What a great start to the new year! We discovered so many new titles to add to our TBR piles, and we hope you did too! From historical fiction and thrillers to magical realism and literary fiction, here were the most popular Off the Shelf books this month.
A mother and her two daughters have to escape persecution in Germany at the start of World War II—and the mother has to make a gut-wrenching decision that will shape the lives of both daughters for the rest of their lives. It’s a beautiful (and devastating) tale of love and survival that historical fiction fans will love. It was also our Book Club Favorites pick this month—and author Genevieve Graham loved it! Check out her full, glowing, review.
From the internationally bestselling author of The German Girl, an unforgettable, “searing” (People) saga exploring a hidden piece of World War II history and the lengths a mother will go to protect her children—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls, We Were the Lucky Ones, and The Alice Network.
Seven decades of secrets unravel with the arrival of a box of letters from the distant past, taking readers on a harrowing journey from Nazi-occupied Berlin, to the South of France, to modern-day New York City.
Berlin, 1939. The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the South of France. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is interrupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.
New York, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Her mother’s words unlock a floodgate of memories, a lifetime of loss un-grieved, and a chance—at last—for closure.
Based on true events and “breathtakingly threaded together from start to finish with the sound of a beating heart” (The New York Times Book Review), The Daughter’s Tale is an unforgettable family saga of love, survival, and redemption.
Come from Away by Genevieve Graham We read a lot of historical fiction here, and many of the books take place in Europe or the United States. Author Genevieve Graham gives an insight into another country with a rich, deep history: Canada! In all of Genevieve’s books, she takes readers on journeys of love and adventure through the land of our northern neighbor (we here at Off the Shelf are in the US!), and in Come from Away, she focuses on love and shifting alliances close to the main character’s home in Nova Scotia. This is a great place to start reading Genevieve Graham — and she has a new book coming out this spring, too!
From the bestselling author of Tides of Honour and Promises to Keep comes a poignant novel about a young couple caught on opposite sides of the Second World War.
In the fall of 1939, Grace Baker’s three brothers, sharp and proud in their uniforms, board Canadian ships headed for a faraway war. Grace stays behind, tending to the homefront and the general store that helps keep her small Nova Scotian community running. The war, everyone says, will be over before it starts. But three years later, the fighting rages on and rumours swirl about “wolf packs” of German U-Boats lurking in the deep waters along the shores of East Jeddore, a stone’s throw from Grace’s window. As the harsh realities of war come closer to home, Grace buries herself in her work at the store.
Then, one day, a handsome stranger ventures into the store. He claims to be a trapper come from away, and as Grace gets to know him, she becomes enamoured by his gentle smile and thoughtful ways. But after several weeks, she discovers that Rudi, her mysterious visitor, is not the lonely outsider he appears to be. He is someone else entirely—someone not to be trusted. When a shocking truth about her family forces Grace to question everything she has so strongly believed, she realizes that she and Rudi have more in common than she had thought. And if Grace is to have a chance at love, she must not only choose a side, but take a stand.
Come from Away is a mesmerizing story of love, shifting allegiances, and second chances, set against the tumultuous years of the Second World War.
Jess Kidd is an incredible writer — her words jump right off the page. In Himself, she writes about a young man, who grew up an orphan in Dublin, and returns to a small town in Ireland to find out what happened to his mother. And he has a very unique trait: he can see ghosts. It’s a magical mystery that keeps you hooked the entire time with its language and plot. Jess also has a new book coming out this February, and it is spectacular.
This book is a thrilling and mysterious adventure read told from two perspectives: Allison, a woman suspected of being dead after her fiance’s private plane crashes in the Rockies, and Maggie, Allison’s slightly estranged mother—who absolutely does not believe that her daughter is dead, but also has no idea why she would be in a private plane to begin with. Over the course of the novel, details emerge about the life Allison was leading that Maggie didn’t know about—and what she’s running from. This is one that will keep you up all night to finish!
This is a great book for everyone who loved A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. Arthur is in his late sixties, and on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death, he finds a bracelet he doesn’t recognize. What ensues is a search to discover more about his wife’s secret life before they were married. It’s a big-hearted novel about love and healing that you won’t want to put down.
Jen Beagin’s novel about a cleaning lady named Mona and her struggles to move forward in life is a one-of-a-kind read. Mona, twenty-six, moved to New Mexico to get away from a bad junkie boyfriend, but ends up with another bad boyfriend. Readers get to know Mona through her experiences with her clients, and her attempts to escape her past. Darkly witty, and yet serious, this is a book that stays with you for a long time after.
From the Whiting Award–winning author of Pretend I’m Dead and one of the most exhilarating new voices in fiction, a “thoroughly delightfully, surprisingly profound” (Entertainment Weekly) one-of-a-kind novel about a cleaning lady named Mona and her struggles to move forward in life.
Soon to be an FX television show starring Lola Kirke.
Mona is twenty-six and cleans houses for a living in Taos, New Mexico. She moved there mostly because of a bad boyfriend—a junkie named Mr. Disgusting, long story—and her efforts to restart her life since haven’t exactly gone as planned. For one thing, she’s got another bad boyfriend. This one she calls Dark, and he happens to be married to one of Mona’s clients. He also might be a little unstable.
Dark and his wife aren’t the only complicated clients on Mona’s roster, either. There’s also the Hungarian artist couple who—with her addiction to painkillers and his lingering stares—reminds Mona of troubling aspects of her childhood, and some of the underlying reasons her life had to be restarted in the first place. As she tries to get over the heartache of her affair and the older pains of her youth, Mona winds up on an eccentric, moving journey of self-discovery that takes her back to her beginnings where she attempts to unlock the key to having a sense of home in the future. The only problems are Dark and her past. Neither is so easy to get rid of.
Jen Beagin’s Vacuum in the Dark is an unforgettable, astonishing read, “by turns nutty and forlorn…Brash, deadpan, and achingly troubled” (O, The Oprah Magazine). Beagin is “a wonderfully funny writer who also happens to tackle serious subjects” (NPR).
Give us all of the Ruth Ware books! We love her! And this book has a special place in our hearts. It’s a heart-pounding read about a girl who goes to a bachelorette party in the woods with an old, estranged friend (what could possibly go wrong?). It’s a twisted, compelling, and utterly enjoyable read with an end you won’t see the end coming.
During a weekend away with a friend in an eerie glass house, crime writer Leonora wakes up in a hospital bed injured wondering not “What happened?” but “What have I done?” This one is for fans of GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.
We deeply trust Reese Witherspoon as fellow book-recommender, and on this recommendation, she did not disappoint. The Light We Lost is both a love story and a meditation on first love and the path down which our life decisions take us. Lucy and Gabe meet at Columbia, and then again a year later, and fall in love. But they take jobs that bring them to different places, and over the course of thirteen years, we see how their lives and their feelings both change and stay the same. It also has an unexpected, compelling ending.
Funny family dramas are sometimes the best way to escape our own real-life family dramas, and Evan James’ book is perfect for doing just that. Frank Widdicombe is suffering from a deep depression—but his wife, Carol, is convinced that their new island home on the Puget Sound is just the thing to cheer him up. And so begins a whirlwind summer as their house becomes the epicenter of multiple social dramas involving the family, their friends, and a host of new acquaintances. It’s a satirical and witty read perfect for fans of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins.
Named one of 2019’s most anticipated reads by Entertainment Weekly, “a hilarious and witty joy of a novel about a family’s insanely dramatic summer at their new island home” (Cosmopolitan) in the Pacific Northwest.
The inimitable—some might say incorrigible—Frank Widdicombe is suffering from a deep depression. Or so his wife, Carol, believes. But Carol is convinced that their new island home—Willowbrook Manor on the Puget Sound—is just the thing to cheer him up. And so begins a whirlwind summer as their house becomes the epicenter of multiple social dramas involving the family, their friends, and a host of new acquaintances.
The Widdicombes’ son, Christopher, is mourning a heartbreak after a year abroad in Italy. Their personal assistant, Michelle, begins a romance with preppy screenwriter Bradford, who also happens to be Frank’s tennis partner. Meanwhile, a local named Marvelous Matthews is hired to create a garden at the manor—and is elated to find Gracie Sloane, bewitching self-help author, in residence as well. When this alternately bumbling and clever cast of characters comes together, they turn “as frothy and bitter as a pot of freshly brewed dark-roast coffee, the kind that’s always available on the Widdicombe’s sideboard. And the dialogue, oh how it singes and sears” (The Washington Post).
A “gleefully over-the-top satiric debut” (Kirkus Reviews), Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe is perfect for fans of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, and Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins.
If we had to sum up Three Things About Elsie in three words, they would be: friendship, aging, and mystery. In more detail, Three Things About Elsie is a charming mystery about a woman in a senior citizen’s home who has a best friend named Elsie, and one day, she sees someone from her past she thought was dead. Joanna Cannon’s ability to write from the perspective of the main character, Florence, and truly get inside her head and her emotions, was unbelievable. It had a lasting impact on us and how we feel about our relationships with others and the impact we leave on the world. See our full review here.