Family Saga

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a sweeping family saga set in New York City’s Lower East Side, beginning in 1969. The four Gold children become preoccupied with the idea of death after seeking out a fortune teller who claims to know when each of them will die. These prophecies follow the siblings for the next fifty years. Each chapter focuses on one sibling, as they travel diverse paths and deal with their looming death date. The distinct journeys propel the characters into different paths, such as Simon and Klara who believe in the prophecies and make life choices accordingly, as opposed to Daniel and Varya who do not. Three of the siblings all die on their predicted dates and the novel ends before revealing the fate of the fourth sister.  

This is a complex story immersed in Jewish lore and covering decades of American history from the San Francisco Aids crisis in the 1970’s to the ethical questions concerning animal research. The novel is told from a third-person omniscient narrator who presents one character’s point of view in each part of the story. Each character takes a different path as they approach their fate and fulfill their own idea of a meaningful life. Despite their diverse journeys, the siblings shared Jewish upbringing binds them together in a meditation of how family ties can both hurt and heal.  

At the heart of this novel is the question, how do we shape our own destinies? Is it fate or choice that determines our future and how can different people interpret the same event in such varied ways? The power of belief is a core theme, and this includes magic, faith, and storytelling. But it is the pull of family that holds the novel together in a mesmerizing saga. I highly recommend this thought-provoking story for a book discussion group.

Read-alikes:
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang

Eternal Life by Dara Horn
The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer
Novels by Donna Tartt or Celeste Ng
Candace Reeder, Northport-East Northport Public Library



America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo


Elaine Castillo’s impressive debut tells the story of Geronima (“Hero”) and her extended family, both in their ancestral Philippines homeland and in 1990’s Milpitas, a San Jose suburb inhabited by many immigrant cultures. Once part of a wealthy, socially prominent family, Hero, an aspiring doctor, renounced her old life to become a field doctor for a guerrilla revolutionary group called the National People’s Party. Tortured and held captive for years, Hero is eventually released, disowned by her parents, and travels to America under the care of her aunt and uncle, Pol and Paz. Paz is the quiet heroine of the story, working double nursing shifts to support their large extended family, in Milpitas and in the Philippines. The daughter of Pol and Paz is the third generation of the tale. It is Hero’s contribution to care for Roni, their seven-year-old daughter. Hero grows to love her niece, and to make friends at a community restaurant where she eventually works. There she meets Rosalyn who becomes central to her life.

The story is character driven, and stylistically complex, as it moves back and forth in time and in Hero’s worlds. The writing is richly descriptive, filled with Filipino cultural detail, in descriptions of language, food, and garage band music. 

Read-alikes:
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



The Balcony by Jane Delury

“What if our homes could tell the stories of those who lived there before us?”
This debut is comprised of ten short stories connected by a house in Benneville, France.  Unfortunately, the manor doesn’t tell any story. The stories are connected by the characters who live or have lived in the manor for over 100 years.

None of the characters seem to love the house or have any feeling for it. They all hate Benneville because it’s such a small town where nothing ever happens, and the stories are depressing, dull, and uninspired. There is nothing new here.

Indeed, if the house could talk, we would’ve gotten some great stories: suicide, Jews hiding from the Gestapo, ex-courtesans, brothers who aren’t really brothers (we never find out if they’re told at Christmas), affairs, etc.

I loved the idea of this book and in the first story, when the woman of the house threw herself off the balcony, I was excited to see how the balcony played into each story. Unfortunately, it never did. There were too many characters to keep track of and I couldn’t remember who was related to whom from another story. Beautiful writing, but slow reading. Not a page turner.

Read-alikes:
The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
The Life She was Given by Ellen Wiseman

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey

Three days after the elaborate silver wedding celebration of Sir George Barsham, MP and his wife Lady Adelaide, Britain declares war with Germany (August 4, 1914). 

Over the course of the war, we follow the lives of the Barsham children, twins James and Ned and their sisters Millie and Gina. Both boys are sent to Flanders, James in the Army and Ned as a conscientious objector stretcher bearer. Millie learns how to drive an ambulance and ends up in Flanders as well. Only Gina remains at home and it is through her interactions with the local townsfolk that we see the effects the war has on those on the home front.

The story moves at a quick pace yet it is filled with historical details. The circumstances that each of the characters find themselves dealing with throughout WWI are vividly brought to life. Jeffrey’s characters are fascinating, realistic, and detailed. The children are down to earth, the servants “below the stairs” and estate workers are true to form, and Lady Adelaide is the typical lady of the manor … ‘I didn’t bring you up to do the work of a servant, Georgina,’ she remarked when Ruby had left the room. ‘Have you no respect for your position?’

Settle in with a good strong cuppa and a couple of biscuits for an engaging read.  

Read-alikes:
We That Are Left by Clare Clark
For Better, For Worse by Elizabeth Jeffrey
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Sue Ketcham, B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, LIU Post



The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lukas

When Joseph, the son of a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, receives a surprise package from his late father, he leaves Berkeley and goes to Cairo to uncover the history that binds the two sides of his family. He finds he is a descendant of generations of watchmen at the Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo, built at the site where the infant Moses was taken from the Nile. Joseph learns of his ancestor Ali, a Muslim orphan who nearly a thousand years earlier was entrusted as the first watchman of the synagogue and became enchanted by its legendary--perhaps magical--Ezra Scroll. 

The story of Joseph's family is entwined with that of the British twin sisters Agnes and Margaret, who in 1897 travel to Cairo from their places at Cambridge on a mission to rescue sacred texts that have begun to disappear from the synagogue.


The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a story of the tangled relations that exist between fathers and sons, religion and love in places like Cairo marked by diversity, and the forces of love that try to bring them together.

Read-alikes:
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado
The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas

Grace O'Connor, Retired



Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

With its cast of seemingly thousands, Kwan keeps the reader's interest throughout the 500+ pages. The characters are wild, crazy, extravagant, bizarre, fanciful...you get the idea. Crazy Rich Asians is more than a book about how ridiculously rich people sometimes spend their money ridiculously. It offers thousands of gems of history and more than a few surprises. Don't be intimidated by how many characters are in the book, you'll figure out early on which ones are the most important. 





Read-alikes:
The Windfall by Diksha Basu
The Garden Party by Grace Mazur
What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Kathy Carter, Riverhead Free Library



A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

This story is told simultaneously by three sisters, Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter. They say it is their collective suicide note. Suicide apparently runs in their family (they have a chart), as their great-grandmother, great-grandfather, grandfather, aunt, and mother have all killed themselves (gunshot, overdose of morphine, defenestration, cyanide, and drowning being the respective causes). Having collectively survived one round of cancer, divorce, and being widowed, with the onset of Vee’s second round of cancer, the sisters have decided to poison themselves and go all together.

The sisters’ apartment is crowded with the ghosts of these suicides (not actual ghosts; there’s nothing supernatural about this book). Delph has tattooed on her leg the biblical quote about the sins of the father, although there’s some disagreement about what the sin in question is. The prevalent theory is that they’re all paying for their great-grandfather’s development of mustard gas and Zyklon, but it’s possible that suicide itself is the sin.

And then the ghost walks in (again, not an actual ghost). Will this blast from the past and all the revelations that follow in her wake cause any or all the sisters to reconsider their suicide pact?


This dark, metaphysically heavy book is definitely not for the faint of heart. There’s really nothing cheering in it, although it is escapist in its own way.

Read-alikes:
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Nix by Nathan Hill
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

Castle Deverill stands on land stolen from the O’Leary family and given, along with a title, to Barton Deverill in the 1600s for his loyalty to King Charles II. Maggie O’Leary cursed the family, and every Lord Deverill is doomed to remain between worlds, haunting the castle until an O’Leary returns to live on the land. Kitty Deverill knows this is true, because, like her grandmother, she can see and speak to the ghosts of all the previous Lord Deverills. Kitty was born in 1900 to a cold and unloving mother, and a father who is good-natured but preoccupied with hunting, fishing, and his mistress. She is closest to her grandparents, her cousin Celia, who visits every summer, and especially to Bridie Doyle, daughter of the castle’s cook.

As the girls grow up, Kitty falls in love with local boy Jack O’Leary, becomes involved in the Irish independence movement, and is eventually forced to leave the country she loves for her own safety and join Celia in London. Bridie also falls in love with Jack, and is crushed when she finds out he is in love with her best friend, Kitty. Tragic circumstances force her to leave Ireland as well, and she travels to America, where her fortunes reverse completely and she becomes a woman of means. Secrets, betrayals, affairs, WWI, the Irish independence movement, and assorted tragedies impact the lives of every member of the Deverill family. When Kitty and Bridie return to Ireland years later, their friendship seems like it might never recover and the future of Castle Deverill is uncertain. 


This novel is the first in a trilogy and would be a good pick for readers who enjoy Irish fiction, historical fiction, and stories that center on women’s friendships. It is lengthy, but action-packed and moves very quickly. There is a strong sense of place, and the world of Castle Deverill and the nearby town of Ballinakelly is well-developed.

Deverill Chronicles:
The Girl in the Castle
The Daughters of Ireland
The Secret of the Irish Castle

Read-alikes:
Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict
Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Girls of Ennismore by Patricia Falvey
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

At Franny’s christening, Bert Cousins, who is married to Teresa and has 3 kids with one on the way, is introduced to Franny’s mother Beverly Keating and is instantly in love, or lust as some people might think. After sharing a kiss, the two go their separate ways eventually marrying over a decade later leading to a lot of hurt feelings and resentful kids. Beverly and her husband Fix have two daughters, Franny and her older sister Caroline. Once Beverly marries Bert, she takes the girls and moves from California, where Fix is, to Virginia, where Bert grew up. Neither girl wants to move since they both love and side with their dad, but they don’t have a choice. On the other side, Bert’s ex-wife Teresa decides to stay in California with their four children: Cal, Holly, Jeanette, and Albie. Every summer the Cousins kids visit their dad in Virginia and find themselves thoroughly ignored and on their own. When tragedy strikes one summer, secrets are kept and lives are changed. This one event changes everyone for better and worse and each character flounders or flourishes in his or her own way.   


The book is told back and forth in time starting with the meeting of Bert and Beverly then moving to the present with Franny visiting her dad who is dying of cancer. The reader learns about the past from Fix’s stories and flashbacks as well as through the eyes of the now grown children. Most of the story focuses on Franny and how lost she was for many years. Commonwealth becomes a book within the book as Franny tells her life story to an author she admires who then uses it to write a best-selling novel called Commonwealth. 

The novel is about family, both the one you’re born into and the one you make. It’s about connections to people, blood related or not, and how one small thing can change the direction of your life. It’s about how divorce and absentee parents can affect their kids’ lives and how not all kids are the same and thus need different treatment. 

Patchett’s writing is solid but the story meanders in spots. The reader mostly learns about Franny with small sections given to the other kids, but no one is completely fleshed out. The secret of what happened that one summer in Virginia shaped everyone’s life, but it takes a long time for the reader to find out what happened and because of some misdirection, the actuality of it is a bit disappointing. Commonwealth would be a good read for a book group as there’s a lot to discuss and is best suited for readers looking for a book with weight that doesn’t always have a happy ending but does show the ups and downs of a family. 

Read-alikes:
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

According to Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles is about the “dystopic economic future” - these three words summarize the novel very well. For most of the book, the Mandible clan is composed of Douglas and his recent wife Luella, his children Carter and Enola, their children Florence, Avery, and Jarred, their children Willing, Savannah, Bing, and Goog, Florence’s partner Esteban, Avery’s husband Lowell, and Carter’s wife Jayne. Important but less active characters include Douglas’ first wife and children’s mother Mimi and Florence’s tenant Kurt. Throughout the novel, these 16 characters adapt to rapidly-changing domestic times in unique, deep, and remarkable ways. Set between 2029 and 2047, the book begins with U.S. president Dante Alvarado’s declaration that the national debt has been renounced and set to 0. Spurned, the rest of the world develops a global currency, the bancor, excluding the U.S. from all outside commerce. The country quickly goes downhill: the price of a cabbage soars to over $100, squatting becomes rife, and all legal, societal, and monetary laws and rules are disregarded. Nonetheless, the book is a hearty family saga, with generational angst, betrayal, love, animosity, and drama abounding.

Although I do not have a background involving finance, I found the plot accessible and engaging. Because much of the dialogue dissolves into terms I had to look up or infer; it detached me from the human, familial struggles presented in the novel. I believe this book will be most enjoyed by an audience with an interest in economics. 

Read-alikes:
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Before This Is Over by Amanda Hickie
When the English Fall by David Williams

Wendy Ambrozewicz, Patchogue-Medford Library



We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

This story chronicles the family saga of Eileen Tumulty, born in 1941 to Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens. Growing up in a house fueled by alcohol, failed ambition, and loss, Eileen dreams of a calmer life. She marries scientist Ed Leary who seems different in every way from all the men she grew up around, however she quickly discovers that her desire to achieve the American dream is not something that Ed necessarily shares. As Eileen continues to prosper in her career, she encourages Ed to want more for himself, more money, a better job, a nicer place to live, a bigger yard, etc. which he does not appear to view as important as she does. This ultimately brings conflict throughout their relationship, especially as it seems part of a deeper psychological issue with Ed. As their son Connell grows up, Eileen strives to give him more than she and Ed ever had, all this while everyone tries to hold onto what they think their ideal life should be like. The story continues to follow their complicated lives through good times and dark times as they deal with financial issues, struggles to find their own identities, and growing up in a changing world. 

While this story mainly focused on Eileen and how she handled life, it did touch a lot on Connell and how he interpreted things growing up in a dysfunctional household. It had great character development as you see how Eileen felt about her parents and their actions and how they shaped her growing up and becoming a wife and mother. The story touched on many issues including the ever-changing culture and ethnicities within New York City, as well as the pressure of fitting in with different socioeconomic groups. This would appeal to readers familiar with growing up after WWII. 

Read-alikes:
Ashes of Fiery Weather by Kathleen Donohoe
Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolotano
Golden Age by Jane Smiley

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library

Male Protagonists

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Arthur is in his late 80s and lost his wife, Nola, six months ago. He takes a bus to the cemetery every day to visit her grave while he eats lunch. He imagines the lives lived by the people buried nearby and notices a teenage girl, who is also a regular visitor. Maddy is a high school senior who is an outcast at school and finds a peaceful refuge in the cemetery. Her mother died when she was a baby, and she has a distant relationship with her father. The two become friends and Maddy calls Arthur 'Truluv" for his devotion to his late wife.

Arthur's next-door neighbor Lucille is also in her 80s, has never married or had children, and recently connected with her first love, Frank. When Frank dies suddenly and Maddy becomes pregnant, both Maddy and Lucille move in with Arthur. The three become a family of sorts and eagerly await the birth of Maddy's child. Arthur encourages both women and supports them in taking steps to overcome their fears and loneliness. Arthur is a very kind man, but for decades his world revolved around his late wife, and he finds new purpose in reaching out to Maddy and Lucille.

Though Arthur is the central character, parts of the book are written from the points of view of Maddy and Lucille. The story is simply told, warm, sentimental, and will appeal to readers who are looking for a cozy, pleasant novel. A sequel, Night of Miracles, will be published this year.

Read-alikes:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



The Vineyard by Maria Duenas

Our story opens in 1861 as Mauro Larrea, a self-made millionaire who has made a fortune in Mexican silver mining, learns that he has lost it all in an unwise business transaction. Desperately hiding his misfortune, he tries to recoup his loss in a game of pool in which he wins a neglected vineyard in Spain. When he visits his new property to put it up for sale, widower Larrea meets and falls hard for Soledad, daughter of the house and herself a married woman. 

The Vineyard should appeal to anyone interested in Hispanic culture, men's responsibilities, or women's rights. 

Read-alikes:
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

Jackie Malone, Bellmore Public Library, Retired



Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

This is a coming-of-age story about a half-Mexican, 23-year-old man named Mike Munoz, who works as a landscaper and lives with is chain-smoking mother, his developmentally disabled older brother, Nate, and Freddy, his mom's boyfriend. Mike basically takes care of Nate most of the time while their mother is working, mostly by feeding him junk and sitting him in front of the TV to keep him calm. Mike perpetually struggles to get ahead and achieve the American dream, partly due to unreliable transportation and partly due to a resume that only includes working as a landscaper. Mike doesn't know what to do with himself and often daydreams about being a topiary artist and writing the Great American Landscaping novel.

Mike quits his landscaping job because he's tired of picking up dog poop and has difficulty finding work again throughout the story. When he does find work, the jobs aren't great and Mike often gets used. Through it all, Mike is trying to start a relationship with a girl names Remy and deal with his life-long friend Nick, who is becoming increasingly annoying.

The story is told in the first person with great amounts of humor and is an easy read. The dialogue between the characters seems authentic, and the cat of characters memorable and engaging. It is a very quick read with short chapters alternating between the present and memories of Mike's childhood. The story talks about real-life class struggles, immigrant lives, socioeconomic issues, homophobia, and racial issues through situations without being preachy. The story would appeal to young adults coming out of high school/college who are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives, as well as those who have tried to get ahead despite the many setbacks that have come their way. The author purposely wraps everything up with an ending that should satisfy readers.

Read-alikes:
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
In the Ditch by Buchi Emecheta
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Jessica Brown, Patchogue-Medford Library



Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshan

The novel is set in modern-day Israel with Dr. Eitan Green and his wife moving to Beersheeba after Dr. Green uncovers corruption at the hospital he worked at in Tel Aviv and is forced to take a less desirable position in the Negev desert. Driving home after a long shift at the new hospital, an exhausted Dr. Green takes his eyes off the road for a moment to take a look at the full moon and accidentally hits and kills a man who is walking down the road. Unable to do anything, Dr. Green flees the scene only to be found by the dead man's wife the next day after she discovers his wallet at the scene. She has an unusual demand, she will keep quiet about what happened if he agrees to meet her at night to treat an patient in an abandoned garage behind the cafe where she works. However, it isn't just one night and one patient, it's night after night and patient after patient. They are all illegal aliens who are refused medical care. These circumstances force Dr. Green to lie to everyone including his wife, the police detective assigned to the case.

This is a riveting read that you won't be able to put down.

Read-alikes:
The Fugitive Wife by Peter C. Brown
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Kathleen Carter, Riverhead Free Library



How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom is a man with a secret. He may look 40, but he’s really almost 440. He’s got what a doctor from his past has termed anageria. He ages so slowly, it looks like he’s barely aging at all. Over the years he’s met famous people like the explorer Captain Cook and writer William Shakespeare, but who he really wants to meet again is his daughter Marion, whom he hasn’t seen in just over 400 years. As Tom searches for answers to what he is, he is taken in by the secret Albatross Society, sworn to keep people like him secret from the world no matter what the cost. Every 7 years or so, the Albatross Society relocates Tom to keep his condition hidden, but in return he has to do them a favor and try to recruit others like him. Tom is tired of the constant hiding and relocating and the promises of Hendrich, the head of the Society, to help him find his daughter. When Tom contacts Hendrich and says he wants to lead an ordinary life, Hendrich agrees to relocate him back to London as a history teacher at a private school. He must follow the rules, though, don’t tell anyone about his condition and never fall in love. Both prove difficult as Tom quickly makes friends with Camille, the French teacher, who recognizes him from a photograph taken in the 1920s. This starts a series of events that lead Tom to realize not everything is what he thought, and these changes might actually be for the better.

How to Stop Time is part historical, part fantasy, part romance, with just a touch of suspense. Tom’s memories take us back in time as we learn about his childhood, his mother, how he fell in love for the first time, and his adventures as he travels the high seas, plays the lute at the Globe Theatre, and plays piano at a jazz bar where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. In the present, as he teaches his students about history, most of it lived firsthand, he recreates the London of old, and tries not to talk to anyone lest his secret come out. Although an interesting premise, the back and forth in time sometimes slows down the readability of the book. Tom’s headaches and hiding become a bit repetitive and Hendrich’s tactics of keeping control of Tom are quite predictable. The ending is a bit of a surprise, but most readers will probably have figured out what’s going to happen and that Hendrich doesn’t really have Tom’s best interest at heart. How to Stop Time will appeal to both men and women with its historical references and light romance. Also recommend to readers looking for light fantasy, those who like time travel, and those who are fans of TV shows like Timeless and Forever.

Read-alikes:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Fifteen Live of Harry August by Claire North

Azurée Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Before the Fall Noah Hawley

On a foggy summer night, eleven people leave Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs, a 40-something failed painter and a four-year-old boy, JJ, who is now the last remaining member of a wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

Except for Scott and the crew, the passengers are movers and shakers. As their public and private intrigues become known, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating frenzy of media outrage and accusations.

Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, and his fragile relationship with JJ, while the authorities try to pin down the reason for the crash. Hawley explores the questions of fate, human nature, and the ties that bind us together in this literary thriller.

Fast-paced. Gritty language. Acquired by Sony Pictures with Hawley as the scriptwriter.

Read-alikes:
The Harder They Come by T. Coraghessan Boyle
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
The Professor of Truth by James Robertson

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles’ News of the World was a nominee for the 2016 National Book Award. Set in post-Civil War Texas, this short novel is a western, an adventure story, and a beautifully written work that explores the boundaries of family, honor, trust and love.

It is 1870 in rainy, cold North Texas where we are introduced to 72-year-old widower, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd. The retired army Captain travels from town to town giving live newspaper readings to paying audiences, anxious to hear the news of the world. While in Wichita Falls he is offered a $50 gold piece to transport a young orphan to her distant relatives, 400 miles away.  Recently rescued by the U.S. army, 10-year-old Johanna had been captured four years earlier by the Kiowa Indians and raised as one of their own. She has forgotten English, eats with her hands and tries to escape at every chance. But as they travel together they form a bond that becomes impossible to break.

The chaos of the time and the difficult journey, interrupted by violent weather, bandits and Comanche raids create a sense of suspense and urgency. Most of the novel is told in 3rd person narrated by the Captain. This is a character driven story written with carefully chosen words (the author is a poet) about a journey and bonding between two strangers, the joys of freedom and the natural world, morality, and the violent and dangerous life on the frontier.

At only 213 pages, this is a brief but expansive read. The author is adept at packing a lot into a few words. With the current emphasis on “fake news” this fascinating story of a news reader reminds us of a long ago time when people had to wait and rely on expert readers to bring the news of the world to them.

Read-alikes:
One Thousand White Women - The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
True Grit by Charles Portis
The Removes by Tatjana Soli

Candace Reeder, Northport-East Northport Public Library



The Lighthouse by Allison Moore

Deceptively brief in length, The Lighthouse is a novel fraught with the psychological underpinnings of a man searching for redemption. After his wife leaves him, Futh decides that a week-long walking holiday through Germany will help him clear his head and put things in perspective. Each chapter in the book derives its title from things that spark memories for Futh - Violets, Oranges, Coffee, Camphor - and as the experiences associated with these smalls or objects have lingered and traumatized him from childhood into adulthood, the memories are, for the most part, unpleasant. The only source of comfort that Futh has is a small lighthouse-shaped vial that used to hold his mother's perfume - an object he keeps close at hand, often stroking it for reassurance. But even as the vial provides a sense of security, in the end it leads to an explosive situation - one the reader man not have seen coming, but very well may have felt coming. 

Merely 200 pages in length, this introspective novel moves slowly as it develops, but that's okay as it should also be read slowly, allowing for the digestion of Moore's deliberate and pensive prose. The atmosphere is dark, foreboding and suspenseful. More like an independent film than a Hollywood production, The Lighthouse may not appeal to everyone. But if you're interested in how past life experiences can affect the inner workings of a person's mind, this book provides much for discussion and reflection, and is a book for you.

Read-alikes:
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

This book of seven short stories centers on men who find themselves alone. They are curious, funny, and odd, telling stories of the women in their lives, real or imagined; present or past.

In Drive My Car, a widower can’t figure out why his wife had affairs while married to him. He befriends his late wife’s lover and his new female chauffeur looking for answers. In Yesterday, the narrator remembers a friend of only a few months who’d asked him to date his girlfriend because he didn’t think he was good enough for her. A plastic surgeon falls in love for the first time with a woman he can never have; an isolated shut-in looks forward to stories from his nurse (about her unrequited love in high school); after his wife divorces him, a man quits his job and opens a bar that barely pays for itself as he listens to his jazz records by himself; in a nod to Kafka, Gregor Samsa returns to being human in an empty house and must relearn how to walk, dress, eat, etc. by himself. The title and final story centers on a man’s former girlfriend’s suicide. The narrator states: “It’s quite easy to become Men Without Women. You love a woman deeply, and then she goes off somewhere.”

The men in these stories are passive. Things happen to them rather than them doing things. (Perhaps this is why the women leave?) But, it doesn’t matter how or why the women leave, just that they do, and the men are left alone and isolated, trying to figure things out how to live without women.

Read-alikes:
A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
The Appearance of a Hero by Tom Levine

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library



The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Harry August is a kalachakra, a term which refers to the Buddhist idea of the Wheel of Time.  Kalachakras are people who are born again and again into the same life, with full memory of what they have done previously. Harry is born on January 1, 1919, the illegitimate son of a wealthy British landowner. His mother dies in childbirth, and he is adopted by a childless couple living on the estate.  So much is the same, over and over again. The rest of life differs, although it often follows a similar pattern from one life to the next.

Naturally, there is a society of kalachakras, which, while the individual members are only loosely connected, has very strict rules about changing the timeline. After all, when you’re reborn knowing what will happen throughout your lifespan, there’s lots of potential to wreak havoc. The Chronus Club also has mechanisms for communicating into the past or future, which is how Harry learns that the world is ending. As he is dying for the 11th time, in 1996, he is told that the world ends in a thousand years and that future generations are powerless to stop it.

Armed with this knowledge, Harry enters his next cycle and passes this information on to other members of the Chronus Club, which embarks on a long term plan (think, several lifetimes) to figure what’s causing the end of the world and how to stop it. In the course of this mission, Harry tells us a great deal about how he’s lived his previous lives. The bulk of the dramatic drive of the book, though, comes from the question of whether Harry will be able to solve the mystery of the end of the world, before he himself is destroyed.

This engaging, lyrical work of light science fiction will appeal to readers who enjoy philosophical musings on the nature of memory and time.

Read-alikes:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
The 7 and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Thurton

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje begins with one of the best opening lines: “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” That voice belongs to Nicholas, as he looks back after many decades on the strange events which began that day. Narrator Nicholas was 14 and his sister, Rachel, was 16 when their parents told them they were going away, to Singapore, for a year.  A man known as the Moth, with his unique cast of friends, became their caregivers, staying in their home and supervising their activities. Everything takes place in London just as the war has ended. “Warlight” is a major motif for the story: the city, still war damaged, slowly emerging from the enforced darkness of the war years, and the two children struggling to make their way in such confusing, shadowy circumstances. Another motif echoes this one: “Mein Herz ist schwer” (my heart is heavy) a phrase adopted by the children which well describes the pain of their nearly unreal existence.
   
Much of the story is painful, and some of it is violent. It is filled with secrets, lies and intrigue, and beautifully written. The writing is lyrical and creates a dream-like atmosphere well suited to the story told. It is character driven, peopled with unique, well developed individuals with compelling story lines. “Warlight” has an intricate plot, as the author reveals events through the memories of the now grown Nicholas. The revelation about his mother, while stunning, will not surprise the reader and pulls all the plot threads together.

Read-alikes:
God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam
The Labyrinth Makers by Anthony Price
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library

Beach Reads

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner

A delightful page-turner that has an atmospheric New England setting, family secrets, and complicated relationships throughout, The Forever Summer is a perfect beach read. Thirty-year-old Marin Bishop seems to have it all, but when her law office affair is uncovered, she and her lover are immediately fired, thereby triggering the events that provide the foundation for the rest of the story. Devastated by her indiscretion, Marin wonders how she will ever recover—professionally or personally. The first people she must face are her parents, who are harboring a secret of their own—their idyllic marriage is on the verge of divorce. And then Rachel, a complete stranger, contacts Marin claiming to be her half-sister. Now, with everything else going on in her life, Marin must face the possibility that her father may not, in fact, be her biological parent. Rachel’s on her way to meet her newly-found grandmother in Provincetown and, on an impulse, Marin joins Rachel on her excursion—if only to run away from her problems. What was to be a one-week respite turns out to be a summer of familial intrigue, personal admissions, and self-discovery.

A cast of characters as colorful as Provincetown itself comprise this easy, multi-layered read. The plot is off and running on the very first page, and the short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down at any point. Twists and turns in the plot are plentiful, sometimes shocking, and the reader will not want to put it down—particularly if they’ve ever dreamed of sorting out their life by spending a summer at the beach.

Read-alikes:
The Outer Cape by Patrick Dacey
The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine "Sunny" Mackenzie is an online culinary star, beloved for her down-home country cooking, which she first brought to the big city and then to her millions of followers. With a Food Network deal in the works, she's about to strike it big...then it all comes crashing down. A hack by #aintonosunshine reveals all of the secrets and lies on which Sunny has built her public persona, because her carefully constructed social media life is in fact one big, fat lie. As she begins to lose her reputation, her business deals, and even her husband, Sunny beats a hasty retreat to her hometown of Montauk, forced to turn to her estranged older sister for aide.

While all of this sounds incredibly terrible, Sunny is determined to get it all back. She just needs to get in good with the East End master of cuisine, Chef Z, become his protege, and create her redemption story. Easy, right? Except coming home makes Sunny realize that maybe honesty has some upsides. She gets to know her six-year-old niece, and meets Ethan, the local fisherman, both of whom help her to come back to who she really is. At the same time that she pursues her big comeback, she also begins to realize she may have misjudged her sister, and that her single-minded quest for fame and fortune has devastated her most important relationships. It's also exhausting to keep up with the lies. In the end, she eventually finds out who hacked her in the first place, and why, and makes some surprising decisions on how to move forward. While there is no "happy ending" in the traditional sense of all being knit back together, Sunny comes through the experience better for it and looking forward to the road ahead.

Hello, Sunshine is written in the first person from Sunny's point of view. She is young and somewhat naive, with a resilience that flies in the face of the mounting catastrophes that befall her. Her voice feels almost neutral in many places, which keeps the book light enough to keep in the beach read category. The events mainly take place over the summer on the shores of Long Island, which becomes the contrasting environment that allows Sunny to reclaim some authenticity. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick read (I plowed through it in two days), with local flavor and an upbeat tone.

Read-alikes:
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig 
Pretty Woman by Fern Michaels

Christine Parker-Morales, Comsewogue Public Library



The Hideaway by Lauren Denton

Sara Jenkins learns that her grandmother, Margaret Van Buren, has died and left her the owner of the Hideaway, a rundown bed and breakfast, which had once been her childhood home. She leaves her New Orleans antique shop behind and begins restoring the old Victorian house in Sweet Bay, Alabama. While cleaning out the attic, Sara discovers an old box that unveils many secrets of a Margaret she never truly knew. She realizes she longs to know more about “Mags” whom she had dismissed as eccentric and now realizes that much like her, had kept many things to herself.  

Mags had been a young socialite growing up in post-war Alabama who married the man chosen for her. After enduring his unfaithfulness for years, she escaped to Sweet Bay, Alabama, where she found the Hideaway, a bed and breakfast that became her salvation.  Now, at her death, it will reveal the many secrets she kept hidden.

In this, her debut novel, Lauren Denton tells the heartbreaking story of true love that never dies. Her characters are well-drawn and appealing. This book will please inspirational, contemporary and historical fans alike. A good choice for YA as well.

Read-alikes:
Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton
The Inheritance by Heidi Hostetter
The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy W. Harvey

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The book opens with Anna Fox spying on her neighbors through the window of her gentrified, upper-Manhattan townhouse. She follows all of the neighbors moves, has lots of opinions about what she witnesses, and is particulary taken by the new family that has moved in, The Russells. Her husband and daughter aren't with her, but she speaks to them often and recounts what she observes. We also find out that Anna is agoraphobic. She hasn't left her house in over a year and her only contact is with family over the phone, her psychiatrist who makes home visits, a physical therapist who comes weekly and a tenant in the basement apartment. In addition to her condition and spying on her neighbors, Anna is a heavy drinker who often mixes her medications with wine. She doesn't eat right, is sloppy about housework and often doesn't brush her teeth or bathe. When the teenage son of the new neighbor stops by with a gift and Anna then meets the boy's mother, she is happy to connect to actual people who are friendly towards her.

The author skillfully builds interest and suspense in the reader. When Anna witnesses a crime and the police don't believe her because of her medication and alcohol consumption, the reader is left with even more questions --- why isn't Anna's family with her; what terrible thing occurred that caused her to not want to leave her house; what the story is regarding her tenant; why does the Russells' son seem to be afraid of his father; and what did the Russells leave behind in Boston? Very little is revealed and when the truth is learned, it leaves the reader reeling with surprise. 

With nods to movies such as Rear Window, Rebecca, and Strangers on a Train, this book is full of atmosphere and Anna's favorite movies add a cinematic effect. Although Anna's unreliable narration is similar to The Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window has even more twists and surprises. Just when you think Anna can't be trusted, there's a revelation that the reader didn't suspect at all. This book is the perfect read if you want to lose yourself in a well-paced, masterfully plotted and well-written novel. It's the perfect beach read as it pulls you into the plot and makes you forget everything around you.

Read-alikes:
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Jennifer Dixon has two daughters in college and a son just starting kindergarten. When her daughters, the result of her few years as a band groupie, were in elementary school, she was class mom for a record seven years in a row. But she was much younger then. She finds herself revisiting the role of class mom with her son Max, and is highly aware of the large gap between her and the moms of Max's classmates. And that's not all Jen has on her plate. She's training for a mud run, trying to help her best friend through a crisis, suddenly reunited with her high school crush, and trying to figure out what the real story is with Max's teacher.

Jen may have settled down, married and be living a much more conventional life than when she was when her daughters were in elementary school, but she hasn't lost any of her snark. As a mother of a rising kindergartner myself, I had to imagine my reaction of I'd received emails like the ones she sends out to her fellow parents. I'd like to think I'd rush out and make Jen my new best friend, but if I'm being honest, I'd probably be a little offended. Reading about how she negotiates the class politics and deals with everything else going on in her life is very entertaining. Jen is a fun character, and her supporting cast is likable and realistic. This fast-paced book is both lighthearted and heartwarming.

Read-alikes:
Life After Coffee  by Virginia Franken
How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

When their parents divorced, twins Harper and Tabitha Frost, who were teens and had been so close growing up, were split. Tabitha stayed on Nantucket with their upper-crust, fashion designer mother Eleanor Roxie-Frost and Harper moved with their working-class father Billy Frost to Martha’s Vineyard. Neither twin wanted to live with their mother due to her perfectionist tendencies and high expectations so the twins threw rock/paper/scissors in order to decide thus starting the rift between them. Several years later, the rift was complete after Tabitha blamed Harper for the death of her son. Now, almost forty, Harper’s life is falling apart. She’s having an affair with a married man while dating a local deputy and everyone has just found out. Meanwhile, on Nantucket, Tabitha’s daughter Ainsley is throwing wild parties, drinking, and is completely out of control. Tabitha is also unable to move on from her son’s death causing her to not be able to form true bonds with anyone. When Billy dies, Tabitha, Ainsley and Eleanor travel to Martha’s Vineyard for the funeral and old feelings are brought to the surface again. After Eleanor falls and breaks her hip and Billy’s house needs to be sold to pay his medical bills, the twins decide to get away from the drama surrounding them on their respective Islands and switch houses. Tabitha moves to Martha’s Vineyard to renovate Billy’s home and in the process, falls in love, while Harper moves to Nantucket to deal with a rebellious Ainsley and try to salvage what’s left of their mother’s failing clothing boutique realizing she is capable for more than anyone gives her credit. Each twin then deals with what it’s like to be mistaken for the other and to live in the other’s shoes leading to a better understanding of each other and starting the healing process.

Identicals is a quick read moving back and forth between the sisters and the Islands and how their lives change once they move. Unfortunately, the characters are stereotypical, the plot is predictable and the story is repetitive with the same scenarios hashed out repeatedly. Tabitha takes after their mother, who isn’t very motherly at all, and is more concerned with appearances than feelings. She worries more about how many calories are in something and what clothes she and Ainsley are wearing over how lost Ainsley is and how bad an influence her mean-girl best friend is on her. She constantly sees everything that Harper does as a slight against her and continues to judge Harper when there’s nothing to be judged. Harper was the party girl in college and has never held down a real job so every mistake she makes plays on that. No one will let her forget her mistakes either and the people of Martha’s Vineyard are very judgmental. It’s no surprise when Harper ends up being more of a mother than Tabitha or how Ainsley does a complete turn around and realizes she has been a bad person and needs to change. Give this quintessential beach read to women looking for books set during the summer on popular tourist Islands, and/or those looking for enough drama, family and otherwise, to keep them hooked but not weighed down. 

Read-alikes:
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan are the happy, compatible parents of twin daughters, contented with their lives and their marriage. All this begins to unravel when they visit the doctor and learn, based on longevity statistics, that they will likely have 68 more years of marriage before them! Sylvie decides that introducing surprise into their lives will help to keep their marriage fresh and contented, but “Project Surprise Me” brings, instead, stress and confusion. Misunderstandings arise, and a long-buried secret concerning Sylvie’s beloved father is revealed.

Kinsella’s characters are original, quirky and engaging. Her writing style is smooth and witty. While most of the mishaps resulting from “Project Surprise Me” are comical, Sylvie must face a serious, heart aching situation, which she does, with Dan’s help, discovering in the process new reasons to admire him. “Surprise Me” will appeal to lovers of “chick-lit “authors Meg Cabot, Jane Green and Lauren Weisberger. 

Read-alikes:
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Thirty-two-year-old Faith Frankel has returned from living in Brooklyn to her small hometown in Massachusetts and taken a “stress-free” job at her alma mater, Everton Country Day School, where she handwrites thank you notes and meets with potential donors. Her fiancé, Stuart, is 41 and has quit his job to travel the U.S. on foot “searching for awesomeness in the everyday,” a journey he documents on Instagram.

In his absence, she purchases a small fixer-upper home on her own and begins uncovering the secrets of the previous owner (and her three deceased husbands), which include possible murders that lead to the local police excavating her cellar. She’s not alone in her new house for long, as her attractive coworker Nick rents her spare room after breaking up with his girlfriend. An accusation that she has been misdirecting work funds, the separation of her parents, her retired insurance agent father’s new career as an artist, and her divorced older brother’s struggling love life are all distractions as she decides whether to move on from her relationship with Stuart, and if Nick is the right person to move on with.

Despite some of the serious subjects, the tone is lightly comedic and witty. Though Faith is an underemployed millennial, the characters are quirky, timeless, and should appeal to a wide range of readers who enjoy comedies of manners.

Read-alikes:
How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
Today Will Be Difference by Maria Semple

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Brit Louisa Clark is in Manhattan now, working as an assistant for a high-strung socialite while she ponders her future. This is the third book in a popular British series that follows Louisa’s adventures and loves. The setting has relocated to the Upper East Side of New York City where Louisa is working in the world of the super-rich and making new friends while still trying to hold on to a long-distance relationship with Ambulance Sam.

This is a character-driven novel about a young woman trying to find herself. It is told from the first-person point of view and it’s a fast-paced and engaging story, infused with good humor and charm. Moyes is a good storyteller and she places Louisa in situations outside of her comfort zone where she learns to maintain her integrity. Society and class is an underlying theme and librarians will love Louisa’s efforts to save the Washington Heights branch of NYPL that is in danger of being unfunded. There are several supporting characters of diverse ethnicities. This novel will appeal primarily to women who enjoy light, romantic comedies.

Read-alikes:
Bridget Jones Series by Helen Fielding
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Candace Reader, Northport-East Northport Public Library



A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

After losing her husband of almost 30 years, Alison is getting married again. Her fiancé, David has a house on Nantucket Island, where the wedding will take place. During the summer, Alison’s adult children and David’s adult children will spend time on the island, getting to know each other.

Unfortunately, Poppy, David’s daughter, is against the marriage, fearing she will lose some inheritance money, and is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the happy couple. Alison’s two daughters are going through their own family trials, and David’s son Ethan, is flirting with both women, adding to their distress and confusing them.

A beach read if ever there was one, this is an easy, breezy read that keeps you turning the pages happily, watching the children play in the sand and surf, enjoying local seafood and shopping, and trying on dresses for the wedding (dresses that Poppy refuses to wear, of course.)

Throughout all the trials and tribulations, Alison and David remain steadfast in their plans, not allowing their children to derail them, and the wedding is a beautiful success.

Read-alikes:
Jane Green
Elin Hilderbrand
Ann Rivers Siddons
Danielle Steel

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library