The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Family Life

Spotlight on: Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

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Jenny Jackson, photo credit Sarah Shatz

“In March 2020, when COVID-19 shut down New York City, my husband and I packed up our apartment on Pineapple Street, buckled our kids into their car seats, and drove to northwest Connecticut, where my in-laws live deep in the woods. We stayed with them for six months—six months that were scary, strange, and, at times, very, very funny.

Living in someone else’s house turns you into a bit of an amateur anthropologist, deriving meaning from the closets full of ski jackets, tennis rackets, and twenty years’ worth of Sky & Telescope magazines. I found a letter, sent home from summer camp, that read “Camp is good. They made me write you so I could get ice cream.”” ―Jenny Jackson, Letter to booksellers

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

What booksellers are saying about Pineapple Street

  • Pineapple Street is family drama at its finest – and its most decadent. Told through the eyes of three women in an elite Brooklyn family, the novel is witty and insightful and a thoughtful commentary on class, wealth, and society. These characters equally shocked me and endeared themselves to me; you can’t help but root for happy endings all around. This story will be a best of 2023 for me; I can’t wait to see what Jenny Jackson writes next!
      ―Beth Seufer Buss from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • I loved this juicy, complicated family drama! Pineapple Street tells the story of the Stockton family, part of the uber-rich one percenters living in New York City, through the perspectives of two of their daughters and one daughter-law. You won’t be able to help falling in love with each of these characters in spite of their first world problems. Touching and zany, Pineapple Street is perfect for fans of Amy Poeppel and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.
      ―Jessica Nock from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

  • I couldn’t put down this novel that explores loyalty, class, family and love. It was zippy and readable while also not shying away from important conversations on privilege.
      ―Lillian Kay from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.
  • Welcome to Pineapple Street, where the Stockton family reigns with old money and even older traditions. The three Stockton siblings, Darley, Cord and Georgiana, all face their monied background with varying degrees of guilt. Sasha, Cord’s wife, is the bohemian artist to the wealthy clan and always finds herself on the outside looking in. Jenny Jackson has created a funny and sharp behind the scenes look at New York’s elite. These characters remind us that what we see on the outside is never quite the same as what is happening on the inside.
      ―Mary Jane Michels from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

About Jenny Jackson

Jenny Jackson is a vice president and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. A graduate of Williams College and the Columbia Publishing Course, she lives in Brooklyn Heights with her family. Pineapple Street is her first novel.

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Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada

If there’s one thing you should know about me – it’s that I adore a book about an unhappy housewife, not because I like seeing women unhappy, but because I love to support women fighting wrongs. Seeing how a woman reclaims her space, life, and situation – even if she goes about it in questionable ways, is a ride I want to be on. Kashimada’s novel is a prime example of all these elements, with the perfect blend of sparse, deeply impactful prose that explore themes of religion, tragedy, identity, and isolation.

Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada, (List Price: $17, Europa, 9781609458195, March 2023)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Findley, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

A March 2023 Read This Next! Title

Hello Beautiful is perfect for readers who enjoy emotionally tender stories about complicated families. Quiet and solitary William Waters is an only child raised by emotionally unavailable parents who finds solace in basketball. He meets bright, headstrong Julia Padavano in college where she decides he is the man to help put her on the path towards her diligently planned life. Along with Julia are her three sisters, with whom she is incredibly close. Tragedy strikes, creating a rift that reverberates within the Padavano family for generations. With themes of grief, mental illness, forgiveness, and loyalty, Hello Beautiful is about the cost of being true to oneself regardless of the consequences, and the gift of those who love us for who we truly are. If you enjoyed Ask Again Yes, you will love this one. I cannot wait to recommend this to my customers.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano, (List Price: $28, The Dial Press, 9780593243732, March 2023)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel

I honestly can’t think of another novel that had quite the emotional impact on me that reading On The Savage Side did. Searing, brutal and unflinching in its portrayal of addiction and the devastation that it wreaks, the novel ripped my heart out and stomped all over it. In telling the story of identical twins Daffy and Arc, McDaniels gives voice to countless marginalized women, and her beautiful, lyrical prose reveals the humanity among the wreckage of lives, hopes and dreams lost to drugs.

On the Savage Side by Tiffany McDaniel, (List Price: $29, Knopf, 9780593320709, February 2023)

Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

Brilliant, sublime and surprising. On my forever favorite shelf. Julie Otsuka has the mystical gift of telling just as much of a story with what she doesn’t say. Reader, treat yourself with care if you have or have had a loved one with dementia…but I think The Swimmers is more than worthy of the heart ache.

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka, (List Price: $16, Anchor, 9780593466629, January 2023)

Reviewed by Jessica Nock, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Spotlight on: Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

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Monica Heisey, photo credit Harry Livingstone Photography

I went through a divorce at a young age myself, and it was quite isolating — most of my peer group wasn’t even married yet, so I didn’t have anyone around me who could relate to what I was going through, and I became desperate to read or watch something about the experience. While there’s no paucity of divorce art in the world, I couldn’t find anything that summed up how specifically ridiculous going through it all at 28 in the late 2010s felt. I also wanted something that didn’t take the whole thing too seriously — a lot of heartbreak art is quite heavy, when it really is one of life’s funnier circumstances. I also knew that I didn’t want to write a memoir — partly because every divorce is two stories, and it didn’t feel fair to commit only mine to print, and mostly because I didn’t think I could be funny about my real-life situation. So I invented Maggie and Jon, and tore up their life plans instead.” ―Monica Heisey, Interview, Entertainment Weekly

 

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

What booksellers are saying about Really Good, Actually

  • This book feels like it was written exactly to my sense of humor, age group, pop culture knowledge, etc., so I, of course, loved it! Maggie didn’t expect to be getting a divorce at the age of twenty-nine–now she’s left feeling alone and adrift when she expected to have at least one aspect of her life set forever. This book chronicles the lonely, messy, embarrassing year that follows Maggie’s decision to split with her husband as well as the difficult journey to self-improvement in a self-obsessed, social media, millennial ennui-focused era.
      ―Julia Lewis from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore

  • Funny and cringingly relatable, Monica Heisey is the Canadian answer to Dolly Alderton and Stephanie Danler. “Messy” is the only word for the 29-year-old protagonist reeling from the end of her marriage, but you can’t help but root for her to make it through her difficult first year post-separation
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

  • This gritty original take on The Breakup Novel is a combination of the age-old human pastime of watching a train wreck happen in front of your eyes (you just can’t stop watching/reading!), and a Jane Austen-level take on relationships and the need for women to have value and identity outside of their romantic relationships. The friendships are hardcore. The slowly emerging self knowledge of the main character is empowering. The stream-of-consciousness style of writing means you’ll want to read it all in one long gulp. Loved it.
      ―Elisa Forshey from Givens Books Little Dickens in Lynchburg, VA | Buy from Givens Boks Little Dickens

  • Agreed, Really Good, Actually is perfect for fans of Schitt’s Creek ( author Monica Heisy wrote for the show!) and the recent novels, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton and How to Fall Out of Love Madly by Jana Casale. Funny, tender and so very relatable
      ―Jessica Nockfrom Main Street Books in Davidson, NC | Buy from Main Street Books

About Monica Heisey

Monica Heisey is a writer and comedian from Toronto. She has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, The Guardian, Glamour, New York magazine, and VICE, among others. She has written for television shows like Schitt’s Creek, Workin’ Moms, Baroness von Sketch Show, and more. She currently lives in London. This is her first novel.

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The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

It is an accomplishment when a novel can take on heartbreaking situations and also contain so much humor as well. Geeta’s husband left without a trace five years ago. All the villagers think she has murdered him. So when her women’s business loan group members start having problems with their drinking, abusive husbands, they naturally go to her to enlist her help in murdering them. A fun story about the ability of women friends to stick together and the joys of motherhood (not really). I will highly recommend this one.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff (List Price: $28.00, Ballantine Books, 9780593498958, January 2023)

Reviewed by Kathy Clemmons, Sundog Books in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Spotlight on: Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

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I do not deliberately drag my identity to the desk every day, but it turns up. I grew up a Catholic in a small, mostly Protestant town on the shores of Belfast Lough in the seventies. My childhood had a lot in common with that of children in the UK and, in a different sense – the rest of Ireland. But it was stressful in a way I did not understand until later; my generation were reared by nervous wrecks. ” ―Louise Kennedy, Interview, Wasafiri

 

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

What booksellers are saying about Trespasses

  • I am in awe of everything about this incredible debut. Set in Belfast during the 70s, Trespasses explores the roles of violence and chance through the life of Cushla, a Catholic woman in her 20s who finds herself swept up in a love affair with an older, married Protestant lawyer. The narrative grows with a quiet sense of discomfort until it rushes to a startling conclusion that left me breathless.
      ―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books

  • I am fascinated by the Troubles and all the heartache it caused. Cushla Lavery’s struggles to reconcile her loyalties to community and her love for a man forbidden by that community. The daily drama of living for people caught up in this terrible time seems very real in the characters Kennedy develops. I was mesmerized by this story and couldn’t put it down! A must read!
      ―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL | Buy from Page & Palette

  • I am fascinated by the Troubles; it continually boggles my mind that armed occupation of and paramilitary presence in Northern Ireland went on for so long, so recently. So I deeply appreciated the insight into the Troubles that this novel provides, following Cushla, a Catholic schoolteacher living in a small town near Belfast, enamored with an older Protestant barrister who is wrong for her in every way. Louise Kennedy’s story of sectarian violence and tragedy is totally compelling and humanizes this fascinating period of time by focusing on the stories of ordinary people.
      ―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy grew up near Belfast. Trespasses is her first novel. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac. She has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, and BBC Radio 4. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a chef for almost thirty years. She lives in Sligo, Ireland.

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Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

Meredith is a completely lovable and complex character that has faced and survived some unspeakable things. Claire Alexander beautifully creates characters that exude resilience in their own ways. I found myself cheering on Meredith, Fee, Celeste, and Tom…and hoping for their happiness. Meredith, Alone is a quick read that explores the hardships of life and the value of community, family and friendships. While some of the topics are quite heavy, there is also joy and hope and laughter and triumph. I thoroughlyloved this book and have already started recommending it to folks who loved Eleanor Oliphant and Where’d You go Bernadette!

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander, (List Price: $28, Grand Central Publishing, 9781538709948, November 2022)

Reviewed by Lynne Phillips, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Foster by Claire Keegan

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)

Reviewed by Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

The story of family and how lives intersect over time, Signal Fires is a quiet portrait of neighbors who lived near a 500-year-old oak tree during a large chunk of their lives. How those in the two families live and people chose to intersect or not to, choose to acknowledge weakness or tragedy- or do not- as they move through lives stages and across the country are central to this novel.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, (List Price: $28, Knopf, 9780593534724, October 2022)

Reviewed by Kimberly Daniels, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

An October 2022 Read This Next! Title

Oh, I hope and pray this is the runaway blockbuster of the year, as it deserves to be. Dystopian, centered around concept the US government can re-home children on the basis of anonymous reports of seditious parental behavior. One woman uses poetry to combat this, and the rampant anti-Asian hate that is taking over society. With hero librarians behind the scenes attempting to keep fractured family ties documented – SO MUCH LOVE FOR THIS. ALL OF THIS. I AM SO HERE FOR IT. Celeste Ng is now officially a literary force. I’m calling Our Missing Hearts my one and only official book recommendation of 2022 – no others will come close.

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, (List Price: $29, Penguin Press, 9780593492543, October 2022)

Reviewed by Alissa Redmond, South Main Book Company in Salisbury, North Carolina

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela

A full-hearted homecoming story of reckoning with the past as it hits you hard and fast all while trying to carve a way forward–when for so long it looked like the only way was straight. Bounces around the lives of late 30s queer Latino and his former classmates and family to map out the landscape of the suburbs and the inner lives America so often pushes aside. Astute, enraged, and charming as hell.

The Town of Babylon by Alejandro Varela, (List Price: $27, Astra House, 9781662601033, March 2022)

Reviewed by Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

Spotlight on: Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

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One of the biggest conundrums was to get the sense of time,” Strout said of the grocery-washing era of 2020, when calendars went blank and sinister. “It’s like time just imploded. The sense of a day was strange and the sense of a week was even stranger, because what was a week? I wanted to get that down on the page somehow.” ―Elizabeth Strout, Interview,New York Times

 

Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

What booksellers are saying about Lucy By the Sea

  • This is a story of loss, and coming to terms with it, and realizing that we are all just trying to do the best we can and get through it all. Another fabulous Elizabeth Strout novel!―Beth Carpenter from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina | Buy from this store

  • I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Lucy Barton! Set in the early days of the COVID pandemic, Elizabeth Strout puts Lucy and her ex-husband (and still close friend) William together in a cabin in Maine. William is “saving Lucy’s life” by getting her out of Manhattan. For her part, Lucy doesn’t know what the big deal is. The two of them navigate this new world, and we are drawn back to that uncertain time when so much was unknown. In Lucy’s singular voice, Strout continues Lucy’s story with a keen eye and sharp prose.
      ―Lynne Phillips from Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas | Buy from this store

  • “I could not stop feeling that life as I had known it was gone. Because it was. I knew this was true.” Lucy Barton feels this as the global pandemic took over all our lives… and didn’t we all feel this? Reading Lucy by the Sea leads the reader through the horrors and hopes of this strangest and most horrifying time of our collective lives. The unknown was with us every minute of lockdown and, as all our lives changed, we changed forever.  ―Nancy Pierce from Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia | Buy from this store

  • Strout explores grief in a new way in this pandemic-era novel. ‘Lucy By the Sea’ centers around the outbreak of COVID and everything that followed during the year after. I instantly fell deeply immersed in this story because I (and we all) lived through that year. I felt emotionally involved with Lucy and her world. I struggled with Lucy while she came to grips of the new reality that was COVID, my heart broke as her relationship with her daughters changed, and I rolled my eyes along with her at William. You are not invisible Lucy, we see you.  ―Jenny Gilroy from E. Shaver, bookseller in Savannah, Georgia | Buy from this store

  • Elizabeth Strout brings her character, Lucy, back just as the world is shut down by the pandemic. Lucy finds herself quarantining with her ex-husband William in a small town in Maine and begins to see him from a different point of view. Lucy’s fresh outlook extends to her two daughters and their own life challenges. Told in Lucy’s clear, no-nonsense voice, the lockdown provides the backdrop for how to deal with a world in turmoil without losing hope.  ―Mary Jane Michels from Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina | Buy from this store

About Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Oh William!; Olive, Again; Anything Is Possible, winner of the Story Prize; My Name Is Lucy Barton; The Burgess Boys; Olive Kitteridge, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine.

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Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

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)

Reviewed by Jennifer Privitera, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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