6 Wholesome Books as Sweet as Ice Cream

May 26 2022
Share 6 Wholesome Books as Sweet as Ice Cream

Sitting at my desk with my aging window air conditioner wheezing at full blast, I can feel a bead of sweat making its way from my hairline to my cheek, narrowly avoiding my raised eyebrow as I struggle to avoid a fiery combustion. Summer is near. And as much as I love the outdoor opportunities it brings, I often crave something to satisfy and cool me down after a long sweaty day. Enter novels that are as sweet and refreshing as ice cream.

Amidst the sunlight, the greenery, and the general optimism of the season, reading a heartwarming and wholesome novel can be the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of oh-so-sweet novels for you to dig into this summer.

If these books are ice cream, consider me George Costanza at the US Open. Enjoy.

The Awakening of Miss Prim
by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

The debut from Spanish author Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, THE AWAKENING OF MISS PRIM is the story of a young woman eager to leave behind the business and busyness of the city in favor of small-town life. Accepting a librarian position in a remote French village called San Ireno de Arnois, Miss Prim isn’t expecting much aside from picturesque landscapes and a few friendly locals. Instead what she finds is that the employer of the local library is something to write home about. Handsome, bookish, and brainy, the “Man in the Wingchair” (as he’s known to readers) is a contrarian quick to challenge any ideas or opinions that Miss Prim has—especially when it comes to books. What begins as a playful, contentious relationship soon becomes one of romance. Throw in a handful of eccentric and charming neighbors in the tight-knit community, and this novel is sweeter than a scoop of your go-to pint of ice cream. We can’t wait to see what Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera has in store next.

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The Awakening of Miss Prim
Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

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Keya Das's Second Act
by Sopan Deb

Speaking of second acts, Sopan Deb’s poignant debut novel, KEYA DAS’S SECOND ACT, is the perfect novel for those with a soft spot for family reunions. Middle aged, divorced, and suffering from the pain of regret, Shantanu Das spends his present fixated on the past. Between his two daughters, he can’t help but feel he’s failed as a father. There’s Mitali—who he hasn’t spoken to in months—and Keya, no longer alive and never having received acceptance from Shantanu after she came out as gay. Life is lonely. That is until he discovers a box in the attic that contains an unfinished manuscript cowritten by Keya and her girlfriend. Is this a chance to redeem himself? It seems like it when Mitali’s boyfriend suggests staging the work as play . . . assuming they can get permission from Keya’s former girlfriend. A redemptive tale of family dynamics and second chances, Sopan Deb’s KEYA DAS’S SECOND ACT is deeply moving and wonderfully funny, making it a novel too sweet to turn down.

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Keya Das's Second Act
Sopan Deb

A poignant, heartwarming, and charmingly funny debut novel about how a discovered box in the attic leads one Bengali American family down a path toward understanding the importance of family, even when splintered.

Shantanu Das is living in the shadows of his past. In his fifties, he finds himself isolated from his traditional Bengali community after a devastating divorce from his wife, Chaitali; he hasn’t spoken to his eldest daughter Mitali in months; and most painfully, he lives each day with the regret that he didn’t accept his teenaged daughter Keya after she came out as gay. As the anniversary of Keya’s death approaches, Shantanu wakes up one morning utterly alone in his suburban New Jersey home and realizes it’s finally time to move on.

This is when Shantanu discovers a tucked-away box in the attic that could change everything. He calls Mitali and pleads with her to come home. She does so out of pity, not realizing that her life is about to shift.

Inside the box is an unfinished manuscript that Keya and her girlfriend were writing. It’s a surprising discovery that brings Keya to life briefly. But Neesh Desai, a new love interest for Mitali with regrets of his own, comes up with a wild idea, one that would give Keya more permanence: what if they are to stage the play? It could be an homage to Keya’s memory, and a way to make amends. But first, the Dases need to convince Pamela Moore, Keya’s girlfriend, to give her blessing. And they have to overcome ghosts from the past they haven’t met yet.

A story of redemption and righting the wrongs of the past, Keya Das’s Second Act is a warmly drawn homage to family, creativity, and second chances. Set in the vibrant world of Bengalis in the New Jersey suburbs, this debut novel is both poignant and, at times, a surprising hilarious testament to the unexpected ways we build family and find love, old and new.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous
by Rachel Gibson

Sometimes there’s really nothing sweeter than a delicious rom-com sprinkled with laughs and life-size themes. Rachel Gibson’s DROP DEAD GORGEOUS focuses on the life—and death—of Brittany Lynn Snider, a Texas cosmetologist who suddenly dies in a car accident on her way to meet her latest Tinder date. But just as quickly as her life ends, another begins. Brittany's passing finds her in the waiting room to heaven alongside Edie Randolph Chatsworth-Jones who, if you couldn’t tell by her name alone, is a privileged socialite recently killed by her own hand. When Edie cuts ahead of Brittany in the line to heaven, Brittany has no choice but to head straight back to earth and inhibit Edie's body. Uprooted, rather abruptly, from her native Texas and transported to the wealthy community of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Brittany (now as Edie) must navigate Edie’s previous relationships with friends, family, and even a former flame. All the while, Edie confronts her own challenges when she finds out the portal she leaped through didn’t exactly take her to the pearly gates. Charming and filled with a lovable, hilarious cast of colorful personalities, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS is too good to pass up, much like a second (or third) serving of ice cream.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous
Rachel Gibson

This hilarious fish-out-of-water tale—from the New York Times bestselling author of the “endearing, funny, and heart-tugging” (Karen Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author) novel How Lulu Lost Her Mind—explores what happens when a small-town Texas girl swaps bodies with a filthy rich socialite.

On her way from singing in church to hooking up with a Tinder date, Brittany Lynn Snider crashes her momma’s minivan, and her life is changed forever. One moment she’s texting HotGuyNate, and in the next she’s at a hospital in El Paso watching doctors operate on her near-lifeless body. If that wasn’t bad enough, she finds herself trapped in the Limbo Lounge where patients await their fate, playing cards and watching reruns of 7th Heaven and Heaven Help Us.

When a shimmering portal appears, it pulls Brittany upward toward heaven—until the lounge’s resident bully, a wealthy socialite named Edie, leaps through first and steals Brittany’s place. Brittany now has a second chance at life on Earth, but with a catch: she must inhabit Edie’s body.

Waking up as Edie in a mental facility where doctors try to cure her alleged retrograde amnesia, Brittany resumes a life of privilege in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Yet even as she basks in luxury and reconnects with Edie’s old flame, Brittany plans to return to her old life in Texas. But when things don’t go according to her plan, she must ask herself: Who is Brittany Lynn Snider, and what does she want now?

And where’s Edie? Did she manage to make it past the pearly gates?

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The Sign for Home
by Blair Fell

If a second chance at life lights you up, how about a second chance at love? In Blair Fell’s THE SIGN FOR HOME, one young man embarks upon a journey to find the love he thought was once lost. Meet Arlo Dilly. DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and a ward of his overly controlling uncle, Arlo has always been searching for something real. He thought he had stumbled upon it while at a boarding school for the Deaf years ago, when he met a girl that used her hands to entrance Arlo with fantastic stories while also capturing his own heart. But suddenly, she was gone. It isn’t until college when a seemingly routine writing assignment unlocks a series of buried memories and leaves Arlo wondering: Have the hearing people in his life been hiding the truth from him? Convinced his mysterious one-true love is still out there, Arlo and his merry band of iconic friends—including his gay interpreter and hilarious Belgian best friend—head off to uncover what really happened all those years ago. Thoughtful and beautifully written, THE SIGN FOR HOME is a novel that couldn’t be any sweeter unless you added a helping of chocolate sauce.

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The Sign for Home
Blair Fell

When Arlo Dilly learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he takes it as a sign and embarks on a life-changing journey to find his great love—and his freedom.

Arlo Dilly is young, handsome and eager to meet the right girl. He also happens to be DeafBlind, a Jehovah’s Witness, and under the strict guardianship of his controlling uncle. His chances of finding someone to love seem slim to none.

And yet, it happened once before: many years ago, at a boarding school for the Deaf, Arlo met the love of his life—a mysterious girl with onyx eyes and beautifully expressive hands which told him the most amazing stories. But tragedy struck, and their love was lost forever.

Or so Arlo thought.

After years trying to heal his broken heart, Arlo is assigned a college writing assignment which unlocks buried memories of his past. Soon he wonders if the hearing people he was supposed to trust have been lying to him all along, and if his lost love might be found again.

No longer willing to accept what others tell him, Arlo convinces a small band of misfit friends to set off on a journey to learn the truth. After all, who better to bring on this quest than his gay interpreter and wildly inappropriate Belgian best friend? Despite the many forces working against him, Arlo will stop at nothing to find the girl who got away and experience all of life’s joyful possibilities.

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All the Lonely People
by Mike Gayle

Hubert Bird, the protagonist of Mike Gayle’s ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE, doesn’t care anymore. At age eighty-four, living in the UK for almost sixty years, and recovering from the most traumatic of episodes, Hubert is all too content to spend his days alone conversing with his cat. He does have a daughter, Rose, who he misses immensely, but she’s in Australia and only able to reach via letter—most of which are aimed to comfort her and her concerns about her Jamaican father’s isolation. To assuage her worries, Hubert creates a fantasy life in which he’s surrounded by a group of fanciful characters he calls his closest friends. Normally, these imaginary figures wouldn’t pose a problem, but when Rose decides to take a trip to visit her aging father, Hubert finds himself in a tight spot. Scrambling to bring to life these made-up people, Hubert looks to his neighbor, who encourages him to join the “Campaign to End Loneliness,” where he’ll meet plenty of other people. Simultaneously following Hubert’s efforts to fool his daughter while also exploring his heartbreaking background, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is a compassionate story that will suck you in and leave you sweet on its inspiring main character.

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All the Lonely People
Mike Gayle

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The Fortnight in September
by R.C. Sherriff

Written in 1931, THE FORTNIGHT IN SEPTEMBER is R.C. Sherriff’s “uplifting, life-affirming” (Kazuo Ishiguro) novel about a British family and their annual two-week trip to the English coast. A tradition started when Mr. and Mrs. Steven first made the trip to Bognor Regis as young newlyweds, the entire Stevens family—including their children, twenty-year-old Mary, seventeen-year-old Dick, and youngest brother Ernie—visit each year, staying at the same, now-aging guest house. The family seeks to look past the crumbling foundation known as “Seaview” and instead focus on the routine activities, in addition to some new ones. Readers are instantly adopted into the family, following closely as Mr. Stevens makes his annual journey to the pub to visit his secret crush, sitting with Mrs. Stevens as she vanquishes her hidden fear of the ocean with some spirits, and even observing the children as they struggle with young adulthood, whether in romance or career. A work of pure nostalgia, THE FORTNIGHT IN SEPTEMBER in a profound yet stunningly simple encapsulation of a life savoring the small, sweet moments. Much like the Stevens family, don’t be surprised if you return to this book each year to satisfy your hunger for more.

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The Fortnight in September
R.C. Sherriff

This charming, timeless classic about a family of five setting out on their annual seaside vacation is “the most uplifting, life-affirming novel I can think of...the beautiful dignity to be found in everyday living has rarely been captured more delicately” (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Meet the Stevens family, as they prepare to embark on their yearly holiday to the coast of England. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens first made the trip to Bognor Regis on their honeymoon, and the tradition has continued ever since. They stay in the same guest house and follow the same carefully honed schedule—now accompanied by their three children, twenty-year-old Mary, seventeen-year-old Dick, and little brother Ernie.

Arriving in Bognor they head to Seaview, the guesthouse where they stay every year. It’s a bit shabbier than it once was—the landlord has died and his wife is struggling as the number of guests dwindles every year. But the family finds bliss in booking a slightly bigger cabana, with a balcony, and in their rediscovery of the familiar places they visit every year.

Mr. Stevens goes on his annual walk across the downs, reflecting on his life, his worries and disappointments, and returns refreshed. Mrs. Stevens treasures an hour spent sitting alone with her medicinal glass of port. Mary has her first small taste of romance. And Dick pulls himself out of the malaise he’s sunk into since graduation, resolving to work towards a new career. The Stevenses savor every moment of their holiday, aware that things may not be the same next year.

Delightfully nostalgic and soothing, The Fortnight in September is an extraordinary novel about ordinary people enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

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Photo credit: iStock / Swanya Charoonwatana

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