughter of two teachers whose life is radically changed when she receives a diagnosis of scoliosis.
When Lavender sends out invitations to her 85th birthday bash, it’s more than just a celebration. One of the guests might be lucky enough to inherit the Lavender Honey Farm she has so laboriously carved out of her family land, and in which her nephews are not interested. With that in mind she invites three fellow food bloggers (they call themselves the “Foodie Four”) to visit and celebrate the special occasion, and each responds from the center of a complicated life.
Diana Morgan has focused her career as a philologist (one who engages in the study of literary text and written records), on the Amazons, the legendary warrior women of ancient Greece—and with good reason. They’re rooted in her own family history. Before disappearing without a trace, Diana’s grandmother used to regale her with stories about the lost tribe of warrior women.