The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
You know whose praise for The Most Fun We Ever Had comes even higher than that of bestselling author Madeline Miller (Song of Achilles, Circe)? My grandmother’s. Our family book club Pick of the Year, The Most Fun was a gentle introduction to family-focused realistic fiction for me. Author Claire Lombardo summons and commands her characters with such individualized attention, I truly became an adoptive member of the Sorenson family, celebrating their stories, challenges, and triumphs. If you are in need of a warm hug, a shoulder cry, or a belly laugh, I implore you to open The Most Fun We Ever Had with the very same piqued curiosity (or impish delight) one has flipping through a dear friend’s family photo album.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I’m by no means the first one to say this, but heck I’ll say it again — Sally Rooney is our modern George Eliot. No one writes the 2019 social novel of manners with her level of observation, complication, and sensitivity. Her sophomore effort introduces us to Marianne and Connell, whose secret high school relationship led to the kind of entangled growth that can only begin with the most potent kind of love. As they move from high school to college to the wide open beyond, their social standing shifts, tipping along with it who holds more power over the other. Less cynically, they remain magnetically drawn to each other, as much for their beguiling differences as for the shared language they’ve built between them, secret and untranslatable to everyone else. These are normal people who feel exceptional to themselves and to each other, cementing and exploding their ordinariness. From page one, I read this novel of love and coming of age and conversations of the day with my heart aflutter in my throat — I hated to turn the last page.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Haunting. Disturbing. Traumatic. Riveting. Beautiful. All these terms describe this book about Little Dog, a Vietnamese boy who we are introduced to as a child refugee. His mother is crazy, his grandmother has PTSD, and they are both at turns loving and cruel to him. I would sometimes linger over one beautiful sentence for days, adoring it’s truth and depth before I would continue reading. This is one of those rare books that I’ll read again, and that I’ll recommend over and over.
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