Fiction Recommendations

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Ethiopian immigrant Sepha Stephanos struggles to make a living in his small grocery store in a run-down area of Washington DC.  Arriving as a teen to escape the Revolution in his home country, he finds himself seventeen years later with few resources or friends, and sees the neighborhood slowly gentrifying--the poor being pushed around and out.  A romantic friendship strikes up between Sepha and Judith, a white professor separated from her husband, who has just finished fixing up one of the old houses. Judith's precocious 11-year-old biracial daughter visits Sepha's s

Last Night in Twisted River

John Irving's latest work begins in 1954 in a New Hampshire logging town. The story revolves around a logging camp cook and his son. A tragic mistake prompts them to flee the logging town. The novel follows them for the next fifty years. As he ages, the son becomes a writer. In many ways, this novel becomes a meditation on writing, and gives insight into the way Irving crafts his stories. The plot is anything but predictable, and has all of the quirks I've come to know and love from John Irving.

Y, the Last Man

It’s the summer of 2002 and all the males on the planet have fallen victim to a deadly plague, except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. Now Yorick’s politician mother wants to protect him, a neo-Amazon tribe of women wants to kill him, and Yorick wants to find his girlfriend and figure out why he survived. Titles in the ten-volume series won multiple Eisner awards for achievement in American comic books.

The Alternative Hero

Clive is a thirty-something, washed-up music writer turned office drone.  When he finds out that alt-rock god Lance Webster, former lead-singer of the Thieving Magpies and subject of his now defunct fan-zine, has moved in down the street, he immediately begins scheming how to finagle a exclusive tell-all interview with his teenage idol with which to resurrect his writing career.  He stakes him out, and after a few drinks, slips a note under his door, the contents of which he can no longer remember.  The next day he is visited by two bouncer-types who tell him in no uncertain

Home Safe

Well, what would you think eleven months after your husband’s sudden death, to discover more than $800,000 missing from your joint funds? Helen Ames was stymied, but knew she had to get some paying work right away, so she taught a writing workshop. Here she found gifts she did not know she possessed as she untangled the mystery that had cast doubt on the man she had loved and the marriage that she had trusted. By story’s end, the mystery is solved and the hopeful future beckons. If a heartwarming tale appeals to you, you’ll want to read this.

Angle of Repose

It's no wonder that this book won the Pulitzer Prize.  I chose it for our couples book group, and everyone liked it.  It reads like a historical novel about the West and how man's engineering eventually subdued its wild landscape.  However, it's really the portrait of a marriage between two completely different individuals whose love for each other and passion for their vocations nearly destroy them.  She's a sophisticated writer from the East and he's a taciturn Midwesterner who tries to conquer the Wild West with engineering skills far advanced for

The Hero and the Crown

Well known for rewriting many of our most popular fairy tales to feature strong female characters, Robin McKinley's talents won the 1985 Newbery Award for this book.  As a coming of age story, The Hero and the Crown, magically transports you to a world full of mystery and danger.  Aerin, our young heroine, who lost her mother when she was born, spends much of her time at court trying to avoid everyone because so much darkness surrounds her mother's and father's history together.  Called a witch by many,  Aerin's mother, according to most of her f

Straight Man

If you're looking for an intelligent yet funny book, this is it!  Russo who also wrote Nobody's Fool (which was made into a movie starring Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith), has outdone himself in terms of comedy.  After I read this story, I kept looking for something as funny and entertaining as it was, and thus far, I have not found it.  Our protagonist, a professor in a small Pennsylvania town, grapples with all kinds of problems, ranging from the bureaucratic to a midlife crisis.  How he deals with his friends, his wife, his colleagues

The Accidental Tourist

Anne Tyler has been one of my favorite writers for a long time.  After reading one of her early novels, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, I became a true fan!  This story is by far one of her best.  You may even have seen the movie by the same name in which William Hurt and Geena Davis starred.  Though the movie was excellent and captured the essence of the story, there are still gems to discover by reading the novel.  A couple have lost their young son because of a random shooting.  Neither of them are coping with their grief very well, and communica

Prodigal Summer

I have always loved Barbara Kingsolver's books, but this title is my all time favorite!  Some will say this is a woman's book, but I disagree.  In this winsome, beautifully rendered story, Kingsolver tells us about three strong, sensitive and caring women who believe that they can help improve our environment and counteract some of the damage that human beings have perpetrated on this earth in the name of progress and greed.  Uniquely, the author introduces each chapter with the words that echo that particular woman's focus.  She evokes their yearnings and sh

The Road

Although this book is a bleak depiction of what might happen in the future if the people of our world continue to behave so irresponsibly, it is also a story about a father and a son who travel the devasting terrain of a world gone mad.  Together the two of them try to find shelter and food, traveling great distances while avoiding the marauding groups of scavengers who might do them harm.  A departure for McCarthy who usually writes about the mythic West, The Road tells about the bleakness and despair resulting from environmental degradation and the spiritual wasteland t

The Hours

Michael Cunnigham took an incredible risk when he wrote this book.  As a variation on the themes of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, this story will intrigue you while providing enormous satisfaction.  You will find that this story will also make you want to read Woolf's Mrs.

19th Wife

Fundamentalist Mormon breakaway polygamous sects have been in the news recently, and this intriguing book threads two stories together: one, of Brigham Young’s rebellious 19th wife in the 1870’s, and the other a 19th wife in present-day southern Utah, accused of murdering her husband.

Rockin' the Bronx

Get a visceral taste of the Irish immigrant experience in the Bronx, New York in the early 1980’s in Kirwan’s (lead singer of Black 47) latest. Musician Sean Kelly leaves Ireland to search for his girlfriend Mary and is sucked into the seedy, bruising tenement life of fellow immigrants Mary, Kate and Danny struggling with poverty, drugs, racial and ethnic tensions and the local music scene of the Bainbridge Avenure Irish bars.  Author Thomas Keneally calls the book “Angela’s Ashes for a new generation”—a great read.

The Cry of the Dove

This is the heartbreaking story of Salma, aka Sally, a Bedouin Arab forced to flee her village of Hima to escape an honor killing.  "I used to be a shepherdess, who under a barefaced sun guided her goats to the scarce green pastures with her reed pipe.  But I saw the moon at night, and prayed, Forgive me, Allah, for I have sinned.  The heat of passion had made me bend."  Consumed by shame, obsessed by her daughter's cries, and lost in the drastic change of culture, Sally tries to make a life for herself as a seamstress, while bussing tables at night and tak

A Model Summer

Anyone who remembers the first generation of supermodels from the 80's will recall the name Paulina Porizkova, who was the sophisticated grin of Estee Lauder's cosmetic line for many years.  In her fiction debut, Porizkova writes a semi-autobiographical novel about a 15-year-old girl who leaves Sweden and the dysfunctional relationship with her family for the opportunity to model in Paris for the summer.  Predictably tall, skinny, and painfully insecure, Jirina attempts to compete in the world of high fashion, in turns both discovering herself and losing all sense of integ

Dancing at the Rascal Fair

Doig opens this fine tale with two 19-year-old men, Angus McCaskill and Rob Barclay, as they stand on a dock in Scotland in 1889 about to step onto a ship that will carry them to America. They make their way to Montana, planning to join Rob’s uncle Lucas, a miner, but things are not as they expect and the two Scotsmen take up homesteading and sheep ranching instead. The book follows their lives over the next 30 years as they marry, raise families, take part in various joint ventures, battle the harsh Montana winters, and live within sight of the unparalleled beauty of the Rockies.