The Guncle by Stephen Rowley

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If you liked the movie, The Birdcage – this one is for you. It’s the heartwarming and sweet story of a gay man who takes his niece and nephew for the summer following family tragedy. 

An NPR Book of the Year

Finalist for the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards

“Heartwarming, hilarious…Rowley finds humor and poignancy in the snappy narrative….Readers will find this delightful and illuminating.” –Publishers Weekly

“Patrick is a memorable character, and it’s genuinely thrilling to read screenwriter-turned-novelist Rowley’s take on the mechanics of stardom….There’s true insight here into the psychology of gay men, Hollywood, and parenting. A novel with some real depth beneath all its witty froth.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Influenced by comic dialogue that would make Neil Simon jealous, the novel’s serious undercurrent of loss gives way, in the end, to a warmth that will make readers smile….A funny, gentle tale of family and friends, and a salve for the wounds they often cause.” –Library Journal
 
“Rowley’s sensitive and witty exploration of grief and healing soothes with a delectable lightness and cunning charm.” –Booklist

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Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

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This book follows Oh William!  in the Lucy Barton series.  It’s 2020, and the virus is just starting to infiltrate New York city.  Lucy’s former husband whisks her away to a remote Maine cottage as the pandemic unfolds.  In just under 300 pages so much happens….

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Pulitzer Prize–winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout comes a poignant, pitch-perfect novel about a divorced couple stuck together during lockdown—and the love, loss, despair, and hope that animate us even as the world seems to be falling apart. (Amazon)

“No novelist working today has Strout’s extraordinary capacity for radical empathy, for seeing the essence of people beyond reductive categories, for uniting us without sentimentality. I didn’t just love Lucy by the Sea; I needed it. May droves of readers come to feel enlarged, comforted, and genuinely uplifted by Lucy’s story.”—The Boston Globe

“[Strout} injects sneaky subterranean power into seemingly transparent prose.”—New York Times Book Review

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Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

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New Yorker Best Book of 2022

Fifteen years after the publication of Evidence of Things Unseen, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize finalist Marianne Wiggins returns with a novel destined to be an American classic..(Amazon). I never wanted this book to end.  I just kept slowing down to forestall the inevitable.  A stunner.

“A changing American landscape is beautifully portrayed in PROPERTIES OF THIRST, a moving and gripping new novel by Marianne Wiggins.  At the start of World War II, while Japanese families are relocated to Manzanar, the Rhodes family, who live on a ranch near the camp are equally uprooted by memories and circumstances.  What follows is a rich and powerful portrayal of love, loss, and the enduring strength of family.  A novel to be read and savored.”—Gail Tsukiyama, bestselling author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai’s Garden

“A sweeping, cinematic story of love and family set against the dramatic backdrop of World War II and the American West…. What makes the novel soar is the way Wiggins can evoke landscapes both interior and exterior, especially the expansive valley that has come to exemplify America’s best qualities—and its worst. This majestic novel will satisfy those thirsting for an epic saga of love, family, and the complexities of the American way.”—Kirkus *Starred Review* 

“Wiggins manages to capture a big swath of mid-century America by placing a blue-blooded family into a desert inland complete with adobe haciendas, desert blooms, and Hollywood movie sets, while throughout, the Rhodes hold out hope for Stryker’s survival. Wiggins’s masterpiece is one for the ages.”–Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review*

“[a] grand novel of principled and creative individuals caught in the vise of history… Loss, desire, moral dilemmas, reflection, and zesty dialogue with the do-good energy of Frank Capra films generate a WWII home front tale of profound and far-ranging inquiry and imagination, scintillating humor, intrepid romance, and conscience.”—Booklist *Starred Review*

“Masterful…. Readers won’t be able to look away. Wiggins’ characters are raw and honest… [her] writing, which can be fragmented or polished depending on the page, opens up microscopic universes and sprawling landscapes alike. It’s a joy to read.”—Bookpage *Starred Review*

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Cackle by Rachel Harrison 

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Perfect for getting in the Halloween spirit – quirky and fun! I hate bugs and Harrison made me believe that a pet spider could be cute. 

“Cackle delivers a lesson that every woman needs to hear: embrace your inner witch! Sweet, sinister, and 100 percent delightful.” —Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Deep

“Cackle is that rare book that has it all: a searingly honest portrayal of all-consuming heartbreak, an exploration of the pitfalls of making new friends past thirty, a few revenge fantasies come to life, and a whole lotta witchcraft. Harrison’s clever prose will have you laughing and crying at once, and I promise you will never look at spiders the same way again.”—Molly Pohlig, author of The Unsuitable

“It’s no surprise that Harrison’s latest traffics in witchcraft, but there’s nothing predictable about her take. She writes about women’s autonomy and how it can be seen as a threat; about heteronormative romance and how it can suppress who women truly are. It’s served in a friendship story that showcases Harrison’s strength at writing powerful and empowered women with razor-sharp wit and a touch of darkness. This book wonders why this kind of woman is feared; in Harrison’s hands, we’re totally under their spell.” — Library Journal (Starred Review)

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Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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Montgomery, Alabama, 1973.  Inspired by true events, this story pulls us into the world of newly  graduated nurse Civil Townsend who is bursting with optimism to change the impoverished lives of her patients only to become immersed in the appalling practices of the federal health care system.  You will remember Civil and her 2 first young girl patients long after the last page.

“A jewel of a book…Perkins-Valdez’s grasp of large historical themes is matched by her attention to her characters’ lives, their existence so meticulously rendered that you can smell the fetid air of the Williams’s country hovel and the scent of the girls freshly bathed and slathered with cocoa butter….Take My Hand reminds us that truly extraordinary fiction is rarely written merely to entertain…Perkins-Valdez has done a fine job of building a structure and scaffolding that will not only endure but also bear the weight of future writers yearning to bring the past to readers afresh.”—Washington Post

“Inspired by true events this story highlights the horrific discrepancies in our healthcare system and illustrates their heartbreaking consequences.”—Essence

“Take My Hand is a gem: one of those rare and beautiful novels that walks the balance beam of heartbreak and hope.  Dolen Perkins-Valdez demonstrates once again the way she can breathe life into history through fiction that adds deep and profound meaning to the past — and makes its relevance to the present meaningful and clear.”—Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the Witch

“In her newest novel, Dolen Perkins-Valdez probes the many ways institutional racism and classism inflicts lasting scars, especially on young Black women—and the grace, courage, and love needed to begin to heal those wounds. Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze, Take My Hand is an unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption, the dangers of good intentions, and the folly of believing anyone can decide what’s best for another’s life.”—Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

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Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

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New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh-“a gifted chronicler of the human condition” (Washington Post Book World)-writes a tense, riveting story about the disparate lives that intersect at a woman’s clinic in Boston.

“Mercy Street is propulsive, urgent, and essential. Haigh writes with uncommon insight and compassion (and, yes, mercy) about people whose ideals are so strikingly at odds that we can only wait for their lives to collide. I was riveted and transported, and want to hand this book to everyone I know.” — Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Great Believers

“Mercy Street is a savvy, keen-eyed, witty, wise, and altogether luminous novel. A triumph. Jennifer Haigh is a young master of this form. Though, at day’s end, I’d read her just to read her.”– Richard Ford

“I’m just going to say it: Jennifer Haigh is the greatest novelist of our generation. And Mercy Street is her best novel yet.” — Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

“Mercy Street is a strong and heartfelt story about contemporary America in all its complexities, an important and necessary book.”– Dorthe Nors, author of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal 

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Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt  

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This uplifting story features a recently widowed woman working at an aquarium, a young man trying to find his father, and in an unusual choice of narrators, a smart and mischievous octopus. I loved this small seaside town and its residents, each dealing with their own issues, and the book’s humor and heart.

“Shelby Van Pelt has done the impossible. She’s created a perfect story with imperfect characters, that is so heartwarming, so mysterious, and so completely absorbing, you won’t be able to put it down because when you’re not reading this book you’ll be hugging it.”— Jamie Ford, author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Infused with heartfelt humor, Van Pelt’s elegant portrait of a widowed woman who finds understanding and connection with a clever octopus is refreshingly, if surprisingly, relatable. Despite the unorthodox relationship at its core, the debut novel offers a wholly original meditation on grief and the bonds that keep us afloat.” — Elle

“As Van Pelt’s zippy, fun-to-follow prose engages at every turn, readers will find themselves rooting for the many characters, hoping that they’ll find whatever it is they seek. Each character is profoundly human, with flaws and eccentricities crafted with care. But what makes Van Pelt’s novel most charming and joyful is the tender friendship between species, and the ways Tova and Marcellus make each other ever more remarkable and bright.” — BookPage

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Lost & Found: a Memoir by Kathryn Schulz

Note:  New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s beloved father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of how all our lives are shaped by loss and discovery. (Amazon)

 “An unfolding astonishment to read.”—Alison Bechdel, author of The Secret to Human Strength and Fun Home

“Lost & Found is the most daring of books: a memoir by a happy person. Deeply felt and exquisitely written, it’s an absorbing exploration of love and loss—not to mention meteorites, Dante, and bears. The prodigiously talented Kathryn Schulz has written about her life in a way that will change yours.”—Andy Borowitz, of “The Borowitz Report”

“An extraordinary gift of a book, a tender, searching meditation on love and loss and what it means to be human. I wept at it, laughed with it, was entirely fascinated by it. I emerged feeling as if the world around me had been made anew.”—Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk and Vesper Flights

“Just as every grief narrative is a reckoning with loss, every love story is a chronicle of finding,’ writes Pulitzer Prize winner Schulz (Being Wrong) in this stunning memoir. As Schulz recounts, she contended with the pain and ecstasy of both narratives. . . . By the end of these exquisite existential wanderings, Schulz comes to a quiet truce with her finding that ‘life, too, goes by contraries . . . by turns crushing and restorative . . . comic and uplifting.’ Schulz’s canny observations are a treasure.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Deeply felt. More than a reflection on the loss of a parent. It is about the idea of loss in general and the passage of time. Fresh and evocative . . . a poignant, loving, wise, and comforting meditation on grief from both a personal and collective perspective.”—Booklist (starred review)

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The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

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This is a fun mystery full of twists, following a writer who is caught up in a series of murders while working on her latest book. The story takes place in Boston and features lots of local places. The book is told as a story within a story, and I’m not sure I completely understood all of it, but I enjoyed the journey! 

“[The Woman in the Library] is a mystery-within-a-mystery, with the clues in Freddie’s story becoming more intriguing as Leo’s advice becomes more sinister. The two story lines work together beautifully, amping up the suspense before reaching a surprising conclusion.” ― Booklist

“With each new chapter, Gentill opens the door to new histories. More murders…more clues…The Woman in the Library is a page-turner from beginning to end. As Gentill’s characters grow, the desire to know more about each ensnares us, and the only way out is to read to the end.” ― New York Journal of Books

“The Woman in the Library is a sophisticated mystery with more layers than an onion, created by a master hand. Clever plot twists in Gentill’s signature refined style will make you feel smarter just by reading. Sulari Gentill has done it again.” ― Ellie Marney, New York Times bestselling author

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Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus    

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“It’s the world versus Elizabeth Zott, an extraordinary woman determined to live on her own terms, and I had no trouble choosing a side. Lessons in Chemistry is a page-turning and highly satisfying tale: zippy, zesty, and Zotty.”—Maggie Shipstead, author of Great Circle

“The enchanting story of Elizabeth Zott never belittles the offence of sexism, but neither – miraculously – does it ever take you more than a few sentences away from a smile, a chuckle, or a laugh out loud. Bonnie Garmus’ gift is to expose the sting and injustice of being a woman in a man’s world with a feather light touch that keeps our spirits buoyant and our hearts strong. I honestly don’t know how she does it. This is a remarkable book by a remarkable writer.”—Jo Browning Roe, author of A Terrible Kindness

“Lessons in Chemistry is a breath of fresh air—a witty, propulsive, and refreshingly hopeful novel populated with singular characters. This book is an utter delight—wry, warm, and compulsively readable.”—Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

“Garmus tells a familiar story in a completely original voice in her delightful debut novel…Zott is an unforgettable protagonist, logical and literal and utterly herself…The novel deftly mixes comedy and tragedy, with only one very clear villain: the patriarchal culture of mid-20th century America, the days of which are numbered because of women like Zott…For those who admire a confident, bone-dry, and hilarious authorial voice, this novel achieves the difficult task of being both sharply satirical and heartwarming at the same time.”—Historical Novels Review

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