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Each issue, we ask Judy Ryan, who retired after working more than 20 years at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Cedar Rapids, to share her book suggestions with our HER readers.
The Widows of Malabar Hill
by Sujata Massey
Perveen Mistry is an anomaly. In 1921 she is an Oxford-educated practicing lawyer and a member of her father’s Bombay law firm—an accomplishment that was almost thwarted by events in her life only a few years before. In many ways her gender is a hindrance, but sometimes it is extremely useful. Three widows whose late husband was represented by the Mistry law firm need to be interviewed, and because they are secluded in their practice of purdah, no men are allowed to approach them. The widows’ precarious situation is complicated by greed, rivalries and murder. Perveen is not above flouting customs and tradition to help her clients as the action unfolds in the colorful neighborhoods and commercial districts of British-ruled India.
by Frederik Backman
This may be Frederik Backman’s most big-hearted story yet, which is saying a lot for a novel in the company of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.
An ill-planned and badly executed bank robbery throws an array of flawed characters together in a hostage/apartment-viewing situation. At first the hostages and the police investigators, and even the would-be robber, seem annoyingly shallow and almost comically incompetent. But as the author skillfully reveals the experiences that shape each person’s character, the dynamics of their newly formed community play out toward an unexpected and unquestionably satisfying conclusion. You will never think of Stockholm syndrome in quite the same way again.
The Story Hour
by Thrity Umrigar
Because Maggie’s husband is from India, she is asked to counsel a young immigrant woman who has tried to take her own life. The patient, Lakshmi, is married to a demanding storekeeper, and she has not been allowed to contact her father and sister, who remain in India. Her loneliness touches Maggie and, even though she knows it is unprofessional, she moves beyond psychologist-patient status toward a closeness more like friendship.
These loosened boundaries, and subsequent revelations, make secrets harder to keep, and the results are both promising and destructive. Strength and progress are not always where you expect them to be. The author is a skilled storyteller who plants questions in her readers’ minds, creating narratives that linger and live beyond the turning of the book’s final page.
All Adults Here
by Emma Straub
As summer people prepare to leave the small New England town of Clapham, a series of unresolved family misunderstandings and revelations are waiting in the wings. Astrid Stick raised her three children in Clapham. Two still live in the area and have their own businesses—one owns a construction company and one raises goats. The third lives in New York and is sending his daughter to spend some time with Grandma.
Sorting out all the trappings of family history—disappointments, unclear expectations, guilt, blame and always love—isn’t easy. It takes some substantial events to move the group’s self-examination toward a fulfilling conclusion. Family members learn that adulthood and maturity are measured by so much more than just the passage of years. Good lessons for all.
Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
Even though her friends have been urging her to find a professional career, Emira Tucker is content to make money babysitting for a wealthy Philadelphia family. Even when she is accused of kidnapping her young charge (an onlooker wonders what an African American woman is doing with a young white girl in tow in a grocery store after dark), she remains happy with the status quo.
The incident is resolved, but it gives rise to multiple reactions that are hard to ignore. A new boyfriend may have ulterior motives, and her employers’ friends are overly attentive and solicitous. Their subtle condescension seems as unacceptable as outright hostility. Emira has to examine the true nature of honesty and sincerity to accept adulthood and finally embrace the person she will become.