Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon
The murder of a teen girl after a party immediately and forever changes the lives of the other teens who were with her as well as the parents of this quiet upper end neighborhood. Everybody is friendly until it is their kid that is threatened and as the detectives begin to round up a suspect and witnesses the three families involved circle the wagons screaming innocence. Friends who you shared wine with the day before are now accusatory and no one believes their child is capable of any wrongdoing. Who is lying, who was really responsible and how well do they really know their kids all play out in this expertly crafted drama. For fans of BEARTOWN, DEFENDING JACOB and LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE this one is for you. 4 stars
Wade In The Water by Nyani Nkrumah
Happy book birthday to WADE IN THE WATER by Nyani Nkrumah.
When a white woman shows up in the very black part of Ricksville Mississippi alarm bells go off and Ella thinks, like the rest of her neighbors that this woman is crazy. Ms. St. James claims to be from Princeton and is writing her thesis on the Civil Rights Movement and wants to get the facts from the people who were part of it. Ella having few friends and at the impressionable age of 11 befriends Ms. St. James but that friendship is not an easy one. A coming of age story of a fatherless and mother couldn't care less little girl searching for her roots and trying to figure out life. It is also a story of how the sins of the father fall on the children who should do better. Historical fiction with a soul for fans of THE VANISHING HALF and stories set in the south during the 60's. 4 stars
Small World by Laura Zigman
Joyce and Lydia once upon a time along with their youngest sister Eleanor were the Mellishman sisters. Eleanor had cerebral palsy confined to a wheelchair, unable to communicate well or participate easily in most family functions. She was the center of attention and the apple of their mother's eye who doted on her every need and was a fierce supporter for the rights of disabled children. This meant that Joyce and Lydia were basically invisible even after Eleanor passed away at an early age. As young adults the sisters split up on opposite coasts but now both sisters are divorced and need a fresh start. Joyce moves back home and stays with Lydia disrupting her very orderly and private space. Lydia now alone has a fulfilling family life by organizing and cataloging family photos of clients. She also secretly writes small poems compiled from their neighborhood chat site. When Joyce makes friends with the new noisy upstairs neighbors it is more change and betrayal than Lydia can stand. One of them has to get out of their small world and find some common ground. A tragic and heartwarming look at the family matrix and complex sister relationships and how we all try to fit a very large puzzling life full of big problems into our small worlds. 4 1/2 stars
Alice is on the run in Alabama headed to Chicago to search for her older sister and not at all certain how or when she will get there. A chance bus stop leads her to a welcoming town where everyone shares the same skin color and missing are the back entrances, not welcome signs and separate and not equal issues of her past. She falls in love with the town and soon with a son from a founding father making New Jessup her home. Alice is still eager to find her sister but is more focused on her new home and caring for her family. It would be paradise if not for the secrets of clandestine activities her husband and friends are involved in and the ever present threat of messing up their hard fought independence from the town on the other side of the woods. A quiet but profound look at the beginnings of Civil Rights and the less talked about issues of chosen segregation as seen through the eyes of a woman yearning to escape the violence and heartbreak of her youth. Fans of THE VANISHING HALF as well as books about Greenwood and other all black communities will enjoy. 4 stars
A deeply moving story of an Iranian-American family in flux caught between the unyielding traditional patriarchy and rebellious women aching for more freedom. Fleeing Iran during the political revolution in the late 70's Yusef and Shireen come to America to settle and raise two daughters - Mitra the rebel and Anahita the pleaser. Mitra makes herself unmarriageable so that the younger Anahita can marry. Yusef cuts Mitra out of the family and the gap widens when Anahita is killed in a tragic accident. Mitra closes herself off emotionally from her boyfriend and what is left of the family but when a young woman in trouble turns to Mitra it will help her to open her heart and try to repair ties. For everything a man gets wrong the support of the women get right. Prevalent themes of sexual abuse, infidelity, class differences and the search for freedom and independence all play a major role as well as the behind the scenes support of these strong women. Readers and book clubs looking to immerse themselves in a rich culture with all the universal drama that goes on in every family will find much to love here. 4 1/2 stars
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
In the HIndu calendar it is known as the Age of Vice and for the Wadia family power and excess become their mantra. Sunny is caught between wanting to impress his abusive father, do the right thing and impress his journalist girlfriend as well as save Ajay the young man pulled out of poverty to serve the family. A horrible accident takes multiple lives and protects the guilty sending loyal Ajay to go to prison as proxy. Sunny deals with the guilt and nightmares in oblivion from excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs. Neda tries to reconcile her ideals and writing with the reality of the city and her involvement with Sunny. The Indian equivalent of THE GODFATHER, this gangster saga has all the corruption and violence you would expect plus themes of family, loyalty, loss of innocence and search for redemption you would not expect. An excess of everything that eventually will create a bonfire and take all the players down with it. This will appeal to readers of crime that take place outside the U.S. also fans of SHANTARAM .
Geeta didn't kill her husband but she is reveling in the perks of being a widow. No one messes with her and her business is booming. She strikes fear into the hearts of the villagers who treat her as half witch and half Godfather. The only glitch is that now some of the other wives want that same freedom and want Geeta's help to rid them of their husbands. What follows is a "be careful what you wish for" tale that challenges what we think of as the voice of Indian women. A glowing debut full of dark humor and perfect for fans of EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS
Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman
An "only in NYC" story of spying neighbors, strong sister relationships and taking chances. Getting caught naked on the rooftop of your building with a younger co-worker might not have been the best decision Jane made and while she is not happy about having her law license suspended and being under house arrest, it does give her time to re-evaluate her career and life. Her twin sister Jackleen is only too happy to keep Jane busy with an idea to boost Jackleen's online presence along with another ankle bracelet neighbor. This is a REAR WINDOW meets ONLY MURDERERS IN THE BUILDING kind of ROMCOM with strong ties to family and knowing when to take the leap and try something new. These are strong women who don't swoon or go running to daddy for help but instead take on life full on which is why they are perfect, honest and real as only Elinor Lipman can deliver. For fans of the escapades of Tracy Flick, Finlay Donovan and Bernadette. 4 1/2 stars
The Circus Train by Amita Park
Lena is fragile and often alone due to the polio she contracted as a child but since her dad is a famous illusionist with a traveling circus life is never boring. She prefers the quiet to the spotlight throwing herself into her books until the day she discovers a young boy almost frozen and by saving his life, he saves hers. Alexandre is a jewish orphan and with WWII looming on the horizon it is not safe unless they change his identity and Lena's father teaches him to be an illusionist insuring his place in the circus. Starting out as the best of friends Lena and Alexandre grow to feel much more for each other only to be torn apart when disaster strikes. One goes off to follow dreams, the other needs to survive and have the chance to repair the past but neither can really forget the other. This is a beautiful WWII story that mirrors the horrors of war with the innocence of young love and the wonders of modern medicine. A story of following your dreams and never losing hope even when it looks hopeless. Readers of WWII historical fiction will appreciate this as much as fans of circus stories like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.
Take the brave but lonely heroine from WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and put her in the dystopian world beginning again in STATION ELEVEN and you have a bit of an idea of the wonder of THE LIGHT PIRATE. A bad hurricane is coming and with it ushers in a new landscape and level of uncertainty. Lives are lost, a baby will be born and one family will never recover. Fast forward and that same baby named for the hurricane is growing up with only an older woman as company in a very hostile Florida whose climate and decay is becoming more dangerous every day.
This elegantly written story is one of loneliness, trust and family where you find it as much as it is the dichotomy of beauty and incredible violence of nature. Dystopic with a touch of magical realism but also full of human strength and frailty. The audio version is just as magical and I would listen to this on a road trip to Florida. 5 stars
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