For Top Ten Tuesday, bloggers are sharing their spring reading lists. These are ten of the books I am most looking forward to reading in the next couple months. While most will be published this spring, a few are already available (and one is a year old, but new to me).
Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyeyemi (March 6)
Nigerian-born, British-raised author Helen Oyeyemi has made a sort of specialty out of writing fractured fairy tales. Here she takes the story of Snow White and places it in rural Massachusetts in 1953. A young female runaway from New York City named Boy settles into a boardinghouse and soon marries an older widower. Her relationship with her stepdaughter, Snow, is fraught with conflicts. Things take a turn for the twisted when daughter Bird is born and her husband’s family secret is out: They are light-skinned blacks who have been passing as white for a long time.
The Ghost of the Mary Celeste – Valerie Martin (Jan. 28)
The Mary Celeste was an American merchant vessel found floating off the coast of Spain in 1872. The crew was gone, but there was no sign of a struggle, nothing missing, etc. Young writer Arthur Conan Doyle (yes, that ACD) is intrigued by this event and writes a short story about the ghost ship. An American journalist reads the story and decides to investigate further. The result is a highly literary and very atmospheric mystery.
A Life in Men – Gina Frangello (Feb. 4)
Two young women, Mary and Nix, decide to take a trip to Greece, in part because Nix has learned that her lifelong friend Mary is slowly dying and wants her to have a grand adventure. But Nix ends their friendship after the trip for reasons unknown to Mary. A few years later, it is Nix who is dead, and Mary is preoccupied with questions about her. She returns to Europe to get her questions answered and has the life-changing experience the initial trip was meant to be.
Eleven Days – Lea Carpenter (April 2013)
This novel was published in spring of 2013, but is receiving a lot of attention now after making the longlist of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK a few weeks ago. Jason is a gifted young man who joins the Navy after 9/11 and, after nine years, he is finishing his service. While on a top-secret mission with the Navy SEALs, he disappears. Eleven Days follows his mother Sara during the first 11 days of his disappearance, as she tries to make sense of her brilliant son’s decision to join the military, the ways it changed him, and how she will live without him if he does not return.
Be Safe, I Love You – Cara Hoffman (April 1)
The latest in a steady stream of novels about the Iraq War written by women, Be Safe, I Love You appears to be the partner to Roxanna Robinson’s Sparta. Both explore the return home of a soldier with PTSD, in Sparta a young man, and in Be Safe a young woman. Lauren Clay is clearly disturbed after her tour of duty in Iraq, but her father lets her take her younger brother Danny to upstate New York to visit their mother. Instead, Lauren drives them to Canada to visit the Jeanne d’Arc basin oil fields, with which she has become obsessed. They end up on what Lauren thinks is a survival training trip for Danny.
The Bees – Laline Paull (May 6)
This book has me buzzing with anticipation. 😉 It’s a dystopian thriller set in a beehive and the description reminds me of one of my favorite books, Watership Down. If it is as good as early readers say it is, you’ll forget you’re reading about bees. Flora 717 is a low-caste sanitation worker who eventually makes her way into the royal nursery and even to the ranks of foragers (pollen gatherers). When she gains access to the Queen’s inner circle, she discovers all is not as members of the hive have been led to believe. She is soon considered a threat to the Queen. Sounds like a vividly imagined, page-turning read.
Chasing the Sun – Natalia Sylvester (June 3)
A troubled marriage becomes even more tangled when the wife is kidnapped in this combination character study and suspense novel set in Lima, Peru. Sylvester’s debut novel is being published by New Harvest, Amazon’s joint venture with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It will be interesting to see how Chasing the Sun sells, as many independent bookstores have refused to stock anything on the New Harvest imprint.
We Are Called to Rise – Laura McBride (June 3)
Las Vegas resident McBride weaves together the tales of four vastly different characters struggling in the real Las Vegas, the one far from the Strip. Vegas is the city of dreams for millions of people, but those dreams do not easily become reality. An Iraq war veteran, a social worker, a housewife in a crumbling marriage, and an immigrant boy try to make sense of their circumstances and create lives they actually want to live. Gritty but compassionate and very memorable.
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street – Susan Jane Gilman (June 10)
Gilman’s book is the rags-to-riches story of Malka Treynovksy, who arrives in New York City from Russia with her parents in 1913. Before long, she is crippled and abandoned on the Lower East Side. She is taken in by an Italian ices peddler, and begins to help him and learn the business. Later, she and her husband Albert decide to travel across the country in an ice cream truck. Malka eventually transforms herself into Lilian Dunkle, the queen of an ice cream empire. Spanning 70 years and tracking the 20th century, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street should be a rejuvenating read over the summer.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng (June 26)
When the beloved teenage daughter of a Chinese-American family living in 1970s Ohio is found murdered, the family falls into disarray as the parents grieve in their separate and obsessive ways and older brother Nathan suspects a local boy. But youngest daughter Hannah knows more than anyone suspects and may hold the key to solving the crime and saving the family. Celeste Ng’s debut novel is a probing examination of family dynamics, parents’ dreams for their children, immigrant acculturation, and generational conflict.