If Oprah can do it, so can Boomer Highway. Following last year’s picks, here are recommendations for great reading for the summer of 2013. This week, fiction.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Kate and Violet are identical twins with unusual senses that set them apart from everyone else. They take different paths but both end up in their hometown of St. Louis where Kate is a devoted wife and mother and Violet a psychic medium. When a minor earthquake occurs, Kate’s normal life begins to shift. When Violet goes on television and predicts a more devastating quake will happen, Kate is ashamed of her sister, then forced to reconcile with her and to face certain truths about herself.
The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer
Five teens meet at a summer camp for talented teenagers. It is 1974. At the heart of the group is Jules Jacobson who aspires to be a comic actress and discovers she has more creative temperament than talent. Her almost boyfriend is Ethan Figman, a cartoonist and the genius of the group. There is Jonah Bay, a musician and son of a famous folksinger, and Ash and Goodman Wolf, both attractive and mysterious. The novel takes these five through the competitions and realties of growing up, providing laughs and heartache as members of the group come together, then split apart. Wolitzer artfully relates this coming-of-age story and perfectly captures the generation and era in which it takes place.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Jim and Bob Burgess’s father was killed in a freak accident in their hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine. Haunted by the incident, they leave early in their lives, moving to New York City. Jim becomes a successful lawyer for a corporation. Bob also becomes a lawyer and works in Legal Aid. Because Bob admires Jim, he puts up with belittling comments that frequently come his way. But when their sister, Susan, the sibling who stayed in Maine, calls for their help, the dynamic of their relationship is upended. Zach, her lonely teenage son, is in deep trouble and Susan must turn to them for help. Forced to return to the beginnings of their lives, the Burgess brothers become more aware of the hidden tensions that have harmed and created their strained relationship. Facing these truths will change both of them forever.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
In this mesmerizing novel, the planet Earth begins to slow down. At first there are minutes added to each day and after a while hours added. This causes long periods of light and searing heat that alternate with periods of darkness and cold temperatures. The setting of the story is California where freezes are not common. Julia, the main character, is a middle school student with a few close friends. She is currently experiencing her first crush on a loner, Seth, who takes piano lessons from a woman who lives across Julia’s street. Seth never speaks to Julia when he sees her. But as the slowing proceeds, life is greatly changed and Julia finds all the relationships in her life challenged. Her close girlfriend must move away because her parents believe the theory that maybe the slowing is not affecting other areas of the country. Her father begins a strange relationship with the piano teacher, and one day Julia finds herself watching the frightening effects of the slowing with Seth. Becoming more certain that life will never be as it was Julia clings to the simple memories of her family life before the slowing began.
The Beginners Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Because Aaron Woolcott has physical handicaps his sister Nandina tries to smother him. But Aaron forges ahead in his life, working as an editor at the family’s small publishing company that specializes in titles like “The Beginner’s Book of Gifts” or “The Beginners Book of Birdwatching.” Then he meets Dorothy, a doctor, who is independent and totally different from the women he knows. He marries her and they settle into a not so remarkable marriage. But when Dorothy is killed by a tree that crashes into their house, Aaron wants to retreat from life. To complicate things, Dorothy begins to appear to him, forcing him to reexamine what they had together. This helps Aaron find peace, as he realizes that “maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.”
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