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general fiction

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Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman

A debut novel about a dissolute artist, Thomas Bayber, and his relationship with two sisters, Natalie and Alice Kessler. This is a fascinating art history story and also a satisfying chronicle of the central character’s family histories. The story takes place over three time periods, 1963, when the teenage sisters first meet and become infatuated with the older artist; 1972, when Thomas has a brief affair with Alice and she becomes pregnant; and 2007 when the now famous artist is dying.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Set against the Nigerian conflict of 1967-1970 Adichie blends political drama and relationships. Tribal loyalties, British colonialism and that universal emotion : love are explored. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna is the professor’s privileged beautiful mistress and Richard is a young Englishman in love with the country and Olanna’s twin sister. These characters will be tested by family loyalities and personal decisions intertwined with  themes of class, race and war-time survival .

The Lower River by Paul Theroux

Ellis Hock bids adieu to his failing clothing store, bitter wife and avaricious daughter and returns to Malabo, Malawi where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer almost 40 years ago. But a place of hope and nostalgia and usefulness has deteriorated to one of corruption, deep distrust and danger. Ellis not only has nothing to do but is slowly consumed by the people he once loved until he discovers that there is a price on his head. Snakes play a major—if understated—role in this provocative tale. Theroux is a master story teller with the travel writer’s exquisite eye for detail.

A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay

Eight-year-old Norma Joyce and her 17-year-old sister Lucinda are living with their widowed father on a wind-swept farm in 1930s Saskatchewan when a stranger blows into town and changes their lives forever. Beautiful, fair and hard-working Lucinda is the favored daughter, compared to small, dark and challenging Norma Joyce, but each is formidable in her own way. This family story by an acclaimed Canadian author covers 30 years and takes its members from the western prairies to "heavenly" Ontario to New York City and back again, through dreams, heartbreak, love, betrayal and loss.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells is a brand-new (yes, really!) novel featuring beloved characters Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves. Sebastian Faulks has captured the spirit of P.G. Wodehouse's most famous characters, and the witty dialogue and hilarious situations Bertie and Jeeves find themselves in are absolutely true to Wodehouse form. I was a bit skeptical that Faulks would be able to pull this novel off, but, incredibly, it fits right in with the Wodehouse collection of comedic perfection. It will please old fans and should attract new readers to these characters.

Everybody Has Everything by Kristen Onstad

After years of trying to have a baby, James and Ana unexpectedly become instant parents of a toddler whose parents have been killed (the dad) and possibly fatally injured (the mom) in a car accident. James dives into fathering while Ana keeps her distance, and their lives, identities and even their formerly happy marriage are put to the test. Canadian writer Onstad creates a story that rises far above chick lit, with evocative prose, fully realized characters, and a conclusion that is both unpredictable and true-to-life.

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Yael, Avishag and Lea are typical teens coming of age in an atypical environment—a country in a state of continual hostility with its neighbors and ever-present fear of attacks on civilians. It is modern Israel. The three friends are drafted into the Israeli Defense Force and fulfill their two years of service training shooters, monitoring border checkpoints, flirting with boys, remembering their girlhoods in a tiny village on the Lebanese border, and wondering about the future.

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

This deliciously short novel recounts the experiences of a war correspondent, her philandering poet husband, their teenage daughter, and two family friends on holiday in the hills above Nice. Just as they arrive they discover a young women, naked, in the swimming pool. For reasons not immediately obvious, the stranger is invited to stay with them in the villa. The characters in this story have interesting dimensions and their complicated relationships with each are deftly explored. Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2012.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Twin sisters Kate and Violet have taken separate paths in life: Kate is happily married with two small children; Violet is a bit of a drifter still unattached and making a living as a medium. Then Violet publicly predicts that a major earthquake will hit St. Louis MO on a specific date, just after a smaller earthquake hits the area. Years ago, Kate “disabled” her own psychic abilities by choice and now must confront her sister’s sudden celebrity status, her scientist husband’s skepticism, and her unexpected attraction to a fellow stay-at-home dad.

Sparta by Roxana Robinson

It’s 2006 and Conrad Farrell has just returned home after four years in Iraq as an officer in the Marines. While his parents and siblings welcome him back warmly, and his girlfriend welcomes him more cautiously, Conrad finds that re-entering the world he left behind is nothing like he thought it would be. As he corresponds with men he served with—some still at war and some back home--flashes back on painful scenes from Iraq, he finds himself confused, angry, and frustrated, with little help forthcoming from the VA.

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