The story of a family-run bar on a tiny island off the coast of Sicily, from 1914 to 2009.
This knockout adult debut by young British author Banner (she started writing teen novels at age 14) is guaranteed to draw comparisons to Beautiful Ruins, Cutting for Stone, and The House of the Spirits, whisking us away to a world grounded in both reality and myth, filled with marvelously peculiar characters, plotted on a grand scale. This one begins in the early 20th century with an Italian orphan, Amadeo Esposito, who overcomes his circumstances to study medicine, then answers a call for a physician on the (fictional) island of Castellamare. He arrives just in time for the annual feast for the island’s patron saint. The story of Sant’Agata, who saved the island from a plague of sorrows, is told to Amadeo by the beautiful schoolteacher Pina Vella; he adds it to the compendium of stories he collects in a red leather book given him by his foster father. At first, the villagers embrace Amadeo; he marries Pina and has a son. But thanks to past judgment errors of his own and the corrosive effects of the constant flow of gossip in the town, Amadeo is disgraced and removed from his post. To earn a living, he and Pina reopen the bar in the long-neglected House at The Edge of Night; there, three generations of Espositos will serve coffee, rice balls, and limoncellos to locals and visitors. World wars I and II, the Fascist period, and the financial crisis of 2009 all play critical roles in the plot, but so do the folk tales from Amadeo’s logbook, reprinted at the start of each section. So you get both this: “In the bar, there was some disagreement over how the trouble had started....Some of the customers maintained that it had begun with two rich Americans, Freddie and Fannie, others that it had started with two brothers named Lehman…” and this: “Two brothers were fishermen upon the sea, both very handsome and so alike that nobody could tell them apart, and both very poor.”
Middle-aged parents and hormone-addled teenagers all have some growing up to do—entertainingly—in the course of one hot Brooklyn summer.
Straub’s last novel, The Vacationers (2014), took place on Mallorca and was a perfect vacation between two covers. Her new book is set in a grittier locale, but in Straub’s fond gaze, it too feels like an enchanted land out of a Shakespearan comedy: “Ditmas Park was great in the summertime. The sycamores and oaks were full and wide, leaving big pools of shade along the sidewalks. Families were on their porches…Neighbors waved.” She takes us inside two of the area’s rambling yet run-down Victorian houses and introduces their owners: Elizabeth, a real estate agent, and Andrew, whose family trust has allowed him to get to his late 40s without much of a career, and their sweet son, Harry; and Zoe and Jane, who own a busy restaurant and live with their daughter, Ruby, who describes herself as having a “bad attitude.” Years ago, Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe were in a band together at Oberlin, which would have been completely forgotten except that their fourth band mate, Lydia, had a smash hit as a solo artist with one of Elizabeth’s songs, “Mistress of Myself,” before dying of an overdose. Now Hollywood has come calling, wanting to make a movie about Lydia, but for some reason Andrew doesn’t want to sell their rights to the song. Meanwhile, Zoe thinks she wants a divorce, Harry and Ruby start sleeping together when they’re supposed to be studying for the SAT, Andrew is hanging out at a creepy yoga studio, and Elizabeth frets that their idyllic life might be changing and tries to hold them all together. In chapters whose points of view rotate among the players, Straub pays close and loving attention to what foods her characters eat, what they have hanging on their walls, where their money comes from and goes, and the subtle fluctuations of their varying relationships. She’s a precise and observant writer whose supple prose carries the story along without a snag.
Straub’s characters are a quirky and interesting bunch, well aware of their own good fortune, and it’s a pleasure spending time with them in leafy Ditmas Park.
A day in the life of an enchanting and gifted woman who is almost too frazzled to go on.
The women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the mad housewives, and the Annie Halls can welcome a new member to their club: Eleanor Flood, the narrator of Semple’s (Where’d You Go Bernadette, 2012, etc.) second sendup of Seattle and its denizens. Eleanor, formerly a New Yorker and the animator of a popular cartoon about four girls in “ '60’s style pinafores” misdirecting “their unconscious fear of puberty into a random hatred of hippies, owners of pure-bred dogs and babies named Steve,” lives in Seattle with her sweet Seahawks doctor husband and her precocious, makeup-wearing third-grade son. Timby goes to Galer Street School, an ultra–PC environ familiar to Bernadette fans, where Eleanor imagines his arrival was greeted with delighted cries of “Eureka! We’ve got a transgender!” This book is so packed with interesting characters and situations, it could have been three times as long. You want more New Orleans Garden District (where Eleanor’s sister has been kidnapped by an effete Mardi Gras krewe captain), more New York animation studio, more poignant childhood stories (dead actress mother and alcoholic father, illustrated in a beautiful color insert), more annotated poems ("Skunk Hour," by Robert Lowell). Only one thing you don’t want more of—a weird plotline about husband Joe’s secret life. As Eleanor tells Timby when they visit a public art installation, “I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, sweet child, but life is one long headwind. To make any kind of impact requires self-will bordering on madness. The world will be hostile, it will be suspicious of your intent, it will misinterpret you, it will pack you with doubt, it will flatter you into self-sabotage—My God, I’m making it sound so glamorous and personal! What the world is, more than anything? It’s indifferent.” Ah, Eleanor. You could have stopped at glamorous and personal. Because few will be indifferent to this achingly funny and very dear book.
This author is on her way to becoming a national treasure.
Abbott's latest thriller (The Fever, 2014, etc.) is about everyday lives changed forever by an exceptional individual—in this case an Olympic gymnastics hopeful.
"So many things you never think you'll do until you do them." This speaks volumes of truth for Devon Knox, who forces her body to pick fights with gravity for hours every day. To her mother, Katie, watching from the bleachers, it seems impossible that her daughter will land on her feet, until she does. Devon is extraordinary, and the normal-on-the-surface Knox family can't help but fly toward this one extra-bright light. Devon's dad, Eric, is obsessively devoted to the cause, fundraising constantly for gym BelStars and heading up the booster club. Gregarious Coach T. relies on his star gymnast to attract business; nothing is shinier than having an Olympic hopeful under his wing. But when tragedy strikes and Coach T.'s tumbling-coach niece, Hailey, learns her much-loved boyfriend, Ryan, is dead in a hit-and-run—only a couple of months before Elite Qualifiers—the gym begins to unravel. Devon, especially, can't afford any missteps. Her success relies on structure, and Eric promises he’ll do anything to keep Devon on that golden track. When Hailey starts threatening Devon and the Knoxes' painfully sweet and observant son, Drew, starts talking about things he hears in the night, the whole gym family, Katie especially, begins to wonder just who might've had it in them to mow Ryan down. After all, you never know what you're capable of until you test your limits. With Elite Qualifiers looming, readers will begin to question what they think to be true right alongside the characters. Getting picky, readers will also catch on to one major plot element well before it’s revealed, but Abbott makes the blindness of parents relatable; they come close to collapse on a regular basis from the pressures of their demanding schedules. Being a parent is hard. Being a parent to an anomaly is something else entirely.
Abbott proves herself a master of fingernails-digging-into-your-palms suspense.
Rejoice, fans of American madness who’ve sought fulfillment in political reportage. South Florida’s master farceur (Skink—No Surrender, 2014, etc.) is back to reassure you that fiction is indeed stranger than truth.
Even though a prefatory note indicates that both the come-hither title and the stuff about giant Gambian pouched rats are rooted in reality, no one but Hiaasen could have dreamed up the complications arising from the collision of Merry Mansfield with talent agent Lane Coolman—a literal collision, since she rams his rented car while shaving her bikini area in the driver's seat of a Firebird. Make that multiple collisions, since Lane turns out to be only the latest victim of Merry and her partner Zeto’s kidnap-for-hire schemes. In this case, he’s the wrong victim, mistaken for beach-replenishment contractor Martin Trebeaux, whose swindling has put him on the wrong side of Calzone crime family capo Dominick "Big Noogie" Aeola. Since Coolman’s being held captive, he can’t be on hand to walk his client Buck Nance, the reality star of Bayou Brethren, though a personal appearance at the Parched Pirate, and Buck goes off script into a racist rant that sparks a demonstration and sends him fleeing, though he's still capable of inspiring Benny Krill, a murderous apprentice racist who dreams of joining him on his show. After laboring in vain to persuade Jon David Ampergrodt, his boss at Platinum Artists Management, as well as Merry and Zeto that he’s worth ransoming, Coolman escapes, but it doesn’t matter: he’s still confined in the zoo that’s Key West, where liability lawyer Brock Richardson’s fiancee loses the $200,000 ring he didn’t bother to resize after his fatter former fiancee returned it, and when his neighbor, health inspector Andrew Yancy, discovers it, he hides it in the hummus in the hope that an indefinite search for the bauble will stall Richardson’s plan to build a McMansion that will obstruct Yancy’s sea view. Etc. How can Hiaasen possibly tie together all this monkey business in the end? His delirious plotting is so fine-tuned that preposterous complications that would strain lesser novelists fit right into his antic world.
Relax, enjoy, and marvel anew at the power of unbridled fictional invention.
A female private detective tackles a retired NFA player in this standout romance, the eighth in the bestselling author’s Chicago Stars series.
A champion quarterback with a Super Bowl ring to prove it, entrepreneur Cooper Graham is just as competitive in business as he used to be on the field. Piper Dove, the daughter of a private detective, is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps as the new owner of her family’s detective agency. The two meet at Coop’s Chicago nightclub, Spiral, where Piper is investigating Coop on behalf of a potential business partner when she’s mistaken for a stalker. To keep from blowing her cover, she plays along. But when Coop finds out the truth, he discovers that his alleged stalker might be exactly the person he needs to investigate suspicious activity at his club. Their instant chemistry ignites an already explosive situation at Spiral, where any number of disgruntled employees and fans might be the saboteurs behind attacks ranging from bad online reviews to drone surveillance. But each one is written with enough levity to make it feel like a challenge rather than a nightmare come true. Whether she’s fending off football groupies or disarming a neighbor who threatens her with a Nerf gun, Piper is endearingly nutty and complicated. She thinks Coop would be better off dating a beauty with a trust fund; all he really wants is a woman he can trust. As she tries to take the moral high road by protecting him, she ends up lowering her standards by lying and sneaking around. And although Coop is gifted with both charm and brute strength, his constant need to win his arguments with Piper thankfully makes him seem more human rather than too perfect or, worse, overbearing.
This thoroughly enjoyable novel delivers a swift kick to the heart—an essential summer read.
Mystery, adventure, and romance are spiced with Bollywood glamour in this heart-stopping novel.
Nikhil Joshi, an Indian-American cruise-ship doctor, is drowning his sorrows in Jack Daniel’s. Two years earlier, his pregnant wife, Jen, a physician working in a Mumbai slum for Doctors Without Borders, was murdered before his eyes; unbeknownst to her husband, Jen was working to expose an illegal organ-transplant enterprise committing gruesome “murders to carve out organs.” Suddenly, Jess Koirala, a beautiful Bollywood dancer, appears in Nikhil’s life with an uncanny knowledge of Jen and the circumstances of their marriage. Jess tells Nikhil that she can channel Jen because she received Jen’s heart in a transplant; she even shows him the scar on her chest from the operation. Nikhil becomes obsessed with her and her intimate knowledge of his life. But Jess is being blackmailed by Jen’s killers into pursuing Nikhil to find the incriminating evidence that Jen was murdered for; her blackmailers are even terrorizing her 7-year-old son in order to force her to cooperate. Soon, Jess is being hunted down by both the Mumbai mob and the police, who are racing to find the damning evidence. Will Nikhil fall into the extortionist’s web and become involved with gorgeous Jess or wake up and smell the chai? Will Jess be able to extract the location of Jen’s evidence from Nikhil and save her son’s life, or will she weaken in the face of Nikhil’s overpowering charisma? Dev (The Bollywood Bride, 2015, etc.) masterfully probes Jess' and Nikhil’s rawest emotions through her multilayered Rubik’s cube of a plot. Every time the reader thinks he or she has figured out the end of the novel, the story’s quick-paced narrative, which races back and forth from the U.S. to India, takes another hairpin turn, leaving the reader breathless. This is riveting, heart-pounding drama.
Dev takes the characters and the reader on a death-defying ride. A novelist at the height of her powers.
A fitting (supposedly) final mission for one of fiction’s greatest spies.
A bomb explodes in the Marais district of Paris, a region known for its large Jewish population. One of the victims had a personal connection to Gabriel Allon, the man poised to become the next chief of Israel’s intelligence service, and that’s why the legendary assassin and spy joins the hunt for a terrorist mastermind known only as Saladin. Allon has been trying to escape his past since he first appeared in The Kill Artist (2000), so it’s no surprise that Silva must provide a lure if he’s going to get his hero back into the field for one last mission. But the 16th installment in this series is marked by a subtle shift in emphasis. Allon remains as compelling as ever, but Silva is clearly preparing readers for a world in which his hero takes a supporting role. Two members of Allon’s team—Mikhail Abramov and Dina Sarid—seem poised to play a larger part in future novels. But it’s Allon’s newest recruit who takes center stage here. Dr. Natalie Mizrahi is a French-born Israeli. As Leila Hadawi, the daughter of Palestinian refugees, Natalie becomes part of the terrorist network ruled by Saladin. This is not the first time agents have gone undercover in one of Silva’s novels, but Natalie’s experience is the most harrowing. A Jew hiding in the heart of the so-called caliphate, she knows that a single misstep will result in her own horrific death. More than that, she knows that failure to complete her mission will mean hundreds—if not thousands—more deaths. Before he became a novelist, Silva was a journalist stationed in the Middle East. His Gabriel Allon novels have tracked—and, in some cases, anticipated—the rise of the Islamic State group. In his foreword, he notes that he began writing this story before the Paris attacks of 2015.
A tale of Manhattan society in the Jazz Age, spiced liberally with secrets and scandal.
Williams’ latest opens with a dispatch from “Patty Cake,” a jaded society reporter from a New York paper, covering a “Trial of the Century” in Connecticut. We don't yet know who's on trial, but two of the women in the courtroom that day take up the narration of events that led to this pass. Theresa, a 44-year-old Fifth Avenue socialite, and her lover, Octavian, 22, are surprised in the carriage house of her Long Island estate by her brother, Edmund Jay "Ox" Ochsner, who reveals his intention to marry 19-year-old Sophie Fortescue, youngest daughter of the so-called Patent King, an entrepreneur and inventor who made his fortune as his nickname suggests. The Fortescue millions will assure financial security for this pedigreed but cash-poor bachelor gadabout. There follows a retelling of Der Rosenkavalier for the Roaring '20s. Octavian, a World War I flying ace whose war wounds are mainly mental, is enlisted by Theresa to act as cavalier for Ox, delivering a rose-shaped engagement ring to Sophie at her father’s unassuming home on 32nd Street. The two young people are smitten, but Sophie agrees to the engagement to please her father, who wants a traditional family life for her, although her real desire is to exercise her own mechanical aptitude. Meanwhile, Theresa learns that her marriage of convenience is coming to an end—her husband wants to marry his mistress. Now the way is clear to wed Octavian, except that the cavalier’s affections have shifted. Sophie is repelled by Ox’s dissolute, gin-swilling ways, his peppermint hair oil, and his boorish attentions. Testimony at trial recalls a Greenwich, Connecticut, house once occupied by a mechanic, who disappeared with his two daughters after his wife was found murdered. Chapters oscillate in time, ending on cliffhangers that can be jarring, but this novel is mainly propelled by its period-perfect prose style.