With summer coming to an end, times are changing. Leaves are crisping, the busy routines of fall are looming, and things may feel more uncertain than ever. Escape for a few hours into one of these daring, thought-provoking, and open-minded titles, all coming to paperback this September. Spanning decades in history, often following characters on the brink of life-shattering transformation, these plots don’t shy away from the unknown but embrace it and all its complexities. Funny, irreverent, poignant, and inspirational, these books explore the range of human emotion that expands from confronting the ambiguity of change.
In present-day England, Emma is thrilled when she is hired to restore the Highbury House estate’s famed gardens, which were originally designed by her hero Venetia Smith. In 1907, Venetia Smith is determined to make the Highbury House gardens the triumph of her career but is unprepared for how the people she meets there will change her life. Finally, in 1944, as the war draws nearer, three dissimilar women find themselves bonded together at Highbury House by a secret that will last generations.
From the author of the international bestsellers The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes “a compelling read, filled with lovable characters and an alluring twist of fates” (Ellen Keith, author of The Dutch Wife) about five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special garden.
Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.
1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.
1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams. And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.
“Gorgeously written and rooted in meticulous period detail, this novel is vibrant as it is stirring. Fans of historical fiction will fall in love with The Last Garden in England” (Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind).
In this mesmerizing and fantastical mystery, a house of infinite depths holds unimaginable beauty and unbelievable secrets. Piranesi’s house holds endless corridors and an ocean that abides nothing but the tides. Piranesi has lived his life exploring the labyrinth and learning the tide like his own heartbeat. The only other resident, a man called The Other, visits Piranesi twice a week for help uncovering A Great and Secret Knowledge. But soon Piranesi becomes aware of a third person in the house, and a world behind his walls.
In the 1600s, Maria Owens is taken under the wing of Hannah Owens after being abandoned as a baby in the countryside of England. From Hannah, Maria learns the “Nameless Arts” as well as life’s most important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back. Years later, when Maria is abandoned by the man she loves, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts, to cast a curse that will last generations. MAGIC LESSONS is an enchanting novel about the power of love by master storyteller Alice Hoffman.
In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner comes the twentieth anniversary edition of her classic GOOD IN BED—a funny and heartfelt story of finding oneself. Cannie Shapiro has encountered a good deal of surprises over twenty-eight years. Her mother is fiercely out of the closet and her father is no longer part of her life. But when she opens a magazine one day to find that her ex-boyfriend has written an article titled “Loving a Larger Woman,” Cannie travels from Philadelphia to Hollywood, embarking on a year of misery and delight, mourning and celebration.
Rediscover the modern classic than launched the career of the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Everything and Big Summer with this beautiful anniversary edition of her “contemporary Cinderella tale told with intelligence, wit, and style” (Susan Isaacs, New York Times bestselling author).
For twenty-eight years, things have been tripping along nicely for Cannie Shapiro. Sure, her mother has come charging out of the closet, and her father has long since dropped out of her world. But she loves her friends, her rat terrier, and her job as pop culture reporter for The Philadelphia Examiner. She’s finally even made a tenuous peace with her plus-size body.
But when she opens up a national women’s magazine and sees the words “Loving a Larger Woman” above her ex-boyfriend’s byline, Cannie is plunged into misery…and the most amazing year of her life. From Philadelphia to Hollywood and back home again, she charts a new course for herself: mourning her losses, facing her past, and figuring out who she is and who she can become.
An unforgettable novel full of charm and heart, “Good In Bed offers a sensitive telling of a life familiar to many and a humorous take on how the struggle can end in joy” (Associated Press).
When Dawn hears a flight attendant on her plane say to prepare for a crash landing, Dawn’s first thought is not of her husband but of Wyatt, a man she hasn’t seen for fifteen years. When Dawn survives the crash and the airline offers to fly her anywhere, two stories emerge: one in which she returns home to her husband, daughter, and work helping people transition from life to death, and another in which she goes to Egypt, reconnects with Wyatt, and finishes her research on the first known map of the afterlife.
In this farcically fun tall tale, one larger-than-life, near-mythical figure and his younger brother provide the revisionary origin story for the Midwest’s Rust Belt. Big Son, an oversize, well-intentioned man who built Ohio City by himself, finds himself beloved by the people but without an honest way to make a living. In hopes of marrying his unimpressed girlfriend, Big Son tries to find work in 1830s Ohio City and Cleveland. His less-impressive younger brother, Medium Son, intends to help him, and he soon must choose between his brother and his own ambitions.
Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
“Cuyahoga is tragic and comic, hilarious and inventive—a 19th-century legend for 21st-century America” (The Boston Globe).
Big Son is a spirit of the times—the times being 1837. Behind his broad shoulders, shiny hair, and church-organ laugh, Big Son practically made Ohio City all by himself. The feats of this proto-superhero have earned him wonder and whiskey, but very little in the way of fortune. And without money, Big cannot become an honest husband to his beloved Cloe (who may or may not want to be his honest wife).
In pursuit of a steady wage, our hero hits the (dirt) streets of Ohio City and Cleveland, the twin towns racing to become the first great metropolis of the West. Their rivalry reaches a boil over the building of a bridge across the Cuyahoga River—and Big stumbles right into the kettle. The resulting misadventures involve elderly terrorists, infrastructure collapse, steamboat races, wild pigs, and multiple ruined weddings.
Narrating this “very funny, rambunctious debut novel” (Los Angeles Times) tale is Medium Son—known as Meed—apprentice coffin maker, almanac author, orphan, and the younger brother of Big. Meed finds himself swept up in the action, and he is forced to choose between brotherly love and his own ambitions. His uncanny voice—plain but profound, colloquial but poetic—elevates a slapstick frontier tale into a “breezy fable of empire, class, conquest, and ecocide” (The New York Times Book Review).
Evoking the Greek classics and the Bible alongside nods to Looney Tunes, Charles Portis, and Flannery O’Connor, Pete Beatty has written “a hilarious and moving exploration of family, home, and fate [and] you won’t read anything else like it this year” (BuzzFeed).
SHE COME BY IT NATURAL is Sarah Smarsh’s ode to working-class hero Dolly Parton and the women she sings about who often go unseen. While the American rural working class has been primarily seen as a male-dominated culture, Smarsh insists on seeing the vulnerable, strong, and hardscrabble women who exist at its heart and the contributions they’ve made to social progress, even when they may be skeptical of the term feminism themselves.
In this Time Top 100 Book of the Year, the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Heartland “analyzes how Dolly Parton’s songs—and success—have embodied feminism for working-class women” (People).
Growing up amid Kansas wheat fields and airplane factories, Sarah Smarsh witnessed firsthand the particular vulnerabilities—and strengths—of women in working poverty. Meanwhile, country songs by female artists played in the background, telling powerful stories about life, men, hard times, and surviving. In her family, she writes, “country music was foremost a language among women. It’s how we talked to each other in a place where feelings aren’t discussed.” And no one provided that language better than Dolly Parton.
In this “tribute to the woman who continues to demonstrate that feminism comes in coats of many colors,” Smarsh tells readers how Parton’s songs have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to self-made mogul of business and philanthropy—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.
Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, this is “an ambitious book” (The New Republic) about the icon Dolly Parton and an “in-depth examination into gender and class and what it means to be a woman and a working-class hero that feels particularly important right now” (Refinery29).
In the middle of a seemingly typical doctor’s appointment, one young woman begins a reckless monologue that recounts the deepest secrets and struggles of her life. After a childhood in Germany and living in London for years to escape the past of her homeland, this woman finds herself facing an unexpected inheritance that brings her familial, national, and physical shame to the surface. In a narrative voice that is hilarious, dark, and irreverent, THE APPOINTMENT is a transgressive debut about the fluidity (or not) of our identities.
“Darkly funny.” —The Guardian * “Transgressive...incendiary.” —The New Yorker * “A furious comic monologue...with a disregard for propriety worthy of Alexander Portnoy.” —The New York Times Book Review * “Sexy, hilarious, and subversive.” —The Paris Review
A whip-smart debut novel in which a woman on the verge of major change addresses her doctor in a stream of consciousness narrative.
In a well-appointed examination in London, a young woman unburdens herself to a certain Dr. Seligman. Though she can barely see above his head, she holds forth about her life and desires, her struggles with national and sexual identity. Born and raised in Germany, she has been living in London for several years, determined to break free from her family origins and her haunted homeland. But the recent death of her grandfather, and an unexpected inheritance, make it clear that you cannot easily outrun your own shame, whether it be physical, familial, historical, national, or all of the above.
Or can you? With Dr. Seligman’s help, our narrator will find out.
In a monologue that is both deliciously dark and subversively funny, she takes us on a wide-ranging journey from Hitler-centered sexual fantasies and overbearing mothers to the medicinal properties of squirrel tails and the notion that anatomical changes can serve as historical reparation. The Appointment is an audacious debut novel by an explosive new international literary voice, challenging all of our notions of what is fluid and what is fixed, and the myriad ways we seek to make peace with others and ourselves in the 21st century.
Ann Workman is on the brink of crisis, so she hides away in her memories of the 1960s, when she met Jimmy. Ann, a misfit from rural Kentucky, was eager to travel the world for graduate school, and she was thrilled to find a man who not only understood her but also seemed interested in a relationship built on true equality. Now, she questions the life that followed: her choice to attend a small East Coast school instead of Stanford, her involvement in the Summer of Love, and the subsequent disasters of her life.
Photo credit: iStock / Peopleimages