Sentenced to live out his days as a Former Person in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov resolves to make the best of his reduced circumstances. With unparalleled charm, he moves through three decades, befriending staff, guests, and foreign journalists, always the gentleman. Fans of Helen Simonson will enjoy the count's quick wit and the minutiae of his days.
A young Swedish boy comes to the U.S. in the 1840s only to be immediately separated from his older brother. While becoming a man, he travels alone across the lawless American west, reputation growing as an outlaw legend known only as "The Hawk." Part coming-of-age tale, part survivalist story, you have never read a western frontier novel like this. Truly one of the best books of the year.
An exquisite character study -- based on the life of the author's great aunt. -- Miss Jane tells the story of Jane Chisolm, born to dour parents in the early 20th century Mississippi. Jane is born with a defect, which make having children out of the question, and creates a sort of solitary existence for her, as she makes her place in the world. These are tough times, and there isn't much sympathy to be found on the farm, but the doctor, who delivers her, becomes her mentor, passing her books and the wisdom of his experience. Jane blossoms, despite her physical difference, and becomes a shining example of a loving and compassionate human being. One of my favorite books of 2016.
10 year-old Elvis, her older sister, Lizzie, and Dad flounder following the drowning of "Mom." Boomer, the beloved family dog, Ernie, the adopted parrot, Lizzie's risky sleepwalking and Elvis's zoo volunteering add both levity and heaviness to this grieving family. Mom baked rabbit cakes to celebrate just about everything, and Lizzie manically proceeds to bake 1,000 rabbit cakes to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Crammed with heart-wrenching and hilarious scenes, this upended family copes with love AND many delicious rabbit cakes!
Sally Rooney reminds me of a millennial Neil Labute; she packs her novel with characters who are all driven by instinct and seem utterly powerless to their base emotional compulsions, often relishing the surrender with nominal regard for consequences. Objects of affection become objects of derision in a story told with a lacerating wit and jarringly raw honesty that make it breathlessly compelling.
Easily my favorite book of 2017, Goodbye, Vitamin is full of jaunty wit that never feels twee and packs its fair share of emotional punches that startle the reader but never leave a bruise.
"My theory is that loneliness creates the feeling of haunting."
This passage from Clemmon's' debut novel perfectly conveys the book's ghostly effect. Written with a sparseness that disguies its depth, What We Lose tackles the heady themes of belonging and familial legacies with a power and style that engages, provokes and moves the reader.
Waclawiak's second novel is a scathing send-up of the pharmaceutically drowsy morals and manners of the upper crust and their offspring's politicall correct rebellion that never leaves the safety of the golf community gates.
Too funny to consider it a polemic but cutting too close to the bone of contemporary America to feel like a spoof, it is a timely and tightly-drawn yarn.
Capturing New York during its Giuliani inflection point, beautifully juxtaposing the atmosphere and protagonist to illuminate the character's evolution out of adolescence. The book's clarity, humor and energy are all so distinctly of that time and perfectly rendered that its effect for any reader who lived in New York City as it teetered at the precipice of becoming a capitalist amusement park will be left viscerally shaken.
What makes a masterpiece? In a career as prolific, eclectic and adventurous as Percival Everett's, his body of work the very definition of singularity, it may even be foolish to hint one book is superior to another. And while it might be brazen to assert So Much Blue may be that magnum opus, it is an accusation i gleefully declare. A blissfully precise pen firmly draws the reader into the life of Kevin Pace in his quest for absolution and closure and the novel's three timelines kept deftly aloft by Everett's signature humor and nuanced storytelling.