A close group of longtime friends find their worlds turned upside down when one of the foursome, Zach, dies suddenly. The remaining three — Alexandr, Christine, and Lydia, all in their fifties — come to terms with the fact that Zach was the glue holding them all together, and in the ensuing months they find themselves growing bitter toward one another rather than growing closer. It's a story about the deep and complicated ties that run through lifelong relationships.
Promising review: "I loved this story, and the canvas it created for such a rich exploration of marriage, friendship, competition, art, and intellectual discussions. I’m grateful for it being in the world. And now... I’m going to start at the beginning and read it again." —JaneB
Idra Novey's Those Who Knew is utterly, painfully of our time. On an unnamed island, professor Lena learns of a young woman's sudden death and can't shake the knowledge that it wasn't an accident. The girl, Maria, worked on the campaign of an emergent politician named Victor, a man whose youth, charm, and progressive ideals have turned him into a hero of the people — but who, behind the scenes, violently lashes out at the women close to him. Lena was once of those women, and now Maria's death weighs on her. Who would believe her word against that of a man who represents so much hope for a nation just coming out of a violent, fascist regime?
Promising review: "An amazingly timely book, given today’s political climate, gracefully moving between a privileged politico and those who may dare to question his actions. Beautifully written, a not-so-gentle reminder that silence always has consequences. The novel almost reads like a play, moving from scene to scene with intricate characters and laser focus." —Robert
A year after a young priest kills five parishioners and then himself, a reporter named Martin Scarsden arrives in the rural Australian community to see how locals have been coping and moving on. The accepted theory is that the priest was a pedophile about to be exposed, but now that he's digging around, Martin isn't so sure that was the case. And while he's following a new lead, the town is thrown into chaos by a new development — the bodies of two backpackers, missing since the shooting, show up in the dam.
Promising review: "Thoroughly engrossing: murder, lies, twists, and secrets in a small country town in desolate surroundings. I couldn't put it down. Even sleep was an annoyance — I had to see where this story went." —Anonymous
King has spent years safeguarding an island territory that has kept his wife and three daughters sequestered from the outside world — a world, he warns them, full of dangerous toxins and violent men. But when King goes missing and three strange men — the first they’ve ever seen, apart from King — arrive intent on taking their home, the girls must figure out how to survive.
Promising review: "Stunningly beautifully written, it did not disappoint and I highly recommend it. It has a strong feminist flavor and is not for those who prefer a formulaic plot line. It's like wandering through a hazy, fascinating, but sometimes brutal dream." —C. Cumming
In the hopes of earning some extra money, Jessica Farris signs up as a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But it soon becomes more than Jessica bargained for — and as she starts questioning what's part of the study and what isn't, Jessica finds herself losing a grip on reality.
Promising review: "This is a tight, psychological suspense story that will periodically have you on the edge of your seat. The scariness is primarily generated by the fears (perceived and real) in Jessica’s mind, aided by the information from the second narrator. The story also examines morality and ethics, as 'What would you do if...?' questions quickly merge with a frightening reality. Can’t recommend this one enough." —Dee Arr
In a Southern California college town, an epidemic spreads: Victims are falling into unending sleep, and the only thing doctors know for sure is the sleepers are experiencing some kind of unprecedented, heightened dreams. The town descends into panic and chaos, trying to stay awake but also trying to understand: What are they dreaming about?
Promising review: "Beautifully creative and subtly unsettling story of a community faced with a devastating threat, told through gorgeous prose. It keeps you turning pages through some unexpected twists, all the while loving every minute." —CS
In There There — an intricate study of Native American life in Oakland, California — Tommy Orange pushes the boundaries of fiction to write this story as he wants to tell it. The result is a series of vignettes, moments in the lives of characters — each expertly rendered in voices completely distinct from one another — who are linked in ways that become clearer as the narrative progresses.
Promising review: "In many ways, There There feels essential, like other works that reveal a rarely heard perspective. But it’s more than just essential — it’s really damn good: poignant, funny, tense, and devastating. I hope everyone reads it." —Jessica Sullivan
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is about a young woman in New York determined to solve every problem in her privileged and disillusioned life by medicating herself into near oblivion for a year and coming back to the world refreshed. Her story is a protracted self-destruction, remarkable both for its mundanity (the unnamed protagonist narrates her days so that they almost seem like any lazy New Yorker’s, full of takeout and TV, and little alarm) and for the cluelessness of the few people who remain in her life — most significantly her (hilarious, terrifying) psychiatrist.
Promising review: "I read it and then started over and read it again. Totally brilliant and exuberantly cynical." —Jonathan O. May
Esi Edugyan’s novel follows 11-year-old George Washington Black, aka Wash, who — after growing up enslaved on a Barbados sugar plantation — is chosen by an eccentric explorer and abolitionist to be his manservant. Together they journey throughout a thrilling world entirely new to Wash — until Wash is blamed for a murder and the duo are forced to flee. As they travel through the American East Coast, London, Morocco, and eventually the Arctic, Wash experiences new understandings of freedom, invention, and rebirth.
Promising review: "Incredible writing, amazing, emotionally gripping, impossible to categorize. I read for many reasons, but the reason I give my children and grandchildren is that I only have one life — but when I read, each book gives me another life to experience." —K.F.
In rural England, Silvie's family lives as if they're in the ancient past, abiding by her father's rule: that they must survive by the technology and knowledge of the Iron Age alone. When an anthropology course sets up a reenactment of life in simpler times, Silvie's father sees it as an opportunity to realize a way of life he's always been obsessed with — full of hunting, gathering, and even ritual sacrifice. But Silvie sees it as a window to a different life, one that might bring her freedom.
Promising review: "A stunning book, beginning to end — truly an ageless allegory about people straining to find authority in the mistreatment of history and their loved ones. Also a class-infused story of privilege posing as superiority, of education parading as wisdom. Beautifully rendered." —Steven E. Sanderson
On April 29, 1986, the Los Angeles Public Library burned for over seven hours, a fire that destroyed more than a million books. When journalist and bona fide library-lover Susan Orlean discovered this story decades later, she was shocked she’d never heard of it and was determined to learn more. What follows is not only a thorough investigation of the fire (and the man purported to have set it) but also an examination of the role of libraries as an institution, and the challenges — new and old — that they face.
Promising review: "Susan's writing brings life to the lifeless, glamour to the unglamorous, and clarity where there previously was none. But, what really sets this book apart, especially when compared to the other 1986 tragedies, is that this story has a happy ending. Unlike the Challenger and Chernobyl, new life sprung from what happened that day in 1986, and we should all consider ourselves fortunate that the perfect author to tell this story decided to do so." —Gideon
When 35-year-old Jodi McCarty is released after 18 years in prison, she sets off to find someone from her past — someone she promised she’d rescue a long time ago. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with a single mother who’s running from her own demons, kids in tow. Together the mismatched group head toward the abandoned West Virginia farm that once belonged to Jodi’s grandmother, hoping maybe they can turn it into a home. Sugar Run also happens to be this month's selection for the BuzzFeed Book Club! Check out an excerpt here, and read along.
Promising review: "I found myself wanting to take breaks while reading this book just so that it wouldn’t come to an end. Beautifully written. It is easy to find yourself fully immersed in the imagery of this book, feeling the sweat and smelling the trees. I highly recommend." —Lindsay H.