Hello, welcome, and join us - won’t you? - for this month’s look at some new releases to keep on your radar.
Our first selection is David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. Grann, who also wrote the brilliant book-club favorite The Lost City of Z, returns with his characteristic non-fiction-that-reads-like-fiction books as he tells the tale of a remote part of Oklahoma that held some of the wealthiest people in America – members of the Osage tribe of Native Americans who lived on oil-rich land. However, the Osage began to be found murdered, with very little motive, and a fledgling FBI under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover began investigating. Full of shocking twists and turns – all real – and filled with memorable characters – again, all real – Grann sketches in a memorable and yet unknown part of American history.
Getting back into the world of fiction, be sure to take a look at Jessica Shattuck’s The Women In the Castle, especially for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale or M.L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans. Set at the end of World War II, Shattuck’s novel is an epic about the normal women who were caught up in the sweep of historical events. Three women, all from different backgrounds, wives of Germans involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, try to piece their own lives together in the aftermath of a war-torn country and seek to bring together and heal those who were victims of the Nazi regime. Shattuck takes care to draw these women as realistic and insightful, and fans of historical fiction will devour the story that’s filled with attention to detail and packed with themes of revenge and forgiveness, of right and wrong and the sometimes small shades of grey that exist between the two. This is a GREAT book club pick, and we’ll be expecting a heavy word-of-mouth campaign for this title.
From past wars to fictional dystopian ones – Omar El Akkad’s American War is a simply stunning tale of a future America, ravaged by civil strife, flooding, war, and disease, and most importantly, separation. The story centers around Sarat, a young woman who travels to the North from her native Louisiana home. Spending most of her life in a refugee camp, Sarat falls under the influence of a mysterious revolutionary who trains her and gives her the tools to end the war. Elegantly written and sometimes hitting a bit too close to home, Akkad’s novel might be one of the dystopian breakout hits of 2017, perfect for those who like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Literary and thought-provoking, readable and discussable, make sure not to miss this one.
Moving from a fictional war back to a historical one – Brian Van Reet’s breathtaking debut Spoils is a novel set in Iraq during 2003. Van Reet, a former tank crewman who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq, introduces us to Cassandra, a young woman and a tank gunner who gets captured in a firefight, and also introduces us to Abu al-Hool, a dedicated mujahedeen soldier who is having second thoughts about the purity of his cause. Both characters are confronted by what they went to war looking for, and have to come to terms with the war they are actually waging. Intensely moving, unflinchingly sharp, and full of a soldier’s insight and humor, Spoils is a book for those who are interested in the human side of war.
Wrapping things up this month is Kate Eberlen’s Miss You, a charming feel-good romantic story of two people who SEEM destined for each other, who SEEM to be at the same place, but who keep missing each other. However, fate has them intertwined, and you’ll be cheering and rooting for them as they – nope, not yet. As they – nope, not yet! As they ALMOST meet. Wonderfully constructed and endlessly charming, this brings to mind a cheerful romantic comedy full of heart and the anticipating of romance. If you’re looking for a well-told, witty, feel-good story, you should absolutely check in. See? You’re already smiling.
As always, this month went too fast. Look for the New Releases section of JCL to heat up as summer approaches! Happy reading, everyone.