My favorite panel at BEA each year is the one geared to book clubs.
For the second year, the Reading Groups Guides panel has been set up in a
speed-dating format. Attendees sit at round tables, and the publicity
and marketing people from various publishing houses move from table to
table to tell us about their hottest titles that will prompt the best
discussions. Here is Part 1 of my recap of that event, covering four of
the eight publishers that stopped by my table. (Come back on tomorrow for
BEA Book Group Speed Dating Session: Part 2.)
Here are the books I learned about at the session, plus my top pick from each publisher. Titles in boldface are books that made it to my wish list.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Man Alive! by Mary Kay Zueavleff: a contemporary novel of family and values
- Someone by Alice McDermott: a woman scorned in the 1930s; we are all fools for something
- Tinderbox by Lisa Gornick: contemporary novel about how a nanny disrupts a family's dynamics
- Hild by Nicola Griffith: historical novel; a seer in 7th-century Britain, just as Christianity is taking hold in the kingdom
All it takes is a quarter to change pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Owen Lerner’s life. When the coin he’s feeding into a parking meter is struck by lightning, Lerner survives, except that now all he wants to do is barbecue. What will happen to his patients, who rely on him to make sense of their world? More important, what will happen to his family?What will book clubs talk about? Family, the importance of money, ambition, the true meaning of success, marriage and expectations, adapting to change. On sale September 3; ISBN 13: 9780374202316
The bolt of lightning that lifts Lerner into the air sends the entire Lerner clan into free fall. Mary Kay Zuravleff depicts family-on-family pain with generosity and devastating humor as she explores how much we are each allowed to change within a family—and without. Man Alive! captures Owen and Toni Lerner and their nearly grown children so vividly you’ll be looking over your shoulder to make sure the author hasn’t been watching your own family in action.
Grove / Atlantic
- Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly: contemporary novel about a woman whose friend's child disappears while she is in charge
- Wash by Margaret Wrinkle: historical novel; effects of slave breeding in early 1800s Tennessee
- It's Not Love, It's Just Paris by Patricia Engel: focuses on the inhabitants of a woman's rooming house in Paris
In this luminous debut, Margaret Wrinkle takes us on an unforgettable journey across continents and through time, from the burgeoning American South to West Africa and deep into the ancestral stories that reside in the soul. Wash introduces a remarkable new voice in American literature.What will book clubs talk about? Slavery, breeding programs, spirituality, cultural differences. On sale November 9; ISBN 13: 9780802122032
In early 1800s Tennessee, two men find themselves locked in an intimate power struggle. Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, has spent his life fighting not only for his country but also for wealth and status. When the pressures of westward expansion and debt threaten to destroy everything he’s built, he sets Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breeding sire. Wash, the first member of his family to be born into slavery, struggles to hold onto his only solace: the spirituality inherited from his shamanic mother. As he navigates the treacherous currents of his position, despair and disease lead him to a potent healer named Pallas. Their tender love unfolds against this turbulent backdrop while she inspires him to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. Once Richardson and Wash find themselves at a crossroads, all three lives are pushed to the brink.
- The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey: described as The Help meets Beaches; 1950s Mississippi
- The Returned by Jason Mott: contemporary novel; what if your loved ones could return from the dead?
- Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel: early 1940s India; unlikely love story at the brink of great social change; the author grew up on a tea plantation in India
- The Tulip Eaters by Antionette Van Heugten: contemporary and historical (World War II); thriller in which the crime has roots in the Dutch resistance
Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time. . . . Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.What will book clubs talk about? Death, spirituality, religion, love, hope, what happens when wishes come true. Extra: this has been picked up as a television series, which will be called Resurection. On sale August 27; ISBN 13: 9780778315339
All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.
With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.
- Margot by Jillian Cantor: contemporary novel with flashbacks to World War II; what if Anne Frank's sister escaped to the United States and now must relive past horrors when her sister becomes posthumously famous
- Me before You by Jojo Moyes: contemporary novel; UK setting; love story
- A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins: what happens when a man tries to build the first sentient computer using his late-father's journals
- The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol: translated from French; two sisters try to help each other out with unexpected results
When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Joséphine Cortès is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two—confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoé—is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Joséphine’s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all—a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a très chic Paris address—but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Joséphine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris’s name. All is well—that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season.What will book clubs talk about? Marriage, sisters, motherhood, get-rich-quick schemes, honesty, jealousy. On sale December 31; ISBN 13: 9780143121558
Don't forget that discussion guides will be available for all these titles. Check ReadingGroupGuides.com and the publishers' websites for more information about book club resources, the books, and the authors.