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Favorite Reads of 2022

Every year, I review the books I've read, those I can remember, and enjoy them again in the memory. Here are my favorite reads from 2022.
Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St John Mandel
Not quite as brilliant as Station Eleven, but pretty fantastic. This story unrolls in three different time periods, continuing Mandel's exploration of the big themes of time, pandemic, and living through catastrophe. I'm in awe of this author's world-building imagination.
The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan
Reading Egan's sort-of sequel to A Visit from the Goon Squad feels like eavesdropping on the social media posts of people you might have met once or twice but don't really know. But you want to keep watching/reading because their lives are fascinating and the innovative storytelling is (mostly) successful. Egan's skill with weaving drama from some of the more disturbing elements of contemporary culture and worship of technology, and her deep exploration of memory, make this a challenging book to read and think about.
A Woman of Endurance, by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
In this dark and lyrical novel, a young woman is taken from her African home and sold into slavery as a breeder on an 1850's Puerto Rico plantation. Richly researched and beautifully written, this is a story that has stayed with me, both the darkness and the hope.
The Midwife's in Town, by Kate Jessica Raphael
Set in the near future when Roe v Wade is overturned and a group of activists bring the feminist reproductive rights movement full circle. This story benefits from Raphael's talent for tight plotting, taut prose, and fast pacing, and from an admirable mix of humor, big-picture political savvy, and clear respect for the personal risks taken by the women in the collective and the women seeking care. I wish this book weren't necessary, but it is. It's also lively, smart, and a totally satisfying read.
Livid, by Cai Emmons
What could go wrong when a 50-something woman, Sybil, finds herself on a jury from her ex-husband, a jury hearing the case of a woman accused of killing her husband? When Sybil becomes obsessed with the defendant and reconnected to her ex. What emerges is feminist rage, and it's glorious reading!
Honor, by Thrity Umrigar
Set in contemporary India, Honor is about the consequences of defying cultural mores, about dishonor and shaming. India-born Smita is a U.S.-based journalist who returns to Mumbai to help a friend and becomes enmeshed reporting on a village crime, bringing her own difficult past into sharp focus. This book tackles caste and poverty, misogyny and violence. I've enjoyed all of Umrigar's previous novels; this one is my favorite for its unrelenting probing and the glimmer of hope.
The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor
I read this classic novel-in-stories when it was published in 1980 and I thought about it as I wrote my recent novel The Lost Women of Azalea Court. While there are certainly differences between the two settings, two enclaves carved from ugly histories, but both are deeply valued by their residents. I waited until I finished my manuscript before rereading Naylor's; a book well worth revisiting.
Perla, by Carolina De Robertis
I've read other books about Argentina's disappeared children, adopted into wealthy families, but none that explore the subject with such nuance, such language, and more than a bit of magic thrown in. I've been reading everything I can find by this amazing author. How did it take me so long to discover her work?
Damnation Spring, Ash Davidson
This is the real thing, a novel that takes you away to a time and place removed from the here and now in order to explore the emotions and issues that are so much with us. If you're interested in fiction that engages with the ongoing tug of war between the "little guy" and powerful corporations, between health and making a living, between loyalty to family/community and being open to seeing clearly what's happening - this is for you.
Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan
Short. Powerful. Language like poetry. Moving. Wow.
The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese
I have not fallen so deeply in love with a novel in a very long time. I guess it shouldn't surprise me; I've admired and loved all of Verghese's previous books. At over 700 pages, across eight decades and three generations, The Covenant of Water weaves history and medicine into an enormously powerful story of human connection and frailty, of secrets and triumphs. Set in Kerala in South India, Big Ammachi and her extended family suffer from a peculiar malady involving an aversion to water, a medical mystery that ties together much of the narrative. Verghese adds to the mix an exploration of love, caste, and poverty, of farming and art, of faith and activism. This is a novel to read and reread, to think about and ponder, to keep close. Unfortunately, it won't be published until May 2023, but it's well worth the wait.

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