A selection of four new novels with page-turning plots by women continue our reading this year. Here we have a novelist whose 2020 debut was a breakout bestseller; a celebrated American poet’s latest; the eleventh book of fiction by a London journalist; and a historical novel based on an American classic. Get comfy on the couch with a warm blanket and prepare to be transported.
Come & Get It by Kiley Reid
Revisit the agony of university life with all its twisted dynamics. Reid, bestselling author of Such a Fun Age, has set her latest in a U.S. Southern school where Millie, one of the few Black students, is a senior resident assistant; Kennedy is a transfer student fleeing a horrific accident; and Agatha is a lesbian professor working on an ethically questionable book. Each character's interior life is meticulously detailed as well as what they wear and eat, their naive conservations, the mean girl pettiness, and the glaring class disparities. This novel is a funny, squirmy, nostalgic, and a spot-on portrait of life on the threshold of adulthood. A fresh and intimate portrait of desire, consumption, and reckless abandon. What could go wrong?
Inverno by Cynthia Zarin
The title of acclaimed poet Zarin's novel is Italian for winter. In her brief, exquisite book we return again and again to the image of Caroline in the snow in Central Park waiting to receive a call from Alistair. Through fluid time periods over decades and other relationships, their unbreakable bond persists - they are soulmates. In brilliant prose, this startling original novel shatters the past and the present by asking, how does love make and unmake a life?
Wild and Distant Seas by Tara Karr Roberts
In 1849 Nantucket, Evangeline, who has psychic powers to alter people's memories, runs a local chowder house, and has recently lost her husband to the sea. Cut to the arrival of the sailor Ishmael and his cohort Queequeg about to embark on a white whale hunt with Captain Ahab. Evangeline and Ishmael produce a daughter Rachel, who years later goes on a journey to find her father. Moving, beautifully written, and elegantly conceived, the novel takes Moby-Dick as its starting point but brings some remarkable women to life in a spellbinding epic of its own.
Nonfiction by Julie Myerson
A searing depiction of the dynamics between mothers and daughters, Myerson portrays the heartbreak of having a child who seems hell-bent on ruining her life and that of everyone around her. As she is dropped off at rehab, her parents' sense of freedom feels hollow. The narrator, her mother, is a writer whose relationship to her own mother is also fraught. The novel centers the anguish these relationships can bring as well as the way writers process this trauma by using personal stories in their own fiction. Fiction or nonfiction? That is the question. This book is painful, but beautiful, and will linger in the reader's consciousness.
Hope you're keeping warm and safe. Winter is a lovely time of year to curl up with a good book. If you've discovered something you'd like to share, please let me know.
And in the meantime, happy reading.