In a year that required an IV of transportive fiction, Indieland authors provided. The satisfyingly diverting Winter Honeymoon, a short story collection by the prolific Jacob M. Appel, “demonstrated a fascination with the moral conundrums of well-crafted fakery.” In the Lagos-set novel Imposter Alert! a poor villager assumes a dead rich woman’s identity. Our reviewer says author Uduak Akpabio Umoren tells a “riveting, dramatic story that effectively repudiates the notion of lawbreakers as immoral or inhuman.”
A wide array of titles made our annual list of the Best Indie Books of the Year, every one of them worth checking checking out. The standout Indie genre of 2020, however, was historical fiction, particularly novels about the ways people contended with the troubles of their own eras. Here are a few of the year’s best.
In Jill P. Anderson’s Running From Moloka’i, set in the 19th century, Mele Bennett, a girl who’s half Native Hawaiian and half White, learns of a horrific leper colony on Moloka’i in Hawaii. When Mele’s childhood love, Keahi, finds a suspicious rash on his chest, they both are terrified. Our reviewer says Anderson’s novel is “a moving, lyrical tale of a strong young hero dealing with a terrifying disease.”
Gregory Funderburk writes about the Great Storm of 1900, considered to be the greatest U.S. natural disaster, in The Mourning Wave. Our reviewer says, “While the story is harrowing, it is shot through with striking, well-earned moments of grace and compassion—even humor; a woman doling out food calls it ‘Don’t Ask Stew.’ ”
The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives by Tim Darcy Ellis follows 16th-century humanist Juan Luis Vives as he leaves Spain, his homeland, for England. He must adapt to odd customs, a new, Anglicized name (“John Lewis of Oxford”), and “the shifting tensions between Henry and Queen Catherine of Aragon, whose turbulent marriage becomes the central topic of the land,” says our reviewer. “Ellis writes all of this with marvelous gusto that’s more reminiscent of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall than of a more traditional Tudor novel….A fast-paced and richly engaging story about an intriguing historical figure.”
Karen Schechner is the vice president of Kirkus Indie.