general fiction

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The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

If Taylor Greer can manage to graduate high school without getting pregnant, she can manage anything. Ready for an adventure and a life better than what is offered in her small town in Kentucky, Taylor heads West in an old VW Bug. But before her car dies in Tucson, Arizona, and she begins her new life working at Jesus is Lord Auto Repair, Taylor becomes the one thing she worked so hard to avoid--a mother--after a stranger gives her a 3 year old. This is an awesome story with great characters, funny moments (and some heartbreaking ones), and a satisfying ending.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Did you ever wonder who scraped the mud off Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes, and boiled the mud stains out of her petticoats, after her tromp through the fields to visit her ailing sister Jane over at the Bingley’s house? No, probably not (I didn’t either, even though I’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice many times). Turns out it was Sarah, the Bennets’ young housemaid who toils away washing the young ladies’ linens and hauling water while dreaming of a life of her own beyond the visible horizon, perhaps even in London.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Jodi, a psychoanalyst, is in denial that her companion of 20 years is unfaithful until he decides to leave her. Their comfortable relationship is now in peril. Has she enabled him long enough? Is revenge the answer? How far will that desire for revenge take her? Todd is comfortable with their relationship, too. His meals are cooked, his house is well kept, and they enjoy their high-end lifestyle. But he wants more and takes up with yet another woman, this time younger.

The Last Days of California: A Novel by Mary Miller

Fifteen year old Jess is headed for California to witness the apocalypse. Accompanied by her fundamentalist parents caught up in end-of-the-world fervor and a rebellious older sister this coming-of-age road trip captures the tortured conflict between a desire to believe in something bigger than oneself and the ubiquity of popular culture’s pull. Narrated with pitch perfect skill Miller captures the heart and heartbreak of adolescence.

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.

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