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.
The stories we consume in youth—whether through books, television, film or song—often become the defining narrative of our lives. A shared affection draws people together, and a mention of a character or a trace of a lyric can immediately transport us to another place and time.
A moment can change everything. Nat Weary learns that in a hurry. One minute, he was a World War II veteran on bended knee, proposing to his sweetheart during a concert in their hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. The next, Weary spots several men armed with pipes heading toward the performer, his childhood friend Nat “King” Cole.
Life may not be going according to plan for Ceinwen Reilly, but she’s determined to find the cinema-worthy thread in her 1980s Lower East Side life. That may be easier said than done, given her retail job at a vintage shop and her shabby Avenue C apartment.
The Settlement is a community of about 100 people who live outside of the view of the rest of America, tucked away on a patch of land near Egypt, Maine. This curious collective, the focus of Carolyn Chute’s latest novel, Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves, is not altogether unlike the one inhabited by Chute herself. The author and her husband live off the grid in Parsonfield, Maine, where they run the 2nd Maine Militia and rely on the community around them for sustenance.
Who is Sean Phillips? And how did he end up like this? That’s the central conceit of John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van, a compact but wide-ranging novel that follows -Sean’s development from unpopular teenager to reclusive adult.
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.
Emily Gould has built a career as a blogger for her own Emily Magazine and Gawker, as well as the part owner of Emily Books. She is also author of the memoir, And the Heart Says Whatever. With her first novel, Friendship, Gould turns her eye toward the spectacle of female adulthood friendships.