Will My Book Club Like This?

A recurring feature showcasing recently released books that book clubs may find interesting.

A recurring feature showcasing recently released books that book clubs may find interesting. Links go to the Independent‘s original reviews.

By Becky Meloan

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Doubleday, 400pp

A fantastically descriptive tale of a circus, decorated entirely in black and white, that arrives suddenly and is only open at night. Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) “is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” Among the circus characters are illusionists and fortunetellers and acrobats. The novel is full of lush descriptions of parties and costumes and cleverly imaginative circus tents (The Ice Garden! The Cloud Maze!), but all with an undercurrent of darkness. Two young magicians, Marco and Celia, are destined to compete in a battle that they do not fully understand. Their fates, and the fate of the circus and everyone involved, hang in the balance.

Bottom Line: Readers escape into a richly imagined world. The lavishly described details will be fun for everyone, but the biggest fans will be those who enjoy fantasy and magic in their love stories.

The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
Algonquin, 288pp

When Josie Henderson becomes a marine biologist, she knows that as a black woman, she will not encounter many other black people in her profession. Her career choice, her “precise and quiet” white husband, and her self-professed need to be alone much of the time all help to distance her from her upbringing. Home meant Cleveland, a decaying part of the city where she and her brother were scholarship kids with an alcoholic father and a mother who tried to keep the family together. While her brother struggles with addiction and her mother tries to help, Josie chooses the water as her escape, where “nothing weighs anything.” When her worlds collide, she is forced to confront her past, and recognize her own patterns of addiction.

Bottom Line: A story of a family ravaged by alcoholism and their daughter’s attempts to create a life for herself. Chapters told in different character voices and issues of race and family issues will give readers lots to talk about.


Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber
W.W. Norton & Co., 362pp

Set in modern day Miami, the Muir family lives with the disappearance of their runaway daughter, Felice. For five years, pastry chef Avis tries to meet sporadically with Felice, who now lives on the street with her skateboarding friends. Brian, a corporate attorney for developers, dwells on his daughter’s past. Felice’s brother, Stanley, finds solace in his work as the owner of a popular food market. The family’s pain causes them to circle around each other, never quite connecting or healing. As Felice grows, she faces her fears, and her family must find its way back together.

Bottom Line: Fans of modern day family dramas and accompanying social issues will enjoy the well-drawn characters and their interactions.


We The Animals by Justin Torres
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 144pp

A portrait of an abusive family, through the lens of three “half-breed” brothers who are unleashed on the reader in a relentless torrent of motion and activity. They smash tomatoes on each other until the pulp runs down the kitchen walls. They make toys from trash. Their Puerto Rican father beats their white mother; both parents sometimes abuse and neglect their sons, yet their dysfunctional family still has moments of love and euphoria. This family loves each other, as destructive as their love is. Told from the perspective of a child, the brutality seems even more vivid and frightening. As the boys grow and begin to understand the outside world perspectives shift. The beauty of this novel is in the pulsing, pounding prose.

Bottom Line: Although only 144 pages long, readers will be challenged by the subject matter. Those who will appreciate this book most will be interested to contemplate the brutal yet beautiful family dynamic.

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