Today's releases include a moving debut that's a cross between Etaf Rum's A Woman Is No Man and Tara Westover's Educated; a historical whodunit that blurs the line between the fantastical and the spectral; and an utterly original novel about a young, Viking-obsessed woman named Zelda, who is about to become the hero of her own legend.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
The Girl with the Louding Voice: A Novel by Abi Daré
Abi Daré’s debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice, is like a blend of Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man and Tara Westover’s Educated (so buckle up). In it Adunni, a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl, endures a series of unfortunate events in her quest to get an education. The alternative is a life of servitude, something Adunni experiences firsthand when, after escaping an arranged marriage, she lands herself in an even more precarious position in the employ of a sadistic wife and her debauched husband. Buoyed by the memory of her late mother, who wanted her daughter to buck cultural confines and find her (louding) voice, and with the help of a few unlikely allies, Adunni sets about overcoming her sorry lot. The Girl with the Louding Voice is a rousing tale of courage and pluck, and unexpectedly charming. It’s also a reminder of the power of books, especially for those of us afforded the luxury of taking reading, and learning, and dreaming for granted. —Erin Kodicek
Things in Jars: A Novel by Jess Kidd
Things in Jars depicts a Victorian world in which wealthy men of science compete with circus owners to purchase and collect all manner of oddities. And it’s only after Bridie Devine, a stout, fearless lady detective, calls to the home of a Mr. Berwick, whose daughter Christabel’s been kidnapped, that Bridie realizes that the elder Berwick is also a collector, that his “daughter” is a mermaid with pike teeth, and that she may be the stolen jewel of Berwick’s collection of marine oddities. No matter. Bridie understands the mind of a collector—she’s been collected in her time and now collects others, such as her 7’ circus performer-turned-maid, Cora Butter. The difference is, Bridie, “captain of herself” is Noah, collecting to keep the vulnerable safe, not to dissect or display them. As Things in Jars opens, she’s curious to find she’s added another, spectral, being to her collection: Ruby Doyle, the ghost of a deceased boxer, still clad only in the boots, drawers, and top hat he wore at the time of his death. Together, as her search for Christabel brings her into London, “awash with the freshly murdered,” where every life has a price—big or pitifully small—Bridie, Ruby, and Inspector Valentine Rose of Scotland Yard will form a prickly but funny love triangle as they pursue Christabel, the only pin pricks of humanity amid the stink, the rot, and the viciousness of the river city. —Vannessa Cronin
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
When We Were Vikings is a tender, witty novel about protecting your tribe and living your own legend. Zelda is a young woman obsessed with Vikings: their language, their legends, and, most of all, their heroes. Zelda was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and lives with her older brother, Gert, who struggles to keep them afloat financially. Due to his appearance, Gert is often mistaken for a thug, but Zelda and Gert’s girlfriend convince him to live up to his potential and go to college. But the bills still need to get paid, so Gert gets involved in some shady business in order to provide for the two of them, and the people he’s dealing with are dangerous and cruel. Though Gert is responsible for Zelda, sometimes she has to step in and save him too; their love and loyalty is fierce and wonderful. The novel is Zelda’s account of her quest to become a hero of her own making, to live a life bigger than the label of developmentally challenged. With Zelda’s unique narrative voice in my head, When We Were Vikings made me laugh, cry, and chew my fingernails down to stubs in anticipation of what would happen next. Moving, memorable, and utterly original. —Seira Wilson
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