10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May

Looking for your next great read? Here are ten terrific novels coming out in May.

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The Snow Queen
by Michael Cunningham
Highly acclaimed and popular novelist Cunningham has a new novel, which the New York Times calls his “most original and emotionally piercing book to date.” Snow Queen examines the relationships between thirty-something, gay, and freshly dumped Barrett Meeks, Barrett’s secretly drug-addicted musician brother and his brother’s cancer-stricken fiancée, all roommates in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Booklist calls Snow Queen “tender, funny, and sorrowful” and the reviewer at Library Journal loves how “in concise yet descriptive language, Cunningham weaves the secret of transcendence through the mundane occurrences of everyday life.” Cunningham is best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won a Pulitzer Prize, a PEN/Faulkner Award and a Stonewall Award.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
Reviewers are raving about this tale of intertwined lives in Occupied France during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind teenager living in the fortressed city of Saint-Malo during the German Occupation. Her path will ultimately cross with Werner, the orphaned son of a German coal miner, whose unique aptitude for fixing radio equipment leads to an elite Nazi education and then to France, where he intercepts broadcast transmissions for the Wehrmacht. The New York Times calls this book “hauntingly beautiful” and Publishers Weekly says, “If a book's success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize-winner Doerr's novel triumphs on both counts.” Doerr is the author of short story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector and the novel About Grace.

The Orenda
by Joseph Boyden
A story of clashing cultures, spiritual life and warfare in 17th century Canada features Bird, a Huron warrior, and his two captives: Snow Falls, the Iroquois daughter he adopts after killing her family in vengeance for his own, and Père Christophe, a French Jesuit who has been abandoned by his guides in the wilderness. Booklist calls The Orenda a “noteworthy literary achievement” and “mesmerizing.” Boyden is the recipient of Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize and the author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce.

The Possibilities
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Hemmings follows up her popular debut The Descendants (which became an Oscar-nominated film) with another story about family and grief. In The Possibilities, Breckenridge, Colorado resident Sarah St. John has just lost her 21-year old son in an avalanche. As she copes with her grief, she discovers things about her son she never knew—some of them unpleasant—and gathers an extended clan of family and friends around her to commemorate his life on a road trip to Colorado Springs. “Hemmings writes a piercing, empathetic story about parenthood and unfathomable heartbreak and manages to bring humor and hope to her characters. Emotionally complex and relatable to all, it will be particularly understandable to those who've experienced the inexplicable, devastating loss of a loved one.” (Kirkus).

The Year She Left Us
by Kathryn Ma
A visit to her home orphanage in China opens up old wounds for 18-year old Ari Kong and launches the women in the Kong family into crisis. Booklist calls The Year She Left Us a “sweeping success” and adds, “this is a family saga of insight, regret, and pathos, and it is not to be missed.” Ma is a resident of San Francisco and author the story collection All That Work and Still No Boys, which won the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Prize.

The Bees
by Laline Paull
The Bees is a wildly unique dystopian novel featuring insect protagonists. In the bee community, hierarchy, obedience and uniformity are the rule, but when Flora 717 realizes that she has skills and talents above her caste, she takes great risks that threaten the order of the hive.  Library Journal calls The Bees “a powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society.”

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
by Nadia Hashimi
Three Afghan sisters are devastated when they can no longer attend school due to their lack of a male chaperone.  Inspired by the example of her great-aunt Shekiba, Rahima invokes the tradition of bacha posh—which enables her to dress and live as a boy, knowing that eventually she will be forced to return to her traditional, oppressed role as a woman. “A lyrical, heartbreaking account of silenced lives” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Painter
by Peter Heller
Heller follows up his acclaimed and best-selling post-apocalyptic debut The Dog Stars with a novel about a haunted artist with a violent streak. Jim Stegner is a successful painter with a criminal past who retreats to the woods to cope with painful losses—his teenage daughter has been murdered and his wife has left him. Just as he is experiencing a period of personal and creative fulfillment, Jim witnesses an act of cruelty and he responds in an eruption of rage. Library Journal calls The Painter “at times suspenseful, at times melancholy, at times spiritual, but always engrossing… this novel embraces themes of personal loss and growth, drama and suspense, while also including plenty for those who enjoy art or nature fiction. Highly recommended.”

Delicious!
by Ruth Reichl
Foodies will drool over this first novel from Reichl, former Gourmet magazine editor, New York Times restaurant critic, and author of the fantastic culinary memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me With Apples. Delicious! is a food magazine where college dropout Billie Breslin lands a job due to her impeccable palate, despite the fact that she does not cook. The book’s recipe includes a little romance, a little mystery, and some insider perspective on the culinary publishing world. “Reichl fills her plump novel with plenty—rich characterization, a bright New York setting, transcendent discussions of taste and food” (Booklist).

The Girl in the Road
by Monica Byrne
Two determined young women pursue impossible journeys that ultimately collide in this near-future tale. Meena is illicitly and perilously crossing the Arabian Sea via a vast power-generating structure that connects India to Djibouti. Miriama is fleeing slavery in Mauritania by crossing the Sahara. “Byrne's debut novel may be the most inventive tale to come along in years,” raves Kirkus Reviews, “Strong, appealing protagonists and an unusual plot make Byrne's literary invention well worth the reader's while.”

 

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