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Hello, welcome, and join us - won’t you? - for this month’s look at some new releases that you might want to keep on your radar.
Unless you’ve been keeping your nose in a book that past few months, you’re likely aware that the plight of refugees has been in the news quite a bit recently. (If you HAVE been keeping your nose in a book, well, congratulations, we’ve done our job here at the library!) Mohsin Hamid’s EXIT WEST weaves a tender story of the slow, sweet process of falling in love and then out of it in the backdrop of an uncertain and possibly collapsing world. A young couple, Saeed and Nadia, meet, but before long, their city is torn apart by bomb blasts and social unrest. They start hearing rumors of mysterious doors that appear, whisking people away to uncertain places. They find one such door, take their chances, and step through. Half a world away, they find themselves with other refugees, trying to make a life for themselves in foreign lands, upended by their new arrivals. Hamid’s slim volume - just under 250 pages - doesn’t bother over-explaining and keeps its focus on the two characters and their relationship. A stunning, personal, nuanced take on the refugee experience that deserves a second look.
Where do you like to read your novels? In bed? On the couch? Since spring is starting a bit early this year, some of us like to read outside, maybe on the porch or at the side of the pool. For the early entry in your beach book category, be sure not to miss Jami Attenberg’s ALL GROWN UP. Attenberg (who also wrote THE MIDDLESTEINS and last year’s criminally underrated SAINT MAZIE) writes with a sharp, piercing wit as she tells the story of Andrea, a single woman in her 30s who drinks a bit too much, is a failed artist, is from a cheerfully dysfunctional family and looks around her in puzzlement as everyone else seems to be getting on with the business of adulthood. But as the failed relationships and empty bottles of wine pile up, Andrea begins looking closer - her best friend’s perfect marriage is crumbling, and her brother’s hoped-for child is born with a serious illness. She soon finds that the bonds of adulthood aren’t all that restrictive. Attenberg takes Andrea on a journey, with snark, friendship, and drama along the way. Don’t assume this is a light, frothy novel - Attenberg gives her characters and situations bite, and you’ll find yourself caring and thinking about this novel long after it’s over. Another good thing about it? Like EXIT WEST, ALL GROWN UP is a thin novel but packs a punch, if in a different way.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ve likely read at least one Lisa See novel. Between titles like SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, SHANGHAI GIRLS, and PEONY IN LOVE, among others, See has staked a claim as one of the masters of the genre, infusing historical circumstances with deeply-felt characters and beautiful writing. With her newest novel, THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE, See introduces us to the Akha, an isolated Chinese ethnic group who live in the tea-growing southwest of China. After discovery by Westerners, an Akha girl gives birth to a child out of wedlock who is given up for adoption She ends up half a world away, but she is still tied to the land of her people, an unbreakable bond between mother and daughter, and See weaves culture and history together in a book readers will want to devour. (Of course, this book should be read with a steaming cup of tea by your side.)
Some of us like our books with less hot tea and more of an adrenaline rush. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, you know that Chevy Stevens is one of the best authors around. With her newest, NEVER LET YOU GO, Stevens returns to one of her favorite themes - people trying to outrun their pasts. Here, we meet Lindsey Nash, a young wife and mother who leaves an abusive relationship. The husband was jailed and Lindsay moved on, but years later, the ex has been released from prison, and Lindsay gets the feeling she’s being stalked. Bouncing back and forth in time, telling the story both from Lindsay’s and her daughter’s point of view, Stevens deftly places the pieces on the board before piling on the twists and turns that keeps you feverishly turning pages well into the night. If you like your novels to surprise you, then you’ll love this one.
Also coming out this month: the non-fiction book IRRESISTIBLE: THE RISE OF ADDICTIVE TECHNOLOGY AND THE BUSINESS OF KEEPING US HOOKED by Adam Alter. A sharp look at how technology - social networking websites, your phone, your Xbox - is making us into addicts, and how the many people behind the technology we constantly have at our disposal are only concerned with keeping us hooked.
I’d talk about the book more, but I’ve just posted a photo on Instagram about be unlocking a new level on Candy Crush, and I’m getting TONS of likes, so I have to go. See you next month!