The Works Progress Administration of the 1930s and ’40s was a savior for American artists. Those meager checks alleviated financial concerns enough that the artists could pay rent and spend their off-hours drinking, cavorting and exploring their artistic passions.
National Book Award winner Lily Tuck has lived a life that often informs her stories. She was born in Paris, has lived in Thailand, Uruguay and Peru, and now resides in New York City and Maine, providing plenty of fodder for her characters and their adventures. That’s perhaps more evident in her latest book, The Double Life of Liliane, than ever before.
Board the Alaska-bound Zuiderdam, a luxury cruise ship, alongside Harriet Chance. The 78-year-old widow has set sail using a pair of tickets purchased by her late husband, Bernard. Despite her children’s worry that Harriet is infirm, she sets sail alone, accompanied only by a letter from her best friend, Mildred.
Stanley and Vera reunite at each year’s National Spelling Bee, forming a bond over their shared victory and their mothers’ quirks and ambitious goals for their lives. They seem destined for success, sure to cross paths again at Harvard—until Stanley proposes a deal.
Lois Lonsdale is an enigma to those around her. The British literature professor is a respected academic, but also something of a threat to others in the department. That’s partly due to the former spelling bee champion’s striking looks, but her publishing success and standoffish nature don’t help.
It’s difficult to imagine anything more traumatic than a child’s death. But when the deceased child is a twin, the living sibling can be a constant reminder of what’s lost.
It’s late in the 19th century, and literary works are often plundered by so-called “bookaneers.” These literary pirates swoop in, abscond with a manuscript and sell it to the highest bidder. The stories should be property of the reader, not the writer, the bookaneers argue. And they’ll stop at nothing to ensure it.
Power comes from being in the limelight. That’s the lesson Miranda Ford takes away from her second-runner-up win at the 18th annual Miss Daviess County Fair Pageant. As the winner and first-runner-up involuntarily step aside, Miranda becomes queen—a position she’s determined never to lose.
Kitty Miller is living the dream. OK, so maybe her life isn’t picture-perfect according to society’s standards; it’s 1962, and she’s an unmarried woman. But after a failed long-term relationship, Kitty has come to accept that life isn’t always meant to be as we imagine. Instead of being married with kids, she and her best friend, Frieda, own a bookshop in Denver. They’re not rich—in fact, sometimes it’s hard to make ends meet—but the pair is so close they refer to one another as Sister. It’s a good life.
Nick Hornby is an expert story-teller who reveals the nuances of his characters’ lives, and in the process, allows readers to understand a world unlike their own. His expert lens is most often trained on male characters, although 2001’s How to Be Good is an exception, and the male protagonists in 2009’s Juliet, Naked, share pages with a strong woman who goes beyond love interest.