Books I’m glad I came back to

Ng's second novel opens with a house on fire, literally. It belongs to a suburban family, and it wasn't an accident: as one character reports, “The firemen said there were little fires everywhere." But who did it, and why? That's the setup for this literary thriller, which explores what happens when an itinerant artist and her daughter move into a seemingly perfect Ohio community, and thoroughly disrupt the lives of its residents.
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Hig is the lone survivor of a flu pandemic, save for his dog and a gun-toting loner. Or so he thinks. When he receives a random transmission on the radio, he begins to dream of what might exist beyond life on the hangar. Heller’s post-apocalyptic novel is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD but you don’t have to have read that in order to appreciate the way Heller examines the landscape between hope and despair.
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A young writer turns her life around in this 2020 novel from the author of Euphoria. Casey Peabody’s life is a catastrophe: she’s grieving her mother, buried in debt, floundering in her love life, and fed up with waiting tables while she labors to finish the novel she’s been working on for six years. But then slowly, slowly, she starts to pull it together. This novel has it all, while never feeling weighed down: a story of growing up, finding love, grieving loss, and a tribute to the writing life. This book was slow to hook me, but once I was in, I was IN. It also has one of the most exuberant, satisfying endings I've read in ages. 
Finally, a follow-up to Bennett’s smashing debut The Mothers—and it’s worth the wait. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn’t appear on maps. They’re closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn’t know she’s black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it’s those daughters who bring the sisters together again. It’s a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can’t reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, unputdownable novel spanning five turbulent decades.
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The story begins with a shooting: it's 1969, in the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn; a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. After this jolting beginning, McBride zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). All these people's lives overlap in ways that few understand in the beginning, and McBride's gentle teasing out of these unlikely but deeply meaningful connections—and the humor and warmth with which he does it—is what captured me.
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What to say about this book? For the first 75 pages, I was bored to tears. I could not keep the characters straight. I did not understand what Hazzard was up to. But by the end, I thought it to be one of the best books I'd ever read, with a spectacular—if devastating—ending. And then I flipped to the beginning to start again. I knew going in that Hazzard's husband once remarked that no one should have to read this book for the first time; read it and you'll see why. First-time readers should know that Hazzard knows what she's about, that it takes her ten years to write novels because each sentence is constructed with care, that this story, ostensibly about love and family, is every bit as much about power.
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. “In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight . . .this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility." – Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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