From Miley Cyrus’ tongue and twerkingmaking featured appearances at the VMAs, to imminent U.S. attacks on Syria, to zero Republican elected officials participating in the 50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, it’s been something of a depressing week in the headlines. It also happens to be the back-to-school season. So in the spirit of escaping from reality and hitting the books, this week’s “6 Things” is a list of recommended reading for fall – the best thing in reading lists since summer reading lists. Each book on the list is written by and/or about women.
1. We Are Water, by Wally Lamb. This is an author who “writes women” well, as evidenced by his first novel, She’s Come Undone. In his newest release, due in early October, Lamb writes about the Oh family. The story springs from the planned wedding of Oh-family matriarch, Annie, who has divorced Orion, after 27 years of marriage, to marry Viveca. As the wedding weekend unfolds, so do Annie’s secrets: those of the tragedies she suffered as a child and the mistakes she made as an adult. The vista of this women’s life is sculpted by the first-person accounts of her former husband, current lover, and three children, as well as other characters with unique ties to the Ohs. With Lamb’s sublime talent of crafting rich personalities, it is sure to be an engaging read.
2. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert. The author of uber-sensation Eat, Pray, Love is back, but this time with a novel. Also due in October, The Signature of All Things tells the story of Alma Whittaker, a scholar doomed to singledom until she meets artist Ambrose Pike. They marry, but it is an empty marriage, and Alma ultimately takes off on a journey of self-discovery. Sound familiar? Perhaps, but this global jaunt takes place in the nineteenth century, and covers topics ranging from botany to spiritualism. If anything, read it because everyone else will be, and you’ll want to be part of the conversation. And because Gilbert clearly knows how to plot a narrative of personal epiphany.
3. The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri writes short stories and novels to equal success, both commercial and literary. The Lowland, coming out next month, tells the story of two brothers coming of age in the Calcutta of the late 1960s. Inseparable since birth, their paths ultimately diverge when one chooses to pursue his Ph.D. in Rhode Island while the other stays in India. He joins the Mao-inspired Naxalite movement, which demands justice for the poor, secretly marries a woman of his own choosing, and descends ever deeper into the revolutionary underground. The story becomes an exploration of the ties that bind parents to children, siblings to each other, and idealists to their cause. No one weaves those fibers better than Lahiri.
4. With or Without You, by Domenica Ruta. This memoir is the literary debut of Ruta, published in February. She tells the story of her drug-addicted mother, the substances they shared, and the chaotic life she lived in her mother’s shadow, bouncing from school to school and dependency to dependency. Ranked among Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, the book seems guaranteed to be as addictive as its subject matter.
5. May We Be Forgiven, by A.M. Homes. Winner of the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction, May We Be Forgiven is described as a dark comedy about second chances. It is another tale of two brothers, these two of the competitive and distant variety. The younger finds himself caring for the elder’s two sons, and the novel documents his struggles to create the family that destiny, not biology, provided him.
6. The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan. Acclaimed author of The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan returns in November to tell the tale of three generations of women in locales from Shanghai to rural China to San Francisco. The tale is more than geographically diverse; it traces the women’s lives as courtesans, abused wives, and estranged parents. It also reportedly ends right where the sequel is predicted to take off.
Happy reading, and don’t forget to check back next week for the “6 Things” you’ll need to know!
Associate Editor Abby Diaz is a mother, wife and lawyer who shares her opinions and her sarcasm while blogging about current events at What’s Left Over. Hailed by readers as “hilarious,” “insightful” and “related to me,” she is sure to cover a subject that resonates with you. Assuming you care about things like life, entertainment, and/or family. If reading full paragraphs is too much for you, enjoy Abby over at Facebook or Twitter.
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