Six More Great Fiction Titles I Loved This Year
01 Where the Forest Meets the Stars
Joanna is feeling adrift after her mother's death, and she disappears into the constant attention her ornithology research commands, living in her sparse rental cabin and tuning out the rest of the world.
That is, until a young girl appears, battered and bruised, and is resistant to help but clearly in need of it. Ursa says she is from the stars and cannot return until she has witnessed five miracles. Joanna and her reclusive neighbor Gabe become drawn into Ursa's orbit and drawn to each other as they try to protect her--and they discover more about themselves and their capabilities for love than they'd imagined.
I love love loved this. Ursa, Jo, Gabe, Tabby, the ornithology storyline, the makeshift family, and the (maybe slightly too easy but lovely and satisfying) resolution. Highly recommend!
For my full review of this book, see Where the Forest Meets the Stars.
02 Darling Rose Gold
What a wonderfully twisted little tale this was from Stephanie Wrobel. In Darling Rose Gold, she offers readers a story involving Münchausen syndrome by proxy, lies, betrayals, and double-crossing, all within a claustrophobic, isolated, and codependent mother-and-daughter relationship. Yet the tone is often playful as the characters keep things chatty and light while striving to manipulate each other.
I was totally hooked on this fast read and couldn’t wait to find out who was the better strategist and who might be tricking who.
There are some wonderfully devilish dark twists and turns as events evolve and as the characters' layers of plotting become evident.
NetGalley and Catapult provided me with an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
For my full review, see Darling Rose Gold.
03 When We Were Vikings
Zelda is in her twenties and lives with her older brother Gert. She is obsessed with Vikings, she's a stickler for the Rules of the House, and she follows highly structured routines. On certain days she finds her own way to the community center where she and other young adults with challenges and disabilities play and learn social and practical skills; on other set days she visits the library; twice a week she visits her trusted therapist, Dr. Laird.
But there’s a dark undercurrent throughout When We Were Vikings. Zelda has to figure out what it means to live her own legend, and whether she can save Gert or even save herself.
I loved this. The characters, the story arc that isn’t too easy but leaves you in a promising place after all, and the dialogue—love love love.
For my full review of this book, see When We Were Vikings.
04 Nothing to See Here
I was very glad to realize that the striking premise itself was not the most powerful element here.
Wilson's story stars combustible children and the low-key, unambitious misfit who sticks with them, making them feel unequivocally safe and understood for the first time.
Kevin Wilson provides some heartbreaking disappointment about family members' emotional limitations and conditional loyalty, and he allows characters to craft chosen relationships into a beloved pod that functions like family.
Nothing to See Here is a short book but it packs delightfully odd, satisfying, and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny punches. I just loved this.
For my full review of this book, please see Nothing to See Here.
05 A Woman Is No Man
In A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum explores the often powerless and essentially voiceless status of her female characters within their conservative Arab culture, both in Palestine and as immigrants and first-generation Americans in New York.
Much of this is dark. Yet there are bright points: rare friendships emerge, sisters build intense loyalty to each other, girls and women find joy in secret reading and in books, and there are occasional breaks to freedom. The details Rum provides as a thread throughout the book--the food, spices, and meals that are a framework for much of the structure of the women’s days--are wonderful.
A Woman Is No Man explores the incredible drive and bravery required by Rum's female characters to write a new history, one in which they enjoy freedoms and a voice.
06 In Five Years
Dannie is on the path to achieving her five-year goals in spectacularly efficient fashion. She goes to sleep one night feeling satisfied, but she wakes up in another life: in a strange apartment, with a different boyfriend, and with an alternate set of choices behind and before her. And perhaps most confusingly of all, she's happy. Very very happy.
Dannie returns to her original reality, but she can’t shake the possibilities raised and the uncertainty created by what felt like an actual temporary shift in her existence. What do those vastly different circumstances and her satisfaction within them mean about how she can and should live her life now?
Serle's In Five Years totally hit the spot for me, and it also wasn’t exactly what I expected. The setup seems like it’s a romance, but it’s really a story about loyalty and devoted friendship without easy or saw-it-coming resolutions, and not everything is as it seems. I loved it.
For my full review of this book, see In Five Years.
If you like books that play with timelines and realities, check out the Greedy Reading List Six Riveting Time-Travel Escapes.
What were some of your favorite fiction reads this year?
I was reading many of these books as the Covid-19 pandemic began to shape life in the United States this year, and I can vouch for all of these very different stories as great escapism. Heartwarming or quirky fiction are the types of books that have really been fitting the bill for me lately.
If you're looking for more great fiction, you might also want to check out the Greedy Reading List My Six Favorite Summer 2020 Reads.