Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meg's Picks: September 2016

From titles bound to be book club favorites to historical fiction guaranteed to be spellbinding, I have saved the best of September's bounty for last. I cannot loiter here with more preamble, so please, read on.

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman. Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack. Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves. I'm expecting this to be a major favorite among book clubs and regular readers alike.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Advance reviews have been stellar, so I have a feeling Towles is only just beginning to make a name for himself.

The Orphan Mother, by Robert Hicks. Robert Hicks is a favorite of mine--his two previous novels, The Widow of the South and A Separate Country are two of the best books set during the Civil War Era that I've read to date. In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically-minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead? Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Hicks is a master, combining detailed historical research with epic storytelling. This is at the top of my reading list this fall.

Karolina’s Twins, by Ronald Balson. If you want to know what everyone is going to be reading this fall, I can go ahead and tell you--this is going to be it. From the author of Once We Were Brothers, and being likened to bestsellers like Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly's The Lilac Girls, Karolina's Twins is the story of one woman's attempt to put the past behind her, until the past comes knocking.
Lena Woodward has lived a comfortable life among Chicago Society since she immigrated to the US and began a new life at the end of World War II. But now something has resurfaced that Lena cannot ignore: an unfulfilled promise she made long ago that can no longer stay buried. Driven to renew the quest that still keeps her awake at night, Lena enlists the help of lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart. Behind Lena’s stoic facade are memories that will no longer be contained. She begins to recount a tale, harkening back to her harrowing past in Nazi-occupied Poland, of the bond she shared with her childhood friend Karolina. Karolina was vivacious and beautiful, athletic and charismatic, and Lena has cherished the memory of their friendship her whole life. But there is something about the story that is unfinished, questions that must be answered about what is true and what is not, and what Lena is willing to risk to uncover the past.I have no doubt that readers will be clamoring for copies very shortly.

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