One for Me, One for Mom: 5 Books to Read Together This Mother’s Day

April 22 2021
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Many of us have spent the past year distancing ourselves from our families, so we’ve got an idea about how to make this upcoming Mother’s Day extra special! Give your mom a book that you also want to read (or reread) and make this the start of your own two-person book club. We’ve rounded up a few books that’d make excellent choices, full of complicated characters and unexpected twists that’ll have you and your mom alternating between reading and chatting away.

Enter for a chance to win some of these books for you and your mom! Head on over to our Instagram giveaway for more details.

Infinite Country
by Patricia Engel

Reese Witherspoon’s March Book Club pick has everyone talking—and for good reason. There’s a lot packed into this 208-page book. INFINITE COUNTRY launches the reader straight into a race-against-the-clock plot with fifteen-year-old Talia strategizing how to escape from a correctional facility in Bogota, Colombia, to reunite with her father and board a plane to the United States. Author Patricia Engel impressively entwines Andean myth with alternate POVs and timelines, as when she explores the thrill, years earlier, when Talia’s parents fall in love, and then the tragedy as they’re forced to flee because of the Colombian civil war and end up in the U.S. on a temporary visa.

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Infinite Country
Patricia Engel

“Remarkable...this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.” —Booklist (starred review)

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

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Vera
by Carol Edgarian

VERA is one of those books that’ll make you root for the protagonist as you would your own family. Disaster strikes San Francisco in 1906 when an earthquake capsizes buildings and fires rage. Fifteen-year-old Vera relies on her cunning street smarts to survive, encountering prostitutes, corrupt politicians, new allies and fierce foes, in a world that’s crumbling beneath her feet. Many key figures of the time period make an appearance, and history buff mothers will find this story atmospheric and immersive.

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Vera
Carol Edgarian

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers an astonishing feat of imagination, a grand adventure set in 1906 San Francisco—a city leveled by quake and fire—featuring an indomitable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe and her quest for love and reinvention.

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Vera disregards societal norms and prejudices and begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors. Together they navigate their way beyond disaster.

In Vera, Carol Edgarian creates a cinematic, deeply entertaining world, in which honor and fates are tested; notions of sex, class, and justice are turned upside down; and love is hard-won. A ravishing, heartbreaking, and profound affirmation of youth and tenacity, Vera’s story brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels—as well as an unforgettable cast that includes Vera’s young lover, Bobby, protector of the city’s tribe of orphans, and three generations of a Chinese family competing and conspiring with Vera.

This richly imagined, timely tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, gifting readers with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Told with unflinching candor and wit, Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine and marks a stunning achievement by an inventive and generous writer.

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From Scratch
by Tembi Locke

Treat your mother to a bookcation with this memoir set mostly in Sicily, and which is filled with such evocative descriptions of place that you will practically be tasting the pasta. But this memoir of a biracial marriage isn’t all laughter and good times. Early in their marriage Tembi’s chef husband Saro becomes ill with, and then dies from, cancer. Struggling through her grief, Tembi flies with their young adopted daughter from LA to her in-laws in the Sicilian countryside. Though narrow-minded family members abound, and cultures clash, Tembi finds a quiet place in Italy to reflect on her love story with Saro—and ultimately over the course of three summers there she feels the healing currents of tradition and community. Serve up this bookish gift to your mother (which comes with recipes) with a side of wine!

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From Scratch
Tembi Locke

This Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller is “a captivating story of love lost and found” (Kirkus Reviews) set in the lush Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace in her darkest hours.

It was love at first sight when actress Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of his marrying a black American woman. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forged on. They built a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships, and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopted at birth. Eventually, they reconciled with Saro’s family just as he faced a formidable cancer that would consume all their dreams.

From Scratch chronicles three summers Tembi spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as she begins to piece together a life without her husband in his tiny hometown hamlet of farmers. Where once Tembi was estranged from Saro’s family, now she finds solace and nourishment—literally and spiritually—at her mother-in-law’s table. In the Sicilian countryside, she discovers the healing gifts of simple fresh food, the embrace of a close knit community, and timeless traditions and wisdom that light a path forward. All along the way she reflects on her and Saro’s romance—an incredible love story that leaps off the pages.

In Sicily, it is said that every story begins with a marriage or a death—in Tembi Locke’s case, it is both. “Locke’s raw and heartfelt memoir will uplift readers suffering from the loss of their own loved ones” (Publishers Weekly), but her story is also about love, finding a home, and chasing flavor as an act of remembrance. From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and those who needed a powerful reminder that life is...delicious.

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
by Dawnie Walton

THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV is a fast-paced oral history narrative about a rock music duo’s rise to fame and success. The story begins in the seventies when Nev, an older white singer-songwriter first notices Opal, a young Black singer performing in a NYC bar, struggling to make it in the music scene. Their journey is full of ups and downs through scandal, fame, politics, protests, secrets, and more, which music journalist S. Sunny Shelton attempts to uncover decades later as the band prepares for a reunion tour. There’s a lot to discuss here in your next book club with mom! Plus, you might also bond over the music that inspired the book, which author Dawnie Walton curated. Check out the Spotify playlist of songs that inspired her novel, featuring David Bowie, Janelle Monáe, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and so many more!

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The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
Dawnie Walton

A kaleidoscopic fictional oral history of the beloved rock ’n’ roll duo who shot to fame in 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

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The Book of Lost Names
by Kristin Harmel

Fans of THE ALICE NETWORK will find a new favorite in THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES. In 1942, Polish Jewish graduate student Eva Traube is forced to forge documents for her family—and flee to a small mountain town in the Free Zone. She joins forces with the resistance and uses her forging talents to help other Jewish children escape to Switzerland. There she develops a code to record the children’s true identities in case—when it’s safe to do so in the future—they want to understand their history and identity. But when she and her colleagues are betrayed, the titular book of lost names becomes lost itself. Until almost sixty-five years later. In 2005, Eva is a semi-retired librarian in Florida when she happens to see a picture of the undeciphered book in a newspaper. This powerful novel, which alternates between Eva’s past and present, displays the tremendous courage it takes both to fight against evil head-on and to face it in memories.

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The Book of Lost Names
Kristin Harmel

Inspired by an astonishing true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis in this unforgettable historical novel from the international bestselling author of the “epic and heart-wrenching World War II tale” (Alyson Noel, #1 New York Times bestselling author) The Winemaker’s Wife.

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

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