The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Literary

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

Bold and breathtaking, Four Treasures of the Sky redefines the American Western novel. Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s debut spans from China to Idaho, following the journey of Daiyu, a young Chinese girl kidnapped from her home and sent overseas to America. In Daiyu, Zhang has given us one of the most memorable narrators I’ve ever come across–even as Daiyu endures the racism and brutality of the American West, she speaks with resilience and grace. Daiyu’s story might be set in the nineteenth century, but it resonates so strongly with today’s world. This is the kind of historical fiction that prompts us to reevaluate what we know of this country’s history and leaves us better for having done so. I can’t wait to see what Jenny Tinghui Zhang does next.

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang, (List Price: $27.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250811783,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Lindsay Lynch from Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

An April Read This Next! Book

Memphis is a wonderful, intriguing book about a family of black women in Memphis. Primarily centering on two sisters, both with much tragedy but amazing resilience, and one of their daughters. They carry on the strong tradition of their mother. Skipping around between different years and various characters, it weaves what undoubtedly is the story of so many black women in Memphis. Beautifully written.

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow, (List Price: $27, The Dial Press, 9780593230480,  April 2022)

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

Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh

Mercy Street is a jarring look at the America of today, from the perspective of a dooms-day prepper with a knack for stalking women, an abortion clinic counselor who is exhausted with people asking her “how can you do that?”, and a drug dealer who wants out of the game once and for all. It is a crockpot of the alternating perspectives in our country, combined with phenomenal writing and distinctive character voices. Haigh has accomplished a piece of work that not only highlights the abortion debate, but even larger themes of identity, radicalism, and just how far kindness can be pushed before breaking. This novel will take you into places many of us have never gone, and unfortunately is the reality for just as many. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, this is a read that’ll be on your mind long after it’s been finished.

Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh, (List Price: $27.99, Ecco, 9780061763304,  February 2022)

Reviewed by Emma June Wood, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. Mandel

Good grief I loved this book. The Glass Hotel makes more sense now, but I already loved it anyway. Nobody does time “travel” like Emily St. John Mandel. She manages not to lose us in the weaving of the timelines and characters. Despite being set in both the past and the future, the themes are so timely. A pandemic, wealth inequity, the idea of home, the role of art in society, family dynamics–it’s all there, plus there are colonies on the moon and maybe we’re all living in a simulation. It might seem like a stretch, but I think her only peer in speculative fiction is Margaret Atwood herself..

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. Mandel, (List Price: $25.00, Knopf, 9780593321447,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Defying the traditional framework the novel, Sheila Heti proves once again she is one the wisest and most imaginative active writers. The story begins innocently enough and then wonderfully morphs, with ruminations on loss, companionship, religion, and the physical form. Ever since reading the book, it has echoed in my brain continuously.


Pure Colour by Sheila Heti, (List Price: $26.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 9780374603946, February 2022)

Reviewed by James Harrod, Malaprop’s in Ashevills, North Carolina


The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Frida Liu is a single mother who, exhausted and alone, has a lapse in judgment one day parenting her child. That decision leads to a child welfare trial, where the state sentences her to a year at school for mothers, where government educators will retrain Frida and other mothers they deem unworthy how to be good mothers in the eyes of the state. Best described to me as “1984 for mothers,” The School for Good Mothers is a terrifying look at an overreaching government that feels all too real today and the lengths that parents will go to in order to be with their children. It will both disturb you and make you think!

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan, (List Price: $27.00, Simon & Schuster, 9781982156121, January 2022)

Reviewed by Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin

A strange and elegiac little novel, steeped in sadness and decay. A book that’s obtusely about disease and isolation that ties accidentally and snugly into our current world.

Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin, (List Price: $14.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646050734, September 2021)

Reviewed by Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

LOVE! It’s no small feat to write a 60- page book so immersive that you can read it in a weekend and still feel extremely depressed when you come to the end, like, “That’s all?” C’mon, book two!!

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen, (List Price: $30.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374181178, October 2021)

Reviewed by Kat Leache, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

This tiny gem is destined to be a Christmas classic. Think in terms O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Alice Munro and Raymond Carver also come to mind. Based on actual events in Irish history only recently brought to light, the story follows Bill Furlong, a coal merchant, husband, and father to five daughters, and his discovery of a coverup by the church. The town is largely controlled by the church in this 1985 setting, but he still risks his livelihood, reputation, and marriage to right a wrong. Readers who enjoy stories of characters confronting their pasts, embracing hope, and being quiet heroes will find much to love here. When I first read it I thought: “good story”. But I have picked it up over and over again, read and reread it, marveling at its depth charge emotional impact.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, (List Price: $20, Grove Press, 9780802158741, November 2021)

Reviewed by Kelly Justice from Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA


Edge Case by YZ Chin

A thoughtful, incisive, sometimes upsetting look into marriage, immigration, and layered trauma. As Edwina faces the sudden absence of her husband, she also carries the fears of her years-long immigration process, not to mention sexual harassment at work, a mother whose obsession with Edwina’s weight has marked E permanently, and the question of her cultural identity. Chin weaves the complexities of these realities together seamlessly. Edwina moves from meditating on her husband’s strangeness before his departure, to the past-life stories her mom tells, to the mole on her cheek within paragraphs, but it all feels natural. It feels as though we are truly processing, grieving, seeking to understand with Edwina. A unique voice, clear-eyed and honest, while remaining soft to human pain, Chin has written a book somehow chilling and heart-warming at once.

Edge Case by YZ Chin, (List Price: 26.99, Ecco, 9780063030688, August 2021)

Reviewed by Becca Sloan, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee

All’s Well by Mona Awad

Miranda Fitch is in agony following a fall that ended her illustrious acting career. When a trio of strange men offers her a method of ridding herself of her pain, she discovers that accepting Faustian bargains come at a brutal and bloody price. Miranda is both deeply relatable and monstrous; her transformation from victim, to villain, to something in between was a train wreck I couldn’t look away from. As with Mona Awad’s first book, Bunny, All’s Well is a quirky, original work that relies heavily on internal monologues and deep characterization – sometimes tilting away from the plot slightly, as the ending of the novel falters somewhat under the weight of Miranda’s unreliable narration. Nonetheless, All’s Well is a treat for anyone seeking an unusual protagonist who enjoys both the drama department and the dramatic.

All’s Well by Mona Awad, (List Price: 27, Simon & Schuster, 9781982169664, August 2021)

Reviewed by Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Finally the book you have been waiting for. This last year has been tough and we have needed this light hilarious book that needs to be shared with all your friends. Full of stellar observations of life and how people function you will finish and open to the beginning to visit with old friends.

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam, (List Price: 26, Scribner, 9781982156183, July 2021)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

Award-winning Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam’s second novel is a profound meditation on love, desire, war, mortality, and the human condition. Krishan, an NGO worker based in the capital Colombo, receives an email out of the blue from a former girlfriend, on the same day he learns that his grandmother’s former carer has died. The journey that follows – through the heart of a country still recovering from a decades-long civil war – is as much through the mind as it is physical. Highly recommended.

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, (List Price: 27, Hogarth, 9780593230701, July 2021)

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

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

I started off laughing out loud at Gilda’s inner monologue. The clever writing matches her state of mind and drew me in right away. It took me maybe a third of the book to realize that she was going to get a lot worse. She might lose her mind entirely. I was a little ticked off that this sweet, funny girl was going to be sacrificed to the literary fiction gods for the sake of seriousness. But, then, she wasn’t. I loved this book, then worried for it, then loved it all over again. It’s such a great illustration of what happens to members of a family where all hurts are stuffed, all bad things swept under the rug. Austin weaves the larger narrative into Gilda’s particular story so well that I wasn’t even aware of what she was doing. When that damn cat shows up under the steps, I nearly cheered. Bravo! This may not be an easy hand-sell, but I’m going to give my best shot.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, (List Price: 26, Atria Books, 9781982167356, July 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Schroeder, Sunrise Books in High Point, North Carolina

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff shows us women’s desires in an entirely new way and in a place where desire, especially women’s desire is considered sin. The strength of Matrix lies in its voice and perspective. Groff builds a world where the men are periphery, yet the patriarchal structures and subservience to men’s wills rooted in the women who drive this novel are still palpable. It is a fine line to walk for any woman who dares to go against the grain, and Groff walks that line beautifully through Marie. Pick up this book at the first chance you get! It is sure to be one everyone will be talking about!.

Matrix by Lauren Groff, (List Price: 28, Riverhead Books, 9781594634499, September 2021)

Reviewed by Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, Florida

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