Back in August I blogged about my favorite books so far in 2019. Here are four more to finish my year of delicious reading. Since I mostly read books four to six months before they're published (because I'm helping the folks at the Odyssey Bookshop select fiction titles for their wonderful Signed First Edition Club), many of these books aren't out yet. BUT you can pre-order them from your favorite indie bookshop or ask your local library to order them.
AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins will be published in January 2020. It has one of the most striking, and devastating, openings I have ever read and is an amazing roller coaster of a journey book. I thought I knew some things about migrants leaving their homes south of our border, but this novel brought my knowledge, empathy, and anger to a whole new level. The author never sacrifices her characters' inner lives to their dire circumstances, offering us an intimate and profound connection with her universe. Highly recommend.
THE GRINGA by Andrew Altschul, coming out in March, is loosely based on the story of the U.S. citizen Lori Berenson who joined revolutionary activists in Peru. In Altschul's very capable hands, the story expands into an exploration of the motivations, decisions, and thought processes of a politically passionate but naive young woman, fighting in a country that is not her own. The narrator, an ex-pat novelist named Andres, bears a strong resemblance to the author, adding a complex literary element to the novel. This is a terrific read, thought-provoking, and important.
GLORIOUS BOY by Aimee Liu won't be out until May, but put it on your list so you don't miss it. The boy is Ty, whose U.S. parents work in the remote Andaman Islands on the cusp of the Japanese invasion during World War II, his father as a physician and his mother as an anthropologist. As the wartime global conflict heats up, Ty is separated from his parents. Beautifully written, this novel asks questions every parent has considered: how far will parents go to find and rescue their child?
BLACKBIRD BLUES by Jean K. Carney is already published, so you can get it right away. Although she dreams of being a jazz singer, entering the convent feels like a way for eighteen-year-old Mary Kaye O'Donnell to escape her dysfunctional family. That is, until she learns that she's pregnant. The one person who could help Mary Kaye navigate an unwanted pregnancy in 1963 Chicago is her voice coach and mentor, Sister Michaeline, who dies suspiciously as Jean K. Carney's luminous debut novel opens. Carney, a former award-winning reporter, editorial writer, and psychologist, offers a nuanced and powerful exploration of women's choices around pregnancy and motherhood in the decades before Roe v. Wade. A really good book group selection.