May’s Best New Fiction

This month kicks off summer beach read season and we couldn’t be more delighted by the historical fiction and sweeping family sagas in our TBR pile. Whether you’re in the mood for a lowcountry tale of two sisters intrigued by the same widow, a murder mystery in high society Baltimore, or tales of resistance in Nazi Germany, there’s plenty to keep you company while the waves crash against the shore.

The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
Following the success of The Postmistress, Sarah Blake is back with a gripping new historical novel that depicts three generations of a privileged American family. The Miltons embody the American dream in a manner not seen since the Gettys or Vanderbilts. In the 1930s, they purchased Crockett Island off the coast of Maine as a summertime getaway. Each generation since has enjoyed the secluded, gorgeous setting, but eventually the family wealth dries up and the fate of the homestead rests in the hands of three cousins, each with separate agendas. The island’s origin is steeped in misery—but what, if anything, will the newest generation do to mitigate the sins of the past?

Queen Bee, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Fans of Frank will be delighted to re-visit Sullivan’s Island for the author’s twentieth tale, set as always in lowcountry South Carolina. Sibling rivalry rears its head when beekeeper / librarian Holly’s newly separated sister, Leslie, sweeps back into town to wreak havoc. Leslie has set her sights on Holly’s widowed neighbor, Archie, father of two. Problem is, he’s the same man whose young kids Holly has come to view as a key component of her happiness and purpose. Add the sisters’ hypochondriac mother to the mix and you’ve got a warm family saga and pitch-perfect beach read.

Blessing in Disguise, by Danielle Steel
If you loved the Mamma Mia films, you’ll devour Steel’s latest in a single weekend. Isabelle McAvoy has loved, lost, and lived to fight another day as the single mother of three daughters. Each daughter has a different father, and the relationships that produced them are as disparate as the circumstances that brought them into Isabelle’s life. From true love matches to ill-advised unions, Isabelle has learned a lot along the way—but it turns out her journey, and that of her daughters, is far from over.

The Last Time I Saw You, by Liv Constantine
With her thrilling debut, The Last Mrs. Parrish (picked for Reese Witherspoon’s book club), Constantine proved her skill at creating memorably devious characters. Her new novel, a twisty murder mystery set among Baltimore high society, ratchets up the tension even more. On the surface, Doctor Kate English is living an enviable life. She appears to balance a perfect family, inherited wealth, and a fulfilling career. All that changes when her mother is viciously killed and the only woman Kate trusts to solve the crime is her prickly, estranged former friend, Blaire, a woman not known for treading lightly.

Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
Keane’s new book is tender and wise, literary fiction of the highest caliber, and readers will immediately feel pulled in to the story of two families whose lives are forever entwined. As next-door neighbors in a New York suburb, and colleagues at the police department, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope first met in the 1970s. The two men were never exactly friends, but in the ensuing years, their children Peter and Kate grow up together as close as can be. When a shocking act tears the neighbors apart, can either family find a way back from the depths of trauma? Will Peter and Kate’s now-forbidden relationship overcome their parents’ misgivings? Demand this one for your book club: they’ll thank you for it!

Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
This compelling World War II historical is firmly in Chiaverini’s wheelhouse, based on real people and filled with excitement. It’s the early 1930s and Mildred Fish Harnack from Wisconsin is enjoying her new life in Berlin. Recently reunited with her German husband, Arvid, and pursuing a doctorate in American Lit, she finds the cosmopolitan city invigorating and stimulating. When the political tide takes a horrifying turn, she and three other women—Martha Dodd (the US ambassador’s daughter); Greta Lorke (an aspiring playwright); and Sara Weitz (a student)—vow to resist Hitler’s regime, putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line.

The Daughter’s Tale, by Armando Lucas Correa
A dual-timeline story presented with realistic and harrowing detail, Tale depicts the escape by Amanda Sternberg from Germany when her husband is killed in a prison camp in 1939. Though Amanda sends her eldest daughter to Cuba to live with an uncle, she keeps her youngest daughter, Lina, by her side to face an uncertain future in France. Present-day Lina, now called Elise Duval and living in the U.S., is stunned to discover a series of letters written by her mother that shed light on the past, and the choices Amanda was once forced to make.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames
This moving debut set in Connecticut and Calabria, Italy, finds the immigrant Fortuna sisters, Stella and Tina, struggling to grow up under the thumb of a domineering father. Did I mention Stella has a penchant for near-death experiences and an independent streak a mile wide? She’ll also do anything to keep her younger sister Tina safe from pain or hardship, which makes their eventual estrangement all the more mysterious. This has the potential to be an excellent read-alike for Kate Atkinson’s Life After Lifewhile also being wholly original.

Light From Other Stars, by Erika Swyler
A perfect book for fans of Interstellar, this sci-fi drama, grounded in realism and the bonds of family, follows 12-year-old Nedda and her quest to become an astronaut. Nedda’s father, a former physicist for NASA, is driven to prolong Nedda’s childhood by slowing it down via entropy. As a result, he subsumes the entire town of Easter, Florida, into a sinkhole in time. Yet years later, Nedda finds herself aboard a vessel in space, and it may be Nedda’s mother and grandmother who are responsible for Nedda’s success. This looks to be a mesmerizing and beautiful coming of age story about dreams fulfilled and paths not taken.

How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper
Years ago, Andrew made a split-second decision to pretend he was a family man in order to secure a job. His seemingly benign lie has come back to haunt him when a new employee and mentee, Peggy, enters his life and his heart. Like the rest of Andrew’s colleagues, Peggy assumes Andrew is married with two daughters, so how can he come clean after all this time? Each moment of his career feels like a glimpse into his own future; as an administrator in the U.K.’s Death Council, Andrew is responsible for going through the belongings of people who have died alone. If Andrew doesn’t make some changes, he may very well share their fate. Alone promises to be a charming and poignant read.

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