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Contemporary Fiction Book Club
Travelers: A Novel
A startlingly imaginative exploration of the African diaspora in Europe, by one of our most acclaimed international writers.
Award-winning author Helon Habila has been described as "a courageous tale teller with an uncompromising vision…a major talent" (Rawi Hage). His new novel Travelers is a life-changing encounter with those who have been uprooted by war or aspiration, fear or hope.
A Nigerian graduate student who has made his home in America knows what it means to strike out for new shores. When his wife proposes that he accompany her to Berlin, where she has been awarded a prestigious arts fellowship, he has his reservations: “I knew every departure is a death, every return a rebirth. Most changes happen unplanned, and they always leave a scar.”
In Berlin, Habila’s central character finds himself thrown into contact with a community of African immigrants and refugees whose lives previously seemed distant from his own, but to which he is increasingly drawn. The walls between his privileged, secure existence and the stories of these other Africans on the move soon crumble, and his sense of identity begins to dissolve as he finds that he can no longer separate himself from others’ horrors, or from Africa.
A lean, expansive, heart-rending exploration of loss and of connection, Travelers inscribes unforgettable signposts—both unsettling and luminous—marking the universal journey in pursuit of love and home.
ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR--THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
WINNER OF THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, Time, O, The Oprah Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, GQ, The Dallas Morning News, Buzzfeed, BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLER
Tommy Orange's "groundbreaking, extraordinary" (The New York Times) There There is the "brilliant, propulsive" (People Magazine) story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It's "the year's most galvanizing debut novel" (Entertainment Weekly).
As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow--some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent--momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will to perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
There There is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen. It's "masterful . . . white-hot . . . devastating" (The Washington Post) at the same time as it is fierce, funny, suspenseful, thoroughly modern, and impossible to put down. Here is a voice we have never heard--a voice full of poetry and rage, exploding onto the page with urgency and force. Tommy Orange has written a stunning novel that grapples with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and profound spirituality, and with a plague of addiction, abuse, and suicide. This is the book that everyone is talking about right now, and it's destined to be a classic.
Cruel Beautiful World
“A seductive page-turner that ripples with an undercurrent of suspense.” —The Boston Globe
“A seamless triumph of storytelling.” —Gail Godwin, author of Flora
It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have frightening repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte has always been burdened by having to be the responsible one, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.
With precise, haunting prose and indelible characters, Cruel Beautiful World examines the infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and most of all, tells a universal story of sisterhood and the complicated legacy of family.
“Absorbing.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Captivating.”—Los Angeles Times
“Page-turning suspense.” —New York Journal of Books
“Riveting.” —Marie Claire
“Marvelous.”—The National Book Review
“Hauntingly brilliant.” —Coastal Living
“Gripping and suspenseful.” —BookPage
“Moving.” —The Washington Post
The late Billy Lynch's family and friends gather at a small bar and grill in the Bronx to remember better times. His widow, Maeve, is there and everyone admires the way she is holding up, just as they always admired the way she cared for Billy after the alcohol had ruined him. But one cannot think of Billy without saying at some point, 'There was that girl'. On Long Island one summer years ago, Billy fell in love with a beautiful Irish girl working for a wealthy Park Avenue family. Billy wanted to marry Eva, but then she went back to Ireland. And then Billy's cousin Dennis had to break the terrible news: Eva had died of pneumonia. Billy never got over it. Anybody who knew him would tell you so. Billy began courting Maeve not long after, but for the rest of their lives, he, she and Dennis shared a hidden, twisted grief.
Meet Me at the Museum
Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award
“The charmer of the summer.”
“Warm-hearted, clear-minded, and unexpectedly spellbinding, Meet Me at the Museum is a novel to savor.”
—Annie Barrows, co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn’t remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over.
Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to one another. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to one another about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Anders is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?
A Terrible Country
A New York Times Editors' Choice
Named a Best Book of 2018 by Bookforum, Nylon, Esquire, and Vulture
"This artful and autumnal novel, published in high summer, is a gift to those who wish to receive it."
--Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Hilarious, heartbreaking . . . A Terrible Country may be one of the best books you'll read this year."
--Ann Levin, Associated Press
"The funniest work of fiction I've read this year."
--Christian Lorentzen, Vulture.com
A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty--the first novel in ten years from a founding editor of n+1 and author of All the Sad Young Literary Men
When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can't always remember who he is.
Andrei learns to navigate Putin's Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly--but surprisingly sharp!--grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother's health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei's politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid.
A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR • BILL GATES’S HOLIDAY READING LIST • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S AWARD IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK • FINALIST FOR THE PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD • FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES BOOK PRIZE
NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST MEMOIRS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • Time • NPR • Good Morning America • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsday • New York Post • theSkimm • Refinery29 • Bloomberg • Self • Real Simple • Town & Country • Bustle • Paste • Publishers Weekly • Library Journal • LibraryReads • BookRiot • Pamela Paul, KQED • New York Public Library
An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
“Beautiful and propulsive . . . Despite the singularity of [Tara Westover’s] childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”—Vogue
“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”—The New York Times Book Review
Books Worth a Look
Jolenta and Kristen are the hosts of the funny and insightful podcast, By the Book. In each episode, they read a chosen self-help book, spend two weeks living by the book’s guidelines, and then offer their opinions of the book’s premise. When they had read and lived by 50 different books, they decided to write one of their own. How to be Fine highlights what they learned from their experiment.
Enjoy a local expert discussing a topic of interest.