City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Making our top 10 list for 2019, beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.
The Lost Family
by Jenna Blum
"The Lost Family is an extraordinary read, the kind of book that makes you sob and smile, the kind that gives you hope…. It is compassionate, masterful and disturbingly contemporary."—Tatiana de Rosnay, bestselling author of Sarah’s Key
The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished.
Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways.
Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.
Mary Jane's Pick
The 9th Girl
by Tamie Hoag
On a frigid New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis, a young woman is found brutally murdered—the ninth so far this year in a string of grisly slayings. Homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska fear that it’s the work of a serial killer they call Doc Holiday, a transient who has brought his gruesome game to a new and more terrifying level. But as Kovac and Liska uncover the truth, they find that the monsters in the ninth girl’s life may live closer to home. And even as another young woman disappears, they have to ask the question: Which is the greater evil—the devil you know or the devil you don’t?
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J. D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
I am Watching You
by Teresa Driscoll
When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.
A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.
Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.
Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.
The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr
by Susan Holloway Scott
Inspired by a woman and events forgotten by history, bestselling author Susan Holloway Scott weaves together carefully researched fact and fiction to tell the story of Mary Emmons, and the place she held in the life—and the heart—of the notorious Aaron Burr.
He was a hero of the Revolution, a brilliant politician, lawyer, and very nearly president; a skillful survivor in a raw new country filled with constantly shifting loyalties. Today Aaron Burr is remembered more for the fatal duel that killed rival Alexander Hamilton. But long before that single shot destroyed Burr’s political career, there were other dark whispers about him: that he was untrustworthy, a libertine, a man unafraid of claiming whatever he believed should be his.
Sold into slavery as a child in India, Mary Emmons was brought to an America torn by war. Toughened by the experiences of her young life, Mary is intelligent, resourceful, and strong. She quickly gains the trust of her new mistress, Theodosia Prevost, and becomes indispensable in a complicated household filled with intrigue—especially when the now-widowed Theodosia marries Colonel Aaron Burr. As Theodosia sickens with the fatal disease that will finally kill her, Mary and Burr are drawn together into a private world of power and passion, and a secret, tangled union that would have shocked the nation . . .
by Elizabeth Strout
At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.
As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it require.
The Reading Life: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
by Anne Bogel
For so many people, reading isn't just a hobby or a way to pass the time--it's a lifestyle. Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can't imagine life without them.
I'd Rather Be Reading is the perfect literary companion for everyone who feels that way. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today. Known as a reading tastemaker through her popular podcast What Should I Read Next?, Bogel invites book lovers into a community of like-minded people to discover new ways to approach literature, learn fascinating new things about books and publishing, and reflect on the role reading plays in their lives.
The perfect gift for the bibliophile in everyone's life, I'd Rather Be Reading will command an honored place on the overstuffed bookshelves of any book lover.