We always think it is a good season for reading, however, it seems like the colder months call for meatier more complex novels compared with the light beach reads we enjoy on lazy summer evenings. So, here are some January book picks for you. Two are from of our favorite authors, Ann Patchett and Alice Hoffman, and also a thriller set in the cold North Sea. We hope you find something that you can get lost in reading on these cold January nights.
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
May’s Review: I always enjoy Ann Patchett’s novels, and just recently finished Commonwealth. This is a story about the complexities of a blended family, told primarily from the point of you from one of the daughters, Franny. The story begins with an affair, and continues to build as we follow the lives of all affected. As always, Ann Patchett does not disappoint.
June’s Review: As I have said before I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett and I went to see her speak as part of her book tour for Commonwealth. Commonwealth was just selected this week as a finalist for the National Book Award and deservedly so. This is book that opens with one of those single moments that changes the course of your life and the moments that follow. The story is primarily told from Franny and you feel a bit of pity for her but cheer for her to find her way. This is not a book to rush through but one to savor the pace of the story being built, the characters being developed and the words and language on the page.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.
Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.
Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.
May’s Review: Always a fan of Alice Hoffman, I found this to be a very moving novel about a young woman dealing with the guilt after surviving an accident, where her best friend is forever in a coma. It is definitely a coming of age story for this young woman as we get pulled into her ups and downs as she seeks to find herself.
June’s Review: When I read the synopsis for this book and having read all of Alice Hoffman’s previous books, I assumed that the story would be about the girl who lies in a coma and performs “miracles.” However, ultimately it is about Shelby the one that survived the accident, at least from outward appearances, intact. Alice Hoffman writes Shelby in a way that you feel her pain and her guilt from walking away from the accident. You want her to feel that she is worthy of love. And as you walk her path with her you revel in the small human and spiritual miracles that keep her going and ultimately coming out on the other side.
From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.
May’s Review: There was a lot of hype about this book, and honestly I was a little leery because often with suspense novels, I’m sadly disappointed at the end. I thought this was a solid read and it held my interest from start to finish. It was suspenseful without being scary and if you are into mysteries, you will enjoy this book.
June’s Review: These suspense thrillers are not usually my favorite because I end up being disappointed by the end and want to throw the book through the window. That being said this book held together pretty well at the end and it was not dangerous for anyone to be around me as I reached its conclusion. I did figure out the twist before the conclusion but sometimes that is ok because it means the author is leading you down the right path rather that throwing you a curveball at the last minute. This book got to me a bit because the idea of being confined on a small boat with no land in sight makes me feel a little clammy. If you are looking for a suspense to keep you reading, this one is recommended.
Have a good weekend. Happy reading! –May and June
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. –George RR Martin