It’s a pretty hot week in book publishing and you know what they say; if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the library. This week’s book club will help you fan some flames. It’s full of fiery women who have gone through hell created by external forces and those of their own making. These ladies are sharp and funny, doing some things you’d never expect. Read on for some spicy tales of destruction, intrigue and survival.
1. The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen ($9): Sometimes the smallest secrets and indiscretions can destroy the careful, delicate balance of “perfect” small-town life. In Sarah Pekkanen’s The Perfect Neighbors, a group of mothers and friends descends into suspicion and chaos when a new family disrupts the quiet domesticity of tiny Newport Cove.
Kellie Scott, Susan Barrett and Gigi Kennedy are all women with a thing or two to hide. Kellie traded stay-at-home motherhood for an office flirtation. Susan’s having a hard time letting go of her ex-husband and his new girlfriend, but “stalking” is such an ugly word. Gigi is nervous now that her husband’s running for Congress — her secrets aren’t ready for the spotlight. This would be enough of a tightrope to walk without new feet upsetting the balance. Why, the other women wonder, have none of them (or anyone else) been invited to new arrival Tessa Campbell’s house?
“She liked their neighbors… She liked this house too… She desperately wanted to walk away and never see any of it again.” The book shows insight into the often unexamined lives of the people we think we understand and the unknowables who live a stone’s throw away but might as well be across an ocean. People calls it “a delicious beach read” and Glamour hails it as one of the “Best Books of Summer.” We think you should lend it to your neighbor when you’re done.
2. How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball ($18): In this novel, young Lucia is feeling the burn of a literal fire. Lucia has largely been abandoned; she’s lost her father to death, her mother to mental illness, her home to eviction (she lives with her aunt in a converted garage) and her school to expulsion. Despite everything, she’s trying to get by and maintain her relationship with her mother, along with her pride and decency. Holding her father’s lighter (the only possession of his that remains) in her pocket, Lucia finds out her new school holds a fascinating secret Arson Club. Spoiler alert: They’re up to no good.
“Each person needs to have his or her thing that they must do. Furthermore, they shouldn’t tell anyone else about it. They should keep it completely secret, as much as possible.” In this explosive novel, author Ball (a former finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize) has created a fascinating character with a distinctive and fresh young voice that sounds a little like broken glass.
Described as a modern Holden Caulfield, Lucia finds many people underestimate the lengths to which she’s willing to go, and seeks to prove them wrong. She instead finds herself playing a dangerous game. Eventually, she must walk through the fire she’s created. “’I think about the future state of affairs, and what will be needed. I know that thinking is foreign to some of you, but you’ll have to wise up, chumps!’ Lucia laughs. ‘This is the world we live in.’” Pretty much.
3. Problems by Jade Sharma ($10): “Whenever a man told me he loved me, I imagined how one day this same man would tell me I was a crazy b*tch, because I am a crazy b*tch.” Maya is a young woman with a dark habit. Rather than burning down the world, Problems’ protagonist seems intent on self-destruction. She’s got a husband, a professor/lover, a quiet job in a bookstore that promises little to no hope for advancement… and a bit of a heroin habit. When both professor and husband leave and the heroin addiction won’t, Maya has to find new avenues for survival. The story might sound familiar, but the execution is anything but. Sharma delights in bringing up potential cliches just so she can subvert them.
“At some point you realize you aren’t waiting any more for your life to start. Your life’s happening right now and it’s pretty dull,” Maya says. Sharma’s novel was released under the Emily Books label, a publishing project that emphasizes the work of female, queer, trans and transgressive writers. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly calls her one of their writers to watch this summer, a “momentous force” and portrayer of “an uncompromising and unforgettable depiction of the corrosive loop of addiction.”
“Somewhere along the way, there stopped being new days. Time progressed for sure… Sounds folded back into the world, moving on, light-years from the living room where I lay around, hardly living.” Maya’s intelligence and raw humor shine through the darkness of her situation as she reacts in way you might not expect. If this is crazy, sign us up… at least for a few hours of reading time.
What’s on your reading list? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(Featured image via Getty)