To get into the holiday spirit this year I’ve been cranking up the Christmas tunes, decorating the Christmas tree, and drinking hot cocoa while watching Home Alone, but when it comes to books I need something a little less sparkly and bright. I like to read realistic fiction – nothing against a good cozy mystery or a holiday themed romance, but I enjoy the struggle of real life in my reading. It helps me recognize what I’m thankful for and helps me feel less alone if I’m having a hard time. Here are some fiction reads, for however you spend the season, to bring some empathy, understanding, and maybe a little chaos.
Disgruntled: A Novel by Asali Solomon: “Kenya is teased mercilessly by her Philadelphia grade-school classmates for her Kwanzaa-celebrating family’s odd ways—and they don’t know the half of it. Her father preaches “black anarchy” as the volatile leader of the Seven Days, a group he and Kenya’s mother, Sheila, who grew up in the projects and who supports her family as a librarian, has pulled together. Preternaturally observant and mordantly funny, Kenya is a hypnotic narrator coping valiantly with an increasingly bewildering life.” (Booklist)
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gillian: “Persecuted and barred from advancement in their Russian hometown, a Jewish girl and her family board a ship bound for turn-of-the-twentieth-century America. When they find themselves in Ireland instead, they struggle to adjust, some embracing, others spurning their new home. Decades later, a young man becomes mute following a traumatic event and is committed to a mental hospital. There he finds a friend in his roommate, a Jewish war hero who needs someone to help him write down his story. And during a modern-day Christmas season, a young woman, the Catholic daughter of an Irish politician, goes home for the holidays to consider an ultimatum she was just given by her Jewish boyfriend.” (Booklist)
The Adults by Carolina Hulse: “Exes with their new partners getting together for Christmas with a child? Not a good idea, as is clear from the start: one of the adults has shot another with an arrow. Matt explains to girlfriend Alex, whose home he shares, why he wants to organize the problematic get-together—a “holiday weekend” at Happy Forest Park so he can spend Christmas with his seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett, who lives with his ex-wife, Claire, and her boyfriend, Patrick. (Scarlett’s imaginary friend, Posey, a large purple rabbit based on a stuffed toy she once loved and lost, comes along, too.) An entertaining, tongue-in-cheek tale of people who are the adults, after all.” (Booklist)
Beneath the Bonfire: Stories by Nickolas Butler: “These 10 succinct stories center on the subject of loss. There are the inevitable losses that life doles out, notably illness and death, and the losses caused by men’s bad behavior or women’s absence. Male bonds are severed to maintain lies in “Sven and Lily” and “Morels,” in which a longtime ritual must end after a deadly accident. Love affairs or marriages end frequently, including in the title story, in which scuba diving in a frozen lake near a bonfire of discarded Christmas trees has unintended consequences.” (Booklist)
Panorama: A Novel by Steve Kistulentz: “Mary Beth has flown to Salt Lake City to celebrate New Year’s with her boyfriend (who’s also her boss), leaving her young son, Gabriel, in the care of a coworker. Her brother, Richard, is a “hey, it’s that guy” cable-news talking head based in D.C. Both siblings are unsatisfied with their professional or personal lives but are trying to change that—when Mary Beth’s plane crashes, leaving no survivors. Over the course of New Year’s Day, several lives will be affected by this event; Richard, first, as he makes plans to retrieve Gabriel, but also a server at a bar whose husband is on the plane; teenagers who caught the crash on film; the plane’s mechanic; and several of the passengers.” (Booklist)
~posted by Kara P.