Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 241 pages

Amanda and Clay are looking forward to leaving Brooklyn for a weeks vacation with their two children. They have rented a lovely home in rural New York. Imagine their surprise when owners Ruth and GH Washington show up from Manhattan asking if they can spend the night because there has been a huge power outage in the city. Clay and Amanda are skeptical and suspicious of these two until they experience a noise that is louder and eerier than anything they have ever heard.

Leave the World Behind is the buzz book of the month. It is a well-organized page turner that leaves its readers with much to think about, especially now during the pandemic.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam 241 pages

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez 210 pages

The most recent book by Nunez, who won The National Book Award for fiction in 2018, is terse, yet complex and thought provoking. The three main characters are the narrator, her ex husband, and the narrator’s friend. None of the characters are given names. The friend is dying from cancer, wants to end her life before she experiences more pain, and asks the narrator to be in the next room when she decides to swallow the deadly pills.

What Are You Going Through is not for the feint of heart. Death surrounds this novel. However, for me, it was well worth the discomfort. Nunez incorporates so many intriguing ideas throughout that I often wished I was reading her novel along with someone, so we could discuss ideas as they came up.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez 210 pages

Monogamy by Sue Miller 358 pages

Annie and Graham McFarlane have a wonderful marriage. This is the second marriage for each of them. Graham has a son from his first marriage and they have a daughter together. Annie is a photographer; Graham is the co-owner of a book store. They are a cultured couple in their 60’s with bright, interesting friends. Life is great until Graham dies suddenly, and Annie discovers Graham was unfaithful. Over time she revisits her marriage to try to come to terms with this revelation.

Sue Miller writes a good, easy to read story. Monogamy has strong, complex characters, especially Annie, who can be aggravating and admirable at the same time.

Monogamy by Sue Miller 358 pages

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg 306 pages

Jackie and Dana are best friends until Jackie sets her sights on Floyd. Lupita’s family worked for Dana’s when both were children, and although Lupita now has a successful, satisfying business in Hawaii, she is still haunted by something that happened over forty years ago. Hap becomes a first time father days before his father dies. These events force him to question what type of person he is and how it affects those who love him.

Bill Clegg does a great job of unraveling the thread that ties all these characters together with twists, turns and unexpected occurrences happening along the way.

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg 306 pages

His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham 254 pages

Meacham’s newest work of nonfiction covers, in detail, the first three decades of John Lewis’s life. The author explores his young life in rural Alabama, his college years in Nashville, and Lewis’s years of marching, protesting and preaching nonviolence. His Truth Is Marching On describes what happened in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and all the other volatile events John Lewis was involved in that led up to the signing of The Civil Rights Act. Although he survived numerous beatings and arrests, he remained a good man working for a good cause.

If you want to learn more about the Civil Rights movement and Lewis’s role in it, I strongly suggest His Truth Is Marching On.

His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham 254 pages

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy 254 pages

Franny Stone can’t stay in one place for very long. Even when she is asleep her body insists on sleepwalking. Her greatest journey will follow the Arctic terns as they migrate from one pole to the other. Franny has convinced the captain of a fishing vessel to follow the terns halfway around the world, certain that the birds will lead them to thousands of fish. As the ship Saghani travels south, we learn of Franny’s tragic life, the lives of others aboard the boat as well as the ecological condition of our planet.

Beautifully written, Migrations is one of the most depressing novels I’ve read in a long time. If you are feeling down about what is happening in our world today, I urge you NOT to read Migration.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy 254 pages

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar 368 pages

This work reads like a memoir, but Akhtar insists it’s a novel. Homeland Elegies contains eight vignettes, each different in many ways, but all touching directly or indirectly on America’s consumerism and what it often feels like to be a Muslim here. The main character and narrator is named Ayad Akhtar, and also like the author, he is born in New York, has parents who are Muslims from Pakistan, and is a relatively famous playwright. Does Akhtar want his readers to have a difficult time distinguishing between reality and fiction? I think so.

If you are only comfortable reading a novel with a straightforward, chronological plot, this book is not for you. However, if you appreciate an unorthodox work of fiction with outstanding writing that puts its reader in the shoes of a Muslim living in this country for the past nineteen years, read Homeland Elegies.

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar 368 pages

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

With very few books coming out that interested me, I felt it was about time to read Ferrante’s much-loved quartet. The main characters are Lila and Lenu, born and raised in an area of Naples seething with hate, abuse and violence. The four novels follow these best friends through their schooling, marriages, affairs and children. Lila is beautiful and intelligent but leaves school in 5th grade and remains in the neighborhood. Lenu, the narrator of the four novels, goes to college (the only one in the neighborhood who does), becomes a successful author and although she travels extensively and lives in other Italian cities, she is often drawn back to Naples.

After I read the first book, I didn’t understand what all the hoopla was about. However, about a third of the way into book #2, I was hooked. I found the characters and their culture engrossing and fascinating. If you are willing to devote a lot of time, The Neapolitan Novels are well worth it.

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi 269 pages

Gifty is a medical student at Stanford working with mice and researching how the brain, addiction and depression are related. Her parents are from Ghana but immigrated to Huntsville, Alabama before Gifty was born. In many ways she raised herself, but her mother and older brother, Nana, play very significant roles in her life. Her mother was a deeply religious person, and Gifty must figure out how religion and science can co-exist in her life.

Transcendent Kingdom is Yaa Gyasi’s second novel. It is quite different from her first, Homegoing, and for me not quite as enjoyable. Being neither a “science” or a religious person, some of her descriptions had little or no effect on me.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi 269 pages

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson 387 pages

Although written differently than her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson once again gives her readers subtle suggestions and heart breaking, little known examples.  She describes three caste systems in depth, Nazi Germany, India and The United States, and vividly describes how these castes destroy humanity.  In a compelling way, Wilkerson illustrates why there are castes, what is wrong with them and the way castes can be eliminated.  She looks at these three castes historically, psychologically, sociologically, anthropologically and politically.

Caste couldn’t have been published at a better time in our country’s history.  It is an important read for anyone who cares about what is happening in The United States today.

 

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson 387 pages