2010 Great Group Reads
Our second annual Great Group Reads list features 13 literary fiction and memoir titles.
We hope you’ll read as many books as you can and enjoy them as we do. If you talk about them on social media, use #GreatGroupReads.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating these fantastic reads!
by Michelle Huneven
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Patsy MacLemoore, a twenty-eight-year-old history professor with a brand-new Ph.D. and a wild streak, wakes up in jail — yet again — after another epic alcoholic blackout. This time, though, a mother and daughter are dead, run over in Patsy’s driveway. Patsy will the next decades of her life atoning for this unpardonable act. She goes to prison, sobers up, marries a much older man she meets in AA, and makes ongoing amends to her victims’ family.
Then, another piece of news turns up, casting her crime, and her life, in a different and unexpected light. Brilliant, morally complex, and often funny, Blame is a breathtaking story of contrition and what it takes to rebuild a life from the bottom up.
The Blessings of the Animals
by Katrina Kittle
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
Categories: general, family
From Katrina Kittle, the critically acclaimed author of The Kindness of Strangers, comes The Blessings of the Animals — a wry, engrossing, and moving story of a veterinarian’s journey through the aftermath of divorce amidst a motley crew of beasts.
by Cathie Beck
Publication Date: July 1, 2010
Categories: memoir, women
I didn’t know that people come into our lives, and sometimes, if we’re terribly lucky, we get the chance to love them, that sometimes they stay, that sometimes you can, truly, depend on them.
Cathie Beck was in her late thirties and finally able to exhale after a lifetime of just trying to get by. A teenage mother harboring vivid memories of her own hardscrabble childhood, Cathie had spent years doing whatever it took to give her children the stability — or at least the illusion of it — that she’d never had. More than that, through sheer will and determination, she had educated them and herself too.
With her kids in college, Cathie was at last ready to have some fun. The only problem was that she had no idea how to do it and no friends to do it with. So she put an ad in the paper for a made-up women’s group: WOW . . . Women on the Way. Eight women showed up that first night, and out of that group a friendship formed, one of those meteoric, passionate, stand-by-you friendships that come around once in a lifetime and change you forever . . . if you’re lucky.
Eternal on the Water
by Joseph Monninger
Publication Date: February 16, 2010
Categories: literary, romance, illness
Cobb, a devoted teacher and nature-lover, takes a sabbatical from his New England boys prep school seeking to experience what Henry David Thoreau and the transcendentalists did in the early nineteenth century.
Kayaking to the last known spot where the American writer and philosopher camped four years before he died, he encounters the beautiful free-spirited Mary. Also a teacher, avid bird-watcher, and deft adventurist, Mary is flirtatious and beguiling, and the two soon become inseparable. Mary is like no one Cobb has ever met before, but he gets the feeling that she is harboring a secret. Eventually she shares her fears with Cobb — that she may be carrying the gene for a devastating, incurable illness that runs in her family. Finding strength in their commitment to one another, the two embark on a journey that is filled with joy, anguish, hope, and most importantly, unending love.
Set against the sweeping natural backdrops of Maine’s rugged backcountry, the exotic islands of Indonesia, scenic Yellowstone National Park, and rural New England, Tender River is a timeless and poignant love story that will captivate readers everywhere.
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
by Heidi W. Durrow
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Categories: literary, coming-of-age, Black and African American
Winner of the Bellwether Prize
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop.
Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity.
This searing and heart-wrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society’s ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
by Chris Cleave
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
Categories: literary, immigration, racism, coming-of-age, women
February 2009 Indie Next List
Millions of people have read, discussed, debated, cried, and cheered with Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee girl whose violent and courageous journey puts a stunning face on the worldwide refugee crisis.
The lives of a sixteen-year-old Nigerian orphan and a well-off British woman collide in this page-turning #1 New York Times bestseller, book club favorite, and “affecting story of human triumph” (The New York Times Book Review) from Chris Cleave, author of Gold and Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.
We don’t want to tell you too much about this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this: It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific. The story starts there, but the book doesn’t. And it’s what happens afterward that is most important. Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
The Lotus Eaters
by Tajana Soli
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Categories: literary, historical, war, artists, women
Winner of UK’s James Tait Black Prize; Finalist LA Times Book Award; April 2010 Indie Next List
In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.
Molly Fox’s Birthday
by Deirdre Madden
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Categories: literary, artists, psychological thrillers
A Finalist for the Orange Prize
It is the height of summer, and celebrated actor Molly Fox has loaned her house in Dublin to a friend while she is away performing in New York. Alone among all of Molly’s possessions, struggling to finish her latest play, she looks back on the many years and many phases of her friendship with Molly and their college friend Andrew, and comes to wonder whether they really knew each other at all. She revisits the intense closeness of their early days, the transformations they each made in the name of success and security, the lies they told each other, and betrayals they never acknowledged.
Set over a single midsummer’s day, Molly Fox’s Birthday is a mischievous, insightful novel about a turning point — a moment when past and future suddenly appear in a new light.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender
Publication Date: June 1, 2010
Categories: literary, coming-of-age, women, fantasy
June 2010 Indie Next List
On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair.
Soon, she’s privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.
The Queen of Palmyra
by Minrose Gwin
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Categories: historical, science fiction, racism
May 2010 Indie Next List
An atmospheric debut novel about growing up in the changing South in 1960s Mississippi in the tradition of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. In the words of Jill McCorkle (Going Away Shoes), “Minrose Gwin is an extremely gifted writer and The Queen of Palmyra is a brilliant and compelling novel.”
by Emma Donoghue
Publication Date: September 13, 2010
Categories: literary, thrillers, family
September 2010 Indie Next List
Held captive for years in a small shed, a woman and her precocious young son finally gain their freedom, and the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating — a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.
Safe from the Sea
by Peter Geye
Publication Date: November 5, 2010
Categories: literary, family
October 2010 Indie Next List
Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other.
Meanwhile, Noah’s own struggle to make a life with an absent father has found its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, whose complications with infertility issues have marked her husband’s life in ways he only fully realizes as the reconciliation with his father takes shape.
Peter Geye has delivered an archetypal story of a father and son, of the tug and pull of family bonds, of Norwegian immigrant culture, of dramatic shipwrecks and the business and adventure of Great Lakes shipping in a setting that simply casts a spell over the characters as well as the reader.
Up from the Blue
by Susan Henderson
Publication Date: September 21, 2010
Categories: historical, mental health, family
The gripping debut novel from Litpark.com founder and Pushcart Prize-nominee Susan Henderson, Up From the Blue is a dazzling tour de force that unfolds against the backdrop of 1970s America — a tumultuous era of desegregation, school busing, and the early rise of modern-day feminism.
The story of an imaginative young girl struggling to make sense of her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Up From the Blue is enthralling fiction that delves into complex family relationships, in the vein of Jennifer McMahon, Katrina Kittle, and Laura Kasischke.
About Great Group Reads
Started as an initiative in 2009 for the Women’s National Book Association’s National Reading Group Month program, Great Group Reads is a list of recommended books perfect for shared reading. The list is released annually in time to celebrate National Reading Group Month in October.