August’s Best New Fiction

Summer days, drifting away, and there’s something for everyone’s beach bag this August. It’s hurricane season for Danielle Steel, whose latest, Rushing Waters, explores family and friendship in the face of crisis as a storm takes New York. First-time novelists Imbolo Mbue and Nathan Hill demonstrate skilled storytelling chops (and vivid worldbuilding) despite their freshman status. Philippa Gregory brings the royal drama yet again in Three Sisters, Three Queens, a story of friendship and fierceness. And the always stellar Jacqueline Woodson returns with her first adult novel in 20 years, one that’s well worth the wait.

Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory
Fan favorite Gregory, whose White Princess is being prepped for the small screen by Starz, returns with another lush, vivid take on royal shenanigans, this time in the French court. It focuses on the three princesses of Henry VIII’s reign, Katherine, Mary, and Margaret, future queens of England, Scottland, and France, and the unique bond the trio shared, at once rivals and confidantes, enemies and sisters, amid intrigue, scandal, betrayal, love, and loss on the grandest of scales.

Rushing Waters: A Novel, by Danielle Steel
The tireless Steel is back with a stormy take on love, loss, and the weather, following six seemingly disparate threads as Hurricane Ophelia hits New York City, threatening to upend lives and reveal lies. Middle-aged Ellen tries to reconnect with her designer mother Grace, who refuses to abandon the only life she has ever known. College kids Peter and Ben batten down to enjoy the spectacle, putting their very existence at risk. Charles is losing hope of ever finding his estranged wife and their daughters, lost in the grips of the storm. And Dr. Juliette Dubois struggles to save lives as her hospital is flooded. You’ll be swept away by this one. 

Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
The American dream turns into a nightmare in this debut novel about a young Cameroonian couple trying to get a foothold in fast-paced, cutthroat New York City, circa 2007 on the cusp of the recession that toppled lives and shattered hopes. When Jende Jonga lands a lucky break, becoming chauffeur to Wall Street exec Clark Edwards, he and his wife, Neni, think they’re finally on a solid path to success. But the seamy secrets that lay beneath the polished surface of his boss’s posh Manhattan (and Hamptons) lifestyle soon begin to tarnish the pretty life Jonga envisioned for his immigrant family, putting everything at risk.

The Nix: A Novel, by Nathan Hill
College professor Samuel Anderson-Anderson has long mourned the missing piece in his life—and the mythical Norwegian Nix of the title—his mother, Faye, who disappeared when he was a child. And now, like a vision, she has reappeared, in the aftermath of committing a crime that landed her in the national spotlight. Samuel wants to help her, but how can he reconcile the sweet, unassuming woman he once knew with the hippie radical the media makes her out to be? Doing so will mean unraveling a past cast in shadow, generations of secrets, and the affect the loss of his mother had on his own shattered life. Deft, dark, and sometimes funny, this debut has true emotional heft.

Harmony

Hardcover $23.40 | $26.00

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Harmony, by Carolyn Parkhurst
A dark rumination on the cult of parenting, Parkhurst—author of the bestselling Dogs of Babelexplores in this domestic drama just how far a mother is willing to go to protect one of her children. Suffering from stark genius coupled with severe behavioral issues, Tilly gets kicked out of the last appropriate school in her DC-area hometown, and her mother, Alexandra, decides it’s time for extreme measures. She relocates the family to Camp Harmony, in rural New Hampshire, where child-development guru Scott Bean helps them learn to cope. But the idyllic soon turns horrific, making us ask what lengths we’re willing to go to for our children.

Arrowood

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Arrowood, by Laura McHugh
McHugh, author of The Weight of Blood, delves deep in this gothic ghost story, which visits the Arrowood estate, a sprawling affair on the Iowan banks of the Mississippi. Arden hasn’t been to her old family home in decades—not since her twin sisters disappeared under her watch some 20 years ago. But with her own life in shambles as she inherits the house from her father, she thinks maybe it’s time to return and unbury some old secrets. But the house, and the tiny, close-knit town that holds it, won’t give up their truths so easily. Dark, taut, riveting.

Repo Madness, by W. Bruce Cameron
This follow-up to Cameron’s 2014 mystery The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man finds our titular Ruddy the Repo Man, former football star and ex-con, finally getting it together—good job, nice fiancée, happy dog—until it all starts to fall apart. Then he starts hearing that voice in his head again, holding conversations with dead real estate guy Alan (who would be his future father-in-law, if he wasn’t, you know, dead), who helps him solve the mystery of the death of young Lisa-Marie, who allegedly drowned in a car crash Ruddy caused. Can he clear his name with a little help from the voice in his head?

The Book That Matters Most, by Ann Hood
Known for female friendship–focused weepers, including bestsellers The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread, Hood returns with another nuanced tale about women forming ties that bind, this time through a book club that focuses on finding each member the book that matters most to her. Providence resident and empty nester Ava’s still reeling from her recent divorce when she discovers the group, and through them, begins to heal, even as she unravels the pain of her past and finds the strength to help her struggling daughter.

Christadora, by Tim Murphy
Following the lives of the residents of a storied East Village building over the course of several decades, from the 1980s onward, this novel explores the changing face of a neighborhood and a culture. Centering on the privileged Milly and Jared, their son Mateo, and their family and neighbors, the novel is a textured, layered, tightly woven exploration of the AIDS epidemic and its impact on a community linked by proximity, love, drugs, and pain.

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award winner Woodson returns with her first adult book in 20 years, the lush, meditative Another Brooklyn, a beautiful New York story layered with darkness. Returning to her hometown of Brooklyn upon her father’s death, anthropologist August revisits memories both welcome and occasionally violent. Built as a series of vignettes (like her bestselling memoir brown girl dreaming), the novel explores friendship and first love, fathers and daughters (and missed mothers), empowerment and innocence shattered. Woodson’s 1970s Brooklyn is alive and vivid, a place worth visiting.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Bestselling author Whitehead (The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, and John Henry Days, among others) reinvents the storied underground railroad of pre–Civil War America as the real deal, with tracks and conductors and all the trappings. Following a vicious rape, Cora runs away with fellow slave Caesar, making their way North to the dream of freedom, and chronicling their encounters and the tales of others they meet along the way. They stop in reimagined versions of South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, and other foreign yet familiar lands, all while being chased by a relentless slavecatcher named Ridgeway. Harsh, vivid, timely, and provocative, Railroad reminds us that Whitehead’s vision (while ever changing) is singular, startling, and profound

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