April 2014

Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (April 2014)

Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library. Here are some recent favorites.
Cover of Motherland


Maria Hummel
Motherland is inspired by stories from the author’s father and his German childhood, and letters between her grandparents that were hidden in an attic wall for fifty years. It is the author’s attempt to reckon with the paradox of her father—a product of her grandparents’ fiercely protective love and their status as Mitläufer, Germans who ‘went along’ with Nazism, first reaping its benefits and later its consequences.” Hummel’s sparse writing style carries the intimacy of the story and the nervous anxiety of the situation.

The First True Lie

Marina Mander
Young Luca has “been an orphan fatherwise more or less since the beginning. Orphan is the only word I hate and that adults hate too. With orphan we’re all in agreement.” One day Luca’s mother doesn’t wake up, but she often takes medication that makes her sleepy. Luca is big enough to get off to school alone although he’s never done it. By that evening, Luca is faced with the reality that his mother is dead, but he decides to pretend differently. How long will the food for him and his cat last? Can he figure out how to use the ATM card? What’s that smell?
Cover of Belle Cora

Belle Cora

Phillip Margulies
Phillip Margulies takes on the role of an old woman writing her memoirs as he tells the story of a legendary figure of the Gold Rush era – San Francisco madam Arabella Godwin. Arabella’s bad luck begins with the death of her parents and being sent to live with a strict, poor relative. Not a lover of the hardscrabble life, she chooses to make her own fortune and returns to city comforts and a new identity as a high-class prostitute. Moving on to the new frontier of the West, her shame leads her to adapt another identity, one that glorifies her status and makes her a celebrity.

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

Valerie Martin
In 1872 the merchant ship Mary Celeste was discovered intact with no one aboard. None of the passengers and crew were ever heard from again. In the company of authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and the Doctor Who series writers, Martin blends fact and fiction to present her story of the ghost ship. Her gothic telling follows several threads – the story of the ship’s sailing, Conan Doyle’s inspiration to write his version of the tale, and a heavy reliance on the cultural popularity of spiritualism in the late 1800s. Historical fiction at its best from an Orange Prize winner.
Cover of Bark: Stories

Bark: Stories

Lorrie Moore
“A new collection of stories by one of America’s most beloved and admired short-story writers, her first in fifteen years, since Birds of America…” Striking a grand balance between tragedy and comedy, absurd and realistic, Moore’s eight stories reveal the perfection of telling a complete and satisfying episode in 15-40 pages. The evasive writer sets up situations where characters seem to dodge and spar around each other, verbally and physically. Reviewers are giving Bark the highest praise, and this is sure to be on “Best of the Year” lists.

The Crane Wife

Patrick Ness
A traditional Japanese fairy tale is the foundation for this smart character-driven novel. A wounded crane has landed in George’s back garden, and the next day a mysterious lady shows up in his print shop. She creates exquisite tiles from feathers which, when paired with George’s paper cuttings, stun any onlookers. Once Kumiko enters George’s life, his good fortune seems unlimited. The magical language creates beautiful images as the plot questions the ideas of forgiveness, loyalty, and perception.
Cover of Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation

Jenny Offill
Written from the viewpoint of “the wife”, this fragmented novel follows a marriage from early giddy wedded enchantment past the addition of a child, through its disintegration and ultimately a new identity for the narrator. Language and emotion are forefront as snippets of thought and action move the story ahead. Almost poetic in its structure, this small novel will appeal to people who read for the love of literary composition, for those who revel in the might that can be contained in only a few words.

Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi
Book clubs will find lots to discuss in Oyeyemi’s riff on the Snow White fairy tale which garnered a recent front page review in The New York Times Book Review. Fleeing an abusive father, Boy Novak lives a peaceful existence in idyllic Flax Hall, Massachusetts. She marries Arturo Whitman, becoming stepmother to lovely Snow. When Arturo and Boy’s baby has dark skin, the Whitman family secret is revealed. Despite encouragement to send Bird away to live with darker skinned relatives, it is Snow who is banished.
Cover of The Innocent Sleep

The Innocent Sleep

Karen Perry
This psychological drama examines a parent’s guilt over the loss of his child. Harry just stepped out to run a brief errand, leaving 3-year-old Dillon asleep in their apartment, when an earthquake leveled the building. Five years later, Harry is still consumed by his part in the tragedy, but life moves forward and his wife is expecting another baby. Then Harry, an artist who has sketched his visions of the aging Dillon, is sure he’s seen his son. His wife and best friend worry about his mental stability. Emotionally charged, page-turning tension mounts to a terrifying close.

Cold Storage, Alaska

M.D. Waters
More a tribute to eccentric characters, small town Alaskan life, and screwball comedy than a crime novel, Straley’s second book set in Cold Storage is nonetheless held together by the return of a criminal to his hometown and the disruption of calm life for everyone involved. Slaphappy action includes a kayaking Buddhist rescued by Bo Peep from a cruise ship, a large ugly dog of few words, a bar that serves as a church to meet local legal restrictions, and a drug lord who also writes screenplays. It’s a whacko place, but strangely appealing to visit.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!