As promised, I'm back with part two of my picks for fiction you might want to consider outside of the big names on the bestsellers' lists. February in particular has quite a few of these, and I want to give each of them their due. In which case, let's get rolling, shall we?
The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick. If the author's name looks familiar, it should. Quick also wrote NYT bestseller The Silver Linings Playbook, which was adapted into an extremely popular film starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. So his latest novel has a lot of readers very interested, and with good reason. Thirty-eight year old Bartholomew Neil has lived home with his mother all his life. His days have revolved around her, Saturday Mass, and the library. When she becomes sick and passes away, Bartholomew is not only devastated, he is also unmoored. Finding a "Free Tibet" letter from Richard Gere among his mother's possessions, Bartholomew uses this as a talisman as he tries to grow up and assemble a family on his own. This looks to be quirky and endearing, and I'd recommend it not only to fans of Quick's other work, but also to readers who enjoyed The Rosie Project.
The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon. West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself. (synopsis from Amazon.com) Fans of S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep may want to check this one out.
The Martian, by Andy Weir. Plausible sci-fi meets suspense when astronaut Mark Watney, who six days ago became the first person to walk on Mars, may now also be the first person to die there. A dust storm forced his crew to evacuate and leave him behind, and he is left for dead, stranded without any way to communicate with his ship or with Earth. The trick is: can his resourcefulness keep him alive long enough to maybe, just maybe, be rescued? This has been getting huge praise from suspense and sci-fi fans alike (including positive reviews from authors like Douglas Preston and Larry Niven). I'm intrigued, and I'm going to go out on a limb that this will likely find its way onto the big screen in the next few years. Just my two cents.
Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile. Why did this pop up on my radar? Well, publisher Penguin has a excellent track record when it comes to publishing strong Southern fiction debuts, like those from Kathryn Stockett, Sue Monk Kidd, and Beth Hoffman, just to name a few. Told over the course of one sweltering summer, this story is of Charly Bordelon's experience running the eight-hundred acre Louisiana sugar plantation left to her by her late father. Not only is it a chance for her and her young daughter to start over, but it's a mystery as to just why her father left her the plantation in the first place. She also has not just the challenges of the farm itself to undertake, but also the complaints from a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and her own transformation in the span of the growing season. If this isn't a knockout for book clubs this year and in years to come, I'll eat my hat.