If you’re looking to catch up on some of the top-notch novels that have been published in recent months but perhaps passed under the radar somewhat, then look no further than this roundup. The five featured titles offer glimpses into the worlds of enthralling characters living through extraordinary times and they’re a whole heap of fun to read.
Dava Shastri’s Last Day
by Kirthana Ramisetti
Grand Central Publishing, 384 pages, $28.00
Despite being one of the planet’s richest women and so not really having to bother herself with what other people think, Dava Shastri has always been preoccupied with protecting her reputation. Yet, everything changes when she is diagnosed with brain cancer, and faced with her own mortality, Dava decides to throw caution to the wind and find out what people really think of her. Much to the surprise of her four adult children, she announces both her diagnosis and her decision to leak news of her death to the newspapers before it actually happens. She expects that this will give her the chance to read glowing obituaries that focus on her artistic and philanthropic endeavors, but in fact reports concerning her death result in two long-buried secrets being brought to light, secrets that not even her children knew about. As a consequence, Dava is forced to dedicate what remains of her time on Earth to coming to terms with the past and reconciling with those she has hurt. Kirthana Ramisetti’s Dava Shastri’s Last Day is an emotional and often very humorous account of one woman’s attempts to achieve peace before it is too late.
Sing Her Name
by Rosalyn Story
Agate Bolden, 400 pages, $18.00
While Celia DeMille’s beauty and talent for a time won her worldwide fame as a singer and allowed her to amass a considerable fortune, nineteenth-century racial prejudices meant that she wasn’t able to enjoy her success for long or cement her position as a musical legend. Instead, she ultimately ended up dying alone and penniless. For her part, contemporary New Orleans waitress Eden Malveaux has an excellent singing voice despite being untrained, although family troubles have meant that she has been unable to properly pursue a career in music. She has been the guardian of her younger brother since their parents died, and she devotes all of her time and effort to ensuring, not always successfully, that he stays out of trouble. When Eden and her brother have to relocate to New York City following a hurricane, it seems to offer the chance for her brother to escape from the dangerous elements he has been mixing with and for Eden to finally pursue her dreams. When she ends up in possession of Celia’s scrapbook and treasured necklace, Eden finds herself drawn to a world she never even imagined. Sing Her Name by Rosalyn Story is a powerful and inspiring story about two extraordinary women and the role that music played in their lives.
Red Thread of Fate
by Lyn Liao Butler
Berkley Books, 352 pages, $17.00
A touching tale of hidden sorrow, precious secrets, and surprising romance, Red Thread of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler follows Tam Kwan as she seeks to rebuild her life following a tragedy and reevaluates her ideas about what family really means. Two days before Tam and her husband Tony are due to complete the paperwork necessary to adopt a young boy from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed in a car accident. In the midst of her devastation following the loss of her husband, Tam is shocked to discover that she has been named guardian of Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. As Tam adjusts to her new life raising Angela, she has to decide if she is also willing and able to complete the adoption of the young Chinese boy on her own. When a secret from her past comes to light just as she is making headway with Angela, Tam finds herself pursuing the puzzles of the past and deciding who she wants to be, and with whom, in the future. It all makes for a powerful story with a mystery at its heart.
Under the Whispering Door
by TJ Klune
Tor Books, 384 pages, $26.99
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune is a tender and witty story that will undoubtedly fill your heart with warmth. Wallace refuses to let go of his life when a reaper knocks at his door. Finally, full of indignance, Wallace reluctantly accepts that he is dead. He is offered assistance with crossing over by patient ferryman Hugo, whose door to the other side is located in his tea shop. Through Hugo, Wallace meets many people with captivating stories and begins to realize that his imperious manner and work-centered life were not as fulfilling as he thought. This is a story that inspires and impresses with very skillful worldbuilding. You will quickly become devoted to the main characters and tumble into their world on a wonderful emotional journey. It will leave you reveling in all the benevolence of humanity, not forgetting the scones and tea, in addition to a chipper ghost dog!
You Feel It Just Below the Ribs
by Jeffrey Cranor
Harper Perennial, 384 pages, $16.99
Set in an alternative twentieth century, You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Jeffrey Cranor is a haunting tale about loss and trauma as well as human attachment and betrayal. It delves into the cleverly constructed corners of dystopian fantasy, being ultimately melancholic in tone and quietly beautiful, although it has the pace of an edgy intellectual thriller. Miriam grows up during the Great Reckoning, a war that spans decades and wipes out much of humanity, including her friends and family. Alone and heartbroken by her loss, she avoids any other human contact, focusing solely on her work. Time passes, the war ends, and the New Society is founded, forcing all survivors into lives of reclusion to prevent tribal loyalties from forming, including families. Miriam, already used to a life of exile, now sees everyone suddenly being forced to live as she does. A researcher at heart, she becomes involved with organizing this detachment process. Unfortunately, she does not realize that the world as she knows it is on the brink of another dark and sinister change. Over time, she begins to see the disturbing nature of this new system and decides to take a stand against it from within.