This month is packed with new releases from fan favorites Jennifer Weiner, Elin Hilderbrand, Elizabeth Gilbert, Kate Atkinson and more. Let the decades fall away as you immerse yourself in historical fiction set in Manhattan in the 1940s, Detroit in the 1950s, a beachside town in the summer of 1969, and a suburb in the 1970s. If you’re headed to a college or high school reunion this year, you’ll want to pack The Friends We Keep for the trip, all about a trio of former besties who attended University together and must now sift through the wreckage of the intervening years.
Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand
You’ll be forgiven if you didn’t know this was Hilderbrand’s first historical; in her expert hands, the titular summer comes to life in vivid colors. The story centers on 13-year-old Jessie, who spends her summer vacation at grandma’s house in Nantucket. With her three older siblings forging their own paths, unwilling or unable to join Jessie at the annual getaway, the teen feels out of sorts, and that feeling only increases as the country around her undergoes massive change, all set against the backdrop of Civil Rights protests, space travel, and political scandals.
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Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner
Older sister Josette (Jo) and younger sister Elisabeth (Bethie) Kaufman grew up in Detroit in the 1950s, but that’s only the beginning this story, which spans the totality of their lives, interspersed with the growth of feminism during the past 60 years. Through adolescence, college, travel, marriage and motherhood (or not), through a great many changes and upheavals happening all around them, the siblings strive to find their place in a world that often doesn’t know what to do with women—especially women who question their roles in society. Though Jo and Bethie are specific in their experiences and viewpoints, they are also stand-ins for all women—their struggles are eminently relatable, and Weiner’s writing is exquisite.
City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
After her warmhearted artist-advice book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert returns to the loving arms of fiction with a look at the New York theatre world of the 1940s. Our octogenarian narrator, Vivian Morris, recounts the era that meant the most to her with gusto, good humor, and occasional regret. Having been kicked out of Vassar at 19, young Vivian moves in with her Aunt Peg in Manhattan and joins the eccentric family of misfits that make up the Lily Playhouse in midtown. Full of showgirls, first experiences, wartime heartache, true love, and hard-won acceptance, Girls looks to be a triumphant and moving story about finding one’s true self.
Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel
A single mom whose three children are now grown, photographer Maddie Allen finds her world thrown out of alignment when she suffers an accident that causes her to look back on her life and wonder: what if she’d made different choices, particularly regarding the men who came and went in her life? Determined to revisit the past with an eye toward her future, Maddie sets off on a cross-country road trip. From the east coast to the midwest and beyond, she reconnects with lost loves and attempts to figure out whether her decisions brought her and her family to the right place.
Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson
It’s been nine years since the previous Jackson Brodie mystery, but at long last the former military policeman turned P.I. is back with a new case that tests his personal and professional relationships like never before. What starts off as a routine “cheating spouse” case spreads like a disease into a broader murder-and-human trafficking case in the small coastal town where Brodie and his teenage son Nathan have been spending time together. The grim subject matter is balanced by Atkinson’s trademark wit and sympathetic, life-affirming characters.
The Summer Guests, by Mary Alice Monroe
Summer wouldn’t be summer without a new Monroe book to take to the beach. This year, however, her characters won’t be spending much time relaxing in the sand; it’s hurricane season along the South Carolina and Florida coasts, and a group of strangers find themselves seeking shelter at Grace and Charles Phillips’ horse farm in the mountains of North Carolina. The only thing the evacuees have in common is their relationship with their hosts. Whether bonding over their difficult circumstances or clashing over the personal issues they’ve all brought with them, working together to survive the storm will prove to be life-changing for each guest.
The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
A remarkably rich debut set in the Chicago suburbs from the 1970s to present-day, Fun chronicles the lives of the four adult Sorenson sisters (widowed Wendy, “perfect” Violet, neurotic Liza, and secretive Grace) and their parents, David and Marilyn, whose seemingly perfect marriage is perceived by their daughters as impossible to live up to (and they may be right). By the time you finish this unputdownable family saga, you’ll believe you’re a member of the Sorenson’s Illinois clan.
The Friends We Keep, by Jane Green
A reunion among three college friends forms the heart of this novel about the plans we make when we’re young versus the life we’re living a few decades on. When supermodel Evvie, actor Topher, and “perfect wife” and PR guru Maggie were roommates in the mid-1980s at West Country University in England, the world was their collective oyster. Thirty years later, career destruction, relationship burnout, and marital heartache have broken them. Having lost touch with each other (as well as their previous hopes for the future), the trio re-connect, only to realize that secrets from their past are about to resurface as well.