Literary Fiction

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans’ The Walk is a remarkable journey of the spirit. At 28, Alan Christoffersen had it all. He had married the love of his life, owned a wildly successful advertising company, and was settling into a beautiful and comfortable existence in the Seattle suburbs. A good man, a happy man, Alan could not know how soon his world would shatter. When a terrible accident cripples his family life, the faithful husband stands by his beloved McKale, trusting blindly that his business partner and purported best friend will manage his workaday affairs.

At the moment that he finds himself bereaved, betrayed, homeless, and flat-out broke, he does consider a dark and quick way out of the pain.  He manages to pull away from that moment and decides instead to take a far walk from Seattle to Key West, Florida. Now that he has no one and nothing save a tent, a backpack, and very few provisions, it seems as good a thing to do as any other. Some prefer to grieve and ponder alone, and Alan is one of those people.

If You Like The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a historical fiction novel set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, where "there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another." (Book Description)

If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, then you may like these books with similar themes:

Clover by Dori Sanders
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community.
(Catalog summary)

 

 

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer, she's assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier.

As the long, hot summer unfolds, Celeste befriends several members of the community, but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race, social change, and violence, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar. All the while, she struggles with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer.  (Catalog summary)

What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

Howard Norman's newest novel takes the reader back to a setting - Nova Scotia - familiar to  fans of his previous works,  and back in time to the 1940s when the Canadian Maritime provinces were vulnerable to German attack and even more remote than they remain today.  I am among the fans of this and two of Norman's earlier novels, The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard, where each offered a compelling mix of interesting characters and unique takes on love, death, and loneliness.

What Is Left the Daughter is structured as a series of letters from Wyatt Hillyer to his long absent daughter. The opening paragraph hints of the drama to be revealed if we read on:

"Marlais, today is March 26, 1967, your twenty-first birthday. I'm writing because I refuse any longer to have my life defined by what I haven't told you. I've waited until now to relate the terrible incident tht I took part in on October 16, 1942, when I was nineteen."

Even in those few words, something of the letter writer's gentle, thoughtful character reveals itself.

If you like "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen...

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.  Available for adults, teens, and kids.

The first place to start is to read all of Jane Austen’s novels. She only had six novels published, but no writer has ever surpassed her in writing the novel of manners, revealing the human heart through the minutiae of social interaction.

Emma. by Jane Austen - As daughter of the richest, most important man in the small provincial village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse is firmly convinced that it is her right--perhaps even her "duty"--to arrange the lives of others. Considered by most critics to be Austen's most technically brilliant achievement, "Emma" sparkles with ironic insights into self-deception, self-discovery, and the interplay of love and power.

Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen - Fanny is an impoverished young woman, snubbed by society, who earns the respect and love of her cousin in this classic set in 19th century England.



 
 

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer hailing from Mississippi’s Delta region, authored The Robber Bridegroom, a steamy and chaotic story set during her home state’s antebellum years. Although loosely based on a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, this Robber Bridegroom is no murderous Bluebeard. Jamie Lockhart is, however, a handsome scoundrel with no more compunction against relieving pretty ladies of their virtue than their jewels. He meets his match in beautiful Rosamond Musgrove, who goes on everyday errands wearing her one silk gown while singing love ballads.

The Robber Bridegroom is the kind of yarn that gifted story-spinners can make out of loose threads of myth and folk tale wound together with a peculiar variety of language-rich Southern humor. She somehow binds together a jealous and mildly-murderous stepmother, a band of untrustworthy robbers (imagine that!), true love—with flaws, and raucous Mike Fink, legendary bully and “King of the Keel-boaters.”  The story is larger than life—a fantasy, really—and made it onto the Broadway stage as a musical in the 1970s. It’s still showing on the playbills of colleges and dinner theaters around the country.

If you like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

If you like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: "The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures, including an elephant who only responds to Polish commands. He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers-a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for." (Publisher's Weekly Review)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen has become a favorite for book club discussions because it is so rich in interesting characters, historical background and compelling plot. Here are several other titles that are popular with book clubs because there is so much to discuss in all of them.

The Adventures of Miles and Isabel by Tom Gilling
"Writhing with labor pains, the very pregnant actress Eliza McGinty is on stage portraying Hamlet in lieu of the drunken actor originally slated for the part, while in the audience the demure Mrs. Ernest Dowling is having contractions of her own. Miles and Isabel would share more than the same birth date in 1856; they would be children of the Industrial Revolution, fascinated by the power of turning cogs and flying machines. Isabel is the child of privilege and a victim of her own femininity in a male-dominated society, and Miles is the illegitimate son of an actress traveling as part of a levitation act, but their common love of invention and possibility would put them on a journey of souls destined to meet. Fantastical and magical, this novel is peppered with humor and the excitement of a time period laden with anticipation and opportunities for the creative, restless minds of innovation."-Booklist review


The Bee’s Kiss by Barbara Cleverly
“It's 1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from Ranipur, yet there is a darkness behind all the postwar gaiety. Against the background of a looming general strike and pressure from an unseen governmental presence, Joe struggles to solve four murders, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority.”—catalog summary


 

Bel Canto : A Novel by Ann Patchett.

From the bestselling author of "The Magician's Assistant" comes a marvelous novel of love, opera, and terrorism set in South America. Two couples, complete opposites, fall in love; sexual identities become confused; and a horrific imprisonment is transformed into an unexpected heaven on earth.

 

If you like "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading  recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you.

If you liked American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, you may like:

The senator's wife / Sue Miller

Bestselling author Miller returns with a rich, emotionally urgent novel of two women at opposite stages of life who face parallel dilemmas. Meri, the young, sexy wife of a charismatic professor, occupies one wing of a New England house with her husband. An unexpected pregnancy forces her to reassess her marriage and her childhood of neglect. Delia, her elegant neighbor in the opposite wing, is the long-suffering wife of a notoriously philandering retired senator. The couple have stayed together for his career and still share an occasional, deeply intense tryst. The women's routines continue on either side of the wall that divides their homes, and the two begin to flit back and forth across the porch and into each others physical and psychological spaces. (From Publishers Weekly)


Loving Frank : a novel / Nancy Horan.

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current. So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this groundbreaking historical novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Mamah’s profound influence on Wright. (Synopsis from Barnes and Noble)

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

One of those classics that eluded me through high school and college English classes, The Good Earth surfaced for me recently as I read a favorable review of a new biography of Buck [Pearl Buck in China: Journey to The Good Earth by Hilary Spurling]. I was reminded that TGE had been awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and Buck the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938. Maybe I should see if the library still has a copy... Yes! Many copies, many formats. People are still reading it, these many years later.  The CRRL paperback that came my way was identified as an Oprah's Book Club selection in 2004.

TGE tells the story of peasant farmer Wang Lung, his lifelong relationship with the land and the family he creates with his wife O-Lan. Buck makes these simple people the face of a China that is in the beginning throes of the political upheaval that would transform centuries-old cultural and societal norms over the course of the 20th century. At the outset we follow Wang Lung as he sets out to buy his wife, a slave in the house of Hwang; O-Lan is considered a good buy since she is too ugly to have been defiled by the rich men in the big house. The book is suffused with irony; the author draws her characters, paints the world for the reader as seen through their eyes. The devastating effect of years of flood and famine on the Wang Lungs across rural China is remarkably drawn without fanfare or hyperbole. Their brutal world where begging, infanticide, and mysogeny are unquestioned is filled with stoic, illiterate, patient people. In the end, the land enriches Wang Lung, and his epic rags to riches journey is a page turner.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, is one of those simple, spiritual tales that captures modern-day imaginations and becomes a best-seller. As I read it on the beach, I felt the brush of Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s wings—or perhaps those were the wings of the laughing gull trying to steal my son’s peanut butter sandwich.

In this extended fable, the teenage shepherd Santiago has chosen his free and lonely life over a more respectable one that would have bound him tightly to his community and family. Content as he is with the wisdom he gained while wandering the Spanish hills, he is nonetheless being drawn to change his path. The dark-eyed daughter of a prosperous merchant awaits his marriage proposal, but Santiago’s prophetic dream in an abandoned and ruined church leads him further away from his homeland than he ever imagined.