Book picks similar to
White Widow by Jim Lehrer


fiction
literature
contemporary
novels

American Purgatorio


John Haskell - 2006
    In cool, precise prose, written as both a detective story and a meditation on the seven deadly sins, Haskell tells a story that ranges from the brownstones of New York City to the sandy beaches of Southern California. The novel follows the journey of a man whose object of desire is both heartbreaking and ephemeral, and confirms John Haskell's reputation as "one of those rare authors who makes language seem limitless in its possibilities" (Los Angeles Times).

Machine


Susan Steinberg - 2019
    Machine revolves around a group of teenagers—both locals and wealthy out-of-towners—during a single summer at the shore. Steinberg captures the pressures and demands of this world in a voice that effortlessly slides from collective to singular, as one girl recounts a night on which another girl drowned. Hoping to assuage her guilt and evade a similar fate, she pieces together the details of this tragedy, as well as the breakdown of her own family, and learns that no one, not even she, is blameless.A daring stylist, Steinberg contrasts semicolon-studded sentences with short lines that race down the page. This restless approach gains focus and power through a sharply drawn narrative that ferociously interrogates gender, class, privilege, and the disintegration of identity in the shadow of trauma. Machine is the kind of novel—relentless and bold—that only Susan Steinberg could have written.

sex.lies.murder.fame.


Lolita Files - 2006
    And when boy meets b*#%$, nothing can keep the two of them apart. Penn Hamilton is young, brilliant, beautiful, and ready to take on the world and claim his rightful place in the midst of celebrity. As a Writer. Rapper. Model. God. Unfortunately, the world is not quite ready for him. When Penn writes what he believes to be the "Great American Literary Blockbuster," he's rebuffed at every turn. Faced with ridicule, rejection, and mounting resentment, he decides to fight back using his assets -- rock-star looks, genius IQ, and killer charm.Beryl Unger is a rising star in the publishing world, editor to literati and glitterati alike. Single, plain, obsessive, a bit on the dreamy side, she's a train wreck waiting to happen, and easy prey for a beautiful man with a seductive plan. When Penn meets Beryl, sparks fly. And sparks fly even higher when he meets the breathtaking superstar romance author Sharlyn Tate.Two women, one man. A man with no boundaries, who will stop short at nothing -- even brutal, vicious murder -- to fulfill his desperate ambition. Lolita Files is the author of the bestselling Child of God, which has been optioned as a feature film by Kanye West. Files has a degree in broadcast journalism and lives outside of Los Angeles, where she is currently developing projects for television and film.

Labrador


Kathryn Davis - 1988
    In LABRADOR, Davis conjures two unforgettable sisters. Willie, the elder, is beautiful and wayward. Kitty, the younger, is a loner whose only means of escaping the bewitching influence of her sister is to follow her grandfather to his home in Labrador, where she cannot avoid confronting the demons that haunt her. A tale of two sisters and the ambiguous, sometimes destructive ties that bind them, LABRADOR is a tender meditation on love, its joys, its limitations, and its hidden bitterness.

Peacekeeping


Mischa Berlinski - 2016
    Now Berlinski returns with Peacekeeping, an equally enthralling story of love, politics, and death in the world’s most intriguing country: Haiti.When Terry White, a former deputy sheriff and a failed politician, goes broke in the 2007–2008 financial crisis, he takes a job working for the UN, helping to train the Haitian police. He’s sent to the remote town of Jérémie, where there are more coffin makers than restaurants, more donkeys than cars, and the dirt roads all slope down sooner or later to the postcard sea. Terry is swept up in the town’s complex politics when he befriends an earnest, reforming American-educated judge. Soon he convinces the judge to oppose the corrupt but charismatic Sénateur Maxim Bayard in an upcoming election. But when Terry falls in love with the judge’s wife, the electoral drama threatens to become a disaster.Tense, atmospheric, tightly plotted, and surprisingly funny, Peacekeeping confirms Berlinski’s gifts as a storyteller. Like Fieldwork, it explores a part of the world that is as fascinating as it is misunderstood—and takes us into the depths of the human soul, where the thirst for power and the need for love can overrun judgment and morality.

Going Down


David Markson - 1970
    Three Americans, a man and two women, are living together in obvious intimacy. Their habits, strange to the Mexicans, are strangest of all to themselves.When Fern Winters’ attention is caught by movement behind a window in a run-down Greenwich Village apartment building, she can’t suspect that her encounter with the apartment’s occupant will eventually lead her to be come upon in an abandoned chapel, in a tiny mountain village—clutching the bloody machete with which one of the three has been murdered.Going Down is a rarity among novels—brilliantly and poetically written, faultlessly constructed, centered on fully realized people, and yet completely uninhibited in its depiction of startling eroticism.

The Desert Rose


Larry McMurtry - 1983
    His gift for writing about women—their love for reckless, hopeless men; their ability to see the good in losers; and their peculiar combination of emotional strength and sudden weakness—makes The Desert Rose the bittersweet, funny, and touching book that it is.Harmony is a Las Vegas showgirl with the best legs in town. At night she's a lead dancer in a gambling casino; during the day she raises peacocks. She throws her love away on second-rate men, but wakes up in the morning full of hope. She's one of a dying breed of dancers, faced with fewer and fewer jobs and an even bleaker future. Yet, she maintains a calm cheerfulness in that arid neon landscape of supermarkets, drive-in wedding chapels, and all-night casinos. While Harmony's star is fading, her beautiful, cynical daughter Pepper's is on the rise. But Harmony remains wistful and optimistic through it all. She is the unexpected blossom in the wasteland, the tough and tender desert rose. Hers is a loving portrait that only Larry McMurtry could render.

American Dream Machine


Matthew Specktor - 2013
    It’s a sweeping narrative about fathers and sons, the movie business, and the sundry sea changes that have shaped Hollywood and, by extension, American life.Beau Rosenwald—overweight, not particularly handsome, and improbably charismatic—arrives in Los Angles in 1962 with nothing but an ill-fitting suit and a pair of expensive brogues. By the late 1970s he has helped found the most successful agency in Hollywood. Through the eyes of his son, we watch Beau and his partner go to war, waging a seismic battle that redraws the lines of an entire industry. We watch Beau rise and fall and rise again, in accordance with the cultural transformations that dictate the fickle world of movies. We watch Beau's partner, the enigmatic and cerebral Williams Farquarsen, struggle to contain himself, to control his impulses and consolidate his power. And we watch two generations of men fumble and thrive across the LA landscape, learning for themselves the shadows and costs exacted by success and failure. Mammalian, funny, and filled with characters both vital and profound, American Dream Machine is a piercing interrogation of the role—nourishing, as well as destructive—that illusion plays in all our lives."Specktor's book deserves a special space in the L.A. canon, somewhere looking up at Pynchon and Chandler. Even as the narrator searches through his past to uncover the truth about his family, the author is searching, too."—LA Weekly"...Matthew Specktor's American Dream Machine [is] a big and generous novel that functions both as elegy for a recent past and fictional anthropology . . . .it evokes a world with casual ease and unexpected tenderness, recalling and referencing lots of other fiction (both Hollywood and non) while contriving to establish its unique authority."—LA Review of Books "With coolness and precision, Specktor comes across as a West Coast Saul Bellow in this sweeping narrative, but his energetic, pop-infused prose is markedly his own."—Booklist

Indiana, Indiana


Laird Hunt - 2003
    On this dark and lovely winter night, he will sift through the shards of his memories, trying to make sense of a lifetime of psychic visions and his family’s tumultuous history on an Indiana farmstead.As a young man, Noah, a true innocent, fell deeply in love with Opal, a young woman with a penchant for flames. Once married, the couple move into their own house on his family’s farm. After forty-two idyllic days, Opal is overcome by her fascination with fire and institutionalized. Though Noah embarks on a journey to save her, he cannot, and must instead rely on her letters, his memories, and the strength of his family to sustain him.Written in a masterful elegiac style that echoes Faulkner and Steinbeck, Indiana, Indiana is a compellingly beautiful and surreal Midwestern saga firmly grounded in an Indiana landscape populated by farmers, drifters, sheriffs, and ministers, and overflowing with musical saws, family bibles stuffed with flowers, and appliances rusting in the fields.

My Kind of People


Lisa Duffy - 2020
    Back on the island and struggling to balance his new responsibilities and his marriage to his husband, Leo is supported by a powerful community of neighbors, many of them harboring secrets of their own.Maggie, who helps with Sky’s childcare, has hit a breaking point with her police chief husband, who becomes embroiled in a local scandal. Her best friend Agnes, the island busybody, invites Sky’s estranged grandmother to stay for the summer, straining already precarious relationships. Their neighbor Joe struggles with whether to tell all was not well in Sky’s house in the months leading up to the accident. And among them all is a mysterious woman, drawn to Ichabod to fulfill a dying wish.Perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Leary, My Kind of People is a riveting, impassioned novel about the resilience of community and what connects us all in the face of tragedy.

Glass


Sam Savage - 2011
    The demands of the living things – a rat, fish, ferns – compete for Edna's attention with long-repressed memories. Day by day pages of seemingly random thoughts fall from her typewriter. Gradually taking shape within the mosaic of memory is the story of a remarkable marriage and of a mind pushed to its limits.Is Edna’s memoir a homage to her late husband or an act of belated revenge? Was she the cultured and hypersensitive victim of a crass and brutally ambitious husband, or was he the caretaker of a neurotic and delusional wife? The reader must decide.The unforgettable characters in Savage's two hit novels Firmin and The Cry of the Sloth garnered critical acclaim, selling a million copies worldwide. In Edna, once again Sam Savage has created a character marked by contradiction--simultaneously appealing and exasperating, comical and tragic.

The Testimony of Taliesin Jones


Rhidian Brook - 1996
    His mother has run off with her hairdresser. His father has taken to talking to the walls, but at least he's talking, as his brother has gone entirely mute. At school, Julie Dyer blows confusing smoke rings at him and Hoop the Mental says there is no God. When Taliesin tries to find this out for sure no one seems to have the answer-no one except Billy Evans, an old man with an exceptional and miraculous talent.

Where No Gods Came


Sheila O'Connor - 2003
    . . remains a consummate artist, true to her vision of a work that is bleak, truthful, and lacking any overt sentimental overtures. Her eye, a poet's eye, misses nothing."---three candles". . . a touching odyssey of a girl poised between the emotional abyss and the reader's heart."---Minneapolis Star-Tribune"A sensitive, often disquieting book that rings true throughout. . . . It's the skill of an accomplished writer that we see Faina's extraordinary spirit, while simultaneously experiencing her pain and despair. The end result is an uplifting, even inspiring book without any of the sugarcoating often found in stories like this."---California Literary ReviewWhere No Gods Came is author Sheila O'Connor's compelling story of Faina McCoy, a young girl caught in a perilous scheme of elaborate lies created for her own harrowing system of survival. Enmeshed in a tangled family web, Faina is abruptly uprooted against her will from her father and finds herself half a continent away on the doorstep of a mother who abandoned her years before-but who can't live without Faina now. Alone, persecuted, and exploited, Faina must fend for herself as she searches for love and answers, navigating the streets of a strange city and forging bonds of feeling with liars and outlaws.

The Lost Scrapbook


Evan Dara - 1995
    The Lost Scrapbook is a novel that passionately captures the contradictory richness of our historical slot, a time when feelings of belonging and exclusion can do bitter battle. Conjuring an unforgettable variety of voices, the book delves into lives touched by this tension, before it culminates in a confrontation between a trusting city and the local manufacturing company that both sustains and betrays it. Through the use of a prismatic storytelling form, The Lost Scrapbook finds a contemporary answer to the 19th century novel, evoking an entire world in all its richness and diversity. But by embodying the sense that we can best understand our world through witnessing the interworkings of whole communities, it is also something altogether new: The Lost Scrapbook may be the first "holistic" novel.

A Piece of My Heart


Richard Ford - 1976
    Robard Hewes has driven across the country in the service of a destructive passion. Sam Newell is seeking the missing piece of himself. When these men converge, on an uncharted island in the Mississippi, each discovers the thing he's looking for--amid a conflagration of violence that's as shocking as it is inevitable."This is one of those books that hit you hard...a story filled with breathing characters and genius-crafted dialogue between moments of consummate description.... I can't be unbiased. I'm mad for this book."--Elizabeth Ashton, Houston Chronicle