Book clubs: New in paperback
Emily Culliton’s compelling debut novel, The Misfortune of Marion Palm, features a slippery central character whom readers are sure to find intriguing. Marion Palm lives in Brooklyn with Nathan, her poet husband, and their two daughters, who attend a prominent private school. Marion works in the school’s development office, from which she has been siphoning money for several years. When she learns that the school is to be audited, Marion flees her old life, taking a bag of cash with her. Her sudden absence upends the family’s routine existence. Nathan must deal with detectives, angry school administrators and two very confused daughters. Average-looking Marion is a kind of Everywoman who can easily blend in with a crowd, but she also has the nerve to act on her criminal instincts. Culliton moves skillfully through time, offering glimpses of Marion’s relationship with Nathan, her low-income background and her early forays into theft. With its short chapters, this brisk and suspenseful satire is a great summer book club selection.
In Be Free or Die: The Amazing Story of Robert Smalls’ Escape from Slavery to Union Hero, journalist Cate Lineberry delivers a riveting account of one man’s incredible triumph in the midst of the Civil War. In 1862, a 23-year-old slave named Robert Smalls defied all odds and seized command of a Confederate steamer in Charleston, South Carolina. Aided by a few men and joined by his wife and children, who were stowed away on board, Smalls evaded Confederate forces and reached Union territory—a bold act that resulted in freedom for him and his family. Celebrated as a hero, Smalls went on to become the first African-American captain of an Army vessel and a United States congressman, serving five terms in the House of Representatives. Lineberry offers a lucid, insightful account of his courageous act, his political career and his life after the war. History buffs will appreciate her attention to scholarship and detail. This is a captivating portrait of a remarkable man whose heroism deserves wider recognition.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR and the New York Times, Stay with Me, the remarkable debut novel from Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo, focuses on the troubled marriage of Yejide and Akin. The pair fall in love quickly during their university years in Nigeria, and although polygamy is commonplace in their culture, both feel that the custom doesn’t suit them. As time goes by and Yejide fails to get pregnant, she seeks the advice of doctors and traditional healers—to no avail. Matters go from bad to worse when she learns that Akin, under pressure from both of their families, has taken a second wife. Desperate to salvage their relationship, Yejide finds a way to get pregnant, but the risks involved are great. Adebayo’s revealing portrayals of Nigerian culture and the struggles of a once-happy couple are unforgettable. This is a moving novel from an important new writer.