Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, recommended by Louise
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver is not the easiest book she’s written. Kingsolver sets her retelling of Dicken’s David Copperfield in opioid-riddled Appalachia. Her protagonist, the eponymous Demon, struggles through an early life riddled with difficulty: dead father, addicted mother, ward of the state. If it sounds dreary, it isn’t, thanks to Kingsolver’s genius at drawing us in. Her characters are fully drawn, her prose rewarding on every page. Recommended.
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry, recommended by Tracie
Tessa works at BBC reporting on the latest political events to hit Belfast including IRA violence. Tessa is deeply in love with her newborn baby and enjoys sharing time with her sister and mother. When a video clip of her sister assisting with an IRA attack is aired on TV, Tessa is devastated and gets sucked into the dark core of activities by trying to keep her child safe and helping her sister — all while being scrutinized by the local police and the IRA.
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, recommended by Chris
What lengths would you go to for justice? What is justice? Do the ends justify the means? These and many more questions will be asked. You’ll have to decide if they’re answered. Anna is a Hench, a temp worker for hire by villains. She doesn’t break into banks or commit crimes, she makes spreadsheets, analyzes data and tracks trends. But when a superhero’s use of force leaves her with a permanent disability, she looks into the cost of superheroes. From there a descent into true villainy begins. The story becomes something of a test of morality for the reader: what is good, what is justifiable and, when everyone is despicable, who do you cheer for?
This story is skillfully written and asks hard questions, it has casual comfortable inclusiveness with LGBTQIA+ and POC representation without making them a focus of the story. In the end this is a story of numbers, of cold calculation and of the evil that can be done both by the over zealously passionate and the calculatingly indifferent.
Haven by Emma Donoghue, recommended by Megan S.
This story of survival in impossible conditions in 7th century Ireland is captivating, lonely and about as far from modern-day life as you can get. Three monks — one fanatical, one old, and one young — are called to forge a monastic retreat on a rocky island off the coast of Ireland. We follow along through their trials as they alternately cling to and question their faith. I really enjoyed the challenge set for the monks, the way they interacted, and the question of how long people can stay faithful to any cause when their lives are threatened.
When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill, recommended by Meg
The premise of this book is so unique and one of a kind. What do we do when something so fantastic and unbelievable becomes our reality? What truth would you hide from when faced with something so magical? Set in an alternate reality not too different from our own, this story does a wonderful job exploring femininity, rage and inequality women faced in 1950s America — except this time, women aren’t in the kitchen making anything, they are sprouting wings and flying away from it all. The world this book built was amazing and I enjoyed that it was written both like a historical memoir and a scientific paper.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, recommended by Megan C.
Since the death of her husband and mysterious loss of her son, Tova Sullivan can’t help but coast through life, looking for purpose. Her small joys consist of her women’s lunch group and her late-night aquarium cleaning job. Yet, Sowell Bay Aquarium provides Tova with much more when she befriends the Giant Pacific Octopus, Marcellus. This charming tale of unlikely friendship demonstrates that truth and connection can be found in the most surprising places.
Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby, recommended by Karen
An intriguing story based off the few known events of two years of the life of Anne Sharp, a governess to Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny, and eventual friend of Jane Austen herself. The author took information from Fanny’s diary entries, letters between family members, as well as letters between Anne Sharp and Jane Austen to help weave this tale of the life of a governess in the Regency period. For those who enjoy biographical fiction as well as anything Jane Austen related.