In Love

Title: In Love  (This is a re-issue of the novel, which was first published in 1953.)

Author: Alfred Hayes. Hayes wrote screenplays, novels and poetry from the 40’s to the 70’s.

Genre: Literary fiction

Readers: Retiree Sulyn, publishing professional Gigi, professor Michal, stay-at-home mom Megan V. and communications director Barbara.

Summary: New York in the 1950s. A man on a barstool is telling a story about a woman he met in a bar, early married and soon divorced, her child farmed out to her parents, good-looking, if a little past her prime. They’d gone out, they’d grown close, but as far as he was concerned it didn’t add up to much. He was a busy man. Then one day, out dancing, she runs into a rich awkward lovelorn businessman. He’ll pay for her to be his, pay her a lot. And now the narrator discovers that he is as much in love with her as she is with him, perhaps more, though it will take him a while to realize just how utterly lost he is.

Our Take: Like a lot of literary fiction, there were people who loved it passionately and those who didn’t connect to it. Take a look at what they have to say to get an idea of where you may fit in.

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The Morels

The Morels by Christopher HackerTitle: The Morels

Author: Christopher Hacker. This is his first novel.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Readers: Librarian Mary Liz, research assistant Rosie T., publishing professional Gigi and blogger Jessica.

Summary: The Morels─Arthur, Penny, and Will─are a happy family of three living in New York City. So why would Arthur choose to publish a book that brutally rips his tightly knit family unit apart at the seams? Arthur’s old schoolmate Chris, who narrates the book, is fascinated with this very question as he becomes accidentally reacquainted with Arthur. A single, aspiring filmmaker who works in a movie theater, Chris envies everything Arthur has, from his beautiful wife to his charming son to his seemingly effortless creativity. But things are not always what they seem.
 
The Morels takes a unique look at the power of art─literature, music and film in particular─and challenges us as readers to think about some fascinating questions to which there are no easy answers. Where is the line between art and obscenity, between truth and fiction, between revolutionary thinking and brainless shock value, between craftsmanship and commerce? Is it possible to escape the past? Can you save your family by destroying it?

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The Engagement

Title: The Engagement

Author: Chloe Hooper. Author of one previous novel,  A Child’s Book of True Crime,  which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and a work of crime nonfiction, The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm IslandShe lives in Australia.

Genre: Thriller, Literary Fiction

Readers: Accountant Gina aka Slappy, lawyer Cait, stay at home mom A Military Mommy and policy wonk BakingSuit.

Summary: Liese Campbell has an engagement for the weekend: to stay with Alexander Colquhoun, the handsome, well-mannered heir of an Australian pastoral dynasty, at his country seat some hours from Melbourne. Liese is English. She’s come to Australia to work at her uncle’s real-estate business and pay off her debts. Alexander has been looking for a place in the city. The luxury apartments Liese shows him have become sets for a relationship that satisfies their fantasies—and her financial problems. Both players understand the rules. Or so she thinks.

Across the ancient landscape they drive at dusk to his grand decaying mansion. Here Liese senses a change in Alexander and realizes that a different game has begun.

Chloe Hooper’s riveting and provocative new novel is a psychological thriller for the modern age, an exploration of the snares of money and love and the dark side of erotic imagination. A trap has been set, but how and why? And for whom?

Read If You Enjoy: Books that throw you off kilter, erotic fiction that isn’t Erotica.

Don’t Read If You Dislike: Books with a cold tone, books that keep you at an emotional distance.

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The Burn Palace

Title: The Burn Palace

Author: Stephen Dobyns, author of several previous psychological mysteries, including The Church of Dead Girls.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror, Literary Fiction

Readers: Retiree Nancy, stay-at-home mom Krysta, and teachers madriscoll and Ninian.

Summary: At two-thirty in the morning at the local hospital in the small town of Brewster, Rhode Island, Alice Alessio — also known as Nurse Spandex — is given the surprise of her life. Coming back from a secret tryst with a doctor, she peeks in to check on the newborn baby she was supposed to be watching, and finds a huge, writhing red-and-yellow snake in the bassinet instead. So begins the series of strange and disturbing events that start to plague this sleepy little community and confound the police. Woody Potter, the detective on the case, simply can’t put it all together — what is the thread that ties a missing baby, a dead insurance investigator, and a local Wiccan sect together? Why do all roads seem to lead to the town yoga center (known to all as the You-You)? And what exactly is going on with Carl Krause, the local man who works at the funeral home, who has taken to growling at his neighbors?

An epic, twisted portrait of small-town America, The Burn Palace captivates with dozens of richly rendered multidimensional characters and a plot that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. It is the literary equivalent of Richard Russo crossed with Stephen King.

Should You Read It?: Our readers all enjoyed this thrill ride filled with eerie atmosphere. But as Krysta notes, this may not be for the faint of heart. A fun read for literature lovers who don’t normally read genre fiction. A strong choice for genre-lovers, too.

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The Gate

Book: The Gate

Author: Natsume Sōseki, a giant of modern Japanese literature. Other works include I Am a Cat.

Genre: Literary fiction

Readers: Reading teacher Emry, retiree Sulyn, stay-at-home mom Colleen B. and literature professor Irene Adler.

Publisher Summary: A humble clerk and his loving wife scrape out a quiet existence on the margins of Tokyo. Resigned, following years of exile and misfortune, to the bitter consequences of having married without their families’ consent, and unable to have children of their own, Sōsuke and Oyone find the delicate equilibrium of their household upset by a new obligation to meet the educational expenses of Sōsuke’s brash younger brother. While an unlikely new friendship appears to offer a way out of this bind, it also soon threatens to dredge up a past that could once again force them to flee the capital. Desperate and torn, Sōsuke finally resolves to travel to a remote Zen mountain monastery to see if perhaps there, through meditation, he can find a way out of his predicament.

Read It If You Love: Classic literature, Japanese culture, Hakuri Murakami, International Fiction

Skip It If You Hate: Slow plots, spare prose, sad books.

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