The Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser: It’s 1943 in Detroit, and World War II is firmly under way. The thriving city is busy turning out an astonishing number of guns, tankers, and airplanes in support of the war effort. Bianca “Bea” Paradiso, an 18-year-old art student, does her part by volunteering to sketch wounded soldiers at a local hospital. As Bea struggles with her attraction to one of the injured men, she must also confront a once-stable home life that threatens to implode. In The Art Student’s War, Leithauser explores World War II’s effect on one family and portrays a uniquely American city during its glory days.
True Confections by Katharine Weber: In the 1970s, WASPy teenager Alice Tatnall accidentally sets fire to a friend’s house and is branded “Arson Girl.” The label causes her to be rejected, first by her humiliated parents and then by a college admissions department. Alice finds solace and surprising enjoyment working in a New Haven, Connecticut candy factory called Zip’s. Founded in 1924 by the Jewish Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky, Zip’s is famous for it’s “Dat’s Tasty!” company slogan and its assortment of chocolate-covered (and racially suspect) Little Sammies. When Alice marries the Zip’s candy heir, she finds herself immersed in a whole new, and not so sweet, way of life.
Where the God of Love Hangs Out: Fiction by Amy Bloom: In these twelve stories, divided into two sets of four linked stories and four standalone stories, families, friends, and unlikely lovers discover the many ways that love can upend our lives. The first series of stories charts the relationship of William and Clare, two longtime, middle-aged friends who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves passionately attracted to one another despite being married to other people. The second series follows Juli and her stepson Lionel, who, after the death of Lionel’s jazz musician father, express their mutual grief in a way that will haunt them both for the rest of their lives. Each story is a small tribute to human nature at its best and worst.
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James: We “turn for relief, entertainment and mild intellectual challenge to these unpretentious celebrations of reason and order in our increasingly complex and disorderly world,” P.D. James writes of the importance of the detective novel. The author’s overview on the genre was written at the request of Oxford’s Bodleian Library as a primer for interested readers. James was happy to oblige, drawing on an insider’s perspective to offer her thoughts on the writers and the social contexts that spawned – and perpetuated – the (primarily British) detective novel. James pays homage to such stalwarts as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie, as well as some writers new to the scene who will surely push detective fiction across cultural and geographical boundaries to even greater heights.
The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee: In Lee’s fourth novel, an 11-year-old refugee during the Korean War is separated from her siblings and brought to an orphanage by an American soldier. She slowly recovers with the help of a minister’s wife, who is herself suffering from having witnessed her parents’ murder at the hands of Japanese soldiers in 1934.