The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

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A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling authors Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. (Amazon)

“Benedict, who is white, and Murray, who is African American, do a good job of depicting the tightrope Belle walked, and her internal conflict from both sides—wanting to adhere to her mother’s wishes and move through the world as white even as she longed to show her father she was proud of her race. Like Belle and her employer, Benedict and Murray had almost instant chemistry, and as a result, the book’s narrative is seamless. And despite my aversion to the passing trope, I became hooked.”—NPR

“This fictional account of Greene’s life feels authentic; the authors bring to life not only Belle but all those around her. An excellent piece of historical fiction that many readers will find hard to put down.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene… a novel of enthralling drama, humor, sensuality, and insight. … [a] resounding tale of a brilliant and resilient woman defying sexism, classism, and racism during the brutality of Jim Crow. Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.”—Booklist (starred review)

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Don’t Look Back (Inspector Sejer Mysteries Book 2) by Karin Fossum: translated from the Norwegian by Felicity David

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Selection for the Weston Mystery Book Discussion Group 2022

Readers in search of absorbing literary mysteries will want to track down titles in the Inspector Sejer series by noted Norwegian writer Karin Fossum. Don’t Look Back can be read as a standalone though it is the second title in the series. 

“Psychologically astute, subtly horrifying.”—New York Times Book Review

“Sejer belongs alongside the likes of Adam Dalgliesh and Inspector Morse—a gifted detective and troubled man.”—Boston Globe

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Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives by Mary Laura Philpott

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This author is a born worrier…about everything….and then she became a parent!  From the bestselling author of I Miss You When I Blink comes a book that will  grab you in and never let you go.   Her message:  it she can do it, YOU can do it.  Rife with humor and clear wisdom.

“One reason we read is to know that burst of recognition when someone supplies new language for that which we once found indescribable. Mary Laura Philpott finds words for [an] intense experience known to so many—and she’s consistently hilarious, too, even when discussing all the terrifying things in life that we can neither predict nor prevent… This book has felt like a comfort even when cutting close to the bone.” —Nicole Chung, “I Have Notes,” The Atlantic

“Each of these powerful, beautifully written essays is like a tiny grenade aimed straight at the heart. Mary Laura Philpott is a trustworthy guide, ushering us through the magnificent, harrowing terrain of being human. Trust me: you will laugh, you will cry. You will fall in love with her voice.” —Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of Inheritance

“At the heart of Bomb Shelter is a truth parents know deeply: ‘I felt the universe had entrusted me with so much more than I could possibly keep safe.’ I put this book down feeling less anxious as a mother and more inspired as a writer. Why? Philpott reveals, page after page, that the love that makes us vulnerable is the same force that makes us powerful.”  —Maggie Smith, bestselling author of Keep Moving and Goldenrod

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Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Velvet was the Night follows two main characters in 1970s Mexico: Maite, a secretary who is drawn into a mystery when her neighbor disappears, and Elvis, a young man working for a secret group trying to find that same neighbor. This noir novel is full of suspense, great characters, and an interesting setting.

“[Velvet Was the Night] is a noir with a heart of gold, and it’s a narrative in which the empathy we feel for its characters ultimately reveals an important truth: That Moreno-Garcia is not only a talented storyteller but also an incredibly versatile one.”—NPR

“It’s hard to describe how much fun this novel is. . . . A noir masterpiece.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Immensely satisfying, refreshingly new and gloriously written . . . Moreno-Garcia mashes up Anglocentric genres with midcentury Mexican history, resulting in a brew flavored with love, heartbreak, violence, music and unsettling dread. . . . The gift of this book, and Moreno-Garcia’s storytelling, is how it imbues this well-worn genre with added strength, grace and even musicality.”—The New York Times Book Review

“A winner that brings together a romance-fiction obsessed secretary and a lovelorn enforcer during the brutally suppressed student riots in 1970s Mexico City.”—Booklist (starred review)

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The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

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 You will remember the author’s award winning previous short, spare novels, The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine.  In the same vein, her latest takes a spare environment as a metaphor for the fading of the mind of a mother and the daughter that visits too late.

“A quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways . . . Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers’ first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice’s daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It’s a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters’ inner worlds.” –Publishers Weekly [starred review]

“Award-winning, best-selling Otsuka is averaging one book per decade, making each exquisite title exponentially more precious. Here she creates a stupendous collage of small moments that results in an extraordinary examination of the fragility of quotidian human relationships . . . Once more, Otsuka creates an elegiac, devastating masterpiece.” –Booklist [starred review]

“The Swimmers is a slim brilliant novel about the value and beauty of mundane routines that shape our days and identities; or, maybe it’s a novel about the cracks that, inevitably, will one day appear to undermine our own bodies and minds; and — who knows? — it could also be read as a grand parable about the crack in the world wrought by this pandemic . . . Otsuka’s signature spare style as a writer unexpectedly suits her capacious vision . . . The Swimmers has the verve and playfulness of spoken word poetry.” –Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air/NPR

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Crying in H Mart: a Memoir  by Michelle Zauner

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“Michelle Zauner has written a book you experience with all of your senses: sentences you can taste, paragraphs that sound like music. She seamlessly blends stories of food and memory, sumptuousness and grief, to weave a complex narrative of loyalty and loss.” —Rachel Syme

“I read Crying in H Mart with my heart in my throat. In this beautifully written memoir, Michelle Zauner has created a gripping, sensuous portrait of an indelible mother-daughter bond that hits all the notes: love, friction, loyalty, grief. All mothers and daughters will recognize themselves—and each other—in these pages.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance

“Crying in H Mart is a wonder: A beautiful, deeply moving coming-of-age story about mothers and daughters, love and grief, food and identity. It blew me away, even as it broke my heart.” –Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

“Poignant . . . A tender, well-rendered, heart-wrenching account of the way food ties us to those who have passed. The author delivers mouthwatering descriptions of dishes like pajeon, jatjuk, and gimbap, and her storytelling is fluid, honest, and intimate. When a loved one dies, we search all of our senses for signs of their presence. Zauner’s ability to let us in through taste makes her book stand out—she makes us feel like we are in her mother’s kitchen, singing her praises.”  —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh

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Despite some struggles, Emma and Leo have a happy marriage and a daughter they love, but Emma has not been honest with Leo about who she really is. While the concept sounds like many popular thrillers, The Love of My Life is a slower, more thoughtful mystery about love and family, with beautiful descriptions of London and the English coast.

“Walsh masterfully shows both [protagonists’] points of view while maintaining an intoxicating air of mystery…a propulsive thriller with heart that will keep readers guessing.”—Kirkus, starred review

“[A] heartbreaking thriller…[that] explores the complexity of secrets in marriages…Walsh cleverly integrates twists that not even jaded readers will be able to predict…that builds to an emotionally raw yet satisfying conclusion. Walsh is a writer to watch.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The Love of My Life is a dazzling supernova of a book, it picks you up on line one and doesn’t let you go until the very end. Each chapter is filled with heart-breaking twists and revelations, and it is brimming with human warmth and intelligence.”—Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Night She Disappeared

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Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad

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Just after graduating college and starting a new job in Paris, Suleika Jaouad is diagnosed with leukemia. This beautifully written, powerful memoir explores her illness, treatment, and the loneliness of being a young person battling cancer, along with how it impacts her relationships with her family and friends.

“When the life we had is snatched away, how do we find the conviction to live another? Between Two Kingdoms will resonate with anyone who is living a different life than they planned to live. This is a propulsive, soulful story of mourning and gratitude—and an intimate portrait of one woman’s sojourn in the wilderness between life and death.”—Tara Westover, author of Educated

“A beautiful, elegant, and heartbreaking book that provides a glimpse into the kingdom of illness . . . Suleika Jaouad avoids sentimentality but manages to convey the depth of the emotional turmoil that illness can bring into our lives.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

“Jaouad does a beautiful job of writing from this place of ‘dual citizenship,’ where she finds pain but also joy, kinship, and possibility.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“This is a deeply moving and passionate work of art, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. I will remember these stories for years to come, because Suleika Jaouad has imprinted them on my heart.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love

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True Biz by Sara Novic

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This novel takes place at a boarding school for the deaf and follows three main characters: two teens attending the school, and the headmistress. Each has their own history and experience in the deaf community, and while the book is a novel, it includes lots of diagrams and information about ASL. A page-turner that taught me a lot about an interesting topic.

“Goodness, I can’t even begin to put into words all the feelings this book provoked! . . . An eye-opening and heartfelt story about human connection and the beauty and adversity woven into the deaf community and culture. It is both an educational and electrifying peek into a family’s life as they fight to forge connections even as the outside world threatens to close the door on them. I loved this story so much, it is not one to miss.”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club April ’22 Pick)

“Part tender coming-of-age story, part electrifying tale of political awakening, part heartfelt love letter to Deaf culture, True Biz is wholly a wonder.”—Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

“Sara Nović’s gifts for character, story, and language are evident from the first page. True Biz feels like the discovery of a new written form, a love letter to language itself.”—Liz Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Long Bright River

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Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

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Bereft at their mother’s death, Benny and Byron have the shock of their lives when the lawyer tells them their mother left a voice message revealing a heartbreaking story that they never knew.  The instructions to them were to share the family traditional black cake when the time was right.  A mother’s wisdom: we can’t choose what we inherit … but we can choose who we become?

“Fans of family dramas by Ann Patchett, Brit Bennett, and Karen Joy Fowler should take note. Black Cake marks the launch of a writer to watch, one who masterfully plumbs the unexpected depths of the human heart.”—BookPage (starred review)

“Wilkerson uses one Caribbean American family’s extraordinary tale to probe universal issues of identity and how the lives we live and the choices we make leave ‘a trail of potential consequences’ that pass down through generations.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Exquisite and expansive, Black Cake took ahold of me from the first page and didn’t let go. This is a novel about the formation and reformation of a family, and the many people, places, and events that can shape our inheritances without our knowing. A gripping, poignant debut from an important, new voice.”—Naima Coster, New York Times bestselling author of What’s Mine and Yours

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