Three books I’m eager to read

Below are two new releases and a book that’s short-listed for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

This multigenerational family saga goes on sale June 27, and it’s already getting attention as a lead summer read. It follows the lives of three Vietnamese American women in the Tran family, grandmother, mother, and daughter, “spanning decades and continents, from 1960s Vietnam to the wild swamplands of the Florida coast,” according to the press release. The novel begins with a phone call that informs Ann Tran her grandmother Minh has passed away. Ann returns home to Florida to face her estranged mother in the midst of new personal complications. She’s pregnant, and she’s facing the reality of her boyfriend’s infidelity. Ann and her mother have inherited the Banyan House from Minh, described as “a crumbling old mansion that was Ann’s childhood home, in all its strange Gothic glory.” So much intrigues me — the family history, the mother-daughter relationship, the discovery of long-buried secrets, and more. Banyan Moon sounds like a perfect summer read.

The finalists for the Women’s Prize for Fiction were announced April 26 with Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses among the six. I’d intended to read it when it came out last November – award lists thankfully provide reminders of books we still want to read! Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the story focuses on Catholic school teacher Cushla who, while working at night in her family’s pub, meets Michael Agnew. He’s a sophisticated barrister known for defending IRA members. Everything says this girl in her 20s should stay away (he’s married, older, Protestant) but an affair ensues. “Then the father of a student is savagely beaten, setting in motion a chain reaction that will threaten everything, and everyone, Cushla most wants to protect,” according to the book’s description.  Sounds too good to let myself miss, again.

Burkhard Bilger is a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker who’s spent ten years uncovering the truth of his German family heritage. The result is this new memoir, Fatherland. I always perk up when the author is a New Yorker writer because the book will likely be of the magazine’s writing style, the engaging depth, insight, and clarity. From the book’s description: “His parents were born in 1935 and had lived through the Second World War, but his mother’s stories, vivid as they were, had strange omissions. She was a historian, yet she rarely talked about her father’s experiences in the war or when the Nazis came to power. Then one day a packet of letters arrived from Germany, yellowed with age, and a secret history began to unfold.” I’m anticipating this will be an absorbing family investigation in what Bilger in the Author’s Note describes as narrative nonfiction, part history, and part storytelling.

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