When we meet Charlie Goldwyn, he is hurtling through life at breakneck speed. Recently widowed, Charlie is pouring all his energy into his high-pressure, high-stakes job at a prestigious corporate law firm and clearly not dealing with his grief over his wife’s death. Nearly ’round-the-clock workdays have put a serious dent in his relationship with his quirky 5-year-old son, Caleb, and are not winning Charlie any father of the year awards.
Yes, the heroine of The Things We Keep, Anna, is a 38-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who is confined to an assisted-living facility. But no, Australian writer Sally Hepworth’s second novel is not depressing, and while her narrative can be sad and even painful at times, it is never bleak. On the contrary, the story of Anna and her “boyfriend” at Rosalind House, fellow patient Luke, is tragic but also hopeful, positive and even romantic.
That one of the recurring characters in The Portable Veblen is a squirrel tells you much about the experience of reading Elizabeth McKenzie’s clever second novel. Veblen, the 30-year-old protagonist who chats with the squirrel, describes herself as an “independent behaviorist,” translates for the Norwegian Diaspora Project in her spare time and “still favored baggy oversized boy’s clothes.” This novel is like vegetables cut on a bias: slightly skewed, pleasing to look at, and, thanks to its skilled chef, a joy to consume.
Three American women become ensconced in the cultural mélange of Hong Kong’s expat community in Janice Y.K. Lee’s absorbing, character-driven novel, following 2009’s The Piano Teacher. The author, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, opens her novel with a spot-on description of that sprawling city’s expat contingent—the Chinese, Irish, French, Koreans and Americans—“a veritable UN of fortune-seekers.” They have come for their jobs, or their husbands’ jobs; for six months, a year, maybe three years or more. And they have no idea what to expect from their temporary new home.
Once in a while, a reader needs to dive into a book that makes her feel just a bit unclean. The book doesn’t have to be trashy—and Chris Bohjalian’s latest, The Guest Room, is much too well-written and psychologically astute to be close to trashy—but the author must have no compunction about dropping the reader into the muck and leaving her there. This Bohjalian certainly does, with glee.
A warning to the reader before picking up Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens: do not Google Loretta Young if you don’t want major spoilers!
The seedy, soap opera-tinged underbelly of Hollywood is fertile ground for fiction. Los Angeles resident Alex Brunkhorst makes the most of that setting in her second novel, the suspenseful and romantic The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine. It’s the star-crossed story of two lives that are wildly different yet forever intertwined.
Jan Karon, author of the best-selling series of Mitford novels, is back with another that readers won’t want to miss. Come Rain or Come Shine picks up where Karon’s last novel left off—with the upcoming marriage of aspiring veterinarian Dooley Kavanagh and his longtime sweetheart, Lace Harper.
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.
The most common advice to aspiring authors is “Write what you know.” Clearly Elisabeth Egan took this advice to heart when penning her debut novel, A Window Opens, a literary anthem for 21st-century working mothers.