Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is about a nurse who has found herself in a dangerous pattern of abetting her younger sister who can’t seem to stop killing men, and it’s a quick read. You can’t help flying through the pages, but Braithwaite also manages to juxtapose this high-stakes story with the mundanity of daily life and its universal disappointments. Read an excerpt here.
Sugar Run follows 35-year-old Jodi McCarty, who is just 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 — but 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. Check out an excerpt here.
Sisters Grace, Sky, and Lia have grown up isolated on remote land, living under the severe rule of their mother and father — the latter called King. King has taught his daughters that men are literally toxic, and that their isolation is necessary for their survival. But months after King’s mysterious death, a violent storm washes three strange men ashore — the first men other than King that they’ve ever met — and the women must figure out how to survive. Read an excerpt here.
Bowlaway revolves around the eccentric Bertha Truitt and the New England bowling alley she owns. It’s a Dickensian saga spanning the 20th century, it’s full of whimsy (Bertha opens the bowling alley after being found unconscious in a cemetery with nothing on her but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and 15 pounds of gold), and it’s a heartfelt portrait of human relationships and entanglements. Read the first chapter here.
This sprawling, fantastical novel takes place during the reign of the last sultan of Muslim Iberia, focusing on a concubine named Fatima and her best friend Hassan. The two have a dangerous secret — Hassan, the palace mapmaker, can draw maps that bend reality — and when Fatima accidentally reveals this to a woman from the newly formed Spanish monarchy, she puts her and Hassan's lives at risk. Wilson describes their escape from the palace and their subsequent journey through the country — trying to elude the Inquisition with the help of a wry jinn — with heart and humor, weaving in an ongoing exploration of the meaning and value of freedom. Read a chapter here.
Rough Magic describes Lara's impulsive decision at 19 years old to sign up for "the world’s longest, toughest horse race” — 10 days on 25 ponies, over 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland — and chronicles her surprising success despite having no formal training or qualifications other than a love of horses and great competitive drive. Read a chapter here.
Just Kids is a poignant recounting of Patti Smith's once-in-a-lifetime relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the heady days of New York City in the late '60s and '70s. It's an inspirational and insightful story about friendship, ambition, and art — about the journey toward figuring out who you are, and all of the people who help you along the way. Read an excerpt here.
Trust Exercise studies the inner machinations of an elite performing arts high school in the 1980s, focusing at first on the romance of two first-year students, Sarah and David, and then expanding to reveal a dark undercurrent connecting the students; Mr. Kingsley, the manipulative head of theater arts; and a visiting British theater troupe. As the novel progresses into the second half, Choi cleverly throws the prior plot into question, and we find ourselves doubting everything we previously took as fact. It's dark, evocative, and addictive. Read a chapter here.
Daisy Jones & the Six is about a fictional '70s rock band who decides to break up at the height of their fame. Written as an oral history, each character gets to tell their side of the tumultuous split, and you'll be hooked as you learn more about Daisy, her bandmates, and the legendary music they created. Read an excerpt here.
The World According to Fannie Davis is an amazing true story about a woman who catapulted her family from Jim Crow era poverty to a life of bourgeois comfort by running an illegal gambling operation in Detroit. Read the introduction here.
Frankly in Love follows Frank Li, a Korean American high school senior who feels stuck between what he wants and how to live up to the expectations of his parents, especially their one rule of dating: "Date Korean." This proves to be a problem when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is incredibly smart and pretty, but also white. His family friend Joy Song is in a similar situation, so they make a pact. They'll pretend to date each other so they earn more freedom to be with their real significant others. Yoon's stellar debut expertly and authentically tackles racism, privilege, and characters who are trying to navigate their Korean American identity. Read an excerpt here.
A family that isn’t exactly devastated by the death of their patriarch is an intriguing family indeed in Attenberg’s latest novel, set in New Orleans. It's an easy-to-read book about a complicated family — Attenberg’s area of expertise. Read the first chapter here.
*Newsletter-reviewed books that didn't make it into a post: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks, The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker, Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, The White Book by Han Kang, This Woman's Work by Julie Delporte, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, and Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett.