Best Books of the Month: Literature & Fiction (Part 1) Edition

QUINOA (6)

(All books are featured on Amazon.com under the “Best Books of the Month” category.)

1. Hausfrau: A Novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back.

2. The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel by Daniel Torday

A stunning novel from award-winning author Daniel Torday, in which a young man recounts his idolization of his Uncle Poxl, a Jewish, former-RAF pilot, exploring memory, fame and story-telling.

All his life, Elijah Goldstein has idolized his charismatic Uncle Poxl. Intensely magnetic, cultured and brilliant, Poxl takes Elijah under his wing, introducing him to opera and art and literature. But when Poxl publishes a memoir of how he was forced to leave his home north of Prague at the start of WWII and then avenged the deaths of his parents by flying RAF bombers over Germany during the war, killing thousands of German citizens, Elijah watches as the carefully constructed world his uncle has created begins to unravel. As Elijah discovers the darker truth of Poxl’s past, he comes to understand that the fearless war hero he always revered is in fact a broken and devastated man who suffered unimaginable losses from which he has never recovered.

The Last Flight of Poxl West beautifully weaves together what it means to be a family in the shadow of war— to love, to lose, and to heal.

3. Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, makes her Ecco debut with Epitaph—an American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands…

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26th when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal 30 seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

4. Aquarium by David Vann

Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiseled yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. Relentless and heartbreaking, primal and redemptive, Aquarium is a transporting story from one of the best American writers of our time.

5. Crow Fair: Stories by Thomas McGuane

From one of our most deeply admired storytellers, author of the richly acclaimed Gallatin Canyon, his first collection in nine years.

Set in McGuane’s accustomed Big Sky country, with its mesmeric powers, these stories attest to the generous compass of his fellow feeling, as well as to his unique way with words and the comic genius that has inspired comparison with Mark Twain and Ring Lardner. The ties of family make for uncomfortable binds: A devoted son is horrified to discover his mother’s antics before she slipped into dementia. A father’s outdoor skills are no match for an ominous change in the weather. But complications arise equally in the absence of blood, as when life-long friends on a fishing trip finally confront their dislike for each other. Or when a gifted cattle inseminator succumbs to the lure of a stranger’s offer of easy money. McGuane is as witty and large-hearted as we have ever known him — a jubilant, thunderous confirmation of his status as modern master.

6. The Valley by John Renehan

“You’re going up the Valley.”

Black didn’t know its name, but he knew it lay deeper and higher than any other place Americans had ventured. You had to travel through a network of interlinked valleys, past all the other remote American outposts, just to get to its mouth. Everything about the place was myth and rumor, but one fact was clear: There were many valleys in the mountains of Afghanistan, and most were hard places where people died hard deaths. But there was only one Valley. It was the farthest, and the hardest, and the worst.

When Black, a deskbound admin officer, is sent up the Valley to investigate a warning shot fired by a near-forgotten platoon, he can only see it as the final bureaucratic insult in a short and unhappy Army career. What he doesn’t know is that his investigation puts at risk the centuries-old arrangements that keep this violent land in fragile balance, and will launch a shattering personal odyssey of obsession and discovery as Black reckons with the platoon’s dark secrets, accumulated over endless hours fighting and dying in defense of an indefensible piece of land.

The Valley is a riveting tour de force that changes our understanding of the men who fight our wars and announces John Renehan as one of the great American storytellers of our time.

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