Right about now, as winter’s chill sets in, we could all use a day at the beach. The following five stories whisk us away to sunny vistas and ocean-swept sands, reminding us that no matter how distant it seems, summer will return. Whether it’s California, Australia, or the Jersey Shore, why not take a mini-vacation? No need to step on a plane—just step into a book.
What I Had Before I Had You, by Sarah Cornwell
“I am floating on my back out past the farthest buoy. If I turn my head, I can see the beach…The world appears and vanishes, is and isn’t.” Olivia’s mother has always claimed Olivia’s twin sisters were dead, but one day at the beach she sees them swim by: two redheaded girls she knows instinctively. Twenty years later, broke and divorced, Olivia returns to the Jersey Shore with her own children in tow. Then her son vanishes from her side, sparking memories of the fateful summer she set out to find the truth about the twins and almost tore her family apart in the process.
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Let Me Be Frank With You, by Richard Ford
“Everyman” Frank Bascombe has been beloved by readers ever since 1986, when he first appeared in The Sportswriter. Subsequent books followed Frank as he recovered from divorce, gave up writing for real estate, and generally grappled with the changes of middle age. In this final installment Frank takes stock, facing up to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy as well as the wreckage of his personal history. Age has mellowed him, as when he visits his ex-wife in a nursing home and recalls, movingly, the long-ago arc of their attraction. A deft, fitting finale to Frank’s saga.
Breath, by Tim Winton
Halfway around the world on Australia’s western coast, two teenage boys look for trouble and find it. Twelve-year-old Bruce “Pikelet” Pike and his friend Loonie will do anything to conquer boredom. One day they see a man riding a tremendous wave, his head “thrown back as if he’d just finished singing an anthem,” and they’re hooked. The surfer, Sando, soon takes the boys under his wing, but he’s a savage mentor, daring them to ever-greater risks. When Pikelet balks at surfing a shipwrecking rock known as the Nautilus, Sando abandons him—a betrayal that has tragic consequences.
The Lobster Kings, by Alexi Zentner
With echoes of King Lear and medieval fairytales, The Lobster Kings is a quirky, one-of-a-kind book. The Kings have ruled Loosewood Island ever since ancestor Brumfitt (whose wife may have been a selkie, half woman and half seal) arrived there to fish. Present-day descendant and lobsterman Woody Kings works mightily to protect the island, which he plans to turn over to his daughter Cordelia. But dangers abound, including poachers and drug smugglers, and Cordelia is brave to the point of foolhardiness as she tries to prove herself equal to the male boat captains. After 300 years of rule, will the family see their kingdom fall?
The Girls from Corona del Mar, by Rufi Thorpe
When 15-year-old Mia needs to skip a softball game, she tells her best friend, Lorrie Ann, “You’re going to have to break one of my toes,” and calmly hands her a hammer. That mix of fearlessness and bad judgment (why not just fake a stomachache?) makes Mia an unforgettable heroine, if not always a nice one. Over the years, kind, beautiful Lorrie Ann plays angel to Mia’s devil until repeated tragedies—involving Lorrie Ann’s disabled son and the death of her soldier husband—force both girls out of their tidy roles and into the messiness of life. Thorpe perfectly captures the rhythms of female friendship in this riveting debut.
What books are keeping you warm this winter?