Literary Fiction

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

If you’re determined to avoid any books guaranteed to trigger tears, then forget The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I, however, am a sucker for an exceptional dog story and accustomed to the accompanying waterworks. From White Fang through Marley and Me to A Dog Year, the unconditional love, loyalty and goodness of (wo)man’s best friend keep me coming back for more.

Denny’s dog Enzo is wiser than most people. In fact, he’s convinced that in his next life he will return as a human. To that end, he has already started perfecting his skills so upon rebirth, he can (figuratively) hit the ground running.
 
Denny meets and marries Eve and they are subsequently blessed with the arrival of baby Zoe. Despite the family extension, Enzo remains cherished by all. But shortly after, Eve is stricken with an illness. Both she (and Enzo) realize something is terribly wrong, yet she refuses to see a doctor.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez

How the Garcial Girls Lost Their Accents

In a reverse chronological sequence of events, Julia Alvarez takes her readers through the immigration experience of the four Garcia sisters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Leaving behind a life of privilege surrounded by their large extended family, the four girls move with their Papi and Mami to New York City, and begin the long, never-ending process of assimilating into American culture. The story is as much a coming of age tale as it is a feminist, Latino perspective on American culture, beautifully conveyed with a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary here and there.

The sisters are adults at the beginning of the book, and going back in time, the reader experiences their divorces, marriages, college years, teenage angst and confusion, and efforts to learn English while attending American public schools. Their father’s involvement in a plot against the dictator, the subsequent investigations by the authorities, and the escape with the help of friends and family are all experienced by the reader alongside Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia. Alvarez did a good job of keeping me hooked. The why’s and the how’s unfold further and further the closer the reader gets to the end of the book--which is actually the beginning of the story. 

Grendel, by John Gardner

Grendel, by John Gardner

Lurking in the shadows of the Dark Ages is the howling form of Grendel. He is the monster of midnight, the bone-gnasher, the ardent hunter of warriors who strews their bones and howls his fury to the world as he wreaks havoc on the safety of civilization. No hall fire burning brightly, no line of armed men can keep him back when he desires destruction. But as John Gardner tells of Grendel, this was not always so. For the bane of the Hrothgar’s hall has a soul much tormented by his desire for good and fellowship with the humans even as his demonic appearance frightens them into violent action. To them, he is a thing, and so he becomes what they believe him to be--an adversary whose fame has spanned the centuries.

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters. 

Two girls, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank, are born on the same day in the same hospital to neighbors. Despite their proximity, the families couldn’t be more different. The Dickersons are like seeds that can’t seem to take hold. Often ignoring her two children, Val is consumed with art projects, while husband George constantly leaves home to chase yet another “get rich” scheme. Edwin and Connie Plank, on the other hand, live a stable, God-fearing (and some might say boring) life providing for their five daughters on a farm passed down the family tree for generations.

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Dateline: Hampstead, London, 1851

Twenty-something drawing master William Hartright was passing a pleasant evening en route to his next assignment as a live-in tutor for two young ladies at Limmeridge House when he was accosted by a young woman oddly garbed all in white who begged for his help. She refused to tell him her name, from whence she came or to where she was going. Being a gentleman, he escorted her, as was her design, to the nearest cab stand. Along the way, they chatted—The Woman in White, oddly intense and excitable, and he, curious to find out what he could about this very determined lady in distress.
 
What he did discover was that she knew the family who had hired him but, warm as her feelings seemed to be to the Fairlies, she was sufficiently troubled by another horror to bolt into the procured cab and race off towards her unstated destination. A few minutes later, Mr. Hartright saw another carriage driving recklessly and pulling up short near a policeman. The men in the carriage shouted to the officer—had he seen a woman in white? She had just escaped from their private insane asylum.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet by Fortier

We are all familiar with Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. We also remember the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Finally, I’d be willing to bet that many of you know the Bard’s famous play was set in Verona, Italy. However, here are a few facts that might surprise you. Shakespeare’s telling was the culmination of several previous versions by various other authors. The original lovers were Giuletta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti. There was, indeed, bad blood between the families, and the tale was set in Siena, not Verona. In a new telling, Anne Fortier’s Juliet alternates between a 20th-century pairing of Guiletta and Romeo and their 15th-century alter egos.

Julie Jacobs’ father perishes in an unexplained fire. Two years later, her mother dies in a suspicious auto accident. Fearing harm to toddler Julie and her twin sister Janice, their Aunt Rose whisks the children from Italy to the United States. Together with her live-in assistant Umberto, she raises the girls but for years avoids discussing anything related to the twins’ parents and their untimely demise.

One Amazing Thing by C. B. Divakaruni

One Amazing Thing by C. B. Divakaruni

Do you ever wonder how you might react under extreme duress? Would you rise to the occasion and become an example to those struggling around you or would you withdraw and cower in fear? In One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, nine everyday men and women are put to that exact test as their lives change over the course of one disastrous event.

In advance of a planned trip to India, the above-mentioned people—most solo, but several in pairs—have all chosen this day to go to the consulate in California to obtain a travel visa. As with many bureaucratic departments, the wait is interminable. Graduate student Uma is preparing to visit her parents who have recently moved back to India. In her irritation with the long delay, she ignores the first slight rumble. The second quake, however, rips apart what was only seconds earlier a solid building.

If you like Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree

Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree

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.

Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
Growing up in the flamboyant 1980's, Tracy Ellison is a smart and charming teenager who uses her good looks to attract any boy she wants. With a life of promiscuity as she approaches womanhood, she learns valuable lessons that impels her to examine her reckless lifestyle.

If you like Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree you might like:

Boss Lady by Omar Tyree
Boss Lady by Omar Tyree
(follows Flyy Girl)
Rescued by now successful filmmaker Tracy, Vanessa finds herself immune to Hollywood's parties and smooth-talking players. She is at the top of her game, thoroughly in charge, and taking life strictly on her own terms. She tries to persuade Tracy to film Flyy Girl, and Tracy is prepared to do anything to make sure it's done right. (Adult Fiction)

 

 The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
The Coldest Winter Ever
by Sister Souljah
Ghetto-born, Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, businessminded, and fashionable, Winter knows no restrictions. No one can control her. She's nobody's victim. And her Pops lets her know she deserves the best. No slum jewelry, cheap shoes, or knockoff designer stuff ... Winter knows the Brooklyn streets like she knows the curves of her own body. She maneuvers skillfully, applying all she has learned to come out on top, no matter how dramatically the scenes change. But a cold Winter wind is about to blow her life in a direction she could never have expected. (Adult Fiction)

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The First Part Last
by Angela Johnson
Sixteen-year-old Bobby and his girlfriend, Na, had planned to put their baby, Feather, up for adoption, but Feather becomes impossible to relinquish. (Young Adult Fiction)

 
 

A Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni SimoneA Girl Like Me by Ni-Ni Simone
She's got a voice like Keisha Cole, attitude to burn and is the body-rockin', Bebe-sporting girl everyone in her high school wants to be...or be with. But in real life, sixteen-year-old Elite has a crack-addicted mother, no father in sight, and is secretly raising her sister and two brothers on her own. Now a radio contest has put her up-close-and-personal with mega-hot singer Hanseef and their chemistry is too sizzling for Elite to stop pretending. And as the clock ticks down fast for this hood Cinderella, she has only one shot to save her family and make all of her dreams come true. (Young Adult Fiction)

Glitter by Babygirl Daniels
Glitter
by Babygirl Daniels
Asia Smith is still reeling from her rich father's death, but she looks forward to starting high school with her best friend, Tracey, until she loses Tracey in a fight over a boy who subsequently gets her pregnant and dumps her. (Young Adult Fiction)

 

If you like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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 Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a "simple, yet eloquent parable [that] celebrates the richness of the human spirit. A young Spanish shepherd seeking his destiny travels to Egypt where he learns many lessons, particularly from a wise old alchemist. The real alchemy here, however, is the transmuting of youthful idealism into mature wisdom. The blending of conventional ideas with an exotic setting makes old truths seem new again. This shepherd takes the advice Hamlet did not heed, learning to trust his heart and commune with it as a treasured friend. " (School Library Journal)

If you like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, you may also like these titles:
 

All Over the Map by Laura Fraser.
In following up An Italian Affair, Fraser takes a closer look at her own wanderlust and examines the positive and negative effects it has had on her life, particularly over the past 10 years. For example, the author finds a glorious waterfall in Samoa. "The water is so clear light blue it's possible to see all the way to the bottom, and the bottom is a long way down. I dive in for a swim. this is why I love to travel." But she questions the notion of having it all, or having it all at once, and worries that her desire to explore and her professional success have come at the expense of stability and family. She challenges the ideals of happiness and home she had previously held, adding a layer of depth to a memoir that will excite travelers of the world and the armchair alike. (From Publishers Weekly)
 

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his 'meaningless' life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: 'Why was I here?' (Catalog description)

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

When Smithy Ide was a teenager, his beloved older sister Bethany was diagnosed with schizophrenia and began running away in Ron McLarty's The Memory of Running. Smithy would ride his bike all over town to find her and bring her home. He always found her, until one day, she stayed lost. 

 Now, at 40, Smithy is a loser. He’s fat. He has a crap job – quality control in a Rhode Island factory that makes cheap plastic action figures. He eats junk food and smokes too much and drinks himself into oblivion every night.