Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House is an appealing mixture: part archival mystery, part ghost story, part historical novel, starring a house with as much personality as Manderley or Hill House. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place.
First love, young love, unexpected love—any kind of love with a deep vein of naiveté and innocence—this is Rainbow Rowell’s wheelhouse. She manages to capture raw emotion with a wave of nostalgia that captivates not only her primary audience of young adult readers, but also those of us who, at least in theory, have moved past the age of soaring crushes and crushing heartbreak.
Stories of human survival and hope after an apocalyptic event are well worn at this point. As a result, the themes and tropes of these tales often feel so trodden and predictable that they become little more than echoes. Then, there are stories like California.
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.
If the dystopian coming-of-age novel has been the inspiration for many a Hollywood blockbuster in recent years, the increasingly ubiquitous genre more closely resembles literary fiction in critically acclaimed author Chris Bohjalian’s Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.
Set against the colorful backdrop of the Virgin Islands from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning weaves an intricate tale of the legacy of an island family as it grapples with love, magic and death over more than six decades. A heartbroken patriarch purposefully sinks his ship into the Caribbean, leaving two daughters and their half-brother to make their own way, each in possession of a particular magic and unusual beauty.
Let’s not mince words: George and Irene are weirdos. George is a teacher of astronomy who has visions of ancient gods and goddesses. Irene is an astrophysicist who discovers tiny, purple black holes and doesn’t believe in love or anything else that can’t be measured with very precise instruments. George, on the other hand, longs for love like a consumptive Victorian heroine. They’re both from Toledo and, according to the powers that be, are supposed to end up together. The question Lydia Netzer’s second novel asks is ‘How?’
In his first novel, The String Diaries, British author Stephen Lloyd Jones has created both an innovative storyline and a new creature to fear. The secret to overcoming this monster lies within one family’s weathered, string-tied diaries, which contain meticulously compiled stories, research and theories. But what is it that hunts this family, and why?
Chicago is infamous for its violence, from Prohibition-era mobsters to modern-day street gangs. As a result, novels set in Chicago often fall somewhere on the spectrum of crime fiction. Lori Rader-Day’s blood-tingling debut—a mystery so chock-full of suspense it’s best devoured in a single late-night reading session—imagines a different brand of violence in Chicago, a phenomenon that’s become all too familiar in the 21st century: school shootings.
In space, in that weightless environment, any disruption to an object’s proper orbit can result in catastrophe. Within families, those often insular orbits of individuals, the loss of the center causes a similar spiraling out of control. In Everything I Never Told You by first-time novelist Celeste Ng, the Lee family is unanchored by sudden tragedy and then undone slowly by recriminations and regrets.