With the diverse range of plot, place, time and type of characters in each of these novels selected from this month’s new contemporary fiction, a great read is sure to be found. Included is the Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel titled, Us by David Nicholls and the highly recommended Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark.
Before, during, after : a novel / Richard Bausch.
“Natasha Barrett and Father Michael Faulk, an Episcopal priest, had at least one thing in common the evening they met: neither wanted to be there. Yet within a few alcohol-fueled months of dating, they chose to ignore their misgivings, 17-year age difference, and dearth of information about each other’s pasts and planned a September wedding. As each tied up loose ends, Michael in New York City and Natasha in Jamaica, the unthinkable happened: September 11, 2001. For Natasha, stranded in Jamaica and convinced that Michael is dead, an assault of a different nature has a similar effect. When they finally reunite in Memphis, they seem like strangers to each other. Michael’s loss of faith in both his vocation and himself coupled with Natasha’s inability to trust him with her devastating secret, threaten the relationship.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Sweetness #9 : a novel / Stephan Eirik Clark.
“It’s 1973, and David Leveraux is a young and ambitious flavour chemist working at a world-renowned flavour-production house. While testing a new artificial sweetener, Sweetness #9, he notices some unsettling side effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a general dissatisfaction with life. Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter is generally dissatisfied with her life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the human condition?” (Adapted from Book cover)
The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy / by Rachel Joyce.
“When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait? A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, ‘Even though you’ve done your travelling, you’re starting a new journey too.’ Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Us / David Nicholls.
“Douglas Petersen is a biochemist. His wife, Connie, an artist and arts administrator, in bed at 4 a.m., tells him that after 24 years of marriage she is thinking of leaving him. The often maddeningly practical, reliable, and methodical Douglas is, understandably, shaken, as his devotion to Connie is beyond question. The family was to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe this summer; their 17-year-old son, Albie, is starting college in the fall. Connie feels they should all go anyway. Douglas, ever the scientist, hopes that through careful preparation (and lots of Wikipedia) the trip will bring structure to his son and help remind his wife of the wonderful life they share. Yet an altercation with a guest in their Amsterdam hotel sends Albie off on his own, with Douglas in hot pursuit.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Hostage / Kristina Ohlsson ; translated by Marlaine Delargy.
“Shortly after a crowded New York-bound flight takes off from Stockholm, a bomb threat is found on board. Anonymous hijackers demand that the Swedish government revoke its decision to deport a Moroccan man. If their demands are not met, the plane will explode if it attempts to land. The US and Swedish governments must choose between negotiating with terrorists in order to save the four hundred passengers held hostage at thirty thousand feet, or to stand their ground and pursue the deportation of a possibly innocent man. As the hours pass, the team are running out of options, and the plane is running out of fuel.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Leaving time : a novel / Jodi Picoult.
“On the night one of the caretakers at a New Hampshire elephant sanctuary was killed, Jenna’s mother, Alice, was found unconscious nearby. Hours later, Alice checked herself out of the hospital and disappeared, leaving her 3-year-old daughter behind. Now, 10 years later, the precocious 13-year-old wants answers to the mysteries of her mother’s whereabouts. Is she dead? Was she also the victim of an unknown assailant? Or was she an abused wife and heartless mother who did not care about her child’s welfare? Aided only by Virgil, the disgraced detective who bungled the initial investigation, and Serenity, a once-famous but now infamous TV psychic, Jenna seeks answers to the questions that have always plagued her.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Lila / Marilynne Robinson.
“The story of Lila begins with a thunderbolt opening scene, in which an abused little girl is swept up by a strange young woman called Doll. The two roam the countryside as itinerant workers, settling down just long enough for Lila to learn to read and write. As life grows even more harrowing during the Great Depression, and Doll’s dangerous secrets catch up to her, capable and strong Lila fends for herself, ultimately arriving in Gilead. The wanderer and the minister embark on a wondrously unlikely and fitful courtship as Lila asks confounding questions about existence, belief, trust, and justice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Some luck / Jane Smiley.
“While steadfast Walter worries, his smart, industrious wife, Rosanna, runs the household and cares for their children. The Langdon family endures the Depression, Walter agonizes over giving up his trusty horses for a tractor, and Joe his son tries the new synthetic fertilizers. Then, as second son, Frank serves in WWII and, covertly, the Cold War, the novel’s velocity, intensity, and wonder redouble.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Their lips talk of mischief / Alan Warner.
“High up in the Conrad Flats that loom bleakly over Acton, two future stars of the literary scene, or so they assume, are hard at work, tapping out words of wit and brilliance between ill-paid jobs writing captions for the Cat Calendar 1985 and blurbs for trashy novels with titles like Brothel of the Vampire. Just twenty-one but already well entrenched in a life eked out on dole payments, pints and dollops of porridge and pasta, Llewellyn and Cunningham don’t have it too bad: a pub on the corner, a misdirected parental allowance, and the delightful company of Aoife, Llewellyn’s model fiancé, mother of his young baby, and the woman of Cunningham’s increasingly vivid dreams.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Cry father / Benjamin Whitmer.
“Patterson Wells travels with crews cleaning up fallen power lines and trees after natural disasters. It’s a rough, dangerous life, and he finds solace in his off-the-grid cabin in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. Patterson feels the unbearable loss of his young son, Justin. Though his ex-wife, Laney, wants to bring a lawsuit against the doctor she claims let their son die, Patterson won’t sign the papers. His choice of bad company traps him in a dark world in which vicious bar fights, booze, cocaine, and even murder are the norm, and he even lets himself be drawn into the illicit dealings of drug runner Junior. In the end, Patterson, neighbor Henry, and Henry’s son Junior are all trying but failing miserably to find a way to be good fathers.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)