New paperback releases for reading groups
ONE CRUCIAL CHOICE
M.L. Stedman’s debut novel, The Light Between Oceans, is a poignant page-turner that marks the arrival of an impressive new literary talent. Tom Sherbourne minds the lighthouse on Janus Rock, an island off the coast of Australia. A World War I veteran with a strong sense of right and wrong, Tom leads a quiet life until he meets outgoing, bubbly Isabel. Eager for marriage and motherhood, she wins Tom’s affections, and the two make a home on the island. After Isabel endures a pair of miscarriages, their hopes for a family dim—until a boat washes ashore bearing a dead man and a baby, whom Isabel wants to keep. Tom, concerned about the baby’s mother, has doubts about the decision, but he guards their secret, and his silence has heartrending repercussions. Emotionally riveting, Stedman’s powerful novel won’t soon be forgotten by readers. It’s a first-rate story and also a sensitive exploration of the ways in which loyalty and love shape individual lives.
A TRIP WORTH TAKING
In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, her remarkable chronicle of self-discovery, Cheryl Strayed shares the story of the solitary trek that changed her life. Emotionally exhausted after the death of her mother, bouts of drug use and a divorce, 26-year-old Strayed embarks on a difficult hike along the Pacific Crest Trail—a 1,100-mile stretch that passes through California and Oregon. The already challenging enterprise is further complicated by Strayed’s lack of preparation. She fails to research the trail or fit herself out with proper hiking boots. Instead of suitable camping equipment, she brings along beloved books by Adrienne Rich and Flannery O’Connor. But her willingness to risk everything adds to the appeal of the narrative. This is a compelling story of personal transformation seasoned with fascinating details about the trail itself—its hazards, its challenges and its hikers, who are, by and large, an odd bunch. Chosen for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, this memoir stands out thanks to Strayed’s formidable storytelling skills.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
The story of a mother who pulls an unexpected disappearing act, Maria Semple’s second novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, is a charmer from start to finish. Bernadette is disgruntled with the politically correct Seattle lifestyle she and her family became a part of when they left Los Angeles. Although life is good—her computer-whiz husband, Elgin, works at Microsoft, and their daughter, Bee, excels in school—Bernadette retreats from everyday existence. Unbeknownst to her family, she uses an online personal assistant, who takes care of her daily tasks—and listens to her complaints. When Bernadette disappears, Bee is left to piece together her story, and the book unfolds through the emails, magazine pieces and police reports she gathers. In Semple’s hands, this narrative approach feels wonderfully original. Semple, who spent 15 years as a writer for TV shows, including “Arrested Development,” is a gifted novelist who brings warmth, humor and a sly intelligence to this tale of maternal angst.