After years in school, studying and reading only literary works of fiction and nonfiction, I needed a genre break. My break consisted of reading thrillers for months on end. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, I didn’t mean for my break to go on for that long, lasting years. I rediscovered my love for literary fiction by accident when I picked up a book that mentioned a mysterious disappearance. When I went in expecting a thriller, I got a mystery within a literary novel instead. Thus, my new reading era emerged. I recalled the beauty of literary fiction—a magnificent blend of lyrical prose, complex characters, and a unique plot—and I couldn’t believe how long I’d gone without it. If you, like me, love the combined elements of a beautifully written literary novel and a riveting mystery, then these books are for you.
WHAT WE KEPT TO OURSELVES is a powerful family story, as well as the intriguing mystery that pulled me back into the world of literary fiction. It follows the Kim family, alternating between timelines and character POVs. The first timeline takes place in 1999, where it’s been a year since the disappearance of their mother, Sunny Kim. John Kim, Sunny’s husband and Anastasia and Ronald’s father, feels stressed over his strained relationships with his children and anxious over Y2K—which will surely be the end of the world as they know it. The stress only worsens when the body of a man is discovered in their backyard with a letter to Sunny. The second timeline begins in 1977, following Sunny as she leaves Korea for Los Angeles, becomes a mother, and makes an unexpected friendship that spans decades. Switching between timelines, the story of Sunny’s disappearance is slowly unraveled, and the family soon discovers secrets about their mother that could threaten their very lives.
The New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Last Story of Mina Lee returns with a timely and surprising new novel about a family’s search for answers following the disappearance of their mother.
1999: The Kim family is struggling to move on after their mother, Sunny, vanished a year ago. Sixty-one-year-old John Kim feels more isolated from his grown children, Anastasia and Ronald, than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard, carrying a letter to Sunny, leaving the family with more questions than ever about the stranger’s history and possible connections to their mother.
1977: Sunny is pregnant and has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her aloof and often-absent husband. America is not turning out the way she had dreamed it to be, and the loneliness and isolation are broken only by a fateful encounter at a bus stop. The unexpected connection spans the decades and echoes into the family’s lives in the present as they uncover devastating secrets that put not only everything they thought they knew about their mother but their very lives at risk.
Both a riveting page-turner and moving family story, What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores the consequences of secrets between parents and children, husbands and wives. It is the story of one unforgettable family’s search for home when all seems lost, and a powerful meditation on identity, migration, and what it means to dream in America.
THE MYTHMAKERS hits close to home for me as not only a reader, but a writer who is often concerned with how I might lose control of my narrative. The story follows Salale Cannon, who has been recently fired after a humiliating mistake at work. Now an unemployed writer, Sal is adrift until she stumbles upon a posthumously published story by Martin Keller—a man she briefly met at a literary event—and the story happens to be about her. In a desperate—and somewhat narcissistic—attempt to redeem herself personally and professionally, Sal heads to upstate New York to visit Martin’s grieving widow and find out if Martin has written anything more about her. As she uncovers more about Martin’s life, she still can’t quite answer one question: What is she even doing here? Alternating between Sal’s perspective and Martin’s stories, THE MYTHMAKERS is a story about self-discovery, creative ambition, and, ultimately, love.
From an acclaimed senior editor at Vanity Fair comes an intoxicating debut novel about a young journalist who discovers a short story that’s inexplicably about her life—leading to an entanglement with the author’s widow, daughter, and former best friend.
Sal Cannon’s life is in shambles. Her relationship is crumbling, and her career in journalism hits a low point after it’s revealed that her profile of a playwright is full of inaccuracies. She’s close to rock-bottom when she reads a short story by Martin Keller: a much older author she met at a literary event years ago. Much to her shock, the story is about her and the moment they met. When Sal learns the story is excerpted from his unpublished novel, she reaches out to the story’s editor—only to learn that Martin is deceased. Desperate to leave her crumbling life behind and to read the manuscript from which the story was excerpted, Sal decides to find Martin’s widow, Moira.
Moira has made it clear that she doesn’t want to be contacted. But soon Sal is on a bus to Upstate New York, where she slowly but surely inserts herself into Moira’s life. Or is it the other way around? As Sal sifts through Martin’s papers and learns more about Moira, the question of muse and artist arises—again and again. Even more so when Martin’s daughter’s story emerges. Who owns a story? And who is the one left to tell it?
The Mythmakers is a nesting doll of a book that grapples with perspective and memory, as well as the battles between creative ambition and love. It’s a story about the trials and tribulations of finding out who you are, at any stage in your life, and how inspiration might find you in the strangest of places.
It’s Memorial Day 1958 in Jewel, Minnesota, when Jimmy Quinn’s body is found floating in the river with a gunshot wound. Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero, takes on the investigation. It’s not long before vicious rumors spread around the small town, painting Noah Bluestone, a Native American World War II veteran, as the killer. As the town is torn apart by anger, it becomes apparent that everyone had a reason to kill Jimmy Quinn, and everyone is harboring secrets. Weaving together the stories of several characters—including a war widow and her son, a journalist, a former sheriff, and a lawyer—THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is a beautiful and compelling story of longing, secrets, and learning how to heal from the wounds of the past.
In 1958, a small Minnesota town is rocked by the murder of its most powerful citizen, pouring fresh fuel on old grievances in this dazzling standalone novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the “expansive, atmospheric American saga” (Entertainment Weekly) This Tender Land.
On Memorial Day, as the people of Jewel, Minnesota gather to remember and honor the sacrifice of so many sons in the wars of the past, the half-clothed body of wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn is found floating in the Alabaster River, dead from a shotgun blast. Investigation of the murder falls to Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero who still carries the physical and emotional scars from his military service. Even before Dern has the results of the autopsy, vicious rumors begin to circulate that the killer must be Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran who has recently returned to Jewel with a Japanese wife. As suspicions and accusations mount and the town teeters on the edge of more violence, Dern struggles not only to find the truth of Quinn’s murder but also put to rest the demons from his own past.
Caught up in the torrent of anger that sweeps through Jewel are a war widow and her adolescent son, the intrepid publisher of the local newspaper, an aging deputy, and a crusading female lawyer, all of whom struggle with their own tragic histories and harbor secrets that Quinn’s death threatens to expose.
Both a complex, spellbinding mystery and a masterful portrait of midcentury American life from an author of novels “as big-hearted as they come” (Parade), The River We Remember is an unflinching look at the wounds left by the wars we fight abroad and at home, a moving exploration of the ways in which we seek to heal, and a testament to the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.
Based on the characters from A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens—one of my personal favorites—MARLEY follows the life of Jacob Marley and his relationship with his eventual business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge. The story starts in the late 1700s at the dreary boarding school where Marley and Scrooge begin their twisted friendship, and Marley first introduces Scrooge to the world of extortion. Years later, Marley and Scrooge are partners in their morally—and legally—dubious business based on the slave trade. As two wicked men, Marley and Scrooge were destined to have an epic falling out, ending in a head-to-head fight of deception, forgery, theft, and, ultimately, murder. Skillfully written in the style of Charles Dickens, MARLEY provides an explanation as to why Ebenezer Scrooge became such a cynic and sets up Marley’s future ghostly return.
The acclaimed author of Finn “digs down to the bones of a classic and creates must-read modern literature” (Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author) with this “clever riff” (The Washington Post) on Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol that explores of the relationship between Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley.
“Marley was dead, to begin with,” Charles Dickens tells us at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. But in Jon Clinch’s “masterly” (The New York Times Book Review) novel, Jacob Marley, business partner to Ebenezer Scrooge, is very much alive: a rapacious and cunning boy who grows up to be a forger, a scoundrel, and the man who will be both the making and the undoing of Scrooge.
They meet as youths in the gloomy confines of Professor Drabb’s Academy for Boys, where Marley begins their twisted friendship by initiating the innocent Scrooge into the art of extortion. Years later, in the dank heart of London, their shared ambition manifests itself in a fledgling shipping empire. Between Marley’s genius for deception and Scrooge’s brilliance with numbers, they amass a considerable fortune of dubious legality, all rooted in a pitiless commitment to the soon-to-be-outlawed slave trade.
As Marley toys with the affections of Scrooge’s sister, Fan, Scrooge falls under the spell of Fan’s best friend, Belle Fairchild. Now, for the first time, Scrooge and Marley find themselves at odds. With their business interests inextricably bound together and instincts for secrecy and greed bred in their very bones, the two men engage in a shadowy war of deception, forged documents, theft, and cold-blooded murder. Marley and Scrooge are destined to clash in an unforgettable reckoning that will echo into the future and set the stage for Marley’s ghostly return.
“Read through to the last page of this brilliant book, and I promise you that you will have a permanently changed view, not just of Dickens’s world, but of the world we live in today” (Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author).
Combining some of my favorite genres—true crime, dark academia, and coming of age—I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU follows Bodie Kane, a film professor and podcaster. Bodie is actively avoiding confronting the ghosts of her tragic past when her old boarding school, the Granby School, invites her to teach a temporary course on podcasting. Her past becomes unavoidable when she returns to the campus where her senior year roommate, Thalia Keith, was murdered. Bodie and the students in her class decide to make Thalia’s murder the subject of their podcast and dive into the history—and the more they uncover, the more they believe the man arrested was wrongly convicted. Deftly demonstrating the art of framing a story, I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU is a timely exploration of important topics like misogyny, racist profiling, classism, and femicide in true crime.
Ten years after graduating, four former friends and high school classmates meet back in the town where they grew up. Bound together by troubling events from their pasts, each character has a reason for returning to New Canaan, Ohio. Bill Ashcraft rolls into town high on drugs with a mysterious package strapped to his truck. Stacey Moore, a grad student, plans to talk with the mother of her first love and best friend who disappeared. Dan Eaton, a veteran haunted by his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, arrives for a dinner with his high school sweetheart. Tina Ross, plagued by memories of abuse from her high school ex-boyfriend, comes back to confront him. Divided into four parts told from each character’s perspectives over the course of one evening, OHIO will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Only thirty days after Alice Lee turned eighteen and moved to New York City in search for a new beginning, she is found dead—another nameless NYC Jane Doe. Her story continues, however, and becomes intertwined with the life of Ruby Jones. Thirty-six years old and lonely, Ruby travels to NYC from Australia to reinvent herself. But her plans change when she discovers Alice’s body. Haunted by Jane Doe’s story, she begins searching for answers to the woman’s identity and what led to her brutal murder—and hopefully bring about some closure. Alice’s spirit narrates throughout as she clings to Ruby, hoping this stranger will help find her identity so she can finally let go. Beautiful and heartbreaking, BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME is a moving story about vulnerability, loneliness, and the reality of what it means to be a woman in this world.
Winner of Crime Debut and Readers’ Choice Awards—Sisters in Crime
“A brave and timely novel.” —Clare Mackintosh, internationally bestselling author of Hostage
This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.
When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.
Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.
Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?
A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?
THE CUTTING SEASON is set at the fictitious Louisiana Belle Vie plantation, where the antebellum mansion has been turned into a tourist attraction. Caren Gray, a Black woman and manager of the historic plantation, ensures that everything runs smoothly, from the whitewashed reenactments of the plantation’s dark past to maintaining the beautiful grounds. But Belle Vie isn’t just a job for Caren—it’s where she grew up, and it’s where one of her ancestors worked as a slave. So when the body of a migrant worker from the neighboring sugarcane operation is found on Belle Vie property, Caren is determined to find the truth—even when the secrets she discovers about the planation lead her down a dangerous path. Atmospheric and resonant, THE CUTTING SEASON serves as a reminder for the importance of uncovering the past in order to understand the present.
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