Grace Turner has been in the public eye for years, ever since she was a teenager groomed by famous Hollywood director Able Yorke, who helped establish her career as a young actor with a bright future. But Grace has had enough of the public and enough of Able Yorke and decides to spend a year living with her parents, her younger sister, and her brother-in-law. When she returns to Hollywood a year after going quiet, she’s asked to present an award for Able Yorke. Will she finally tell the truth about his “nurturing”?
It’s been 75 years since the first and last use of atomic bombs on civilian populations. In Jennie Fields’s historical novel, a scientist named Rosalind Porter has been living with the guilt of her involvement in the Manhattan Project ever since learning of the devastation wrought by the bombs dropped on Japan. In 1950, the FBI come knocking, asking her to help them spy on a fellow scientist and former lover who ruined her career. Seeking redemption, she doesn’t expect to also find love.
When Sydney dies, her three closest friends, all in their 70s, come together at her old home by the sea to empty out the place. But Jude, Wendy, and Adele are a bit lost without Sydney’s presence to keep them together. Jude is impatiently awaiting her lover’s arrival; Adele can’t stop worrying about where she’s going to live, now that her relationship is probably over; and Wendy fusses over her ancient dog, Finn. Will these old friends find their way back to each other?
Caste (Oprah's Book Club)
Isabel Wilkerson defines caste as “the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” Here, she examines this global phenomenon with a focus on Black Americans and their relegation to the bottom of the American caste system through legally codified means, and shows how brutal regimes have looked to the US in order to learn from our own hierarchically damning structures. There’s a way out of this stratification, Wilkerson suggests—if we’re willing.
In this alternate history, England is ruled by King Frederick and Queen Anne during World War II, and their youngest daughter, Princess Charlotte, is third in line for the throne. In 1943, she’s sent to Yorkshire, as London has finally become too dangerous for her to remain there, but her identity is kept hidden from all but her protectors. Charlotte gets a taste for what a normal life might be like, and even gets the chance to fall in love. Years later, an orphan raised by a stable manager discovers that she isn’t who she thought she was.
An unnamed narrator passes her day as she usually would: going to work, scrolling through Twitter, taking bathroom breaks, drinking tea, checking the clock to see how much time is left before she can go home. But behind the normalcy of the familiar everyday are the intrusive thoughts that keep rising up about her recent experience of being sexually assaulted. Or was she raped? How would she know the difference? And anyway, shouldn’t drinking eight glasses of water a day make everything feel better? Meanwhile, she can’t stop scratching her itching body. An unsettling look at trauma as commonplace.
Live in Love
Lauren Akins is best known as the object of her husband’s affections—after all, she might never have been in the public eye if it weren’t for country music singer Thomas Rhett, who won the 2017 ACM Award for Single of the Year with one of the many love songs he’s written about her. But Akins is her own person with her own desires, dreams, needs, and beliefs, and in this memoir she takes readers into her history, her relationship with Rhett, how she lives her life’s purpose alongside his fame, and much more.
C. J. Box
Game warden Joe Pickett’s old friend Nate, who keeps trying to live off the grid for good, can’t seem to catch a break, which means Joe can’t either. A local judge has been shot at, and while the judge is just fine, his wife took the bullet, leaving Judge Hewitt pissed off and ready to make hell. Nate is arrested as a suspect, and Joe has to get him a lawyer, make sure he doesn’t get into any more trouble while he’s in jail, and also find the real sniper—all while his mother-in-law is back in town.
Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey
A century after she delivered a message that helped save a group of American troops on the front lines of World War I, Cher Ami narrates her story from her position as a stuffed memorial in the Smithsonian museum. Cher Ami is a homing pigeon. In 1918, she helped save Major Charles Whittlesey and the remaining men under his command, who were all trapped in enemy territory for five days. The major never recovered from the deaths he felt responsible for; both he and Cher Ami consider whether war is ever worth it.
Kate Reed Petty
How do you live with a truth you can’t pin down, about events you don’t remember? For Alice Lovett, the answer has been to make her living as a ghostwriter, telling other people’s stories. But the events of 1999 haven’t stopped haunting her, especially because she was passed out when they occurred. Nick Brothers also hasn’t gotten over that night, when he overheard two of his lacrosse teammates talking about what they’d done to a girl in the backseat of a car. When Alice gets the chance to learn more about what happened that night, it’s unclear whether she’ll take it.
The Smallest Lights in the Universe
Sara Seager has made a career in searching for planets that can sustain life, as well as finding existent life on those planets. But as much as Seager has always looked to the stars for inspiration, she also built a solar system of her own here on Earth with her husband and two sons. Until her husband died young, leaving her grieving and caring for their children alone. In her memoir, she explores grief and its aftermath, her experience learning she was autistic, and how we are each as unique as the mysteries of the universe.
His Truth Is Marching On
“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me,” wrote Representative and Civil Rights leader John Lewis shortly before his death, in an op-ed he asked to have published on the day of his funeral. Many of those fighting for equal rights under the law today cite Rep. Lewis himself as among their inspirations. In this biography, Jon Meacham follows the evolution of Rep. Lewis’s belief in hope, nonviolent resistance, and a continued march toward a better future.
Superman's Not Coming
You may know Erin Brockovich from the film by the same name, but the real-life legal clerk turned environmental activist is still out there fighting the good fight. In fact, her fight with PG&E isn’t over, but in addition to recounting that battle, she shares the much broader water crisis we’re all facing as corporations all over the country—and the globe—continue to poison our water, using money, lies, and intimidation to get away with it. Offering examples of citizen activists and laying out steps for readers, Brockovich believes we can all fight for clean water.
Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister were both largely estranged from their parents when their mother had a bad enough fall that she had to be hospitalized, leaving their father alone in an isolated house in Canada. When the sisters arrived to help take care of him, they learned just how much abuse he’d suffered, apparently unknowingly, at the hands of his wife. As Vicki and her sister fight to prove their mother incompetent to care for their father, Laveau-Harvie begins to recall her own childhood amidst the stories and terrors spun by her mother’s erratic needs.
Based on Tiffany McDaniel’s own mother and her upbringing and family in Appalachian Ohio, this coming-of-age novel is narrated by the eponymous Betty, one of eight siblings, and the only one of them born with her Cherokee father’s brown skin rather than her white mother’s pale coloring. In a town like Breathed, Ohio, in the middle of the 20th century, she’s targeted by her racist neighbors, classmates, and teachers. There’s trouble brewing at home as well, secrets that women keep about bad men, and though Betty tries to write them all down, she can’t quite bear to tell them.
In 1953 Iran, an army truck driver named Behrouz hears a cry one night and discovers a baby girl abandoned to wild dogs at worst or to someone like him at best. He takes her home, naming her Aria after the opera music he loves, but his wife, Zahra, resents the child she’s forced to care for while her husband is away. Aria is eventually adopted by another woman, Fereshteh, who gives Aria an opulent home and an education. By the time Aria begins university, Iran is in upheaval, and she’s swept up in the popular uprising.
The Great Offshore Grounds
Cheyenne and Livy are half-sisters born on the same day to two different mothers yet raised by only one of them. The other they’ve never met; they don’t even know her name. They also have an adopted younger brother and a dad they don’t often see. Now, their dad is getting married, and he invites them to their wedding, tempting them with a promise of an inheritance—only instead of money, what they get is the name of their other birth mother. Setting off on a cross-country journey to find her, they reckon with their inheritance after all.
When Justin Childs dies in a car accident and Valium is found with in his system, his widow, Annie, immediately feels that something is off. Justin would never pop a Valium even casually—he hated drugs of all kinds. At least, that’s what he said. But the more Annie and Justin’s business partner and best friend, Will, discover after Justin’s death, the more it becomes clear that he hadn’t been entirely forthcoming. In fact, it seems he lied to them about pretty much everything and fabricated a trail of evidence in his wake as well. Who was Justin, really?
I Give It to You
Creative writing professor Jan first spends the summer at Villa Chiara in 1983, which is when she meets Beatrice, the villa’s owner and a fellow professor at an American university. But while Jan is an outsider to Italy, charmed and enthralled by Beatrice’s relationship to her inherited land, Beatrice still feels like an outsider in the US, even though she’s lived there much of her life. Over the next two decades, as Beatrice shares family stories and Italian history with Jan, Jan believes she has permission to write about them, creating a relationship that reveals class and power dynamics.
After the Last Border
In the first two decades of this century, as the global number of refugees has reached an all-time high, the number of refugees allowed resettlement options in the US has reached an all-time low. Journalist Jessica Goudeau follows two women, Mu Naw and Hasna, refugees resettled in Austin, Texas. While both women faced difficulties in the US, Mu Naw’s Christianity allowed her different support than Hasna, a Syrian refugee and a Muslim who was separated from her family by Trump’s travel ban. Through their narratives, Goudeau examines the changing nature of American refugee resettlement policies, from welcoming to hostile.
As tropical storms rain down and heat waves keep coming, we hope you can take a break from the chaotic August weather to sit down with a book or two. Our favorites this month are as eclectic as ever, encompassing biographies, like that of Civil Rights leader Representative John Lewis; memoirs, like Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s reckoning with her mother’s delusions and father’s treatment; journalism, like Jessica Goudeau’s examination of refugee resettlement in the US; and, of course, novels galore! Whether you’re seeking romance, adventure, or realism steeped in political commentary, there’s something here for you.
Featured image by Robert Driscoll