Today's releases include the story of one woman's struggle to keep her American dream alive, and the latest page-turning thriller from the author of Descent.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Stephanie Land lifts the rug on the life of the working poor in her eye-opening book, Maid. She is writing about the people who clean our homes, who tend to our yards—yet so often these workers go unseen and their stories untold. As a single mother, Stephanie Land cares for herself and her young daughter through a complicated system of government assistance programs and through employment as a house cleaner. Her experience with government aid programs magnifies their worst inconsistency: how difficult is it for people to become self-sufficient when they are reliant on child care and food assistance credit in order to work and live, yet even the smallest increase in income can mean a significant loss of benefits. Land doesn’t have family or friends who could help her financially. They just don’t have it to give. She is truly on her own, yet using a food assistance card at the grocery store checkout has earned her scorn and judgement from strangers who think anyone using the system is abusing the system. Land is a fighter—her desire to create a better life for her daughter is what drives her to keep trying to dig her way out of poverty, working long hours for low pay, and grasping what kindnesses she receives like a life line. Maid is compelling because it’s so personal. Land isn’t whining or blaming, she’s letting us into her life, sharing feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and desperation that come with trying so damn hard to do better and still living below the poverty line in spite of her efforts. Land has a hard life but she also has hope and resilience. She finds joy in small moments that are often overlooked in the distraction of material things. Maid is an important work of journalism that offers an insightful and unique perspective on a segment of the working poor from someone who has lived it. --Seira Wilson
Tim Johnston’s Descent, a complex missing-person thriller set in the shadowy wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises. His follow-up, The Current, is equally, if not more, impressive: Two young women are pulled from the frigid winter waters of a Minnesota river, one dead and the other barely alive. The incident—which is no accident—recalls a similar tragedy 10 years earlier, and the survivor soon realizes their stories have deeper connections than just the river. Small towns with secrets is well traveled territory, but Johnston rises above any tropes through his fully realized characters, each filled with currents of grief, regret, and especially love. And as methodical as Johnston is at unwrapping his carefully plotted story, readers will churn through The Current's 400 pages—a paradox that only the most accomplished mystery writers ever achieve. The only complaint is that we might have to wait another three years for his next one. —Jon Foro