Three novels exploring the confines of art and artistry make great picks for reading groups this month.
"Just a minute," Garth Stein says when he answers the phone at his Seattle home. "The kids are kicking soccer balls at me—I've got to get out of the line of fire." It’s understandable that his three boys—ages 17, 15 and 7—are craving their dad’s attention. With an international phenomenon already under his belt (2008’s The Art of Racing in the Rain, which has sold 4 million copies) and a new book about to hit shelves, Stein is frequently on the road these days. He has just returned from a trip to West Virginia, where he did a reading at the famously elegant Greenbrier.
We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas’ epic first novel, was 10 years in the making and, upon completion, the subject of a vigorous publishers’ bidding war. Readers will understand why.
With daily news headlines detailing the tragedies that can unfold when a battle-weary soldier returns home from war, Las Vegas author Laura McBride’s first novel, We Are Called to Rise, is hauntingly timely.
Hawaiian author Kaui Hart Hemmings returns with The Possibilities, the story of Sarah St. John, a woman struggling to return to life after the death of her adult son in an avalanche. We asked her a few questions about the new book and what she’s working on next.
Writer Kaui Hart Hemmings had a lot to live up to with her second novel: Her best-selling, polished debut, The Descendants, was made into an Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney. With The Possibilities, she delivers on her early promise while making a striking departure setting-wise, moving from the tropical islands of her native Hawaii to the snowy mountains of Colorado.
Justin Go’s ambitious, sprawling and compelling debut novel, The Steady Running of the Hour, lurches from America to England, France, Sweden Germany and Iceland—even stretching to the Himalayas—switching back and forth in time from pre-WWI England to the present.
It’s good to know that a female protagonist doesn’t have to be “nice” in order to be compelling. In Cara Hoffman’s latest novel, Be Safe I Love You, returning Iraqi war vet Lauren Clay is anything but nice. Indeed, the reader might be tempted, at first, to call her hateful. But as you read on, it dawns on you that the Lauren who enlisted as a soldier because of the fat signing bonus that would keep the wolves away from the door of her impoverished family isn’t the Lauren who has returned. The word that kept going through this reviewer’s head was “revenant.”
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.
America is anomalous, as insular as its two oceans suggest. Consider the game known stateside as soccer and elsewhere as football. An American would struggle to name a global soccer star, despite their commanding astronomical salaries and divine admiration. The Sun and Other Stars, by Chicago author Brigid Pasulka, offers a glimpse into the glamour and goofiness of the so-called "beautiful game.”