Bookshelf

June Books

FICTION

Friends and Strangers, by J. Courtney Sullivan

From the best-selling author of Maine and Saints for All Occasions comes this insightful, hilarious and compulsively readable novel about a complicated friendship between two women who are at two very different stages in life. Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, is struggling to adjust to life in a small town after nearly 20 years in New York City. Alone in the house with her infant son all day (and awake with him much of the night), she feels uneasy, adrift. Enter Sam, a senior at the local women’s college, whom Elisabeth hires to babysit. Sam is struggling to decide between the path she’s always planned on and a romantic entanglement that threatens her ambition. She’s worried about student loan debt and what the future holds. In short order, they grow close. But when Sam finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Elisabeth’s father-in-law, the true differences between the women’s lives become starkly revealed, and a betrayal has devastating consequences. A masterful exploration of motherhood, power dynamics and privilege in its many forms, Friends and Strangers reveals how a single year can shape the course of a life.

Mother, Daughter, Widow Wife, by Robin Wasserman

Who is Wendy Doe? The woman, found on a Peter Pan Bus to Philadelphia, has no money, no ID, and no memory of who she is, where she was going, or what she might have done. She’s assigned a name and diagnosis by the state: dissociative fugue, a temporary amnesia that could lift at any moment, or never at all. When Dr. Benjamin Strauss invites her to submit herself for experimental observation at his Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research, she feels like she has no other choice. To Dr. Strauss, Wendy is a female body, subject to his investigation and control. To Strauss’ ambitious student, Lizzie Epstein, she’s an object of fascination, a mirror of Lizzie’s own desires, and an invitation to wonder: Once a woman is untethered from all past and present obligations of womanhood, who is she allowed to become? To Alice, the daughter she left behind, Wendy Doe is an absence so present it threatens to tear Alice’s world apart. Through their attempts to untangle the mystery of Wendy’s identity — as well as Wendy’s own struggle to construct a new self — Wasserman has crafted a jaw-dropping, multi-voiced journey of discovery, reckoning and reclamation.

Super Host, by Kate Russo

Bennett Driscoll is a Turner Prize-nominated artist who was once a rising star. Now, at age 55, his wife has left him, he hasn’t sold a painting in two years, and his gallery wants to stop selling his work, claiming they’ll have more value retrospectively . . . when he’s dead. So, left with a large West London home and no income, he’s forced to move into his artist’s studio in the back garden and list his house on the popular vacation rental site, AirBed. A stranger now in his own home, with his daughter, Mia, off at art school, and any new relationships fizzling out at best, Bennett struggles to find purpose in his day-to-day. It all changes when three different guests — lonely American Alicia; tortured artist Emma; and cautiously optimistic divorcée Kirstie — unwittingly unlock the pieces in him that have been lost for too long. Warm, witty and utterly humane, Super Host offers a captivating portrait of middle age, relationships and what it truly means to take a new chance at life.

NONFICTION

Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, an Address Book, a Life, by Brigitte Benkemoun

Merging biography, memoir and cultural history, this compelling book traces Maar’s life through a serendipitous encounter with the artist’s address book. In search of a replacement for his lost Hermès agenda, Brigitte Benkemoun’s husband buys a vintage diary on eBay. When it arrives, she opens it and finds inside private notes dating back to 1951 — 20 pages of phone numbers and addresses for Balthus, Brassaï, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Paul Éluard, Leonor Fini, Jacqueline Lamba and other artistic luminaries of the European avant-garde. After realizing that the address book belonged to Dora Maar — Picasso’s famous “Weeping Woman” and a brilliant artist in her own right — Benkemoun embarks on a two-year voyage of discovery to learn more about this provocative, passionate and enigmatic woman, and the role that each of these figures played in her life. Longlisted for the prestigious literary award Prix Renaudot, Finding Dora Maar is a fascinating and breathtaking portrait of the artist.

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir, by Wayétu Moore

When Wayétu Moore turns 5 years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking and hiding for three weeks until they arrive in the village of Lai. Finally, a rebel soldier smuggles them across the border to Sierra Leone, reuniting the family and setting them off on yet another journey, this time to the United States. The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply moving story of the search for home in the midst of upheaval. Moore shines a light on the great political and personal forces that continue to affect many migrants around the world, and calls us all to acknowledge the tenacious power of love and family.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Ocean! Waves for All, by Stacy McAnulty

Home to the world’s biggest animal, longest mountain range, and largest living structure, the ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, holds a wealth of riches, and is the ultimate melting pot because the waves are for all, man! In this latest fun fact-filled STEM title (as told by Ocean — his salty self), engineer-turned author McAnulty once again brings science to life for the youngest readers. (Ages 4-7.)

Grow Kind, by Jon Lasser

Everyone wants their child to grow up to be kind, but how do you grow a kind child? In this sweet story of sisterhood, friendship and neighborly love, Keiko shares the bounty of the garden she has lovingly tended and finds extra special joy in the delight of others. Grow Kind is the third book in a series that also includes Grow Happy and Grow Grateful. (Ages 3-7.)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games fans have been anxiously awaiting this new title, a prequel focusing on the early life of Hunger Games villain Coriolanus Snow, the tyrannical president of Panem. It’s set on the morning of the reaping that will begin the 10th annual Hunger Games, 64 years before the events in the first three books. This is likely to be the hottest book of the summer season. (Ages 14 and up.)

Nowhere on Earth, by Nick Lake

Emily is struggling to find a break. Struggling in school and struggling with her parents. She wants to leave her Alaskan village, but when suspicious men start following her brother, Emily has to make sure he is OK. Things quickly take a turn for the worse and she is stuck on a mountain with her brother, finding that all she wants is to go home. A suspenseful and thrilling read for teens. Recommended by teen review by Sarah McIntosh. (Ages 14 and up.)  PS

Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally.

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