Staff Picks – April 2021

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang, recommended by Diana
Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in an unfamiliar land testing their existence. Hoping to leave the hardships of the western mining town where their Ba died, they set out on a journey to bury their father. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the spirits of a ravaged landscape. During their travels they acknowledge family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future.

Both epic and intimate with original language and storytelling, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is an unforgettable sibling story full of memories that bind and divide families with a longing for home.

I listened to the audible version of this book and was impressed with the narration and how quickly I was drawn into the story and the characters. This will be a book I will definitely listen to and read again. Outstanding!

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, recommended by Megan
Stories of stolen research are common in academia and the sciences, but Gailey takes it literally in this fascinating novel. Evelyn Caldwell is a brilliant, questionably ethical scientist who discovers that her husband Nathan has engineered a clone of her to replace her as his wife. In fact, not only is Martine a clone, she’s “better” than Evelyn – in Nathan’s mind, anyway. She’s dutiful, quiet, and thoughtful, inclined to clean and garden, not waste hours away in a laboratory. Perhaps Nathan thought he could create the perfect partner for himself, but when it all goes wrong, it’s up to Evelyn and Martine to clean up after him one last time.

August: A Novel by Callan Wink, recommended by Karen
The story begins with young August in rural Michigan, dealing with his parents’ divorce, and follows him to a move to Montana and how he deals with the changes in his life.  A wonderfully written coming of age tale of a boy’s formative years, and how the choices we make shape our characters and our lives.  

The Push by Ashley Audrain, recommended by Megan
Blythe Connor is a new mother who can’t seem to connect with her baby – but is the trouble all in her head, as her husband says, or is there more to it? She watches her daughter closely and hangs on to every word that nannies and teachers say, always comparing Violet to other children. When she has a second child, a son, her uncertainty only grows more dreadful. Woven throughout this story are bits and pieces, memories and flashbacks, of Blythe’s mother and grandmother. This is a tale of intergenerational tragedy and abuse, of the joys and sorrows of parenthood, and of the punishing days as a new parent. It has a maybe-unreliable but always-relatable narrator to stir the simmering pot of resentment, thwarted love, and emotions that drive it.

Later by Stephen King, recommended by Dennis
Jamie is not an ordinary child: he was born with the ability to get answers from the dead.  This special ability has always been a secret between him and his mother.  He has been told to never share it with anyone. A NYC detective finds out about his ability and “kidnaps” him, instructing him to question a deceased serial bomber about a promised final bombing. When he helps, it results in consequences fitting the horror story genre.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker, recommended by Vicki
It’s not easy being an “outlaw” but you must be fierce to protect your mother, a junkie pummeled by memories of her sister’s death and the men who follow her home, and your little brother —still unscarred. But when young Duchess Day Radley carries revenge too far, her mother is murdered and the kids are spirited away to live with their estranged grandfather.  

Whitaker’s slow-boil thriller, thick with character development and a layered plot, explores how the repercussions from mistakes made link genes through generations, that there are no easy answers and loves evaporate into thin air.

It’s too early to declare We Begin at the End the best novel of the 2021, but I guarantee it will make lots of year-end lists.