Title: Women in Bed: Nine Stories
Author: Jessica Keener. She is also the author of the novel Night Swim.
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Readers: Lawyer Rochelle, nonprofit director Kimberly, at-home parents Marina, Dana and Megan V.
Summary: This collection of nine stories thematically addresses variations of love – love of self, family, and sexual relationships – from loneliness and isolation, desperation and rejection – to need and passion, forgiveness and, finally, to love found.
Our Take: We like Keener’s style, even if we don’t always like the open endings of her stories.
Title: The Explanation for Everything
Author: Lauren Grodstein, she is the author of a previous novel, Reproduction is the Flaw of Love.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Readers: At-home parent ErinGoBragh, non-profit director Kimberly, and teachers Shannon and Ninian.
Summary: There is nothing inherently threatening about Melissa, a young evangelist hoping to write the definitive paper on intelligent design. But when she implores Andy Waite, a biology professor and a hardcore evolutionist, to direct her independent study, she becomes the catalyst for the collapsing house of cards surrounding him. As he works with Melissa, Andy finds that everything about his world is starting to add up differently. Suddenly there is the possibility of faith. But with it come responsibility and guilt—the very things that Andy has sidestepped for years.
Professor Waite is nearing the moment when his life might settle down a bit: tenure is in sight, his daughters are starting to grow up, and he’s slowly but surely healing from the sudden loss of his wife. His life is starting to make sense again—until the scientific stance that has defined his life(and his work) is challenged by this charismatic student.
Our Take: All our readers were enthralled by this book, that gets to some deep issues of belief (or lack thereof). We loved the characters and Grodstein’s writing. Some of us found a few plot points a little too oversimplified, but overall we found a lot to like about The Explanation for Everything.
Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author: Sara Farizan. This is her first novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Marina, Katie and Colleen B.; attorney Elizabeth H. and non-profit director Kimberly.
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.
Our Take: This debut novel shows promise and takes a unique look at a teenage romance. Some of our readers found it rewarding but others thought it didn’t live up to its premise.
Title: The Panopticon
Author: Jenni Fagan
Genre: Commercial Fiction, Sci-Fi, we don’t really have a good answer for this one.
Readers: Policy wonk BakingSuit, copyeditor Lori, librarian Pam, day care teacher EMarie and nonprofit director Kimberly.
Summary: Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais’s school uniform. Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, it’s a given, a liberty – a fact. And the experiment is closing in.
Our Take: A split decision. Everyone found it challenging and thought-provoking. Very dark and troubling. Lori and EMarie thought it worked while Pam, Kimberly and BakingSuit thought it didn’t quite come together. Definitely not light reading, but perhaps a good pick for those who like a challenge.
Title: Courting Greta
Author: Ramsey Hootman. This is her first novel.
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Katie and Colleen B., professor JoLee, nonprofit director Kimberly and victim advocate MJ.
Summary: Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn’t give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth. He’s the cripple with the crutches, the nerdy computer genius every female past puberty feels compelled to mother. So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn’t on his radar.
Perhaps that’s why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty – not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.
Samuel is certain she won’t accept his invitation to dinner – so when she does, he’s out of his depth. All he knows is that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretending he’s got his class under control? Easy. Being vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there’s one thing Samuel can’t live without, it’s the lies he tells himself.