The Good Son by Michael Gruber
Gruber's last two novels were about a forged Velzquez painting and an undiscovered Shakespeare play. Readers considering this one may wonder how well an author of art-historical thrillers will handle collisions between East and West, faith and unbelief, and Islam and Christianity. Those who have read it will ask a different question: Is there anything Gruber can't write about? In this richly layered tale, Sonia Laghari's attempt to convene a conference in Pakistan called "Conflict Resolution on the Subcontinent: A Therapeutic Approach" goes awry when the conferees are abducted by jihadis and told that one of them will be beheaded after each fresh infidel outrage. In the U.S., Sonia's commando son, Theo, instigates a plot to bring about a military-backed rescue. But Sonia, with her wiles and her understanding of her captors, just might rescue herself. That's the simple outline, but one of many pleasures in The Good Son is the way Gruber confounds simple explanations. Sonia, for example, is a Catholic Pole who converted to Islam before writing books that scandalized the Islamic world. She practices both religions without compunction and is a Jungian psychologist, to boot. And, before he became a shooter for the U.S. Intelligence Support Detachment, Theo was a mujahedeen hero in Afghanistan. (Trust us, it works.) The pace here isn't as rapid as usual, and much of the story is told in flashback or as discourse. But there are twists and tension aplenty-ideas, too. If only governments were half as interested in the psychology of violence, maybe war itself might become a work of fiction. by Keir Graff for Booklist.
My Hollywood by Mona Simpson
"Step into the glittering lives of Hollywood America, as scrubbed, wiped, and polished by immigrant women. It's so refreshing that a book can be this poignant, satirical, and heartbreaking at once. You might find yourself laughing at your own life as you read what the help says and thinks behind the backs of American housewives. You'll wonder at the intricate system of the modern household--where one mother pays another to give her children love. It illuminates the differences between American and immigrant mothers--until you realize how alike we are! The vivid accents and the vibrant voices of the children continue to ring in my ear. I loaned it to my mom and she took it to Mississippi with her and won't send it back. I'll be buying a copy of my own." By Kathryn Stockett for amazon.com
The Quickening by Michelle Hoover
Hoover's powerful debut tells the story of the intertwined fortunes of two early 20th-century Midwestern farm women. From the time Enidina Current and her husband, Frank, move into the hardscrabble farmhouse a day's wagon ride away from Enidina's family, their closest neighbors, Jack and Mary Morrow, perplex them, though their proximity and shared farm work often bring the two couples together. Sharing the narrative, stoic Enidina struggles through several miscarriages before finally bearing twins, while the more delicate Mary reels from disappointment, most of all in her volatile husband. Moving through the Depression, the families are driven farther apart from each other, even while Mary's youngest spends most of his time in the Current household, until an accident and a betrayal drive the final wedge into their lives. In this finely wrought and starkly atmospheric narrative, Hoover's characters carry deep secrets, and their emotions are as intense as the acts of nature that shape their world. From Publishers Weekly.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Mitchell's rightly been hailed as a virtuoso genius for his genre-bending, fiercely intelligent novels Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas. Now he takes something of a busman's holiday with this majestic historical romance set in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan, where young, nave Jacob de Zoet arrives on the small manmade island of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor as part of a contingent of Dutch East Indies officials charged with cleaning up the trading station's entrenched culture of corruption. Though engaged to be married in the Netherlands, he quickly falls in hopeless love with Orito Aibagawa, a Dutch-trained Japanese midwife and promising student of Marinus, the station's resident physician. Their courtship is strained, as foreigners are prohibited from setting foot on the Japanese mainland, and the only relationships permitted between Japanese women and foreign men on Dejima are of the paid variety. Jacob has larger trouble, though; when he refuses to sign off on a bogus shipping manifest, his stint on Dejima is extended and he's demoted, stuck in the service of a vengeful fellow clerk. Meanwhile, Orito's father dies deeply in debt, and her stepmother sells her into service at a mountaintop shrine where her midwife skills are in high demand, she soon learns, because of the extraordinarily sinister rituals going on in the secretive shrine. This is where the slow-to-start plot kicks in, and Mitchell pours on the heat with a rescue attempt by Orito's first love, Uzaemon, who happens to be Jacob's translator and confidant. Mitchell's ventriloquism is as sharp as ever; he conjures men of Eastern and Western science as convincingly as he does the unscrubbed sailor rabble. Though there are more than a few spots of embarrassingly bad writing (How scandalized Nagasaki shall be, thinks Uzaemon, if the truth is ever known), Mitchell's talent still shines through, particularly in the novel's riveting final act, a pressure-cooker of tension, character work, and gorgeous set pieces. It's certainly no Cloud Atlas, but it is a dense and satisfying historical with literary brawn and stylistic panache. From Publishers Weekly.