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For Rouenna by Sigrid Nunez


Everything Will Be All Right

Tessa Hadley - 2003
    Joyce watches the two sisters - her aunt's unbending dedication to the life of the mind, her mother worn down by housework - and thinks that each of them is powerless in her own way.For Joyce, art school provides an escape route, and there she falls in love with one of her teachers. When she marries and has children, she is determined to manage her relationship with a new freedom, and to save herself from the mistakes of the previous generation. But her daughter Zoe, growing up, comes to see Joyce as a bourgeois housewife, and when Zoe has a baby of her own, she demands more from motherhood...

Tea by the Sea

Donna Hemans - 2020
    To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child's father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum's circuitous route to find her daughter and how Plum's and the priest's love came apart"--


Suzanne Matson - 2018
    Returning to the American Midwest as a teenager, Kathryn feels alienated and restless. When she loses her mother prematurely to a stroke, she escapes to Oregon for a fresh start. Wanting to continue her education and become a writer, she supports herself as a waitress in wartime America, dating soldiers, then meeting and marrying Finnish-American Carl. A construction worker sixteen years her senior, he is an unlikely match, though appealing in his carefree ways and stark difference from her Mennonite past. But Kathryn ends up feeling trapped in the marriage, her ambitions thwarted. Samantha, who’s grown up in the atmosphere of her mother’s discontent, follows her own career to teach at a university in faraway Boston and maintains a happy family of her own.When Kathryn starts to fail, Samantha moves her mother near her to care for, and then to watch over her deathbed, where “something in the room—the spell, the cord knitting them together—is cut. Or no, that can’t be right, either.” Ultraviolet is a lyrical novel of great emotional depth. Suzanne Matson recognizes both the drama that is within every existence and the strengths and fragilities of our relationships with others. She shines a brilliant light on the complexities of marriage, motherhood, aging, and the end of life.

When the White House Was Ours

Porter Shreve - 2008
    It’s 1976, and while the country prepares to celebrate the bicentennial, Daniel Truitt’s family is falling apart. His father, Pete, has been fired from yet another teaching job, and his mother, Valerie, is one step away from leaving for good. But when Pete lucks into a crumbling mansion in the nation’s capital, he makes a bold plan to start a school under his own roof where students and teachers will be equals. Replete with the wry humor, human insight, and cultural resonance that characterizes Shreve’s critically acclaimed fiction, When the White House Was Ours will be a joy to anyone whose family has lived through an idealistic time and ended up in an era of compromise.

The Sheep Queen

Thomas Savage - 1977
    The Sheep Queen is a Western epic in miniature, the story of Emma Russell Sweringen, known as the Sheep Queen of Idaho ("surely one of the most fascinating characters in current fiction" -- Publishers Weekly); the daughter who disappointed her; the grandson who adored her; and the granddaughter, who was given up for adoption, who spent nearly half her life finding her way back to her family.

Tree of Life

Maryse Condé - 1987
    Now, with Tree of Life, Conde turns her impassioned, epic eye to the chaos and upheaval of the twentieth century. Rapidly shifting back and forth between Guadeloupe and Harlem, moving from Haiti's desperate slums to the exclusive enclaves of the Parisian upper class, this deeply personal story traces one Guadeloupe family's rise from poverty to riches through several generations. The story begins with Albert, the forebear, who leaves an island plantation to work on the Panama Canal and out of the horror of prejudice and oppression, fierily recreates himself as a man of immense wealth. We learn about his sons: Jacob, doomed to carry on his father's business but yearning for a life of his own, and Jean, who rejects the privilege and riches that are his birthright and becomes a martyr to the struggling people of his tragic land; about his granddaughter, Thecla, who tries to find happiness through politics and men; and about Albert II, who meets his puzzling and heartbreaking end an ocean away from his family and his roots. The extraordinary tale is recounted by Coco, a contemporary female descendant, who finally reconciles herself to a past that has haunted her all her life. Like Segu and Children of Segu, Tree of Life is a grand historical pageant, overflowing with the interlocking tales of many lives, teeming with social, cultural, and political details. "Rich and colorful and glorious" was how Maya Angelou described Segu. Tree of Life expands Maryse Conde's unique vision into our time.

The Volunteer

Salvatore Scibona - 2019
    So begins The Volunteer. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie's path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning.With intense feeling, uncommon erudition, and bracing style, Scibona offers at once a pensive exploration of how we are capable of both inventing and discovering our true families and a lacerating interrogation of institutional power at its most commanding and terrifying. An odyssey of loss and salvation ranging across four generations of fathers and sons, The Volunteer is a triumph in the grandest traditions of American storytelling.

A Cure for Dreams

Kaye Gibbons - 1991
    A story that traces the bonds between four generations of resourceful Southern women through stories passed from one generation to another.


Garson Kanin - 1979
    You heard nothing. Unless you heard it from Farber. B.J. Farber was there with them all - from the start with Edison right up to today. He saw it. He lived it. he made a lot of it happen. Wait 'til you hear.


Charlotte Bingham - 1994
    But then, quite unexpectedly, a family tragedy obliges Grace to abandon her artistic talents and enter a life in service at the Hall. In this Upstairs Downstairs world of sadistic housekeepers and drunken butlers there is genuine hardship and drudgery for those employed in servicing the few.But Grace soon discovers that she has another talent when, through the merest chance, she manages to escape from the kitchen to the nursery floor. Here she learns to love Lady Lydiard's children as her own. Here, too, she learns her first lesson as a woman, that passion and sacrifice make awkward bedfellows. But if the love of her life, Brake Merrowby, brings her more sorrow than joy, her love for the children more than compensates for her enforced isolation in their world of muffins and rocking horses. As change reaches out to touch the great house, the realities of war leave their mark on the family. Yet for the children, grown and growing, when they stop to look back at the top-floor window they see only their nanny. Almost as if part of the fabric of the building, Grace grows to become not just the touchstone of their lives but in essence the mistress of the house itself.

No. 4 Imperial Lane

Jonathan Weisman - 2015
    4 IMPERIAL LANE New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman presents an incredible coming-of-age story that stretches across nations and decades, reminding us what it really means to come home.Welcome to Brighton in 1988 and the University of Sussex, where kids sport Mohawks and light up to the otherworldly sounds of the Cocteau Twins, as conversation drifts from structuralism to Thatcher to the bloody Labour Students. Meet David Heller, an American studying abroad who's left the States to escape his own family still mourning the death of a daughter ten years later. To extend his stay, David has taken a job nursing Hans Bromwell. The son of a former MP, and playboy in his day, Hans was left paralyzed by a mysterious accident. When David moves into the Bromwell house, his life becomes quickly entwined with those of Hans, his alcoholic sister Elizabeth, and her beautiful fatherless daughter, as they navigate their new role as fallen aristocracy. As David befriends the Bromwells, the details behind the family's staggering fall from grace are exposed: How Elizabeth's love affair with a Portuguese physician carried the young English girl right into the bloody battlefields of colonial Africa, where an entire continent bellowed for independence, and a single event left a family broken forever."Weisman's prose is clear and evocative with plenty of detail but no unnecessary flourishes. A fresh, enlightening book, complex, emotionally resonant."- Kirkus Reviews

Pictures At An Exhibition

D.M. Thomas - 1993
    A stunning and powerful achievement in which each character's identity is in some way hidden, and the suspense of unmasking them is unmercifully sustained.

The Handsworth Times

Sharon Duggal - 2016
    Factories are closing, unemployment is high, the National Front are marching and the neglected inner cities are ablaze as riots breakout across Thatcher's fractured Britain. The Agarwals are facing their own nightmares but family, pop music, protest, unexpected friendships and a community that refuses to disappear all contribute to easing their personal pain, and that of Handsworth itself.THE HANDSWORTH TIMES is a story of loss and transition, and pulling together because ultimately, there is such a thing as society.

Blue Calhoun

Reynolds Price - 1992
    Short as it lasted and long ago, I've never laid it all out yet, not start to finish. But if I try and half succeed, you may wind up understanding things, choosing a better road for yourself and maybe not blaming the dead past but living for the here and now, each day a clean page." April 28, 1956, was the day Blue Calhoun met a sixteen-year-old girl named Luna. And for the next three decades, their love has borne consequences of the most shattering -- and ultimately, perhaps healing -- kind for everyone they know. As Blue recounts the years and their events for us -- fervently, tenderly, knowing full well his own deep responsibility -- we are made witnesses to a story of classic dimensions, a story of love and suffering, family and friendship, death and redemption.

Bingo Queens of Paradise: A Novel

June Park - 1999
    But as she plans her escape to New York City, turmoil erupts and the demands of family stand between her and her suitcase. Darla must, for the first time in her life, cast an unflinching eye on the hard-to-accept truths regarding love, responsibility, and survival. The Bingo Queens of Paradise lyrically blends a powerful comic voice with a poignant tale of a woman who longs to pursue her dreams.