As fall approaches, the chilly winds will begin to blow, the leaves will turn golden yellows and brilliant reds, and the rain will brush silently against the windows. This is one of my favorite times of the year—the perfect time to let a story fill your mind and your heart. Stories of families, of overcoming devastating heartbreak, of losing what you love most, of discovering new beginnings, of leaving emptiness behind, of finding joy and courage and, most of all, home. The words and themes of these novels have stayed with me, and I hope they will stay with you, too.
This is the story of Lucas Goodgame, a man who loses everything that he ever held dear in a matter of seconds after an unimaginable tragedy. Lucas’s pain and grief come through in the letters he writes to his former Jungian analyst, Karl, which detail his search for answers that don’t seem to exist as he comes to grips with the loss of his wife, Darcy (who visits him every night in the form of an angel). Lucas’s life begins to turn around when he befriends Eli, an eighteen-year-old boy dealing with his own pain, and the pair begin working together to try to bring healing to their town. This is an emotional, beautifully written novel about loss, grief, love, and healing.
*“A treasure of a novel…read it and be healed.” —Justin Cronin * “Beautifully written and emotion-packed.” —Harlan Coben *
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook—made into the Academy Award–winning movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper—a poignant and hopeful novel about a widower who takes in a grieving teenager and inspires a magical revival in their small town.
Lucas Goodgame lives in Majestic, Pennsylvania, a quaint suburb that has been torn apart by a recent tragedy. Everyone in Majestic sees Lucas as a hero—everyone, that is, except Lucas himself. Insisting that his deceased wife, Darcy, visits him every night in the form of an angel, Lucas spends his time writing letters to his former Jungian analyst, Karl. It is only when Eli, an eighteen-year-old young man whom the community has ostracized, begins camping out in Lucas’s backyard that an unlikely alliance takes shape and the two embark on a journey to heal their neighbors and, most importantly, themselves.
From Matthew Quick, whose work has been described by the Boston Herald as “like going to your favorite restaurant. You just know it is going to be good,” We Are the Light is “a testament to the broken and the rebuilt” (Booklist, starred review). The humorous, soul-baring story of Lucas Goodgame offers an antidote to toxic masculinity and celebrates the healing power of art. In this unforgettable and optimistic tale, Quick reminds us that life is full of guardian angels.
Imagine sunset in a desert town, a car pulling into the parking lot of a Best Western hotel, a woman behind the wheel. As she sits and looks out at what lies beyond the hotel, she sees nothing but dust, sand, and rocks. Emptiness is out there, but emptiness is also here inside the car with her. She has convinced herself that she is in this town to figure out the “desert section” of her next novel. But the truth is, all she can think about is her father. He is in the ICU of a hospital after having been in a car accident, drifting in and out of consciousness, and, at any moment, he might slip away. Her thoughts, too, are with her husband, who suffers from a mysterious illness. Over the next week, what she experiences in the desert—the sand, the air, the sun as it beats down on her, the stars as they shine above—will begin to change her, and just might help her find a way to turn her emptiness and grief into a sense of peace.
The most profound book yet from the visionary author of Milk Fed and The Pisces, a darkly funny novel about grief that becomes a desert survival story.
In Melissa Broder’s astounding new novel, a woman arrives alone at a Best Western seeking respite from an emptiness that plagues her. She has fled to the California high desert to escape a cloud of sorrow—for both her father in the ICU and a husband whose illness is worsening. What the motel provides, however, is not peace but a path, thanks to a receptionist who recommends a nearby hike.
Out on the sun-scorched trail, the woman encounters a towering cactus whose size and shape mean it should not exist in California. Yet the cactus is there, with a gash through its side that beckons like a familiar door. So she enters it. What awaits her inside this mystical succulent sets her on a journey at once desolate and rich, hilarious and poignant.
This is Melissa Broder at her most imaginative, most universal, and finest. This is Death Valley.
Mother and daughter Carol and Katy are best friends. In Katy’s eyes, Carol is perfect and always knows exactly what to do. But when Carol dies, Katy becomes unsure of everything—including her marriage to Eric and the life she has chosen. Before Carol’s death, Katy planned a mother-daughter trip to Italy: two weeks in Positano, going to the same places Carol visited before she was married, before she had Katy. Now Katy must go alone. Once she’s there, it doesn’t take her long to understand why Carol loved it so. Katy feels such a connection to Carol there that, when she actually sees her mother one day—not as she knew her in the last years of her life, but young and vivacious—she can almost believe it. In this time spent with Carol, Katy realizes she may not be getting the mother-daughter vacation she dreamed of, but that maybe she’s experiencing something better: one last chance to really know who her mother was, to see her through different eyes, to heal and say goodbye. I read this book through laughter and tears—don’t miss this beautiful story. And be sure to check out Rebecca Serle’s new novel Expiration Dates, now available for preorder, coming out on March 5, 2024.
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In this “magical trip worth taking” (Associated Press), the New York Times bestselling author of In Five Years returns with a powerful novel about the transformational love between mothers and daughters set on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.
When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: to Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.
But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.
And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.
“Rebecca Serle is known for her powerful stories that tug at the heartstrings—and her latest is just as unforgettable” (Woman’s World) as it effortlessly shows us how to move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.
Sixteen-year-old April Sawicki feels as run-down as the old motor home she lives in, the one her father won in a poker game. April’s mother left long ago, and her father is barely in her life. It isn’t until April “borrows” her neighbor’s car to go to an open-mic night at a local club, where she sings and plays guitar, that she begins to feel alive. After a fight with her father, April leaves her hometown and begins a journey, driving from gig to gig, that will take her from New York to Florida and back again. As she travels from town to town, April can’t rid herself of the loneliness she feels deep inside. Whenever she starts to feel at home, something happens, and she must move on. April’s desire is to belong somewhere, to find her home, to find people who will stay, people who will be her family, people who are keepers in her life. Along the way, April experiences the joy of music, the pain of heartbreak, and the courage to find her way home.
BOOK RIOT’S BEST BOOKS OF 2021
“This is a novel of great empathy, about connections and coming-of-age, built families and self-acceptance. It contains heartbreak and redemption, and a plucky, irresistible protagonist…[A] propulsive, empathetic novel.” —Shelf Awareness
Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at a local diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.
Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt. As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.
This lyrical, luminous tale “is both a profound love letter to creative resilience and a reminder that sometimes even tragedy can be a kind of blessing” (Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author).
Vivien Kovacs, fifty-three years old, walks past a familiar dress shop in London. She knows this shop and the shopkeeper, Eunice, who was her uncle Sándor’s only love. Thirty years have come and gone since Sándor passed away and since Vivien has seen Eunice. The Vivien who steps inside the dress shop on this day is so different from the young woman who first came to the shop long ago. This Vivien is struggling with grief after losing her husband and her father in the same year. Once upon a time, Sándor and Eunice showed Vivien what life was like outside the small and timid world she knew. In this new world, Sándor’s world, Vivien learned how beautiful clothes can help you gain confidence, go after your dreams and feel alive. Standing in front of the mirror in a new red dress that Eunice had picked out for her, Vivien remembers her uncle Sándor and all the lessons he taught her. This is a wonderful novel about survival and finding your way back to yourself.
Orange Prize Winner and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008, Llinda Grant has created an enchanting portrait of a woman who, having endured unbearable loss, finds solace in the family secrets her estranged uncle reveals.
Vivien Kovacs, sensitive and bookish, grows up sealed off from the world by her timid Hungarian refugee parents. She loses herself in books and reinvents herself according to her favorite characters, but it is through clothes that she ultimately defines herself.
Against her father’s wishes, she forges a relationship with her estranged uncle, a notorious criminal, who, in his old age, wants to share his life story. As he reveals the truth about her family’s past, Vivien, having endured unbearable loss, learns how to be comfortable in her own skin and how to be alive in the world.
Linda Grant is a spectacularly humanizing writer whose morally complex characters explore the line between selfishness and self-preservation. In vivid and supple prose, Grant has created a powerful story of family, love, and the hold the past has on the present.
While snow falls blindly outside their New York City apartment, Stella and Simon, both forty-two years old, are arguing. They are planning a trip to Los Angeles, where the rock band for which Simon plays bass has an opportunity to play a gig that could restart his career. As they argue about their life together, about marriage and children, about their rent-controlled apartment that will soon be turned into a condo, Stella begins to change her mind about going with Simon. She wants more out of her life. She has already spent much of their twenty years together touring with Simon, going with him from one town to the next, giving up her own dreams for his. Enough is enough, she thinks. Simon is upset at the thought of her not going with him, and Stella, too tired to fight anymore, gives in when Simon offers her one little pill to take the edge off. This one decision will leave Stella in a coma for the next two months. When Stella awakens, she finds everything has changed—even herself. This is a beautifully written novel about one woman’s journey and the new beginnings that life can bring when you least expect them.
This is a powerful story about the Cunha family and the misfortune that has followed them for generations. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro as New Year’s Eve approaches, tension builds when Maria, mother of Daniel and Lucia, returns upon the death of her father. Is she returning to make peace after abandoning her children years ago? Or is there another purpose for her return? As each chapter unfolds, we learn about the lives of Maria, Daniel, Lucia, and grandparents Marta and Joáo. Each of their stories paints a picture of regret, lies, pain, anger, and revenge. Will the events of New Year’s Eve bring them to a deeper understanding of their family? Will they finally find the peace they have been seeking?
In the heady days before a New Year’s Eve party on the bustling sands of Brazil’s Copacabana Beach, a family reckons with a matriarch’s long-awaited return, causing old secrets to come to light in this infectiously vibrant debut that explores the heartbreak and hope of what it means to be from two homes, two peoples, and two worlds.
Daniel Cunha has a lot on his mind.
He got dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, his grandfather just dropped dead, and on the anniversary of the raid that doomed his drug-dealing aunt and uncle, his mother makes her unwanted return, years after she fled to marry another American fool like his father.
Misfortune, however, is a Cunha family affair, and no generation is spared. Not Daniel’s grandfather João—poor João—born to a prostitute and forced to raise his siblings while still a child himself. Not João’s wife, Marta, branded as a bruxa, reviled by her mother, and dragged from her Ilha paradise by her scheming daughter, Maria. And certainly not Maria, so envious of her younger sister’s beauty and benevolence that she took her vicious revenge and fled to the States, abandoning her children: Daniel and Lucia, both tainted now by their half-Americanness and their mother’s greedy absence.
There’s poison in the Cunha blood. They are a family cursed, condemned to the pain of deprivation, betrayal, violence, and, worst of all, love. But now Maria has returned to grieve her father and finally make peace with Daniel and Lucia, or so she says. As New Year’s Eve nears, the Cunha family hurtles toward an irrevocable breaking point: a fire, a knife, and a death on the sands of Copacabana Beach.
Amid the cacophony of Rio’s tumult—rampant poverty, political unrest, the ever-present threat of violence—a fierce chorus of voices rises above the din to ask whether we can ever truly repair the damage we do to those we love.
In the summer of 1934 in Atlantic City, we meet the Adlers: Esther and Joseph; their daughters, Florence and Fannie; and their granddaughter, Gussie. Every summer they move into the apartment above their family bakery after renting out their home to summer vacationers. This apartment is where Florence and Fannie grew up and it is still home to them. This particular summer, Florence returns home from college with one goal: she is determined to swim the English Channel and plans to spend the summer training in the ocean just steps away from the apartment. Fannie, however, will spend her summer on bed rest, as she struggles with a high-risk pregnancy. Esther and Joseph only want to keep their daughters safe, but when tragedy strikes and Florence is lost forever, they make the difficult decision to keep the news from Fannie, until her child is born safe and sound. This is a novel about heartbreak, secrets and loss, pain and healing—a story of a family and the love that lasts forever.
“The perfect summer read” (USA TODAY) begins with a shocking tragedy that results in three generations of the Adler family grappling with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets over the course of one summer.
*A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice * One of USA TODAY’s “Best Books of 2020” * One of Good Morning America’s “25 Novels You'll Want to Read This Summer” * One of Parade’s “26 Best Books to Read This Summer”
Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.
Now, Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.
Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.
When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.
“Readers of Emma Straub and Curtis Sittenfeld will devour this richly drawn debut family saga” (Library Journal) that’s based on a true story and is a breathtaking portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.
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