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Literary Fiction

Our favourite recent literary novels and story collections.

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The Savage Instinct

- by Marjorie Deluca

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"A fascinating portrayal of womanhood in Victorian England that is also a nail-biting thriller that will keep readers riveted until the very last page." --Booklist

Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, this taut psychological thriller offers a delicious take on deviant and defiant Victorian women in a time when marriage itself was its own prison.

England, 1873. Clara Blackstone has just been released after one year in a private asylum for the insane. Clara has two goals: to reunite with her husband, Henry, and to never--ever--return to the asylum. As she enters Durham, Clara finds her carriage surrounded by a mob gathered to witness the imprisonment of Mary Ann Cotton--England's first female serial killer--accused of poisoning nearly twenty people, including her husbands and children.

Clara soon finds the oppressive confinement of her marriage no less terrifying than the white-tiled walls of Hoxton. And as she grows increasingly suspicious of Henry's intentions, her fascination with Cotton grows. Soon, Cotton is not just a notorious figure from the headlines, but an unlikely confidante, mentor--and perhaps accomplice--in Clara's struggle to protect her money, her freedom and her life.

Second Place

- by Rachel Cusk

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On a sun-soaked Parisian street, M, a mother on the brink of rebellion, wanders into a famous artist's gallery show. The artist's paintings speak--quite literally--to her, promising a liberation usually reserved for men. She returns to the coastal home she shares with her husband, but the unsettling impression of the art, and the evasive artist, remains. So she writes, inviting him to stay in their second place, a modest cottage salvaged from the land.

When historical catastrophe upends daily life, M's daughter returns to the marsh, along with her prim, privileged boyfriend. The painter arrives, too, accompanied by a lithe, cosmopolitan lover. Resigned to the perilous indoors, fissures form within the strange group. The painter's quietly demonic presence wreaks havoc with M, plunging her into existential disarray. As secrets, alliances and private desires come to light, she is forced to choose between her deepest impulses: to comply or to rebel completely.

Like her acclaimed Outline trilogy, Rachel Cusk's Second Place transcends its form. Inspired by Lorenzo in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan's 1932 memoir of the writer D. H. Lawrence's fraught visit to her communal property, the novel hovers between past and present, Gothic and contemporary, fable and truth--continuing to haunt us long after we've looked away.

Braised Pork

- by An Yu

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Beautiful, dreamlike, and utterly intoxicating,Braised Pork is the beguiling debut of an outstandingly talented young writer who is based in China but writes in English

One autumn morning, Jia Jia walks into the bathroom of her lavish Beijing apartment to find her husband dead. One minute she was breakfasting with him and packing for an upcoming trip, the next, she finds him motionless in their half-full bathtub. Like something out of a dream, next to the tub Jia Jia discovers a pencil sketch of a strange watery figure, an image that swims into Jia Jia's mind and won't leave.

The mysterious drawing launches Jia Jia on an odyssey across contemporary Beijing, from its high-rise apartments to its hidden bars, as her path crosses some of the people who call the city home, including a jaded bartender who may be able to offer her the kind of love she had long thought impossible. Unencumbered by a marriage that had constrained her, Jia Jia travels into her past to try to discover things that were left unsaid by the people closest to her. Her journey takes her to the highplains of Tibet, and even to a shadowy, watery otherworld, a place she both yearns and fears to go.

Exquisitely attuned to the complexities of human connection, and an atmospheric and cinematic evocation of middle-class urban China, An Yu'sBraised Pork explores the intimate strangeness of grief, the indelible mysteries of unseen worlds, and the energizing self-discovery of a newly empowered young woman.

The End of October

- by Lawrence Wright

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An Instant New York Times Bestseller
 
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower--a riveting thriller and "all-too-convincing chronicle of science, espionage, action and speculation" (The Wall Street Journal)

At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will have staggering repercussions. Halfway across the globe, the deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security scrambles to mount a response to the rapidly spreading pandemic leapfrogging around the world, which she believes may be the result of an act of biowarfare. And a rogue experimenter in man-made diseases is preparing his own terrifying solution.

As already-fraying global relations begin to snap, the virus slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions and decimating the population. With his own wife and children facing diminishing odds of survival, Henry travels from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to his home base at the CDC in Atlanta, searching for a cure and for the origins of this seemingly unknowable disease. The End of October is a one-of-a-kind thriller steeped in real-life political and scientific implications, filled with the insight that has been the hallmark of Wright's acclaimed nonfiction and the full-tilt narrative suspense that only the best fiction can offer.

The End of Men

- by Chris Sweeney-baird

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Set in a world where a virus stalks our male population, The End of Men is an electrifying and unforgettable debut from a remarkable new talent that asks: what would our world truly look like without men?

Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.

The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland--a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic--and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien--a women's world.

What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus's consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the "male plague;" intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal--the loss of husbands and sons--to the political--the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.

In The End of Men, Christina Sweeney-Baird creates an unforgettable tale of loss, resilience and hope.

The Music of Bees

- by Eileen Garvin

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A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK | A Good Housekeeping Book Club Pick | IndieNext Pick | LibraryReads Pick | Recommended by People ? The Washington Post Woman's World ? NY Post ? BookRiot ? Bookish ? Christian Science Monitor ? Nerd Daily ? The Tempest ? Midwestness ? The Coil ? Read It Forward ? and more!

"An exquisite debut that combines a moving tale of friendship with a fascinating primer on bees." - People

"This heartwarming, uplifting story will make you want to call your own friends, not to mention grab some honey." - Good Housekeeping

Three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life's curveballs, are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing--and maybe even a second chance--just when they least expect it.

Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren't helping her feel better these days.

In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake--a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County--while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake's sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.

And then there's Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice's ad for part-time farm help, he's shocked to find himself hired. As an unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees--and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.

Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don't turn out the way you expect.

"A hopeful, uplifting story about the power of chosen family and newfound home and beginning again...but it's the bees, with all their wonder and intricacy and intrigue, that make this story sing."
-Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is

"Eileen Garvin's debut novel is uplifting, funny, bold and inspirational. The Music of Bees sings!"
-Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author

Dominion of Mercy

- by Danial Neil

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Edinburgh, 1917: Headstrong Highland lass Mary Stewart is a vibrant woman forced into the world's oldest profession in order to provide for her ailing father and younger sister in the city's Old Town. When her uncle, a well-to-do solicitor with political aspirations, thinks that her presence might impede his lofty ambitions he gives her a way out with dignity: a one-way ticket to the frontier town of Anyox, British Columbia, where nurses are needed to care for injured soldiers returning from the war.

Mary agrees to depart Scotland and leaves her sister in the care of her uncle, but finds that a past like hers is not easy to escape, and that living on the frontier has more challenges than even the darkest streets of Old Town. She must survive by her quick intelligence, but that is a quality that few women were allowed to reveal.

Danial Neil's historical epic Dominion of Mercy combines the gritty feel and attention to detail of HBO's Deadwood with the Canadian sensibility of Guy Vanderhaeghe's frontier trilogy.

Such a Fun Age

- by Kiley Reid

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A Best Book of the Year:
The Washington Post o Chicago Tribune NPR o Vogue Elle o Real Simple InStyle Good Housekeeping o Parade o Slate o Vox o Kirkus Reviews Library Journal o BookPage

Longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

A Reese's Book Club Pick 

"The most provocative page-turner of the year." --Entertainment Weekly

"I urge you to read Such a Fun Age." --NPR

A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.


Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.

The Overstory

- by Richard Powers

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Winner of the William Dean Howells Medal
Winner of France's Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine
Finalist for the Man Booker Prize
Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award

"Monumental. . . . A gigantic fable of genuine truths." --Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review


The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of--and paean to--the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers's twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours--fast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

To Calais, In Ordinary Time

- by James Meek

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'Inventive and original' The Times
'Fans of intelligent historical fiction will be enthralled' Hilary Mantel

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

Three journeys. One road.

England, 1348. A gentlewoman flees an odious arranged marriage, a proctor sets out for a monastery in Avignon and a young ploughman in search of freedom is on his way to volunteer with a company of archers. All come together on the road to Calais. In the other direction comes the Black Death, the plague that will wipe out half of the population of Northern Europe.

To Calais, In Ordinary Time is an exploration of love, death and power, against the backdrop of catastrophe.

The Promise

- by Damon Galgut

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A modern saga that could only have come from South Africa, written in gorgeous prose by the Booker Prize-shortlisted author Damon Galgut.

Haunted by an unmet promise, the Swart family loses touch after the death of their matriarch. Adrift, the lives of the three siblings move separately through the uncharted waters of South Africa; Anton, the golden boy who bitterly resents his life's unfulfilled promises; Astrid, whose beauty is her power; and the youngest, Amor, whose life is shaped by a nebulous feeling of guilt.

Reunited by four funerals over three decades, the dwindling family reflects the atmosphere of its country -- an atmosphere of resentment, renewal, and--ultimately--hope.The Promise is an epic drama that unfurls against the unrelenting march of national history, sure to please current fans and attract many new ones.

"Galgut will be seen as one of the great literary triumphs of South Africa's transition [ . . . ] in every way the equal of J. M. Coetzee."--Rian Malan, author ofMy Traitor's Heart

All Adults Here

- by Emma Straub

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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A TODAY SHOW #ReadWithJenna BOOK CLUB PICK!
"In a time when all we want is hope, it's a beautiful book to reach for." -Jenna Bush Hager

"Literary sunshine."--New York Times

"The queen of the summer novel."--Entertainment Weekly


"Brimming with kindness, forgiveness, humor and love and yet (magically) also a page turner that held me captive until it was finished. This is Emma Straub's absolute best and the world will love it. I love it." --Ann Patchett

 
"An immensely charming and warmhearted book. It's a vacation for the soul."--Vox

A warm, funny, and keenly perceptive novel about the life cycle of one family--as the kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. From the New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers.



When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she'd been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?

Astrid's youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid's thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.

In All Adults Here, Emma Straub's unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

When the Stars Go Dark

- by Paula Mclain

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

 
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined fate and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?


Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When unspeakable tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino. She spent summers there as a child with her beloved grandparents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her to heal. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. Anna is in no condition to become involved with the search--until a childhood friend, now the village sheriff, pleads for her help.

Then, just days later, a twelve-year-old girl is abducted from her home. The crimes feel frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna's childhood, when a string of unsolved murders touched Mendocino. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with these missing girls, she must learn that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together true crime, trauma theory and a hint of the metaphysical, this tense, affecting story is about fate, unlikely redemption and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives--and our faith in one another.

Victoria Sees It

- by Carrie Jenkins

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A queer psychological thriller from a beguiling, fresh new voice.

Victoria is unraveling. Her best friend is missing, and she's the only one who seems to care: there are clues all over Cambridge, but Deb is nowhere to be found--and the harder Victoria looks, the less she sees.


Victoria is raised in a crumbling house in England by her working-class aunt and uncle, until her academic brilliance gains her entrance to Cambridge. There, she meets her first true friend, Deb, a spacey aristocrat, and the girls create their own tiny bubble within Cambridge's strict class system. Until Deb disappears.

In her search for her friend, Victoria finds an unlikely ally--a police officer named Julie. They travel the countryside, visiting sites of suicides, murders, and accidents. But eventually, Julie's emotional demands overwhelm Victoria, and she retreats into a lonely life of academia, always teetering on the edge of emotional collapse.

Wandering through a miasma of sexism, isolation, physical and mental health issues, Victoria's story is haunted by the spectre of her mother, whose own assault and subsequent pregnancy represent a break in her contract with the world.

Libertie

- by Kaitlyn Greenidge

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The critically acclaimed and Whiting Award-winning author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman returns with Libertie, an unforgettable story about one young Black girl's attempt to find a place where she can be fully, and only, herself


Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practising physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practise alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother's choices and is hungry for something else--is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes marriage and promises Libertie she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and to all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it--for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge's new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving and lyrical dive into our complicated past.

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