general fiction

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The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

Struggling single mom Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Zimbabwe’s capital until the handsome and charismatic Dumisani shows up at her salon. The young man has a lot of secrets.

The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne

Littlefield, MA: #6 on the Wall Street Journal's "Best Places to Live". A suburban idyll. More psychologists per capita than any other town in the USA. Which, no doubt, contributes to the plethora of stable families and overachieving children. Well-attended band concerts. Beautiful Victorian homes on manicured lawns. If happiness had an address it would be here. Then the first dog is poisoned. Shock. Disbelief. And, as more dogs die, cracks begin to appear in Littlefield's civilized veneer. Residents begin to suspect one another.

Beachcombing For a Shipwrecked God by Joe Coomer

Young and newly widowed archaeologist Charlotte leaves home with no forwarding address, fleeing the oppressive attentions of her grieving in-laws. She washes up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she rents a room on a houseboat with two other oddballs: elderly and a bit odd Grace, widowed a few years previously after a long and happy marriage, and 17-year-old Chloe, who has basically run away from home. This motley threesome becomes a family of sorts, caring for each other through Charlotte’s mourning process, Chloe’s unplanned pregnancy, and Grace’s sudden stroke.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s the last day of civilization, and famed actor Arthur Leander dies of a heart attack. This sets in motion the events of the story, with several characters and timelines weaving in and out, painting an elegiac ode to the survival of art in this brave new world. The author considers this book literary fiction, rather than sci-fi/fantasy, and her care with the book's ideas and characters make this statement ring true.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

The story of seven lives intersecting on a rainy, cold November day in 1999 in Seattle. The setting is the street demonstrations outside World Trade Organization meetings - the year the protests were huge, had amazing solidarity across diverse organizations, shut down the city, and elicited an overwhelming police response, including the National Guard. This debut novel tackles themes both personal and global, from father/son relationships, race relations, nonviolent principles and conflict, and first world / third world confrontations. Raw language fuels intense moments of action.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Lonely and depressed A. J. Fikry owns a bookstore on Alice Island off the coast of Massachusetts.  His wife has died. He’s a literary snob and only stocks titles that satisfy his old-fashioned tastes. Rather unsurprisingly, he has few friends and fewer customers. Then his most valuable possession, a first edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane, is stolen. But everything changes when someone unexpected shows up in the children’s section of his bookstore. Plot twists abound and are wonderfully all tied up with the perfect amount of humor, sadness and grace.

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

An enforcer for the brutal Duvalier regime in Haiti settles in New York City and reinvents himself as a simple barber, hiding in plain sight within the Haitian émigré community and raising a daughter who has no clue about her father’s brutal acts. In this book of linked stories, Danticat moves between 1960s Haiti and contemporary New York, and among a variety of characters who survived the mayhem of “Baby Doc” Duvalier, showing how brutality and violence haunt both victims and perpetrators and asking the question: is true redemption possible?

Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea

Based on the real-life Lizzie Burns, Irish rebel and helpmeet to philospher Frederick Engels, Mrs. Engels is a fascinating work of historical fiction. Gavin McCrea gives life to this little-known historical figure, portraying how an illiterate cotton mill worker became an influential figure in Engels’ and Karl Marx’s political circle. Lizzie’s wit and intelligence serve her well as she works her way up from the mills of Manchester to London society, and readers will enjoy Lizzie’s wry observations and no-nonsense voice in this first-person narrative.

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane

On a dark and stormy night, Frances Thorpe encounters a one-car accident and exchanges a few words with the trapped and unseen driver before she dies. When Frances later discovers that the driver is Alys Kyte, wife of the famous author, Lawrence Kyte, she carefully turns this unplanned encounter into an opportunity to change her future.  Reminiscent of Ruth Rendell or Margaret Yorke, this psychologically acute debut novel is imbued with subtle unease as Frances worms her way into the Kyte family and the glamorous world they inhabit.

New York Times Best Books of 2015

It's that time of year when we all add to our reading lists. Yesterday the editors of The New York Times Book Review released their top ten favorite books from 2015. Read their reviews here. Click on the jackets below for an annotated list with links into the library catalog.

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