This book is crazy wonderful…“It’s about Zombies. And Wars,” which at first seems a fantastic, surprising departure from Hemon’s poignant, gripping writings of the modern Bosnian-American experience or his own remarkably observant love of country, city, family, words. But the strength of Hemon’s heart (and own story) remains solidly on these brain-sucking pages. From a fresh and perfectly written narrator: son of American privilege, grandson of Immigrant Survivors, struggling with authorial impotence and frustrated lust for women (and lives) more compelling than his own, Hemon has revealed with keen knowing and elegant detail (you will taste, smell, and know Chicago on each page) that the warm blanket of American Allowance may not grant right to dilly-dally any more than it does for any transient surviving soul. The Walking Dead are, in fact, all of us. - Joanna
In the preface to this incredible story collection, Terrence Holt explains a humble epiphany that came early in his own medical residency: that the day-to-day din, interuptions, and inconsistencies of hospital care made telling the story of medical training near-impossible (and thus, oddly, more essential). What follows are Holt's pristine stories of nine memorable patients cared for by one resident over the span of four years, each poingnantly informed by hard science but told with the freedom and obligation of fiction to explore the complexities involved in the 'training' and caretaking of the human spirit. - Joanna
There is no better way to introduce an essay collection than to recognize the humility required in its making, and there is (apparently) now no better writer to prove this than Charles D'Ambrosio. His knowing that "we are more intimately bound to one another by our kindred doubts than our brave conculsions" allows him to plainly wander, linger, loiter in places and with people he does not know: his changed Seattle, the scene of a 'media-buzzing' crime, an evangelical haunted house, a Russian orphanage, and that he does his wandering without explicit intent allows him to encounter the deepest and most beautiful of truths. - Joanna
If, as thirteen-year-old Stewart knows (and needs to keenly trust upon the loss of his mother), we are all in constant exchange of molecular matter, then Susin Nielsen has unleashed trillions of atoms contained in her heart and can expect them to arrive back to her and to this amazing story of family blended, friends bended, and the science of humanness proven. Fans of "Wonder," hold tight. This is the young adult Read of the Year. - Joanna
Fifth-grader Rose Howard loves homonyms and prime numbers (the first many of which she's memorized and deftly 'counts on' to help her manage baffling emotions and uncomfortable social norms). And while her relationship with her father (and, often, her peers) is fraught and complicated, the ones with her beloved dog and thoughtful Uncle are simple and pure. After Rain (her dog) goes missing on the night of a violent storm, she harnesses an extraordinary ability to detail a plan to find him and to trust that Rules (no matter how inconvenient) are not meant to be broken. This is a story that will break (brake) your heart and gracefully stitch it back bigger and more whole (hole) again. - Joanna
Akhil Sharma says that he hopes this, his newest novel, based largely on his own life experience, is thought of as "a rigorous modern story of the childhood self that deals specifically with the Indian immigrant experience," and yes, it is that, especially if 'rigor' suggests the serious work of constructing a seamless, stunning, and darkly funny narrative; but this book can also be described as the tender story of a modest, ambitious family that falls suddenly into the despair of having a child with a permanent, devastating injury, of living with No hope, and of needing to move on Together as only a Family Life demands.
This fleet-footed novel (that gathered gobs of praise in 2014) is among my most startling joys of the winter. I read it in one breathtaking night and will revisit it again for its craft in revealing the blunt intelligence between lovers, the makings and unmakings of family, the theater of hurt feelings, feeblemindedness at the grocery, and the italicized wisdom of others—all (and more) stitched together by the steady insistence of undisguised love. - Joanna