The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman.The title may make you giggle, but this dystopian thriller is getting some serious buzz from critics. In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her nomadic tribe live off of the detritus of a crumbled civilization. Theirs is a world of children; before reaching the age of twenty, they all die of a mysterious disease they call Posies—a plague that has killed for generations. There is no medicine, no treatment; only the mysterious rumor of a cure. When her brother begins showing signs of the disease, Ice Cream Star sets off on a bold journey to find this cure. Led by a stranger, a captured prisoner named Pasha who becomes her devoted protector and friend, Ice Cream Star plunges into the unknown, risking her freedom and ultimately her life. Newman is an unconventional talent, and given that people are already likening this literary epic to novels like Cloud Atlas, The Passage (which I absolutely adored) as well as other dystopian winners like the Hunger Games, I would say that I won't be at all surprised to see this as a film adaptation in movie theaters within the next few years. It is absolutely on my to-read list this spring.
The Secrets of Midwives, by Sally Hepworth. Australian author Hepworth's US fiction debut is getting lots of great reviews, and from authors beloved by readers (like Liane Moriarty, Emily Giffin and Christina Baker Kline, just to name a few), so I had to share with my fellow readers. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. The more Grace prods, the tighter Neva holds to her story, and the more the lifelong differences between private, quiet Neva and open, gregarious Grace strain their relationship. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back sixty years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—one which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. As Neva’s pregnancy progresses and speculation makes it harder and harder to conceal the truth, Floss wonders if hiding her own truth is ultimately more harmful than telling it. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden? I have a feeling that book clubs are going to be reading this for years to come.
Holy Cow, by David Duchovny. Former X-Files actor Duchovny was not going to be left out after his former co-star Gillian Anderson published her first novel, A Vision of Fire, last year. His fiction debut, Holy Cow, is a humorous, globe-trotting adventure with a four-legged heroine that readers won't soon forget. Elsie Bovary is a cow, and a pretty happy one at that—her long, lazy days are spent eating, napping, and chatting with her best friend, Mallory. One night, Elsie and Mallory sneak out of their pasture; but while Mallory is interested in flirting with the neighboring bulls, Elsie finds herself drawn to the farmhouse. Through the window, she sees the farmer’s family gathered around a bright Box God—and what the Box God reveals about something called an “industrial meat farm” shakes Elsie’s understanding of her world to its core. There’s only one solution: escape to a better, safer world, accompanied by a motley crew of other farm animals. Funny, charismatic, and cautionary, this is definitely not your usual fiction, but it may be just what you need during the winter doldrums.