Where the Crawdads Sing, an enthralling, magical novel by Delia Owens, is set in rural North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. Kya is known locally as the “marsh girl,” abandoned by her family to grow up in the marshlands with little more than her fierce determination and equally fierce intelligence. Ostracized from society and spending her time living off the land - and dodging truancy officers - she tentatively makes contact with the outside world and develops a relationships with two boys. When one of the boys is found dead under mysterious circumstances in the marshes, the community turns its eyes to the Marsh Girl, and the mystery of what happened one eventful night becomes the focus of the novel. Part coming-of-age story, part slow-burn mystery, and part literary thriller, this title set in the North Carolina wilderness is an absolute gem that will please fans of Ann Patchett, Donna Tartt, or Tom Franklin.
VOX, a masterful dystopian debut by linguistics professor Christine Dalcher, is destined to be the talk of book clubs in living rooms and backyard patios across the country this fall. Based in a near future where American women are fitted with a device that delivers an electric shock if the speaker goes over 100 words in a day, Dalcher writes about how important voices are: not only who controls who gets to speak, but how important it is to use your voice - if you have one. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and terrifyingly plausible, VOX is an excellent piece of storytelling, especially in the current climate where readers – and viewers – are revisiting Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale. For a book about a serious social message that doesn’t feel like homework, make sure you have Dalcher on your list.
Anne Youngson’s delightful Meet Me at the Museum is an epistolary novel, told as a series of letters exchanged between two very different people, who live two nations and 700 miles apart. Tina Hopgood is a grandmother and a farmwife who married young and didn’t live a life that she envisioned for herself. Anders Larson is a lonely widower and a curator for a Denmark museum that houses the Tollund Man, an ancient corpse that was well-preserved in a peat bog. Hopgood, curious about the museum exhibit, sends a letter that is answered politely by Larson, and the communications begins. Sharing philosophies, histories, and personal regrets, the two characters slowly start to connect, and the reader is wrapped into the budding and evolving relationship between the two. A perfect balm for the psychological thrillers and true crime procedurals that dominate the bestseller lists, Meet Me At The Museum has an old-fashioned, feel-good air about it, similar to The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society that is perfect for your late summer reading list.
Can we make the entire month’s list female debut authors? Let’s keep the ball rolling with Vanessa Hua’s A River of Stars. Scarlett Chen is pregnant, living in a secret maternity ward in Los Angeles. The father of her child is back in China, the boss of a factory who is married with three daughters, but who desperately wants a boy. Shipped to Turtle Bay to give birth on U.S. soil, Scarlett befriends fellow- mom-to-be Daisy and is under the watchful eye of Mama Fang, part landlord and part jailer. When life throws a sudden wrench into Scarlett’s well-planned future, she escapes with Daisy and tries to make a life for herself and her child among the Chinese-American community of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Insightful, funny, and a fresh view on the American immigrant experience, Hua’s A River Of Stars is a brilliant novel that should be great for fans of Celeste Ng, which, let’s face it, should be just about everyone.
“Americans, representing 5% of the world’s population, consume 80% of its opioids.” This is a statistic from the new book by journalist Beth Macy. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America takes a deep dive into the nation’s opioid epidemic from a ground-up perspective. Starting from a shattered Roanoke, Virginia community and then going back to Perdue Pharma, the company that first produced Oxycontin, and how marketing the prescription to doctors and emergency-room personnel increased demand that was eventually met by under-the-table pharmacists and then, eventually, by street dealers. The title, “dopesick,” refers to the body’s craving for a drug that once took away pain but now is the source of it. A mesmerizing, surprising, and penetrating look into a social crisis and an industry that has both destroyed families and made people very, very wealthy.