If you belong to a book group or want to start one, our Book Kits can make your book choices easier. A Book Kit helps your book group by providing multiple copies of popular titles all in one bag, so you can check the whole bag out as one item. The Kit comes with ten copies of the book and a Discussion Guide. Currently, there are nineteen Book Kits available (listed below), and as paperback versions of book-group-friendly titles are published, we will add more to the collection.
In Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in Ruins, hoping to safeguard themselves from the ravages of World War II within the walls of their ancient villa in Florence, the noble Rosatis family become prisoners in their home when eighteen-year-old Cristina’s courtship by a German lieutenant prompts the Nazis to take over the estate, a situation that leads to a serial murder investigation years later. Readers who enjoyed reading about moral quandaries and this era in Faye Kellerman’s Straight Into Darkness may also enjoy.
Katherine Boo’s acclaimed National Book Award winner for nonfiction, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity profiles everyday life in the settlement of Annawadi as experienced by a Muslim teen, an ambitious rural mother, and a young scrap metal thief, illuminating how their efforts to build better lives are challenged by religious, caste, and economic tensions. Groups that enjoyed discussing Tracy Kidder’s Mountain Beyond Mountains about Haiti may also find this a satisfying title.
Carol Rifka Brunt’s debut Tell the Wolves I’m Home is about fourteen-year-old June Elbus. It is 1987, and only one person has ever truly understood June: her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life — someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. This novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease, AIDS, and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. Readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters as well. May remind some of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty.
Louise Erdrich’s The Round House is about a fourteen-year-old who sets out to find the person that destroyed his family after his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into depression after being brutally attacked. A similar book is Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives which has the main character face the antagonism of the law, the hostility of traditional doctors, and the accusations of her own conscience.
Patry Francis’s The Orphans of Race Point is an astounding tale of character and place, as well as a mystery, a love story, and a treatise on the meaning of faith as Francis paints a vivid portrait of Provincetown life as two young people find love in various guises and deal with the meaning of friendship and loyalty over the span of three decades. Like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, this sprawling second novel by Massachusetts author Francis starts out with a traumatic incident involving a young boy befriended by a girl and expands from there into a Dickensian story in which criminals with murky motives mingle casually with the pure of heart.
Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies is a complex look at marriage, Groff ’s writing—her use of language, plot and Greek mythology–will seduce the reader as much as the couple at the center of the compelling story. Lotto and Mathilde marry at 22, much to the consternation of family and friends, who take bets on the year the marriage will dissolve. But the two stay married for decades. The first half of the novel, entitled “Fates,” gives Lotto’s perspective on the marriage. He sees nothing but Mathilde’s goodness and her unerring belief in his talent. The second half of the novel, “Furies,” turns the lens on Mathilde and will upset readers’ expectations. Taking a page from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl–like view of marriage, Groff fashions a intense, multilayered portrait of a union that seems to thrive on its darkest secrets. Fans of Jane Smiley will find this dark take on marriage intriguing.
Christina Baker Kline’s The Orphan Train is about Molly Ayer who is close to aging out of the foster care system. When she takes a position helping an elderly woman named Vivian, Molly discovers that they are more alike than different as she helps Vivian solve a mystery from her past. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women. With compassion and delicacy Kline presents a little-known chapter of American history and draws comparisons with the modern-day foster care system. Her accessible, interesting novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the historical novels of Sara Donati or for a more modern take on the foster care system, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers.
Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names is a story of a young African man who was drawn into African revolution who leaves behind his country and friends for America as the path of revolution leads to almost certain destruction. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into the routines of small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past. This absorbing read is thought-provoking with an ending that is a real punch. Readers who read Adiche’s Americanah and/or Bulawayo’s We Need New Names will also find this book resonates with them.
A small New Hampshire town provides the backdrop for Sue Miller ’s The Arsonist about the boundaries of relationships and the tenuous alliance between locals and summer residents. Frankie Rowley, after years spent doing relief work in Africa, has returned to her parents’ summer home, unsure of whether she will ever go back to East Africa, disillusioned by that region’s seemingly endless suffering. The comfort of the small town she has been coming to since she was a girl is shattered by a series of fires set by an arsonist who has targeted the summer homes of the wealthy. Frankie falls into an unexpected affair with the local newspaper editor while also becoming privy to her parents’ difficulties. The town, awash in fear of the unknown arsonist, splits into factions aligned along class divisions. In this suspenseful and romantic novel, Miller deftly describes the value of commitment and community, the risky nature of relationships, and the yearning for meaningful work. May remind some of Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys. Fans of Jodi Picoult may like the issue-driven themes and plots.
In Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, Louisa struggles with her employer’s acerbic moods after taking a job as an assistant to extreme sports enthusiast Will, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident. Moyes’s novel may remind readers of Elizabeth Berg’s Talk Before Sleep; although, Berg focuses on the strong bond between two lifelong friends, rather than the brief but emotionally intense relationship between a hired caregiver and her charge.
TaraShea Nesbit’s The Wives of Los Alamos is the story of the women behind the men who built the atomic bomb. They were housewives, mothers, secretaries, and schoolteachers who haggled for bigger houses, time alone with their husbands, and bigger houses in the harsh, high desert of northern New Mexico. And when the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they realized that they finally had the answers to all of the questions that had gone unanswered for so long, but now they were left with new ones that would remain unanswered for the rest of their lives. Another approach for fans of the nonfiction The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan and readers who enjoyed Jennifer Haigh’s fictional Baker Towersabout a community of women in the WWII time period.
Desperate to understand the war that claimed the life of his brother, John Easley heads to Alaska to investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, while his wife is forced to reimagine who she is after he disappears in a heart-breaking tale and a unique look at the meaning of love and World War II in Brian Payton’s The Wind Is Not a River. If you read Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, an unforgettable story of three brothers, of history and love, of marriage tested by disaster, of a Jewish family’s struggle against annihilation, you may also enjoy Payton’s haunting novel.
In The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild, a girl walks into a shop and finds a painting in this irresistible blend of art and intrigue along the lines of Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Hannah Rothschild, the first woman to chair London’s National Gallery, is a dazzling omniscient narrator giving voice to an irresistible cast of rascals and heroes, including colorful and conniving art-world players, a very persistent suitor, and a 300-year-old, long-lost masterpiece. The fact that art, the embodiment of beauty and humanity’s highest aspirations, arouses evil of appalling dimensions is a paradox Rothschild thoroughly explores in this novel. Thematically, she also touches on the modern exploitation of women and the moral quandaries of war. The book is at its best when delving into the lives of the many people affected by the painting. There is international intrigue, flashbacks to Nazi Germany, and a keyhole view of what it is like to passionately paint as the author packs the narrative with vivid details, especially about art and food and both in historical context. Fans of Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Dara Horn’s The World to Come will also enjoy and find much to discuss.
Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me is set in the world of ballet. Helping a world-famous dancer to defect from the Soviet Union to the United States, ballerina Joan watches her friend’s career soar while her own declines in the wake of her pregnancy and marriage. When the present meets the past, the finely tuned life that Joan has constructed comes crashing down as long-held secrets are exposed in a particularly brutal way. Readers who reveled in Shipstead ’s sardonic comedy-of-manners debut (Seating Arrangements, 2012) will enjoy the emotionally nuanced tale of barre-crossed lovers and the magnetic, mysterious world of professional dance. A supple, daring, and vivid portrait of desire and betrayal, that moves Shipstead’s story back and forth in time with the same seamless precision found in the details of a beautiful ballet, capturing the brutality of the training, the impossible perfection on stage, and the messy fallout that erupts when personal and professional lines blur. Shipstead’s writing is a modern mix of Edith Wharton and Jane Austin about relationships and social mores.
In Elizabeth Silver’s vividly written debut, The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, while visited by a high-powered attorney who has initiated a clemency petition on her behalf and who is also the mother of her victim, death-row inmate Noa is slowly persuaded to share the events surrounding the murder in spite of her reluctance to reveal the whole story or have her life extended. This thought-provoking book is reminiscent of John Grisham’s The Confession in its exploration of the death penalty. Trained as a lawyer, Silver has written a darkly witty, acerbic jigsaw puzzle of a first novel about legal versus moral culpability.
In Elizabeth Strout’s The Burgess Boys, catalyzed by a nephew’s thoughtless prank, a pair of brothers confront painful psychological issues surrounding the freak accident that killed their father when they were boys, a loss linked to a heartbreaking deception that shaped their personal and professional lives. Pulitzer Prize-winner Strout (Olive Kitteridge) takes the reader on a surprising journey of combative filial love and the healing powers of the truth. If you liked Ann Patchett’s Run about siblings exploring their relationships or Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres which also contains on a childhood incident and its ramifications on family members.
In another sharp debut, Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene who is drawn to women in spite of commitment issues considers relationships with three women who compel him to decide what he really wants out of life. Definitely for fans of relationship literature and those who prefer their summer reading sour instead of sweet. May appeal to readers who enjoyed Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins for atmosphere and complicated relationships or Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing for contemporary dating and relationship issues.
Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met may be a great title for fans of Flynn’s Gone Girl and other twisty tales. Relationship stories and the way an author approaches them are always fodder for an intriguing discussion. Whitehouse’s novel asks “Can you ever really know what happened before you met?” Hannah Reilly has seized the chance for happiness after a whirlwind romance and a picture-perfect marriage until her husband fails to come home. The more questions Hannah asks, the fewer answers she finds. If you had a great discussion about Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, this may be good title for you.
Beebe Library allows you to take the Book Kits out for six weeks, giving you time to pass out the books at one meeting and collect them at the next meeting. You will be able to renew the Book Kit once but we do not place holds on Book Kits, and we do not allow other libraries to request Book Kits as an interlibrary loan.
Ask for a Book Kit at the Reference Desk.
Contact Leane Ellis (email@example.com or X6569) if you have suggestions for other Book Kit titles or have questions or would like to comment on the service.