- Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras: “Life is a space full of agreeable and disagreeable surprises.” Pablo Escobar said in an interview in the late 1990s. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Chula Santiago and her family’s maid, Petrona, slowly build a friendship fraught with both types of surprises. Told with suspense and mystical lyricism in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, this debut novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras stings and heals, like salt on a wound. To support her large family, teenage Petrona is sent by her mother from the Hills into Bogota, Colombia. Meanwhile, feeling guilty over her own wealth and desperate for a confidante, young Chula obsesses over the mysterious Petrona. Each girl must make a choice: Lured by money and first love, Petrona must decide between the Santiagos and the guerillas; Chula must decide between her family and Petrona. Chapters narrated by Chula are full of sensations. Imbued with a mix of Catholicism and her mother’s indigenous beliefs, the plot moves along dreamily as Chula witnesses traumatic events through a child’s lens. She calls on the cows in her courtyard to protect her. She calms herself by counting fly parts and the syllables Petrona speaks. She searches for the Blessed Souls of Purgatory, of whom she believes Petrona is a representative. Alternative chapters narrated by Petrona are more straightforward and action-based, giving the novel a robust balance of fantasy and realism.
- Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage: It seems that more and more books, films and TV shows feature relationships between mothers and children who despise each other and seek each other’s slow death. In Zoje Stage’s debut novel, you can’t blame put-upon Suzette Jensen for wanting to be free from her monstrous daughter, Hanna. Indeed, by page five you’re praying for the little horror to eat it in the worst way possible. What’s less clear is why Hanna hates her mother so much. What could Suzette have possibly done to Hanna, 7 years old when our tale opens, to fill her with such psychotic rage? On top of this, Hanna’s dad, Alex, is so love-blinded that he refuses to see how utterly atrocious Hanna is. Soon enough, it becomes clear there is no answer, for Stage’s real subject is the conundrum of evil itself. Find out what happens by checking this book out from the library and make sure to keep your eyes open for a sequel!
- Ghosted by Rosie Walsh: With nearly 40 years under her belt and a recently failed marriage to her name, Sarah Mackey has finally found the love of her life. During her annual pilgrimage home to England to visit her parents, Sarah meets Eddie, who is chatting with an escaped sheep on the village green. Although Sarah is definitely on the rebound–or so says an app on her phone, downloaded by a friend with the best of intentions–and in no fit state to start a relationship, the chemistry between the two is instantaneous and undeniable. Sarah falls hard, and after a week holed up together in Eddie’s cottage, she’s sure he has, too. So when Eddie leaves for his previously planned holiday in Spain and she doesn’t immediately hear from him, she is puzzled but not overly concerned. However, with every unanswered text and voicemail, Sarah’s unease mounts until she becomes convinced that a great catastrophe has befallen Eddie. Her best friends counsel her to let it go and accept that she’s been ghosted, but Sarah is haunted by Eddie and the promise of what their week together signified. Despite her friends’ warnings, Sarah begins an obsessive search for her one-that-got-away, determined to uncover what went awry, even if it means finally facing her painful past and her family’s trauma, which she’s been running from for nearly two decades.
- Nightbooks by J.A. White: Late one night, a boy named Alex heads out into the darkened hallways of his apartment building. His objective is to get to the basement and destroy his “nightbooks” in the furnace. He calls them this because he has spent countless hours recording his scariest nightmares and spooky stories in their pages. Alex prizes his imagination, but it’s also the thing that sets him apart from his peers. And when you’re a kid, being different isn’t always a good thing. Alex hopes that destroying his stories will help him fit in, but what he doesn’t expect is a detour that will lead him into the heart of the scariest story he’s ever faced!
- The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller: The heroine of Miller’s second novel, Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, makes her living serving up comfort food to locals and visitors alike in a small town in rural Vermont that finds itself at the crossroads of preserving tradition and embracing economic development. Peppered with a cast of characters that includes Nora’s younger sister Kit, Kit’s significant other (both aspiring filmmakers) and an assortment of working-class heroes, the novel unfolds after the town’s beloved “cake lady,” Peggy Johnson, dies in a car crash. Peggy, whose property is targeted for a big-box development, has left behind a will designating Nora as the beneficiary of her estate–a gesture that proves both a boon and a burden to the cash-strapped Nora, who soon finds herself torn between loyalty to the residents of Guthrie and the prospect of financial freedom. As Nora navigates between searching for Peggy’s lost dog, Freckles, who fled after the crash, and sidestepping her ex-husband’s overtures and dalliances, she finds herself alternately attracted to and angered by none other than the big-box developer, Elliot. Readers with a sweet tooth and a passion for dogs are sure to enjoy this book!