Thursday, April 21, 2016

Meg's Picks: May 2016, part 2

Summer reads mean different things to different people. Maybe you're a die-hard thriller reader, regardless of season. Maybe it's when you take the time to dig into a seriously engrossing novel. Maybe you prefer something a little easier, like a quirky love story or a novel with some wise humor to impart. In all of those cases, you know I've got something to share, just for you.

Mercy, by Daniel Palmer & Michael Palmer. In this new novel, Daniel Palmer carries on his father's bestselling legacy (Michael Palmer, 1942-2013) with a thriller that explores the ethics surrounding euthanasia. Boston doctor Julie Devereux, a divorced mother and the heroine of this second posthumous collaboration (after 2015’s Trauma) is on the verge of marrying the love of her life, Sam Talbot. But everything changes when Sam is left a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident. Sam’s requests that Julie let him die place her in an especially difficult spot, as she has been a passionate advocate of death with dignity. Tragically, just as Sam begins to be receptive to a support group for the paralyzed, he dies from a heart attack. Baffled by this turn of events, Julie turns sleuth, only to find that something disturbing is going on at her hospital.
The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett. If you're looking for a love story that is anything but ordinary, this is for you. The one thing that’s certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . . They fell wildly in love, or went their separate ways. They kissed, or they thought better of it. They married soon after, or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together, or found solace together only after hard years spent apart. I'm recommending this for readers who loved books like The Time Traveler's Wife or Life After Life.
Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub. Straub made a splash with 2014's The Vacationers, which seemed to be everyone's summer read of choice that year. Now she's slated to do so again this summer, this time following friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe, who have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed. I have a feeling this will be another summer smash--don't miss out!
Heat & Light, by Jennifer Haigh. I have been an admirer of Haigh's work since I read Mrs. Kimble way back in 2003, and so I am always on alert when she publishes a new novel. Here, she returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic second novel Baker Towers. Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas.
To drill or not to drill? A community both blessed and cursed by its natural resources hangs in the balance. For those seeking a novel of substance this summer.
Britt-Marie Was Here, by Frederik Backman. Backman's A Man Called Ove has developed something of a cult following among readers since its 2014 US publication. So I would feel really remiss if I didn't point out this new novel, about finding love and second chances in the most unlikely places. Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She begins her day at 6 a.m., because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination,bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes. A decision to leave her cheating husband and her old life with him behind forces her to re-evaluate her life, and the infinite possibilities that the future holds. I'm suggesting this for readers who like quirky love stories, like David Nicholls's Us or Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project

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