The Sandcastle Girls : A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
Main Library: PS3552.O495 S26 2012
Over the course of his career, New York Times bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter’s night and a homebirth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring Twenties on Long Island – and a young social worker’s descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has written, Bohjalian writes “the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish.”
In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria in 1915 and Bronxville, New York in 2012—a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author’s Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian Genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.
NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith
Main Library: PR6069.M59 N84 2012
The northwest corner of a city. Here you’ll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between.
Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds.
And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation…
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.
Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.
The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal
Main Library: PS3562.O894 P38 2012
Having a baby to save a marriage—it’s the oldest of clichés. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother? Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he’s losing Stu to other men—and losing himself in their “no rules” arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers.
As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American home rebuilder. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties—to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires—and wonders: is he fit to be a father?
In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new “family values.”
On Top of Spoon Mountain by John Nichols
Main Library: PS3564.I274 O5 2012
Jonathan Kepler wants to climb Spoon Mountain with his grown son and daughter on his sixty-fifth birthday in three weeks. The kids, Ben and Miranda, think he’s crazy. For starters, Spoon Mountain is almost the tallest alpine peak in New Mexico. Jonathan’s health is terrible. Still reeling from his third, nearly fatal, divorce, he has a rotten heart, serious asthma, and a fed-up girlfriend who is about to drop him like a bad habit. Once a celebrated novelist, Hollywood screenwriter, and environmental activist, Jonathan is now tottering at the ragged end of his career and yearning to make amends to his children for his past sins before it’s too late.
Years ago, Spoon Mountain was very special to the Kepler family. They once shared halcyon days in the wilderness. Can they go home again? Does Spoon Mountain offer redemption . . . or annihilation? And why is getting there so laden with pratfalls?
John Nichols is at his hilarious and poignant best in this rollicking tale of love, anarchy, and the awesome Rocky Mountains. It is drop-dead comedy with an inspiring and beautiful message.
The Cove by Ron Rash
Main Library: PS3568.A698 C68 2012
The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war.
Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.
Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel’s heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.
But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.
Dead Stars : An Entertainment by Bruce Wagner
Main Library: PS3573.A3693 D43 2012
At age thirteen, Telma is famous as the world’s youngest breast cancer survivor until threatened with obscurity by a four-year-old Canadian who’s just undergone a mastectomy … Reeyonna believes that auditioning for pregnant-teen porn online will help fulfill her dream of befriending Jennifer Lawrence and Kanye West … Biggie, the neurologically impaired adolescent son of a billionaire, spends his days Google Map-searching his mother-who abandoned home and family for a new love … Jacquie, a photographer once celebrated for taking arty nudes of her young daughter, is broke and working at Sears Family Portrait Boutique … Tom-Tom, a singer/drug dealer thrown off the third season of American Idol for concocting a hard-luck story, is hell-bent on creating her own TV series in the Hollywood Hills, peopled by other reality-show losers … Jerzy, her sometime lover, is a speed-freak paparazzo who “specializes” in capturing images of dying movie and television stars … And Oscar-winning Michael Douglas searches for meaning in his time of remission. While his wife, Catherine, guest-stars on Glee, the actor plans a bold, artistic, go-for-broke move: to star in and direct a remake of Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz…
The Forever Marriage : A Novel by Ann Bauer
Main Library: PS3602.A933 F67 2012
Ann Bauer brings to life the tale of one faithless widow. Carmen wishes Jobe, the husband she never loved, dead –only to fall in love with him after he is gone. As she helps her three children grieve, she discovers, after a tryst with her most recent lover, that her own life may be in danger. Her emotions reeling, Carmen reflects on the fateful days of her youth that made her the person she has become: privileged suburban wife, unfaithful widow, mother of a child with Down syndrome, fierce friend. The Forever Marriage is at its heart a mystery, and the mystery is what, exactly, the nature of Carmen and Jobe’s marriage might have been.
The Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. by Carole DeSanti
Main Library: PS3604.E7549 U57 2012
Eugénie R., born in France’s foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris, but soon finds herself marooned, pregnant, and penniless. She gives birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon and spends the next ten years fighting to get her back. An outcast, Eugénie takes to the streets, navigating her way up from ruin and charting the treacherous waters of sexual commerce. Along the way she falls in love with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. The capital, the gleaming center of art and civilization in Europe, is enjoying its final years of wanton prosperity before galloping headlong into the Franco-Prussian War. For Eugénie it is a conflicted landscape — grisly, evocative, addictive. As the gates of the city close against the advancing army, Eugénie must make a decision between past and present — between the people she loves most.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar : A Novel by Suzanne Joinson
Main Library: PS3610.O435 L33 2012
It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva’s motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure.
In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and a pillow, and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.
This Bright River : A Novel by Patrick Somerville
Main Library: PS3619.O45 T48 2012
Lauren Sheehan’s career in medicine came to a halt after a chain of violent events abroad. Now she’s back in the safest place she knows—St. Helens, Wisconsin—cut off from career, friendship, and romance.
Ben Hanson’s aimless young life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but a surprising offer from his father draws him home for what looks like his final second chance. In Wisconsin, he finds his family fractured, still unable to face the truth behind his troubled cousin’s death a decade earlier.
As Lauren cautiously expands her horizons and Ben wrestles with his regrets and mistakes, their paths intersect. Could each be exactly what the other needs? Or the last thing in the world either one can handle?
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
Main Library: PS3623.A869426 B38 2012
In each of these ten stories, Claire Vaye Watkins reimagines the mythology of the American West. Her characters orbit around the region’s vast spaces, winning redemption despite – and often because of – the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Watkins takes on – and reinvents – her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter.