Anne Tyler$26.95 $24.26
Micah Mortimer is content with his life. He is a cautious man who has a daily schedule from which he never veers, a job as a self-employed tech expert, and a steady “woman friend” (he will not call a woman in her 30s a girlfriend). His routine is abruptly thrown into disarray by the appearance of a young man who believes Micah is his father, and his woman friend’s announcement that she is about to be evicted from her apartment. Micah’s reaction to these two events upends his well-ordered life. Is he able to change, to throw off his blinders, to risk disrupting his sacred routine? Anne Tyler fans will recognize a character such as Micah, a man outside the norm. Her characters can grate when we first meet them; we want to scream at them to open their eyes, yet we find ourselves loving and cheering for them by the end of the book. Redhead by the Side of the Road is vintage Anne Tyler. As to the redhead—it’s a metaphor, not a woman.
Julia Phillips$16.95 $15.59
One day in August, on the rugged Russian Kamchatka peninsula—the eastern-most part of Russia—two sisters, Alyona and Sophia, ages eight and 11, willingly step into a stranger’s car and disappear. The subsequent investigation of the kidnapping yields no clues, and the case fades into the collective memory of the police. But the crime stays alive among the residents of the close-knit peninsula community; it has a lasting effect on the characters Julia Phillips presents month by month throughout the year following the crime. Disappearing Earth, however, moves beyond a thriller/mystery. Phillips presents the geography and culture of a unique part of Russia. The Kamchatka peninsula is isolated, cut off from the rest of the country by mountains and the Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Okhotsk Sea to the west. The peninsula has a rugged, inhospitable topography that is at the same time quite beautiful and dramatic. Outsiders are immediately suspect, ethnic differences separate the dark-skinned native population from the white, richer residents. Phillips’ women are strong characters, the ones who hold on to the hope of the sisters’ survival. Disappearing Earth is a debut novel that was selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2019. Julia Phillips has an insiders grasp of the terrain and culture of the region as well as a deep understanding of human nature. Once immersed into Disappearing Earth, you will not want to leave.
Nicole Dennis-Benn$26.95 $24.26
Patsy was one of my favorite reads of the year. Nicole Dennis-Benn tackles themes of motherhood, family, love, immigration, gender, sexuality, and more in an accessible and exciting way. The novel follows the lives of Patsy and her daughter, Tru, switching between their two perspectives each chapter. Patsy, a young Jamaican woman who believes she became a mother before she was ready, leaves her five-year-old daughter to start a new life in the United States. Tru, now left to be raised by her father and his wife, grows up in Jamaica curious about her mother and exploring her own identity. The book follows both Tru and Patsy's lives, detailing their hardships while also providing uplifting moments. A beautiful read and certainly a page-turner.
Mai Phan Que Nguyen$26.95 $24.26
Reading The Mountains Sing it is no surprise to learn that Que Mai is a poet. Her beautifully written book takes the rough edges off the 20th century story of Vietnam. In the first chapter (2012), Dieu Lan has died and her granddaughter, Huong is honoring her at the ancestral altar. Huong hears her grandmother’s voice: “The challenges faced by the Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks. Once you step away from the currents of life, your will have the full view...” Que Mai then takes us back to the early 1970s when Dieu Lan is taking care of twelve-year-old Huong while her parents are fighting the war against the South Vietnamese and the Americans. In the time they are alone, Dieu Lan tells Huong the story of her life, the challenges dating back to the early 1900s, and Land Reform in the 1950s. Through the telling of her story, we learn of Dieu Lan’s love of family, her ability to adapt and persevere, and her capacity to forgive.
Sue Monk Kidd$28.00 $25.20
There is no record of Jesus from the age of twelve to the age of thirty. Through extensive research, Sue Monk Kidd has filled this gap by writing what Jesus's life might have been like, and this includes him having a wife. In her author’s note she describes the first century as a time when it was expected that a man marry in order to fully attain adulthood, so there's the possibility that Jesus did marry... Ana is raised in a family of wealth. She speaks several languages and spends her time writing, often secretly. She is courageous and adventurous. She is a feminist. Her parents are politically connected and strive for power. When Ana meets Jesus, he is not the match her family would want for her, but circumstances provide them the opportunity to be together. Even though they are a couple they are often apart as at first Jesus travels to find work to support his family, and later to be part of the ministry of John the Baptist. The Book of Longings will be a popular choice for book discussion groups.