Martha's Fiction Picks
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From the award-winning author of We Should All Be Feminists and Half of a Yellow Sun—the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race, belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.
An American masterpiece and iconic novel of the West by National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner—a deeply moving narrative of one family and the traditions of our national past.
In the tales that make up The Elephant Vanishes, the imaginative genius that has made Haruki Murakami an international superstar is on full display.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he promised to deliver. But when he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter's recipient, he becomes privy to a secret that will alter the course of his—and his family’s—history.
NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • “An epic road trip [that also] captures the unruly intimacies of marriage and parenthood ... This is a novel that daylights our common humanity, and challenges us to reconcile our differences.” —The Washington Post
A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year and National Book Award finalist, Pachinko is an "extraordinary epic" of four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family as they fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan (San Francisco Chronicle).
"Touches and dazzles and entertains. An enchanting novel." --The New York Times
In this moving, poignant novel by the bestselling author of Birds of America we share a grown woman’s bittersweet nostalgia for the wildness of her youth.
From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between.
This book took me a bit to get into due to the medieval vocabulary, but once I did I was hooked. It is historical fiction at its best, immersing me in a world deep with political intrigue and the hardships of a woman who is wise beyond her years. Great for fans of Wolf Hall or Game of Thrones sense.
Looking for a wonderfully creepy read to get lost in? Look no further. Pessl grabs you and won't let go with this supernatural (or is it?) suspense story. A good pick for Paul Austor or Hitchcock fans.
She did it again. Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility is simply breathtaking. Not since David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas have I read a book that manages to so effortlessly jump back and forth across time and space while deeply connecting me to all the characters within it. St. John Mandel takes you from forests of British Columbia to the far side of the moon; from the distant past to the distant future. I don’t want to say much more because it is best to go in with no spoilers. You won’t be able to put down this book and you will be sad when it is over.
Ok, if you love historical fiction (specifically the kind with queens and kings) you HAVE to read this book. I didn’t really know anything about Polish or Scandavian history and this sucked me in immediately. Cherezinska is a master storyteller and my only complaint is that it ended on a bit of cliffhanger (but not too bad of one). Even though in theory I could go read the Wikipedia entry about what happened to Swietoslawa I would much rather complain and eagerly await the next book.
This book is hard to put into a box, which is a good thing. It has a healthy mix of history, mystery, travel, all while being at its core a young Italian-American woman’s story of finding her roots in Italy. A great book for someone who is itching to take a trip to Italy and likes to investigate things.
A doctoral dissertation , an imaginary friend that returns, a new romance, and the loss of her mom—this is what Elsa Park is dealing with right now. Somehow it all fits together as she slowly unpacks all the trauma of her family’s history through the Korean folktales of her mother. Hur’s writing is enchanting and this is a book you will think about long after you finish it.
Warning, this book might make you cry. Gyasi’s follow-up to her stunning Homegoing is a very different book, but equally gut wrenching. What is faith? How can it co-exist with science? How can immigrant families deal with addiction and racism? All really big questions, but there is nothing about this book that is preachy or cliche, just incredible storytelling and rich characters.
This witchy book set in the time when Druids ran the British isles and the Romans are just arriving is a great escape read. A young seer is just trying to do right by her small village but gets caught up in the large politics at play and must navigate the murky waters (both literal and figurative) to survive.
This is a great read if you were a fan of Hild. Marie is a visionary woman cast out of the royal court of Eleanor of Aquitaine rebuild herself as a powerful abbess within the patriarchal system of the church. She is a complex and not always likable protaganist who you won't stop thinking about long after you have finished the book.
Poetic. Heartwrenching. Epic. All accurate words to describe one of the best books I read in 2021. Beast of a Little Land grabbed me in the first few pages and didn’t let go. I didn’t know much about this period of Korean history until I read Pachinko (another amazing read). If you love books like Shantaram or Memoirs of a Geisha then this is a definite must-read. Kim’s debut novel is a masterpiece.
This short story collection from Noe Valley author Leslie Campbell is an impressive debut. Campbell gives her characters the utmost respect, from two teenagers on a beach in LA to an abused housewife, they all are anointed with the poetry of her writing. I was reminded of writers like Annie Proulx and Ann Pachett and look forward to Campbell’s first novel.
When I think of Maggie Shipstead’s short story collection You Have a Friend in 10A I think of the Zombies’ song, “She’s Not There”. Shipstead’s stories often have protagonists that are slightly disassociated, both from themselves and their surroundings. One of my favorite stories in the book is “La Moretta,” which follows a young couple on their honeymoon in 1974. Both the characters are looking for something that they hoped they would find in the other person, but the circumstances they end up in bring to light truths about themselves that they can’t deny.
There is this window of time where you are in your late twenties and early thirties when you start to realize, oh, no one is going to fix things for me. I have to fix my own shit. This is what this book is about. That and all the weird thoughts that run through your head about how it is your family that fucked you up in the first place and why does your job suck so much and pay you so little and oh man you really thought when you were a kid that by thirty you would be in a much nicer place and why were you spending so much time with that one girl in college she was kinda the worst and dear god you really need to take a shower.
This lovely read reminded me a ton of one of my favorite TV shows, Halt and Catch Fire. Zevin digs really deeply and effectively into the fabric that makes up a friendship and creative partnership that spans over thirty years. Sam and Sadie first meet as children, then again as adults, but their shared love of games is what always holds them together, despite the many things that life throws at them. Each game they design together is a window into who they are, how they see the world and their relationship with each other. Read this damn book. It is so good.