On rainy days in fall, there’s nothing better than curling up with a hefty book. Family sagas promise us book lovers a special kind of comfort: a nice, leisurely read that won’t end too soon. So make yourself some hot tea, pull up the comfy chair, and sink into one of these epic, heartfelt tales:
Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jane Smiley returns to the fictional town of Denby, Iowa, to follow the lives of the Langdon family. The first book of a projected trilogy that will span 100 years, Some Luck opens in 1920, as Walter and Rosanna Langdon give birth to their first child and battle to keep their farm going through the Great Depression. Though life is hard, they’re bolstered by their commitment to the land and a time-honored set of values. As their five children—Frank, Joe, Lillian, Henry, and Claire—grow up and for the most part reject farm life, scattering across the country, we see the large-scale changes sweeping across America itself. Whether it’s the nitty-gritty details of plowing a field or the finer points of family relationships, Smiley writes with great empathy and wisdom.
We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
Eileen Tumulty is the only child of alcoholic parents, first-generation Irish immigrants who will never have more than what they have now: grueling blue-collar work and an apartment in Queens. When Eileen’s father pawns her mother’s ring to bet on the horses, her mother warns her, “Don’t ever love anyone…. All you’ll do is break your own heart.” But Eileen is determined not to make her parents’ mistakes. She falls in love with and marries Ed, a neuroscientist, and sets her sights on a home in upscale Westchester County. When Ed has other priorities, preferring pure research over well-paid corporate jobs, it’s just the first in a series of blows to Eileen’s ambition. Over the course of six decades she struggles heroically to lead the life she wants, rather than the life she was given.
A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein
Part ghost story, part coming-of-age, A Sudden Light centers around a family that made their fortune ravaging the land. Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell’s ancestor, Elijah, was a timber baron who oversaw the destruction of huge swaths of forest and, as his legacy, built a mansion overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s soon-to-be-divorced parents care little for history: they plan to send his grandfather to a nursing home, sell Riddell House, and divide the profits. But as Trevor soon discovers, Riddell House is a magical place imbued with the spirit of the trees and of his ancestors. If he can face the secrets of his family’s past, he just may be able to save their future.
Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin
Toibin excels at creating prickly, independent female characters, and Nora Webster is one of his most memorable yet. Nora is forty years old and has four children to provide for when her husband dies of an illness. The tight-knit community of Wexford, Ireland, quickly gathers round her, but their well-meaning interference isn’t what she needs. Rather than sympathy, she’d like some no-nonsense advice on how to pay her bills and carry on now that she’s a widow—exactly the sort of thing no one talks about. That Nora is flawed and makes mistakes, especially when handling her grief-stricken sons, only adds to her humanity. In the end, hers is a story of quiet triumph as she slowly and surely rediscovers herself.
What good, long books have you been losing yourself in lately?