In this week's edition, the Bubonic plague, a brutal but beautiful debut about the bond between two brothers, two fantastical historical fictions, and a novel Louise Erdrich says "makes a compelling case for compassion over blame."
Whoever did PR for the bubonic plague nailed it; there’s probably never been a more effective alias for a disease than the Black Death. Though much more famous for its ravages in medieval Europe, the bacterium—most commonly spread by infected fleas hitching rides on rats and other small animals—has also knocked at the door of the New World. In Black Death at the Golden Gate (May 7), David Randall describes the struggle by a single health official to halt its spread in turn-of-the-20th-century San Francisco, where racism, opportunism, and avarice emerged as the plague’s unlikely allies. —Jon Foro
A Russian exchange student works to exonerate the brother left behind, a drug addict who has confessed to murder. Lights All Night Long is a brutal but beautifully told story of love, loyalty, and home. Despite some dark themes, the story is buoyed by characters who are trying to be helpful, who are trying to do the good and right thing even when circumstances are conspiring against them. One of the best novels I've read this year. --Erin Kodicek
I'm excited to start a new young adult book called We Rule the Night. It’s a debut novel with an intriguing premise: two young women who don’t like each other are forced to work together undertaking dangerous missions, to fight for their country against the enemy. Sounds like a historical war novel, but in this case the world they live in also has forbidden magic. For those of us who loved Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction and also Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy trilogy, Shadow and Bone, this is the next book not to miss. --Seira Wilson
I recently had the marvelous experience of talking with Yangsze Choo about her newest book, The Night Tiger (a Best Book of the Month for February), and we got to speaking about her debut, The Ghost Bride. This historical novel seems to have all the ingredients that I love: details about an exotic (to me) locale, complex but delightful characters that will burrow into my heart, and supernatural elements. Plus, I've been ensnared by this first sentence: "One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride." I can’t wait to settle on my couch with a cat (or three) and get reading. –Adrian Liang
I haven't read a novel for a couple weeks, which is rare, and so I'm diving into Ask Again, Yes with great anticipation this weekend. The story begins in the early 70s: two cops and their families live next to each other in the Bronx. There is a conflict and one of the families moves away. But two of the children maintain a relationship, and later it becomes romantic--and the book will go on to explore memory and perception, and how those things change as we get older... and that sounds exactly like a novel I want to read as I begin my dive back into the fictional side of the book pool.
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