Nuri, a beekeeper in Aleppo, and his artist wife Afra, have their lives upended by the Syrian war. After Afra is blinded by a bomb dropped in their backyard and their home is destroyed, they escape and begin the incredibly dangerous journey through Turkey and Greece, ending up in England. Lefteri switches back and forth between two timelines– the terrifying and perilous trek from Aleppo to Istanbul and across the sea to Athens, and their uncertain situation once they arrive in England. It is one of the most incredibly beautiful and realistic love stories I’ve ever read, a testament to the power of human connection and shared grief. Nuri and Afra face daily horrors, but the novel lives through the connection between them, and the brief but important bonds they form with fellow refugees from different parts of the world, camp volunteers, and social workers. It’s about finding the bits of light that exist even in the worst darkness, finding hope and courage when the unthinkable happens, and clinging to the familiar in an unknown world. The characters and their stories will continue to take up space in your heart long after this story ends.
A strange epidemic starts to make its way through the United States, putting people into a sleepwalk-like state. Nobody knows what it is or how it came to be. Nobody knows where these sleepwalkers are going. As their loved ones, disease-control biologists, and law enforcement fall in line with the sleepwalkers to keep them safe on their journey and figure out what is going on, we’re introduced to a bevy of realistic, vivid, complicated, messy Americans from all different walks of life. Wendig traps us in an inescapable comparison to the America we’re living in now, showing the flaws (and strengths) in America’s character, while throwing in some chill-inducing twists. It’s a commentary on our current political and social state; he grapples with our racism, degradation of American ideals, and fear of the other, and he shows the potentially catastrophic finish line. It’s both a condemnation of the dangers of group-think and a celebration of the enduring human spirit in the face of potential destruction. This book will scare you, make you chuckle, and make you cry, all within a span of a few pages. If you liked Stephen King’s The Stand, you will love this one!
Lucy Everhart’s mother was a marine-biologist whose research on great white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts went unfinished when she died suddenly while on the job. Now five years later, twelve-year-old Lucy and her best friend Fred have found her mom’s research proposal which sparks an interest in her mom’s unfinished project. It’s a story of loss, a pure and unfiltered view of grief and healing through the eyes of a young girl. Kate Allen writes with a great amount of respect for the complicated, unforgiving emotion that is grief, and the particular difficulty of a twelve-year-old girl dealing with these feelings. As she uses her mother’s research to cope with and attempt to look beyond her loss, she also brings together an interesting band of helpers, from a kindly, elderly neighbor to some of her mom’s old colleagues. Lucy is warm-hearted, stubborn, sometimes broken, other times stronger than she should have to be, and she’s surrounded by a beautifully supportive community trying to help her battle her grief while battling their own. It’s sweet, full of heart, and definitely tear-inducing—a reminder that all living things are equipped with tools that help us survive, whether we’re fish or human.
Inspired by true events, this novel unfolds like an incredibly deep, nuanced one-act play. Eight women in a Mennonite colony climb up into a hay loft for a secret meeting. For two years, they and other women in the colony believed demons were visiting them in the night to punish them for their sins, but finally discover they’ve actually been drugged and raped by a group of men made up of family members, friends, and acquaintances from their own community. What follows is a series of meetings between the eight women, told through the “minutes” taken by a male member of the community who has his own interesting story. We see the women through his observations and sometimes biases (which is such a fascinating way to tell a story), but every single character is so beautifully fleshed out within just the first ten pages that it genuinely hurt my heart to say goodbye to them at the end of the novel. This is a triumphant, beautiful, tragic tale of people, of women in particular, grappling with human issues, and claiming the power to make decisions about their own lives. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but also undeniably powerful, Women Talking is a quick read, but it’ll stay with you forever. I won’t be letting go of this one for a while.
How often have we seen women show justified anger, even fury and rage, while making public statements, only to have to apologize for it later due to pressure from their peers, the media, and the public? How often have you swallowed your own anger because you know deep down inside that women’s anger is oftentimes seen as unattractive and off-putting? Traister covers a wide scope of social and political change in U.S. history, and how angry women were the catalyst for nearly every movement—abolition, suffrage, workers’ rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, et cetera. But she also gives perspective to the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up, the systematic erasure of our accomplishments and voices, and other battles women are fighting today, and tells us how communal, righteous fury can be honed into a tool for change. From how society has recognized and given a platform to men’s anger while demonizing or infantilizing women’s anger, to how women of color’s (especially black women’s) anger is received more harshly than white women’s anger, Good and Mad is an intersectional tribute to angry women. As with Traister’s other works, I left feeling like I wasn’t alone or crazy. Instead, I felt validated, empowered, and fired up!