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