Quick Lit January 2021
The Push

The Push

While not a thriller in the traditional sense, this novel, which in many ways makes me think of a contemporary East of Eden, is right at home among mysteries and thrillers. This psychological drama is written as a sort of letter from a woman to her ex-husband, in which she promises to tell "her side of the story," from when they met through the present day, where she sits in the dark outside her husband's home, watching his new family through their living room windows. The letter quickly settles on her relationship with their daughter, a connection that began coldly and deteriorated from there, though perhaps not for the reasons her ex-husband (and, at first, the reader) suspect. Book nerds will appreciate the unusual second person narration, repeated motifs, and the multiple possible interpretations of the title. (Take note: specific triggers are not obvious from the book description, and sharing some here would involve significant spoilers, but they are plentiful.) More info →
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The Survivors

The Survivors

I’ve long said that Harper's first novel The Dry is her best work, but now I might have a new favorite. In her latest, Harper returns to the themes that worked so well in her debut: a man returns to his tiny hometown to find that neither the community nor his family have forgotten or forgiven his involvement in a past tragedy—and that's before a fresh crime brings painful memories raging back. Much of the story is set in seaside caves that the local teens enjoy exploring—but flood when the tide comes in. A deliciously creepy (and sometimes claustrophobic) tale of buried secrets, family tensions, and life after tragedy. This doesn't officially come out until February 2, but since it's a January Book of the Month pick, I'm including now. More info →
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This Close to Okay

This Close to Okay

Cross-Smith's second novel (following her 2020 short story collection So We Can Glow) is a hard read in many ways and yet the story sucked me right in, and the propulsive plot kept me turning the pages. Though the subject matter is weighty, a strong sense of humor and snappy dialogue kept this book from feeling overwhelming (for me, but please mind your triggers). An added bonus was the novel's setting in the real-but-not-real location of Louisville; I enjoyed puzzling over which thinly disguised businesses, neighborhoods, and cities Cross-Smith had in mind. Heads up for an open door scene and serious content, including depression and suicide. This doesn't officially come out until February 2, but since it's a December Book of the Month pick, I'm including now. More info →
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The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs

Longtime readers know I'm a sucker for a classic retelling. Jane Austen is my usual catnip, but I'm glad I took a chance on this updated Jane Eyre, set in contemporary Birmingham, Alabama, in the Thornfield Estates neighborhood of Mountain Brook. In Hawkins's version, Jane becomes a dog-walker with a troubled past she'd prefer to keep hidden, Bertha the owner of a Southern home and fashion empire that put me in mind of Draper James, and Eddie the handsome, grieving widower looking to rebuild his life after tragedy—or so he says. A dark kind of fun. More info →
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The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life

The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life

I was honored to provide an endorsement for Ally, which reads: Good things come to those who write. I'm thrilled that this book will help so many people benefit from the power of putting words on the page, learning through Allison Fallon's firm but friendly instruction both why and how to develop their own writing practice—because words can change everything. More info →
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What Could Be Saved

What Could Be Saved

Despite its hefty 464-page length, I finished most of this family drama in a single day. The Preston family moved from Washington, DC to Bangkok during the Vietnam War. When they returned home several years later nothing was the same—not in their country and not in their family, because while in Thailand their eight-year-old son had been kidnapped and was now presumed dead. This story opens with that boy's sister opening an email, a message from Thailand saying, I think I have your brother. Will you come get him? In dual timelines that span 47 years, the story probes the long-held secrets the Preston family members have been keeping, and their devastating consequences. More info →
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The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

This book was such a delightful surprise. I never expected to love—or even read—a book about poker, but several readers with great taste told me to prioritize this one, and I'm glad I listened. In this story-driven narrative, author and New Yorker journalist Konnikova tells how and why she dedicated several years of her life to becoming a professional poker player, and seamlessly connects what she learns at the table to making better decisions and living a more satisfying life. Endlessly fascinating and laugh-out-loud funny. More info →
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Walking: One Step At a Time

Walking: One Step At a Time

I've had this little book on my stack for well over a year, and am so glad I picked it up as one of my final 2020 reads! I loved it so much. This book in translation (from the original Norwegian) is a little bit personal story, a little bit philosophical meditation on just that—how walking is grounding and expansive. I took a ridiculous number of notes in my book journal (which I shared with the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club in our Best Book of the Year event, along with all the quotes I had to read out loud to my family). More info →
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