I love when queer women make bad choices. Natalie is eighteen, freshly independent, and painfully naive when she starts an all-consuming relationship with Nora, an older woman who is connected to her own life in surprising ways. Fischer perfectly captures that enraptured feeling of first love, especially with someone older and more experienced. There are parts of this book that are also deeply melancholy; bits and pieces that made me exhale and set the book aside for a minute or two. A little bit heart-wrenching, this one will be perfect for Sally Rooney fans and sad gay people alike.
The Adult by Bronwyn Fischer, (List Price: 27, Algonquin Books, 9781643752723, May 2023)
This gorgeous coming-of-age book swept me away to southern Australia. Not a single word is wasted in Madelaine Lucas’s debut novel; she writes with such precision and beauty. It took me days to read it not because I wasn’t enthralled but because I wanted to savor every perfect word. Lucas captures the thrills and tiny devastations of a first love affair so perfectly, remembered through the eyes of an older and wiser narrator.
Thirst for Salt by Madelaine Lucas, (List Price: 16.95, Tin House Books, 9781953534651, March 2023)
Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“The deeper in the wilderness I am, the higher in elevation I am, the happier I am. It is an unforgiving landscape and so deeply humbling. There’s a quote from the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss that I come back to over and over, and it’s the entire reason I climb big mountains. He says, ‘The smaller we come to feel ourselves compared with the mountain, the nearer we come to participating in its greatness.'” ―Shelley Read, interview, Alta
What booksellers are saying about Go As a River
This book is beautifully written and will stay with you for a very long time. This is the book that you pass on to your mother, your daughter, your best friend and make them promise to read it. I think we will be talking about this book for all of 2023 and after.
―Mary Patterson from The Little Bookshop in Midlothian, VA | Buy from The Little Bookshop
Phenomenal. As perfect as a homegrown, juicy, sweet peach. I will carry this story with me for many, many, many days to come.
―Jill Naylor from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.
With lush, atmospheric prose, Go As a River is about seventeen year old Victoria Nash who lives on a peach orchard in 1940’s rural Colorado. The only female at home, she is the one who keeps the household running with daily chores and working her family’s land. Her life changes when she meets the mysterious and gentle Wilson Moon, an indigenous boy passing through town. A love story that starts in innocence is shattered by bigotry. Go As a River is about surviving after loss, our connection to the natural world around us, quiet and enduring friendships, and lasting love. This is my kind of historical fiction, and I can’t wait to share this with readers at Main Street Books!
―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books
About Shelley Read
Shelley Read is a fifth generation Coloradoan who lives with her family in the Elk Mountains of the Western Slope. She was a Senior Lecturer at Western Colorado University for nearly three decades, where she taught writing, literature, environmental studies, and Honors, and was a founder of the Environment & Sustainability major and a support program for first-generation and at-risk students. Shelley holds degrees in writing and literary studies from the University of Denver and Temple University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing. She is a regular contributor to Crested Butte Magazine and Gunnison Valley Journal, and has written for the Denver Post and a variety of publications.
“I have conversations with myself every day. It’s just an easy way to get out of my brain. It’s a great tool for Maddie because it’s meant to highlight how alone Maddie feels. She doesn’t feel like she has people to talk to, so that’s where the conversationalist tone comes from. I think we see a little less of that by the end, because she has come to this place where she’s more open to being dependent on her friends and family. ” ―Jessica George, Interview, Everything Zoomer
What booksellers are saying about Maame
I stood up and clapped after finishing Maame. Maddie is a new favorite character, all the stars for this one!
―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books
You’ll absolutely fall in love with Maame, a coming-of-age story featuring a young British-Ghanaian woman who’s learning how to live for herself after years of looking after her sick father. Heartbreaking and magical.
―Maggie Robe from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books
Maame will get under your skin with her naive outlook on life. As she comes into her own she will blow you away with her depth.
―Suzanne Lucey from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books
Bridget Jones meets Eat, Pray, Love in this brilliantly written work of family, love, loss and self-discovery. Maddie (Maame), a 20-something year old young woman living in London at job she hates, an overbearing mother who spends most her time in Ghana, and a father with Parkinson’s, begins on a journey of self discovery when she moves out of her parents house. Maddie promises herself that she will now begin a new life of dating, spending time with friends, and advancing in her career. However, things take a turn when she loses her job and her father passes away. Maame is a book for our times, as our main character faces dating dilemmas, racism, and loss all while using Google to help her through her hard time. Be prepared to laugh, cry and cheer for Maame.
―Sharon Davis from Book Bound Bookstore in Blairsville, GA | Buy from Book Bound Bookstore
About Jessica George
Jessica George was born and raised in London to Ghanaian parents and studied English Literature at the University of Sheffield. After working at a literary agency and a theatre, she landed a job in the editorial department of Bloomsbury UK. Maame is her first novel.
Over seven days in a psychiatric ward in 1994 in Italy, the main character Daniele Mancarelli (who shares the author’s name and some life experiences) documents his involuntary committal. We spend most of our time on the ward itself with occasional flashbacks of the six patients’ and staff’s pasts. Mencarelli (author and character) is also a poet, and the language is beautiful and delicately translated by Wendy Weathly. While not dismissing the need for the truly suffering or dangerous to be treated, the author presents much to be considered about the way society categorizes those who are simply different or passing through a difficult phase of life.
Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli, (List Price: $22, Europa Editions, 9781609458065, January 2023)
Emma Lord brings the feels in her new novel, Begin Again. Andie didn’t get into her first choice college with her boyfriend, but she has a plan. She works really hard and ends up getting in as a transfer student after her first semester at community college. The problem is that she planned her transfer as a surprise for her boyfriend….who did the same thing, transferring to the school Andie WAS at.
Begin Again by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250783363, January 2023)
Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia
Now is Not The Time to Panic covers that wry space between childhood and adulthood – how we want to be seen and how others see us. Frankie and Zeke ask the questions about the nature of art both to the maker and the viewer, what does obsession really look like, and how do things spin out of control so smoothly. All against an early 90s world that may as well be a thousand years ago. The questions of consequences, family and what lies in front of us through a 90s era time warp. The writing is amazing. Sentences that stop you in your tracks. I loved everything about the novel!
Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson, (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780062913500, November 2022)
Claire Keegan’s books are little, quietly epic works of art. Foster is the story of a lonely child sent to live with relatives one summer, not knowing whether she would return home. The love and compassion shown to her on the Irish farm starkly contrast with the child’s family. Keegan’s prose is gorgeous.
Foster by Claire Keegan, (List Price: $20, Grove Press, 9780802160140, November 2022)
“More and more I believe that in the face of a political situation or in the face of an emergency, you have to ask the questions, ‘Which side are you on? Where do I stand in relation to this?’And at the exact same time, ultimately, there are no sides.” ―Ryan Lee Wong, Interview, Los Angeles Times
What booksellers are saying about Which Side Are You On?
A son returns home to LA for his grandmother’s last few days, and opens up to learn of his parents’ history as activists. He compares his own experiences with theirs as he struggles to figure out his future as a college student and self-proclaimed radical. Perfect for this moment, when so many of us are studying history to blaze new trails forward. I found this book very thought-provoking, and the family’s story refreshing.
―Alissa Redmond from South Main Book Co. in Salisbury, North Carolin | Buy from South Main Book Co.
Ryan Lee Wong packed so much into fewer than 200 pages! I loved the story of his family and how everything was revealed to him. I walked away still thinking of how Reed, the protagonist, learned that we have to allow stories to change us, not just to reinforce our own opinions. As someone who also lived in Los Angeles, I could envision exact places the author was describing; this also felt like a love story to his hometown. ―Amber Taylor from One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia | Buy from One More Page
Ryan Lee Wong’s debut Which Side Are You On is something special. This is a serious book with funny moments that centers around a young college student’s relationship with his mom. Reed is a young Asian American activist working to confront racism in America but he’s been shielded from the roles his parents played in the Korean-Black coalition in L.A. When he comes home from college in a life crisis, Reed’s mother pushes him to truly examine what he is doing to change the world. ―Rachel Watkins from Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia | Buy from Avid Bookshop
About Ryan Lee Wong
Ryan Lee Wong was born and raised in Los Angeles, lived for two years at Ancestral Heart Zen Temple, and currently lives in Brooklyn, where he is the administrative director of Brooklyn Zen Center. Previously, he served as program director for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and managing director of Kundiman. He has organized exhibitions and written extensively on the Asian American movements of the 1970s. He holds an MFA in fiction from Rutgers University–Newark. Which Side Are You On is his first book.
Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead is a brilliant retelling of the David Copperfield story from the perspective of the poor son of a teenage mother living in rural Appalachia. From the first sentence, Demon’s voice grabs us and takes us on an unforgettable journey through his early life. This novel about a resilient boy develops empathy for families and children so frequently dismissed in the national discourse. It is a masterful American story
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, (List Price: $32.50, Harper, 9780063251922, October 2022)
Which Side Are You On is a dialogue-heavy book with prose that is sharp, thought-provoking, and humorous at times. The reader sees the subjects of race, policing, politics, & privilege through the eyes of a young activist as he pries into his parents’ own personal history of activism in their younger days. Filled with interesting anecdotes and hard-learned lessons, this book shows that sometimes personal growth is best attained through deep conversation and self-reflection.
Which Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong, (List Price: $24, Catapult, 9781646221486, October 2022)
Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee
The Rabbit Hutch is about 18 year old Blandine Watkins, who has recently aged out of the foster care system and hopes soon to escape her earthly body like the female mystics who obsess her. It’s also about a dying Midwestern town, formerly home to an automobile manufacturer with a cultishly devoted customer base whose bankruptcy left the town in financial ruin and poisoned by toxic chemicals. And The Rabbit Hutch is also about the Rabbit Hutch, a low-income housing experiment full of residents living lives of varying degrees of quiet desperation, all of whom are brought sharply to life by Tess Gunty’s intricate, precise, dishy prose. It’s dark, but funny. It’s tragic, but affirming. And I didn’t want to skim over a single sentence, the writing is just that good. I will read anything Gunty publishes in the future.
The Rabbit Hutch by Tessa Gunty, (List Price: $28.00, Knopf, 9780593534663, August 2022)
Reviewed by Kat Leache, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee
I adored They’re Going to Love You so much that a part of me is convinced that Meg Howrey wrote it for me, specifically. This is such a gorgeous novel about being an artist in the modern world, the sacrifices we make and the people we hurt. When I hit the last page, I didn’t want to let these characters go—I adored every word.
They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey (List Price: $28, Doubleday, 9780385548779, November 2022)
A compelling book about how our family shapes how we are seen and who we become. Touching on themes of generational trauma, poverty, a feeling of belonging and family conflict, this story focuses on the life of Ever, told through generations of his Cherokee, Kiowa and Mexican family members. Honest and powerful, great storytelling.
Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah, (List Price: $27.00, Algonquin Books, 9781643751474, July 2022)
I love a good metagenre work, so Slip, a graphic novel about visual art, is right up my alley. Slip’s artwork is emotional and striking in its roughness; it’s very reminiscent This One Summer by the Tamakis (which I love). A particularity of Slip’s art I adored is the agelessness of the human drawings, which makes the narrative’s themes feel universal even as the book focuses on young adults. The book is about defining oneself as an individual, particularly when your friends seem to need you. It’s a difficult and necessary topic, and McCool does really well with it.
Slip by Marika McCoola, (List Price: $17.95, Algonquin Young Readers, 9781616207892, July 2022)