NORMAL PEOPLE by SALLY ROONEY
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
the SEVEN OR EIGHT DEATHS OF STELLA FORTUNA by JULIET GRAMES
For Stella Fortuna, death has always been a part of life. Stella’s childhood is full of strange, life-threatening incidents—moments where ordinary situations like cooking eggplant or feeding the pigs inexplicably take lethal turns. Even Stella’s own mother is convinced that her daughter is cursed or haunted.
In her rugged Italian village, Stella is considered an oddity—beautiful and smart, insolent and cold. Stella uses her peculiar toughness to protect her slower, plainer baby sister Tina from life’s harshest realities. But she also provokes the ire of her father Antonio: a man who demands subservience from women and whose greatest gift to his family is his absence.
HOUSE OF ASHES by LORETTA MARION
Painter Cassie Mitchell, the 37-year-old narrator of this enjoyable if melodramatic paranormal mystery from Marion (The Fool’s Truth), is soon to be divorced, childless, alone, and on the precipice of homelessness. What money she earns from her portraits is not enough to save her beloved, “staggeringly” mortgaged ancestral home, Battersea Bluffs, outside Whale Rock, Mass., on Cape Cod. Into her world come enigmatic Vince and Ashley Jacobson, who offer to help around the house in exchange for room and board. She develops a bond with the couple and is shocked when, a few months later, her young tenants set off for a day out and fail to return. Angry at the local sheriff’s seeming indifference to their disappearance, Cassie calls the FBI, only to discover that “according to the U.S. government,” the Jacobsons don’t exist. The book benefits from a fine cast of well-rounded characters and some intriguing whiffs of ghostly presences. Though the subtitle suggests that this is a series launch, the neat ending doesn’t leave much room to develop Cassie’s story. Agent: Jill Grosjean, Jill Grosjean Literary. (Nov.)
Educated: A Memoirby Tara Westover
Tara Westover is barely 30; could she really write a necessary and timely memoir already? Absolutely. Raised largely 'off the grid' in rural Idaho - without school, doctor visits, a birth certificate, or even a family consensus on the date of her birth - Tara nevertheless decides she wants to go to college. This is a story in two parts: First, Tara's childhood working in a dangerous scrapyard alongside her six siblings, her survivalist father, and her mother, a conflicted but talented midwife and healer, while fearing Y2K and the influence of the secular world; then, her departure from her mountain home to receive an education. Both halves of her story are equally fascinating. Educated is a testament to Tara's brilliance and tenacity, a bittersweet rendering of how family relationships can be cruel or life-saving, and a truly great read from the first page to the last.”
“Westover is a keen and honest guide to the difficulties of filial love, and to the enchantment of embracing a life of the mind.” — The New Yorker
brave not perfect by reshma saujani
Imagine if you lived without the fear of not being good enough. If you didn’t care how your life looked on Instagram, or worry about what total strangers thought of you. Imagine if you could let go of the guilt, and stop beating yourself up for tiny mistakes. What if, in every decision you faced, you took the bolder path?
Too many of us feel crushed under the weight of our own expectations. We run ourselves ragged trying to please everyone, all the time. We lose sleep ruminating about whether we may have offended someone, pass up opportunities that take us out of our comfort zones, and avoid rejection at all costs.
There’s a reason we act this way, Reshma says. As girls, we were taught to play it safe. Well-meaning parents and teachers praised us for being quiet and polite, urged us to be careful so we didn’t get hurt, and steered us to activities at which we could shine.
The problem is that perfect girls grow up to be women who are afraid to fail. It’s time to stop letting our fears drown out our dreams and narrow our world, along with our chance at happiness.
ALL THE LIVES WE EVER LIVE: SEEKING SOLACE IN VIRGINIA WOOLF BY KATHARINE SMYTH
Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf’s modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death—a calamity that claimed her favorite person—she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.
Smyth’s story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf’s Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss, and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of To the Lighthouse, and her artful adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Smyth guides us toward a new vision of Woolf’s most demanding and rewarding novel—and crafts an elegant reminder of literature’s ability to clarify and console.
Braiding memoir, literary criticism, and biography, All the Lives We Ever Lived is a wholly original debut: a love letter from a daughter to her father, and from a reader to her most cherished author.