The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau
Stephen Dau's nuanced first novel shifts among three main characters: Younis, a teenage boy in a remote area of an unnamed Muslim country; Christopher Henderson, a U.S. soldier fighting near Younis's village; and Rose, Chris's mother in Youngstown, Pa. At the heart of their stories is a horrific bombing and firefight that takes place in the village. Dau has written a morality play about war, death, ordinary people, hope and forgiveness--clean, spare, matter of fact, creating a restrained, hushed tone.
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
An English manor house in the middle of nowhere and in dire financial straits, a beautiful marriageable daughter, a brace of suitable suitors, a goofy little sister, a drip of a brother and a birthday party--Jones's The Uninvited Guests contains all the ingredients you need for several different concoctions. And then about 20 people make their way up the drive talking of a train wreck from which they have luckily escaped. This serio-comic mystery set in the English countryside is complete with hilarious send-ups, sinister happenings and perhaps a ghost or two.
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
Based on Sophocles' Antigone, the novel The Watch is the story of a fierce firefight at a remote military base in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan. When it clears, the attacking Afghans have all been killed, along with two well-liked U.S. soldiers. A bedraggled figure appears just outside the base's no-cross line--Nizam, who has pulled her handcart down the mountain on her war-maimed feet with a shovel and shroud to properly bury her brother, a leader of the attack. From this simple scene, Roy-Bhattacharya brings each of the key characters to complex life in a brutally honest exploration of the complexities of the U.S.'s longest war.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
You don't have to read Yiddish to appreciate the new story collection from Nathan Englander (For the Relief of Unbearable Urges)--but it helps. While Englander's stories range across time and geography, his characters nearly all live under the cloud of the Shoah and the long Jewish history of migration, argument, suffering, survival... and always stories. From the history of Israel to a Berkshire summer camp for the elderly to an aging novelist who finds he no longer has an audience, Englander masters the art of the short story with all its craft, humor and compassion.
Come Home by Lisa Scottoline
Lisa Scottoline clearly knows how to write a thrilling mystery: she's published nearly 20 of them in her long and successful career. Here, however, she draws on her personal experience as a stepmother to write an intriguing tale about the lengths a mother will go to for a child to whom she has no blood relation. Scottoline has crafted a mystery while examining the bond an ex-step-parent has to children she can no longer rightfully call her own.
Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder
When a popular, beautiful local girl is found brutally murdered on a towpath in idyllic Bath, the investigation team pursues the recommendation of the forensic psychologist: search for a teenage boy, one of her peers. Naturally, Harley-riding bad-girl police detective Zoe Benedict has something else in mind. She follows a more sinister lead toward amateur porn, strip clubs and unsavory characters--and is astonished to encounter her estranged sister, Sally (the good girl), at the center of the case in this suspenseful, fast-paced thriller.
India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India by Akash Kapur
India is a country of deep contradictions, where shiny Westernized optimism and sleek technology office parks stand in sharp contrast to the traditional values and structures of its villages. When Akash Kapur moves back to his homeland after more than a decade in the U.S., he is both exhilarated and disgusted by the incongruities he sees everywhere. Reported with a keen journalistic eye, India Becoming is a nuanced, if ambivalent, portrait of a country caught in transition.
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson expands on the persona she's honed on her popular website The Bloggess while crafting a narrative that's entirely accessible to new readers, with a flair for exaggeration for comic effect that will induce laughing and cringing in equal measure. Lawson recalls her rural West Texas childhood, with her dad's taxidermy shop in the back yard; how she met and married the famously long-suffering Victor; her rather unlikely career in human resources with a faith-based organization; and her ultimate decision that her daughter deserved a crazy country childhood, too... complete with taxidermied animals.
By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair
Joe Blair's powerfully moving and redemptive account of his reckoning with disasters both natural and personal is occasioned by a 2008 flood, when eastern Iowa's rivers put a large portion of the state underwater. For Blair, the flood coincided with a personal disaster: the deterioration of his marriage and the final, bitter reckoning between the life he wanted and the life he had. When he transcends the drudgery of his day-to-day, he hits something close to the divine.
Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan by Sean Parnell with John Bruning
For 16 months, 24-year-old Sean Parnell led one of the most decorated platoons of the Afghan war, the "Outlaws" of the 10th Mountain Division, through almost constant fighting in the Bermel Valley near the Pakistan border. Those courageous Outlaw survivors who finally Humveed out of the valley came away with seven Bronze Stars, 12 Army Commendations for Valor and 32 Purple Hearts. Parnell's dramatic story captures all the gruesome carnage such recognition implies and illustrates the bravery of these diverse soldiers indelibly attached to each other by the stress of war.
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
Terry Tempest Williams (Leap, Refuge, etc.) approaches a very personal subject with her opening scene: her mother, on her deathbed, directs Williams to her journals (of which the author was unaware). They turn out to be empty--and the rest of the book is a series of ruminations on this mystery. Often as much poetry as prose, and full of lists, quotations and letters, When Women Were Birds is truly a tribute to several generations of the strong, inspiring and interesting women of Williams's tribe. It is a loving creation, showing all the melodious, reflective intelligence we expect from Williams.