The weather is turning, and books—as always—will bring us steadily through to the end of the year. Here are our choices for this fall’s best reads.
Little Fires Everywhere
What I loved most about Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, was the way she painted fresh, nuanced portraits of motherhood, race, and familial treachery while also crafting a spellbinding page-turner. She’s done that and more in her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, which begins with a majestic house aflame in the idyllic suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, before it starts to turn back the clock.
When artist Mia Warren and her fifteen-year-old daughter Pearl decide to rent a house from the well-to-do Richardsons, neither family is prepared for the fierce and explosive bonds that will form between them. Mia and Mrs. Richardson remain wary of each other until a complicated custody battle puts them at odds. Pearl finds herself the object of affection of not just one, but two Richardson boys, and both of the Richardsons’ daughters are quickly drawn to Mia’s bohemian, creative lifestyle until Mrs. Richardson decides to uncover the parts of Mia’s history she’s determined to keep hidden.
An agile examination of privilege, love, and the right to motherhood, Little Fires Everywhere deftly reminds us that story is backstory, the same way our past secrets govern our present choices.
The Glass Eye
Tin House Books
Is grief an illness, a part of illness, or a separate entity unto itself? Essayist and poet Jeannie Vanasco expertly explores the trinity between grief, psychosis, and creativity in a taut memoir about her beloved father and all that arose in his absence. This book has a blazing lyricism to it, one that’s bound to be a trademark of Vanasco’s limber mind.
Vanasco’s father was in his sixties when she was born into a small, loving house in Ohio, and she learns in second grade that her father named her after his daughter Jeanne, who died in a car accident decades earlier. Vanasco comes of age under the shadow of this secret, and when her father dies while she’s away at college, her mourning, her history with mania, and her longing to tell her father’s story set her on a path to find the answers to the riddles he left behind.
The Glass Eye—spare, deep, and kaleidoscopic—will make you want to read the first page again after you finish the last.
The Floating World
Just before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in New Orleans in 2005, the Boisdoré family is already pulling tenderly apart at the seams. Joe and Tess lead separate lives—he as an artist and she as a monied therapist—and their grown daughters, Cora and Del, are each eager to establish lives of their own. When Cora refuses to evacuate for the storm, the rest of her family watches the news coverage of the destruction from Houston and New York while Cora lives through it. After the storm passes and the waters rise, Cora—the most intrepid of them all—is haunted by the sounds of a break-in after the lights went out, the feel of her father’s shotgun in her hand. None of the Boisdoré family emerges from Katrina unscathed, and each of them must reckon with the dark secrets that the storm brings to bear.
A soulful inquiry of race, class, and family in the dawn of trauma, The Floating World doesn’t just look into the eye of such a devastating storm. The storm itself becomes the lens through which the Boisdorés begin to see the world more clearly. Through it, we see what loyalty truly looks like—the impossible choice to stay or leave, the terrorizing heartbreak of return—and the cost of what we hold onto, what we must release in order to survive.
Lee Boudreaux Books
Full disclosure: This novel is not due to arrive until January 16, 2018, but it’s so urgent and important and unforgettable that I have to tell you about it now so you’ll have plenty of time to clear your schedules. Written in a language entirely unique and inventive, Red Clocks weaves together the lives of five women to create a story that is equal parts prophecy, allegory, and human history.
Ro—a high school teacher and biographer of the dauntless 19th century polar explorer Eivør—fiercely longs to become a mother. But in a nation where abortion has become illegal alongside fertility treatments like IVF, her best chances lie with a forest healer named Gin. When Gin also wrestles with the choice to help young Mattie, who is pregnant and afraid, a modern day witch hunt ensues that turns the eye of every woman in their small Oregon fishing town, including Susan, a frustrated housewife hoping to rekindle the fire that smolders within her.
In one of her expedition journal entries, Eivør writes that “[i]f wrecked in this vessel, we wreck together.” This line—written from the belly of a ship—binds not only the women in the novel, but all women, past and present. Zumas’ novel is a reckoning, a warning, and nothing short of a miracle. Don’t miss it.