Barkskins, by Annie Proulx. You should know Proulx's name--her reputation precedes her as a Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, the short story which was the basis for the Oscar-winning film. In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. This is the tale of their descendants across three hundred years--yes, this makes it sizeable, but don't let that scare you off. Expect to hear lots about it in the months to come--critics are already raving, calling it remarkable, her finest work, and enthralling.
They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine. Schine's another name you may recognize--she also penned The Three Weissmans of Westport (2010), which has been quite a local favorite, given the local setting. Here, she returns to delight readers with a tender, sometimes hilarious inter-generational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age. Joy Bergman is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would prefer. She won't take their advice, and she won't take an antidepressant. Her marriage to their father, Aaron, has lasted through health and dementia, as well as some phenomenally lousy business decisions.When Aaron dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother's loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy's college days. They didn't count on Joy suddenly becoming as willful and rebellious as their own kids. I foresee this being another reader favorite.
The Tumbling Turner Sisters, by Juliette Fay. Suggested for fans of historical novels like The Orphan Train and Water for Elephants. It's 1919, and the four Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by--it seems they're always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father crushes his hand and can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that Vaudeville may be their only hope for survival and they are soon on a train traveling from town to town, meeting other performers and learning the ropes. I've got this on my to-read list already.