Three novels exploring the complexity and resilience of the human spirit make great picks for reading groups this month.
Given his tendency to experiment with form (in novels such as Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten), it’s probably no surprise that when we spoke with David Mitchell about his enthralling new book, The Bone Clocks, he had just written a short story to be published 140 characters at a time on Twitter.
Lots of scientists—Newton, Salk, Galileo—changed the world. Now Ellie’s grandfather Melvin might be on the same track. But is that a good thing?
After her father buys a cemetery and relocates their family inland from their idyllic California seaside home, 15-year-old Leigh finds not only that she’s a good fit for the after-death industry, but also that it gives her some comfort. Her older sister’s cancer just went into remission, her artistic mother would rather be back by the ocean, and Leigh’s still grieving for the best friend she recently lost. When Leigh discovers a secret in the cemetery, her grief turns to guilt. She refuses to take on any new friends, not even the cool home--schooled girl whose family provides flowers for the cemetery.
Multitasking at work through texts and emails, pumping breast milk for your baby, then grabbing a decaf latte solo as a treat afterward: Is this you? It turns out our collective drive for greater efficiency is leading to lower productivity, reduced immunity and general malaise.
Readers of Amy Bloom’s riotous new novel, Lucky Us, might want to pack a few snacks and buckle their seatbelts for this highly entertaining ride, which kicks off when half-sisters Eva and Iris hightail it from small-town Ohio to pursue their dreams in Hollywood.
“There are often two conversations going on in a marriage,” short-story writer Robin Black claims in her debut novel, Life Drawing. “The one that you’re having and the one that you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.” One could suggest that there are two conversations going on in this quiet, yet exquisitely crafted novel: the conversation between Augusta (Gus) and her husband Owen, and the conversation they’re not having, about Gus having cheated on him.
Robert L. O’Connell’s Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman includes a photograph of the celebrated Civil War general with his staff. While the other men strike classic poses and gaze into the middle distance, Sherman sits slightly slumped, legs crossed, jacket unbuttoned, glittering eyes focused directly on the camera. It fits with the popular notion of Sherman, the man who invented “modern war” and whose soldiers burned a path of destruction through the American South.
Three of the most highly anticipated novels from 2013 are now available in paperback, and they're sure to spark discussion in your reading group.
Warning to the reader: It is impossible for this review to proceed without a number of spoilers. In case anyone still holds the charming belief (as I do) that the mechanics of plot have a bearing on our enjoyment of a novel, the reviewer feels obliged to perform his task up front. I shall do it The Quick (pardon the pun) way: If you are a fan of literary Gothic—think Susanna Clarke or John Harwood—buy this book. You won’t regret it.