10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2015

Got room on your hold list? Here come some of the most tempting novels of May.

A God in Ruins
by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson’s last novel, Life After Life (2013), won the Costa Award (and loads of fans) for its unusual tale of the many lives and deaths of Ursula Todd. Her new novel turns to Ursula’s brother Teddy. Atkinson skillfully jumps back and forth in time, portraying Teddy as a World War II pilot, husband, father, teacher and grandfather. Booklist promises, “every one of Atkinson's characters will, at one moment or another, break readers' hearts,” and “Atkinson mixes character, theme, and plot into a rich mix, one that will hold readers in thrall.” Quickly, place your hold now!

Only the Strong
by Jabari Asim
A portrait of African American life in early 1970s St. Louis is rendered by the overlapping stories of four characters: a retired thug turned cab driver, his local crime boss, a prominent physician and a promising college student escaping her troubled childhood. Kirkus Reviews praises Asim’s “sinewy style and elegiac tone” and promises “you will rarely find a historical novel that's as panoramic yet also as lean, mean, and moving as this.”

The Green Road
by Anne Enright
Winner of the Booker Prize for The Gathering (2007) and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for The Forgotten Waltz (2011), Enright is known for her “exacting yet luminous expressions of family dynamics” (Booklist). Her newest family drama starts in 1980s County Claire Ireland, and follows a volatile matriarch and her four far-flung children over the next three decades: Daniel, who finds love and art in New York City’s gay scene, Emmet doing aid work in Mali, struggling actress Hanna, and Constance, who puts down roots close to home. Kirkus praises Enright’s “brilliant ear for dialogue, her soft wit, and piercing, poetic sense of life's larger abstractions” and calls The Green Road “a subtle, mature reflection on the loop of life from a unique writer of deserved international stature.”

Re Jane
by Patricia Park
Jane Re is a recent college graduate whose promising career flopped when the dot-com bubble burst. Now she’s stuck in Queens working for her Aunt and Uncle’s grocery. She doesn’t fit in—she’s an orphan and others don’t think she’s Korean enough for her Korean neighborhood. A job as an au pair plunks her down into an entirely new world in Brooklyn, and next stop is Seoul, where she connects with her complex roots. Publishers Weekly calls this debut novel “a cheeky, clever homage to Jane Eyre” and Kirkus calls the author “a fine writer with an eye for the effects of class and ethnic identity, a sense of humor, and a compassionate view of human weakness.”

Balm
by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Three wounded souls cross paths in post-Civil War Chicago, victims of both personal and national tragedies. Madge is a healer who cannot soothe herself; Sadie is an unhappy widow who is also a medium; Hemp, a former slave, is desperately trying to track down the wife he was separated from before he was freed. “The author deftly weaves her characters' longings with the gritty realities of American life after war's devastations” (Library Journal). Her first novel Wench (2010) won the First Novelist Award from Black Caucus of American Library Association and was a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award.

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor
by Julie Iromuanya
Ifi is leaving Nigeria for a promising future: an arranged marriage to Job, a Nigerian expat and prominent doctor, and a comfortable new life in the United States where she can study nursing. What will she do when she discovers that Job is not a doctor, his home is run-down, and his promises are all a sham? “This refreshingly well-drawn debut novel is peopled with lively, engrossing characters who reflect a sophisticated understanding of human nature and relationships,” raves Kirkus, “Iromuanya presents a fascinating and often hilarious drama of marriage, highlighting the discrepancies between who we say we are and who we really are.”

Loving Day
by Mat Johnson
Warren Duffy’s marriage failed, his business went bust, and now his father is dead. Warren returns from his ex-pat life in Wales to claim his inheritance: a crumbling mansion in Philadelphia. At a comic book convention he meets the daughter he didn’t know he had—a daughter who had no idea that she has black ancestry. No reviews yet in sight for this one, but I have high hopes for the author of critically acclaimed novels Pym(2011) and Drop (2000) and the graphic novel Incognegro (2008).

Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson
The moon suddenly and mysteriously explodes, triggering an exodus from the earth in which seven women must repopulate the human race. In his latest science fiction epic, Stephenson traces the fate of humanity over the next 5000 years. Publishers Weekly says “Stephenson's remarkable novel is deceptively complex, a disaster story and transhumanism tale that serves as the delivery mechanism for a series of technical and sociological visions” and Kirkus calls it “wise, witty, utterly well-crafted.” Stephenson is the author of many popular and acclaimed novels including Anathem (2008), Reamde (2011), and Cryptonomicon (1999).

War of the Encyclopaedists
by Chris Robinson and Gavin Kovite
Best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy call themselves The Encyclopaedists, throwing parties and art shows in the large house they share in Seattle. They head in different directions when Montauk departs for Iraq with the army and Corderoy leaves for graduate school in Boston, keeping in touch by updating the Wikipedia page they created about themselves. Kirkus calls it “smart and entertaining” and a “likable, highly readable, double-bylined coming-of-age first novel” and Publishers Weekly calls it “moving and memorable”.

The Maintenance of Headway
by Magnus Mills
A Booker Prize finalist (for Restraint of Beasts) and former bus driver offers a hilarious take on the absurdity of bureaucracy in this insider’s view of the inner workings of London’s bus system. Publisher’s Weekly says this short novel “is consistently funny and perceptively portrays the plight of the little guy struggling to find sanity in an incomprehensible bureaucratic rat race” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “nearly flawless.”

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