The Book of Two Ways
by Jodi Picoult
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light comes a novel about the choices that alter the course of our lives.
Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.
Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients.
But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.
After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways—the first known map of the afterlife.
As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices . . . or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?
The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling follow-up to The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.
Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.
by David Nicholls
From the best-selling author of One Day comes a bittersweet and brilliantly funny coming-of-age tale about the heart-stopping thrill of first love—and how just one summer can forever change a life.
Now: On the verge of marriage and a fresh start, thirty-eight year old Charlie Lewis finds that he can’t stop thinking about the past, and the events of one particular summer.
Then: Sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. He’s failing his classes. At home he looks after his depressed father—when surely it should be the other way round—and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.
But when Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.
In order to spend time with Fran, Charlie must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling: The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet learned and performed in a theater troupe over the course of a summer.
Now: Charlie can’t go the altar without coming to terms with his relationship with Fran, his friends, and his former self. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.
Mary Jane's Pick
The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett
From The New York Times-bestselling author of The Mothers, a stunning new novel about twin sisters, inseparable as children, who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.
A Room Called Earth
by Madeleine Ryan
The debut novel from an autistic writer, an extraordinary story of a fiercely original young woman whose radical self-acceptance illuminates a new way of being in the world, and opens up a whole new realm of understanding and connection.
As a full moon rises over Melbourne, Australia, a young autistic woman gets ready for a party. What appears to be the start of an ordinary night out, though, is, through the prism of her mind, extraordinary. As the events of the night unfold, she moves from person to person, weaving a web around the magical, the mundane, and the tragic. She's charming and witty, with a touch of irreverence; people can't help but find her magnetic. However, each encounter she has, whether with her ex-boyfriend or a woman who wants to compliment her outfit, reveals the vast discrepancies between what she is thinking, and feeling, and what she is able to say. And there's so much she'd like to say.
When she meets a man in line for the bathroom, and the possibility of intimacy and genuine connection occurs, it's nothing short of a miracle. It isn't until she invites him home, though, and into her remarkable world that we come to appreciate the humanity beneath the labels we cling to, to grasp, through her singular perspective, the visceral joy of what it means to be alive.
From the inimitable mind of Madeleine Ryan, an outspoken advocate for neurodiversity, A Room Called Earth is a magical and miraculous adventure inside the mind of an autistic woman. Humorous and heartwarming, and brimming with joy, this hyper-saturated celebration of acceptance is a testament to moving through life without fear, and to opening ourselves up to a new way of relating to one another.
The Secrets We Kept
by Lara Prescott
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:
THE WASHINGTON POST • NPR • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY • THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • LIBRARY JOURNAL • THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
At the height of the Cold War, Irina, a young Russian-American secretary, is plucked from the CIA typing pool and given the assignment of a lifetime. Her mission: to help smuggle Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, where it is banned, and enable Boris Pasternak’s magnum opus to make its way into print around the world. Mentoring Irina is the glamorous Sally Forrester: a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit, using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Under Sally’s tutelage, Irina learns how to invisibly ferry classified documents—and discovers deeply buried truths about herself. The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. Told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail, this is an unforgettable debut: a celebration of the powerful belief that a work of art can change the world.
A Good Family
by A. H. Kim
Keep your family close and your enemies closer.
Beth is the darling of God Halsa, a pharmaceutical giant, and she’s got the outrageous salary and lifestyle to prove it. Until she lands in white-collar women’s prison, thanks to a high-profile whistleblower suit.
Sam, Beth’s husband, used to be the town’s most eligible bachelor, and he’s never had to do anything for himself. Until his wife goes to jail, and he’s left to raise two daughters on his own.
Lise, the au pair, is the whistleblower. But is she? Everyone knows she’s not clever enough to have done it alone.
Hannah, Sam’s sister, is devoted to her family. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for them.
Eva, Beth’s sister, is the smart one. (Read: not the pretty one.) Her life seems perfect on the surface, but sibling rivalry runs deep.
Martin, Beth’s brother, is the firstborn, the former golden boy turned inside-the Beltway businessman. But what is he hiding?
Someone knows something. Someone betrayed Beth.
This is the story of the Min-Lindstroms. This is the story of the all-American family as it implodes under the weight of secrets, lies and the unchecked desire for wealth and power.