New Books to Read in 2020

Some of my favorite authors have new books this year:

  1. Sophie Hannah – Perfect Little Children
  2. Chris Bohjalian – The Red Lotus
  3. Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light
  4. Donna Leon – Trace Elements
  5. Carol Goodman – The Sea of Lost Girls
  6. Anne Tyler – The Redhead by the Side of the Road
  7. Isabel Allende – A Long Petal in the Sea
  8. Lisa Gardner – When You See Me

 

  1. Sophie Hannah (Author of The Nightingale and How to Hold a Grudge) has a new suspense mystery coming in February – Perfect Little Children:

” Beth hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today—or ever again. But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora arrives and calls to her children Thomas and Emily to get out of the car.

There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt, but they haven’t changed at all. They are no taller, no older. Why haven’t they grown? How is it possible that they haven’t grown up?”

 

2. If you need more suspense, Chris Bohjalian (The Flight Attendant) has The Red Lotus coming in March:

” an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.”

3. For fans of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel is finally delivering the third book in the trilogy in March – The Mirror and the Light:

“With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision.”

4. Need a taste of Italy?  Donna Leon returns with a new Guido Brunetti mystery in Trace Elements, March 2020:

“When a dying hospice patient gasps that her husband was murdered over “bad money,” Commissario Brunetti softly promises he and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that the man had worked in the field, collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply, and that he had recently died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Piecing together the tangled threads, Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.”

5. Carol Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages) has a new romantic mystery coming in March – The Sea of Lost Girls:

“Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.

And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before. The more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.

6. And Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors, has a new book in April: The Redhead by the Side of the Road:

“about misperception, second chances, and the sometimes elusive power of human connection…”

Can’t Wait?  These are coming in January:

7. Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal in the Sea

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The House of the Spirits, this epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place.”

8. Lisa Gardner’s When You See Me

Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy—in a twisty new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past…which points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.”

 

Clock Dance

9780525521228Anne Tyler has once again made an extraordinary story out of ordinary lives in Clock Dance. Set in her favorite city of Baltimore, the story moves through decades of a typical family – until a phone call for help changes everything.

Tyler has the talent for making her characters relatable. It’s hard not to identify with the ftizzy haired little girl who dutifully does what she is told, and who becomes the woman who follows her husband – not once but twice. Perhaps the first time is for love, despite the pull to pursue her own talents, but the second time seems complacent and secure.

The story follows Willa as a child living with a mercurial mother who periodically abandons the family and a meek but reliable father, then jumps ten yesrs to Willa as a junior in college, in love with handsome and self- centered Derek. “It was tempting,” she thinks, “to consider the adventurousness of throwing everything over to marry Derek” – and she does, forsaking her own dreams.

In twenty yesrs, Willa has become a widow with two grown sons and an estranged sister. Life is not hard but certainly  not interesting as she follows her widowed father’s advice to live moment by moment.   The story jumps again to 2017. Willa has remarried another self-centered, patronizing clone, Peter, and settled into a golfing community in Arizona. Willa doesn’t play golf.

When Willa gets a phone call asking her to fly from Arizona to Baltimore to care for the nine year old daughter of her oldest son’s former girlfriend, whom she’s never met, the pull to be needed is too irresistible. Nevermind the girlfriend snd her daughter are no real relation to her; she goes.

In Baltimore the cast of characters expands to a gritty chorus, offering Willa another chance at having a family, and forcing her to become the person she was meant to be.

Perhaps the ending is predictable, knowing Tyler’s affinity for second chances and redemption, but it is nonetheless satsfying. Fans of Tyler’s writing will recognize her signature talent for instilling insight and humor into everyday living, and her message is clear – we don’t have to settle for other’s expectations of us; we can take a leap into life and dance – no matter what time in our lives it is.

Liane Moriarty Recommends Books

imagesIn her interview for the New York Times “By the Book,” author Liane Moriarty identifies a few of her favorites:

  1. Kansas in August by Patrick Gale
  2. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
  3. The Dry by Jane Harper
  4. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
  5. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  6. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Only the last two are in my library system, so I am starting with them.

I share Moriarty’s admiration of author Anne Tyler.  When Moriarty was asked which author she would want to write her life story, she answered:

“Anne Tyler, please, because she would make my ordinary life extraordinary and my flaws adorable, and she’d find some beautiful truth that I would only recognize once she pointed it out to me.”

Related Reviews:  

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

9780451498083_p0_v1_s192x300    Anne Tyler delivers another quirky romance in Vinegar Girl in her delightful twist on The Taming of the Shrew published by Hogarth Shakespeare as one of a series of novels based on the major plays.

In Tyler’s version, fiery Kate lives at home with her father, an absent-minded scientist at Johns Hopkins on the verge of an important discovery for autoimmune disorders. Her sister, Bunny, a scatterbrained teenager more interested in boys than books plays the beautiful Bianca.  Their mother died long ago, and Kate has the responsibility of the Baltimore household, organized by her father’s hilarious system to maximize efficiency. Homemade meals consists of  a scientific formula of  “beans, green vegetables, potatoes and stewed beef pureed into a grayish sort of paste to be served through the week.”

Kate has the reputation of her model from Shakespeare, yet Tyler softens her attitude with common sense – but missing any traits of diplomacy.  She drops out of college because she calls out her botany professor when he botches a lecture on photosynthesis, and she blithely refuses to falsely flatter a pre-schooler where she is an assistant to the elderly teacher, when the drawing is no good, much to the dismay of the head teacher and the parent.

Pyotr Shcherbakov plays Petruchio; in this story he is a brilliant yet blunt spoken scientist from foreign lands and assistant to Kate’s father; he is about to be deported unless he can change his legal status.  Kate’s father concocts a scheme to have Kate marry Pyotr to secure the ongoing research, and surprisingly, Kate agrees.

The twists and turns involve a vegan boyfriend, research mice, a gaggle of intolerant relatives and friends – even a guitar playing granola boy as a foil for Kate’s affections. Although the story is predictable, Tyler infuses an element of suspense to the upcoming marriage, with the possibility of its not taking place.  Of course, all’s well that ends well, and Tyler happily includes an epilogue, fast-forwarding ten years beyond to note how successful and happily ever after their lives continue.

Anne Tyler can’t write fast enough for me.  I read Vinegar Girl as soon as I could get it and polished it off with relish in an afternoon.  Kate is my favorite character from Shakespeare; it’s hard not to identify with her forthright opinions, her independence, and her cranky moods.  She is often misunderstood, masking her vulnerability in stubbornness but Anne Tyler captures her innate goodness and strength in her modern adaptation, and has Petruchio love Kate for who she is – no taming needed.

Reviews of other Anne Tyler Books:

 

 

 

The Man Booker Dozen

Anne Tyler’s Spool of Blue Thread made the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, announced on July 29th- the only book on the list I’ve read.  Like a baker’s dozen, the long list has 13 titles – time to get reading before the shortlist comes out in September.  If you are thinking of light summer reading, forget it – just read the publishers’ summaries.

I’ve ordered The Illuminations and A Little Life from my library system.  images-1

What appeals to you?

Man Booker Longlist for 2015

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.  Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

The Green Road by Anne Enright

A shattering novel set in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness—a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.  Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

A masterfully written novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s.

The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

The imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, as part of a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive.   As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

U., a “corporate anthropologist,” is tasked with writing the Great Report, an all-encompassing ethnographic document that would sum up our era. Yet at every turn, he feels himself overwhelmed by the ubiquity of data, lost in buffer zones, wandering through crowds of apparitions, willing them to coalesce into symbols that can be translated into some kind of account that makes sense. As he begins to wonder if the Great Report might remain a shapeless, oozing plasma, his senses are startled awake by a dream of an apocalyptic cityscape.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990’s, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family.  Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990’s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings.

The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan

Anne Quirk’s life is built on stories–both the lies she was told by the man she loved and the fictions she told herself to survive. Nobody remembers Anne now, but this elderly woman was an artistic pioneer in her youth, a creator of groundbreaking documentary photographs. Her beloved grandson Luke, now a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers in the British army, has inherited her habit of transforming reality. When Luke’s mission in Afghanistan goes horribly wrong, his vision of life is distorted and he is forced to see the world anew.  Once Luke returns to Scotland, the secrets and lies that have shaped generations of his family begin to emerge as he and Anne set out to confront a mystery from her past among the Blackpool Illuminations–the dazzling artificial lights that brighten the seaside resort town as the season turns to winter.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home, Marilynne Robinson returns to the town of Gilead.  Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church-the only available shelter from the rain-and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.

Sleeping on Jupiter by Anurhada Roy

The story is about Nomi, a young girl who is taken from her family and finds herself in an ashram, overseen by a charismatic guru. But Guruji’s charm masks a predatory menace and the young girl faces danger. Around 20 years later, Nomi returns to Jarmuli with a documentary film crew. All has changed in a town that she no longer knows, as tourists and market traders bustle, banter and chase their dreams amidst the temples of her youth. Seeking the truth about what happened to her and her family, Nomi finds herself chasing shadows in a town that has reinvented itself. But when she returns to the ashram that haunts her dreams, she discovers some scars cannot be washed away.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of thirteen young men –  sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day {who} live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband’s clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.

The Chimes by Anna Smaill

A novel about what might happen if the written word were replaced with music. A boy stands by the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain. No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment. No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden. No parents – just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them. The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air…life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father… takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.

Checkout my Review:  A Spool of Blue Thread

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.