April’s Best New Fiction

Spring is in the air, the ground has thawed, and April’s literary offerings will have you digging deep, with rich family sagas that center on home and holding tight to your corner of the world in the face of change. Look forward to American-set historical novels from favorites like Anna Quindlen, Kathleen Grissom, Jane Hamilton, and Leila Meacham; a Pride and Prejudice retelling from Curtis Sittenfeld; and a sophomore novel from Charles Bock that will leave you in tears. 

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Bestseller Sittenfeld, best known for Prep and American Wife, takes on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist. Her story centers on thirtysomething New York City magazine writer Liz, who returns home to Cincinnati along with her sister, Jane, when their father falls ill. Their sprawling Tudor is a mess, their younger sisters still live at home, and Mama Bennett is bent on marrying off at least some of her five daughters, each a modern mess in her own way. The distraction and romantic catalyst here is the arrival of hot doctor Chip Bingley, fresh off a Bachelor-esque reality show, dragging his awkward pal, gifted surgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, along for the ride. A must-read for Austen aficionados and fans of a modern love story well told.

Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen
In her eighth novel, Pulitzer Prize winner Quindlen—author of Object Lessons and Still Life With Bread Crumbs—delves deep into the lives of the Miller clan, settled in 1960s rural Pennsylvania, in this family saga that explores the darkness beneath the idyllic surface of small-town life as a flood threatens to sweep away everything they’ve known and loved. Narrated by bright teen Mimi, it’s a rumination on commitment, loyalty, ambition, and, at its heart, family.

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
In this long-awaited companion to her 2010 bestseller The Kitchen House, Grissom centers on former slave Jamie Pyke, who escaped the Virginia Plantation where he was held and is passing as a wealthy white silversmith in posh Philadelphia. There, he’s thriving—and soon to be a new father—when his beloved servant Pan is captured and sold into slavery. As his secret is discovered and his new life shatters, Jamie decides to risk it all to free Pan—even if that means risking re-capture.

Now and Again

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Now And Again, by Charlotte Rogan
Paranoia? I don’t think so! From the bestselling author of The Lifeboat comes this fast-paced drama about middle-aged Maggie Rayburn, a secretary at a munitions plant, who accidentally discovers a major coverup about radioactive weapons with horrific longterm effects that sets her on a path to justice. Her story parallels that of Army captain and heir Penn Sinclair, bent on exposing the truth about the Iraq war. Quick, rich, and timely, Rogan’s tale offers an unflinching look at the military complex and the war wounds it leaves on all of us.

Titans, by Leila Meacham
The drama is as big as Texas in this sprawling saga from Roses author Meacham. Fraternal twins Nathan and Samantha were separated at birth by their self-absorbed mama Millicent, who gave Samantha up for adoption. The girl grew up as a wealthy heiress, while Nathan grew up as a farm hand. Their birth father reunites them at 20 with an opportunity that could just be black gold. But the rift runs deep in this clan, and money brings its own traumas. A fun, soapy story (Dallas, anyone?), rich with details about early twentieth-century Texas.

The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
Set in Wisconsin at the turn of the 21st century, Hamilton’s latest has a throwback, hand-crafted feel. It tells the story of farm girl Mary Frances, who frets as she witnesses the sea change that might just mean the end of her beloved family orchard. It has existed four generations, and if Francie has anything to say about it, will stoically carry on in the face of a literally shifting landscape. Chronicling a vanishing lifestyle, this coming of age story is poignant and tender, with some bumpy lessons for all of us along the way.

Miss Julia Inherits A Mess, by Ann B. Ross
In book 17 in Ross’s long-running series, southern charmer Miss Julia finds herself named the executor of Mattie Freeman’s will after the woman dies in an unfortunate accident. Then a young man shows up, claiming to be Freeman’s long-lost nephew and demanding to live in the apartment Miss Julia’s charged with inventorying while he writes a family history. But Miss Julia’s no fool: something’s going on here, and she’s going to get to the bottom of it.

Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
This promising debut traces the journey of three women based on real historical figures through the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, during which their lives intersect at a concentration camp for women. Socialite Caroline, a spinster at 37, does charity work at the French consulate. Former Girl Guide Kasia finds herself in an underground youth group when Nazis seize her Polish hometown and take her to the camp. And young doctor Herta is a German stalwart and Nazi who ends up working at the camp, experimenting on inmates like Kasia. Engrossing and sometimes grisly, Kelly’s Girls is heavy with historic detail and shades of gray.

The Railwayman’s Wife, by Ashley Hay
The setting is post–World War II coastal Australia, and the newly widowed Anikka, now a single mother, is trying to hold things together, and hold onto hope. She finds it in the form of a poem, and falls headfirst in love with both the words and, perhaps, their author, Roy, a returned soldier who’s battling demons of his own. A vividly drawn, simmering tale of the risks of living, which asks the question, how do you survive after such loss?

Alice & Oliver, by Charles Bock
Bock, author of the critically acclaimed Beautiful Children, is back with this cutting look at a family in crisis, based on his own experience with his late wife. It’s New York in the early 1990s, and Alice and Oliver are the picture of the chic young family—she a fashion designer and new mother, he a fledgling businessman. Then comes the cancer diagnosis that shatters them, as Oliver attempts to unravel the maze of the health care system, and Alice tries to just hold herself together, physically and mentally. Be forewarned: this one will wreck you.

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