EDIE RICHTER IS NOT ALONE by Rebecca Handler
Edie Richter is living in Boston with her husband, Oren, when her father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Edie and Oren uproot their lives to move to San Francisco where she can be closer to her family, and she suffers considerable emotional strain as her father slowly loses his physical and mental faculties. “I knew Dad would stop recognizing me. I didn’t know I would stop recognizing him,” she confesses.
After watching his steady decline for months, Edie puts a t-shirt over her father’s mouth and suffocates him.
You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about Perth HERE.
THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books, 2020
Bea and Lo Denham are inseparable sisters until their parents die in a car crash that Lo narrowly survives. Bea, depressed and desperate after the accident, falls into the arms of The Unity Project, a religious community that embraces her as she abandons her sister to the care of their great aunt. Years later, alone in the world after the death of their aunt and working as a secretary for a prestigious journalist, 19-year-old Lo is determined to unmask The Unity Project for what she believes it to be: a cult that indoctrinated her unwitting sister.
You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about cult psychology HERE.
DARK HORSES by Susan Mihalic
Gallery/Scout, February 16, 2021
Dark Horses is a shocking, heart-pounding debut; it’s both a coming-of-age novel and an unflinching story of resilience and survival. Fifteen-year-old Roan Montgomery is an equestrian prodigy; she attends a private high school, where she is given a special schedule allowing her to miss afternoon classes to train for her horseback riding events, which are a stepping stone to her plan of one day riding in the Olympics. In spite of her shortened class schedule, Roan receives straight As, and isn’t allowed to date or attend any social events outside of school. The reason why, the reader soon finds out, is disturbing and sinister: Roan’s father, also her riding coach, is in complete control of every facet of her life, and on top of the daily emotional abuse he inflicts on her, he has been sexually abusing her since early childhood.
You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about equestrian eventing HERE.
THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER by Stuart Turton
In 1634 on the day that world famous detective Samuel Pipps is set to board the Sardaam from Batavia to Amsterdam in handcuffs, the ship is approached by a leper who climbs atop a crate to declare a frightening prophecy: “The Sardaam‘s cargo is sin, and all who board her will be brought to merciless ruin. She will not reach Amsterdam.” The man then bursts into flames and dies moments later, at which time it’s discovered that, despite the prophecy he just announced, he has no tongue.
While the opening of this standalone mystery is explosive, The Devil and the Dark Water is a slow burner. It mostly follows Arent, Samuel Pipps’ bodyguard, a gruff yet honorable man intent on proving the innocence of his accused employer. It also follows Sara Wessel, a noblewoman trapped in an abusive marriage hoping to make a new life for herself in Amsterdam. The two form an unlikely friendship as the ship comes under siege by dark forces in the form of a demon called Old Tom that has a terrifying link to Arent’s past.
You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about the Dutch East India Trading Company HERE.
KIM JIYOUNG, BORN 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
translated by Jamie Chang
Liveright, April 2020
“Kim Jiyoung is thirty-three years old, thirty-four Korean age. She got married three years ago and had a daughter last year. […] Jiyoung’s abnormal behavior was first detected on 8 September.”
So begins Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, Cho Nam-Joo’s daring excavation of a young woman crumbling under the strain of unrelenting misogyny, which has sold over a million copies in its native South Korea. Jiyoung (the Korean naming convention places a person’s family name before their given name), an average, unremarkable woman, one day begins to imitate the voices of other women she has known throughout her life—a phenomenon neither she nor her husband can explain, which prompts them to visit a psychiatrist.
You can read my full review HERE on BookBrowse, and a piece I wrote about feminist movements in South Korea HERE.
You can pick up a copy of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 here on Book Depository.
THE EVERLASTING by Katy Simpson Smith
Broad and ambitious in scope, The Everlasting endeavors to capture the history and spirit of Rome across generations. It opens with an epigraph from the poem “Adonais” by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
“Go thou to Rome—at once the Paradise,
The grave, the city, and the wilderness.”
The plot begins in 2015 with a section titled “The Wilderness,” which introduces us to Tom, an American field biologist studying a group of crustaceans called ostracods. Though still married, Tom spends his days alone while his wife is back in California with their daughter, and reflects on the failed state of their marriage. This novel is dense at times, and Tom’s sections offer little reprieve; the crumbling marriage and allure of an enigmatic Italian woman a sort of clichéd setup that doesn’t feel like it quite earns its length, or the reader’s investment. This section does, however, establish the novel’s central theme: desire and temptation, and whether succumbing to temptation is inherently immoral.
You can read my full review HERE and a piece I wrote about books set across huge spans of time HERE.
You can pick up a copy of The Everlasting here on Book Depository.
SAINT X by Alexis Schaitkin
In the opening pages of her debut novel, Alexis Schaitkin introduces the reader to an idyllic beach scene, where mostly American tourists are lounging around on the fictional island of Saint X. Within a few pages idyll turns to tragedy as the 18-year-old daughter of the Thomas family, Alison, goes missing, and days later turns up dead. Two men are charged with her murder, but both are acquitted, and the mystery goes unsolved. Years later, we follow Alison’s younger sister, Claire, who was only seven years old at the time of Alison’s death. Now living in New York, Claire has a chance encounter that brings her into contact with Clive Richardson, one of the two men that had been charged with killing Alison. Believing their encounter to be an act of fate, Claire latches onto her connection with Clive in an attempt to discover what really happened to her sister.
You can read my full review HERE and a piece I wrote about Caribbean immigration to the US HERE.
You can pick up a copy of Saint X here on Book Depository.
THE GLASS HOTEL by Emily St. John Mandel
Vincent—a young woman named for American poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay—is working as a bartender in a hotel on a remote island in British Columbia, when one day a message is scrawled across the hotel window that reads: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” This sets off the unexpected chain of events that are chronicled by Emily St. John Mandel in her highly anticipated novel The Glass Hotel, which follows Vincent from rural Canada to Wall Street as she becomes involved with a high-level financial executive, whose successful business is revealed to be fronting a Ponzi scheme. This is the first novel that Mandel has published since the release of the wildly successful Station Eleven in 2014.
You can read my full review HERE and a piece I wrote about Ponzi schemes HERE.
You can pick up a copy of The Glass Hotel here on Book Depository.
LITTLE GODS by Meng Jin
Custom House, January 2020
Little Gods, Meng Jin’s intricate, emotionally intelligent debut, opens with a scene in which physicist Su Lan gives birth in Beijing in 1989. Through the eyes of a nurse working the night shift, we learn that inside the hospital, Su Lan is abandoned by her husband, while outside, the violence of the June 4th Tiananmen Square Massacre erupts around her. The narrative then skips forward 17 years to Su Lan’s death.
The novel unfolds in a non-linear fashion; in the opening chapters we’re introduced to a shadow of the woman that Su Lan becomes—a distant, hardworking single mother—before we delve into the past and begin to reconstruct her character.
You can read the rest of my review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I wrote about the Tienanmen Square Massacre HERE.
You can pick up a copy of Little Gods here on Book Depository.
FIND ME by André Aciman
FSG, October 2019
In Call Me by Your Name, first published in 2007, André Aciman introduced Elio, an adolescent boy living with his family in the Italian Riviera, and Oliver, the charming graduate student houseguest with whom he falls in love. The book charts their passionate affair and concludes with a bittersweet crescendo; a tricky ending to expand into a sequel without sacrificing the perfect balance of realism and romanticism that caused Call Me by Your Name to resonate with so many readers. Find Me not only rises to that challenge but exceeds it. While a prior attachment to these characters is arguably necessary to get the full emotional payoff of the sequel, it could otherwise be read as a standalone; knowledge of the first book’s plot is not essential.
You can read the rest of my review HERE on BookBrowse, and you can read a piece I did on popular literary sequels HERE.
You can pick up a copy of Find Me here on Book Depository, and Call Me By Your Name here.