Here’s my picks for the best recently published novels – all great choices for your next book club discussion.
What kind of novel gets everybody in your book club engaged, excited, and ready for lively discussion? For me, it’s a book that’s different from others I’ve read, something new or unusual. Book club reading often introduces you to a genre or topic you might not have chosen for yourself…but makes you glad you gave it a try.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars, Kristin Harmel
This is one of the best books I've read lately. In one sense, it's a WWII/Holocaust book, but it's like no other I've read. This book reads a bit like a folk tale. The characters are utterly human but also bigger than life. The main character, Yona, is a young woman who was stolen at age 2 from her parents in Berlin. The old woman who stole her is mystical, cranky, and an expert in surviving in the forest. Yona comes of age just as WWII breaks out. While living alone in the forest, she comes across small groups of people fleeing Jewish annihilation in Poland and decides to help them. Because of her actions in teaching them how to survive in the forest, many of them live.
The book features a teenage girl living in a typical, conservative household in Baltimore in the mid 1970s. When she is hired as a babysitter for the child of a much more free- thinking couple, her world opens up. When a rock star and his movie star wife also move in, she really gets an education and ultimately finds herself. Highly recommended for those looking for a well written novel that doesn't scare you or bring up distressing subjects you're looking to escape. The novel beautifully plotted and includes a truly jaw dropping (and funny) plot twist. The characters are utterly charming. Boomers and GenXers growing up in the sixties and seventies will relate to this book!
Things That Grow, Meredith Goldstein
A young woman whose grandmother just passed away needs to bury her cremated remains – in several different gardens, both private and public. She and an unlikely tribe of friends and family make this journey together and mostly avoid awkward or illegal situations. Literary fans will love the tie-ins to Dorothy Parker and Edith Wharton. Even though this book is marketed as a young adult novel, it really speaks to those of us who have lost loved ones. The novel is fairly short and highly readable. Highly recommended for a good, short read.
From These Broken Streets, Roland Merullo
More literary than most WWII fiction coming out lately, this novel centers around the Nazi occupation of Naples, Italy. This was one of the best historical fiction novels I've read in a long time. Beware: the novel is a slow burn. I was tempted to bail out on it and only kept going because I loved the author's "Breakfast with Buddha" so much. The action builds and ends in a fast-paced, action-packed scene of guerrilla combat. The characters, though slow to show themselves, were terrific.
Like Wind Against Rock, Nancy Kim
This novel is a great exploration of dating and love. A young woman approaching middle age has to move in with her recently widowed mother. Her mom is a "Merry Widow," going on dates and wearing form fitting clothes. Alice, on the other hand, is recently divorced and struggling to get her life back on track. She finds a notebook left by her late father, written in Korean. Alice finds an elderly man to translate it, and they both discover life-changing secrets.
Happy Reading, Cindy
Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles: Stories of Unlikely Connections & Unexpected Gifts, along with several other fiction and non-fiction books.
Legal Disclosures: I generally receive free digital copies of books I review from the publishers. If I read them and like them, I say so. Otherwise, I don’t. I provide links to these products, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something). Honestly, I write this blog for fun and to promote my own books. I pay for expenses out of my own pocket.