The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
Six days a week, in rural North Carolina in 1929, Ella May Wiggins, mother of four, makes a two-mile trip to American Mill No. 2 where she works a night shift earning nine dollars for a 72-hour week. The mill is a prime target for burgeoning union activities with the promise of better working conditions and better pay; Ella May is all for unionizing, but at what cost to her family, friends, and community? Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly writes her nephew telling the story of his courageous grandmother, revealing the events that led up to one fateful night in 1929 that changed everything. Other voices weave in and out, telling Ella May’s story, a story based on actual people and events, and the origins of the American Labor Movement in this soulful novel with gorgeous prose and carefully drawn characters, belying the sorrow and tragedy it relates. A www.libraryreads.org/ pick for October.
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This prequel to Practical Magic takes readers back a generation to the 1950’s and 1960’s when the three Owens children are born and raised in New York City, warned by their mother Susanna to charges her children to stay away from her hometown in Massachusetts, avoid moonlight, Ouija Boards, red shoes, Downtown Manhattan, and never fall in love. Franny, Jet, and Vincent know they are different from other children, but don’t realize there family, especially women, have been cursed since 1620 when their ancestor was accused of being a witch because she loved the wrong man. Franny, the eldest, is the most brooding with her pale skin and shocking red hair; Jet is the beauty and can intuit what others are thinking; Vincent, more of a free spirit, has been doing his own thing since he was born. When Franny turns seventeen she is summoned by her aunt Isabelle to come to the Owens’s home town. She brings her brother and sister, setting each on a dangerous course, courses that will change their lives and the lives of those they love. There is something magical about the way Alice Hoffman writes, as she guides these three siblings from childhood to adulthood, as they learn to live, and to love and above all, be true to themselves. A www.libraryreads.org/ pick for October.
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Daphne Parrish is leading the perfect life: or so Amber thinks. Daphne is pretty enough, has a lovely house on the Connecticut shore, is married to billionaire Jackson Parrish who seems to adore her, and has two bright young daughters. And Amber wants her life, or at least her husband. Amber finds a way to insinuate herself into Daphne’s life by claiming she, like Daphne, had a sister who died of Cystic Fibrosis, first being part of a fund raiser for the CF foundation Daphne started and runs, and then by becoming the best friend Daphne so desperately needs, all the while plotting to become the next Mrs. Parrish, leaving Daphne and her two daughters out in the cold. Little by little, Amber works her way into Jackson Parrish’s life, first as his assistant at work and then in his bed, all the while not knowing the terrible secret Daphne harbors, and not knowing that Daphne in turn knows the dirty secret Amber has been hiding, two secrets that will ruin everything for both women if they let them. Written by sisters, this intricately plotted book has characters as despicable as they come and characters who will be sympathized with even though they seem to have it all. Fast-paced, the narrative propels this book forward toward one final “gotcha”. A www.libraryreads.org/ pick for October.
The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison
M.J. Stark thinks she has it all: she’s about to be appointed editor-in-chief at her dream job at a New York City magazine and a gorgeous doctor for a boyfriend, though he does live on the West Coast. When her promotion doesn’t happen exactly as planned, M.J. takes off for Pearl Beach, California, convincing herself and others that she has given up her career to live with her true love Dan. M.J. finds herself at loose ends in California and becomes friendly with Dan’s next-door neighbor Gloria, who readers know was part of a Dirty Book Club fifty years before. When Gloria’s husband dies unexpectedly, she jets off to Paris to fulfill the promise the club members made to each other to live in Paris together when they were all single. Each of the original (and only) four members of the Dirty Book Club have chosen a young woman to take her place in the club and M.J. finds herself invited to be a member along with Addie, the wild one of the group, Jules, the romantic, and Britt, the hard-working mother and wife who doesn’t realize what is going on under her own roof. The four women are as different as oil and water and have no real interest in getting to know each other or in keeping the club together, but little by little, each grudgingly realizes they need a change in their life and begin to confide in one another and learn to be honest with each other and themselves. Readers see M.J. as the main protagonist work through why she left New York and came to California, and what she must do in order to be true to herself and her dreams. Harrison’s first adult novel sometimes has a high school mean girl feel to it, and the only insight readers get into the original women of the DBC is through letters each left in specific books, but overall is a breezy, fast-paced read with a certain amount of appeal.
The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is a born police officer and working in her hometown of Smithson in Australia gives her an edge, as she knows a lot of the history and secrets of the residents. She is not as disciplined in her personal life, however, living with the father of her young son, resisting his requests to get married, and carrying on an affair with her married partner Felix. Rosalind Ryan, an English teacher at the school where she taught English and drama, and that she attended with Gemma, is found floating in the lake, her body surrounded with red roses, on the night after her triumphant production of her retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The town is stunned, and no one can believe Rose was murdered, but her death opens up long repressed memories for Gemma and she is forced to revisit her high school years to try and learn what she is missing, the events and actions that might have lead up to this ten years later. Gemma’s past and present are about to collide in unexpected ways as she must struggle to finally come to terms with her ex-boyfriend’s suicide, the mess she and Felix are making of their personal lives, and uncover Rose’s secrets, past and present, to solve her murder, in this taut debut novel with a complex, yet sympathetic protagonist.
If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams
Irini Harringford’s parents gave her away to live with her aunt and uncle when she was three-years-old though she has never been told why. Irini has tried to live a normal life, is now a doctor, and has tried not to worry about why she was given away instead of her older sister Elle. Irini and Elle were never close, either as sisters or cousins, though Elle has appeared at different times throughout Irini’s life, mostly causing trouble for Irini, though it seems at the time Elle has come to her rescue. After six years, Irini thinks she has exercised Elle from her life when she gets a phone call from Elle that their mother has died and Irini should come to Scotland for the funeral. Hoping to put her past to bed once and for all, Irini makes the journey but realizes that her sister still has a hold over Irini and she finds herself drawn back into her family’s history of secrets and lies, and becomes determined to find the truth about why she was given away, even though it is much more complicated and twisted than she ever imagined. The tension builds as Irini’s past is slowly revealed, culminating in a secret few will have seen coming.
Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
Noah Sadler has lived with childhood cancer for most of his life. In and out of treatments, when he is finally able to return to school he feels like an outsider except for Abdi Mahad, a Somali immigrant, who immediately befriends him and the two become best friends. Now, the night of Noah’s father’s controversial photography exhibit, Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi the only witness and Abdi appears to be in shock and isn’t, or can’, tell anyone what happened. Detective Inspector Jim Clemo, just back from leave after his last tragic case, is assigned to investigate what looks like a terrible accident. As Clemo investigates, he sees the incident is not as cut and dried as it looks, and learns there may be a deeper connection to Edward Sadler’s latest photo exhibit of refugee camps than anyone suspected. Two families are in pain, over the potential loss of Noah and over the tragedy of Abdi being with him at the time of the accident and the loss of his best friend. Accusations begin tearing apart the community, making each family face truths they were not ready to reveal to anyone, including themselves, but must do in order to heal. This heartbreaking novel is satisfying on many levels: a well-paced mystery, psychological suspense, and empathetic characters in impossible situations facing impossible dilemmas.