It’s impossible to do justice to The Water Dancer (2019) in a book review. The story is powerful and haunting, the characters are expertly and thoughtfully portrayed throughout, and the time period and settings are drawn such that I felt that I was viewing the horrors of slavery on a Virginia plantation and experiencing the terrifying dangers of the flight to freedom.
She did it again: with her latest novel, Tom Lake (2023), Ann Patchett has created a story that is accessible, believable, meaningful, and moving, a down-to-earth tale about a family of five, trying to keep their cherry farm in northern Michigan afloat during the global pandemic, the horrors of which are kept at a relatively safe remove.
In her latest book, The Half Moon (2023), Mary Beth Keane tells the story of a married couple in crisis, thanks to circumstances beyond their control. Economic turmoil, infertility, and the shifting values of a younger generation of consumers—these things and more have fractured the lives, loyalties, and love of Malcolm and Jess Gephardt.
Ruth Ozeki's latest novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness (2021), is a big book in terms of length. It's a big book, too, in terms of the ideas and issues with which it deals, including Zen Buddhism, mental illness and the systems that surround its treatment, the nature of reality, and the pressures of the marketplace and capitalism.
I've now read the book and also listened to the audio book of I Have Some Questions For You by Rebecca Makkai. I scarcely had a break between my reading of, and listening to, this novel. When it became available, I seized the day, as it had been on hold for some time and, I knew, would probably go back on hold again.
I loved this bittersweet epic love story that covers history spanning from WWI through to the present day. The Book of Everlasting Things (2022) follows the story of Samir, a Hindu perfumist, and Firdaus, a Muslim calligrapher, who fall in love in Lahore just before it is torn apart by the partition of India and Pakistan.
If you’re looking for a sprawling novel that spans much of the twentieth-century and enters the twenty-first, features an array of distinctive points of view and complex relationships, ventures to far-flung places, and explores big ideas, then I invite you to consider reading Maggie Shipstead’s most recent release, Great Circle (2021).
There is something about Margaret Atwood's writing that I just find eminently readable, and this selection of short stories is no exception. Old Babes in the Wood (2023) is a mixed collection of stories. Many of them follow the lives of an elderly couple – Nell and Tig, with themes of aging, death, and loneliness.