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Vintage Contemporaries by Dan Kois
Em is eager to work in publishing, but the nature of her job is demeaning and disappointing. New friends help— wild Emily who lives in a squat and Lucy who’s writing a novel and bringing up kids on her own. Fifteen years later Em’s life has panned out well: she’s an editor, a wife, and even has a baby. Emily gets back in touch with Em—they’d had a falling out long ago—and things get really interesting: protests over squatters and Lucy’s overlooked work needing attention. The book’s title refers both to a publishing imprint and the kind of straddle young people in NYC make to reconcile old and new trends with their own needs and desires. Rich characterizations with a light and lively touch.
Silver Alert by Lee Smith
In Key West, reprobate Herb is rebelling against his grown children who want to stash him in a home. His beloved third wife Susan has early-onset Alzheimer's. Enter a young woman, known first as Renee, who has a healing touch and affect; she’s actually there to give Susan a mani-pedi, but she intuitively seems to know how to calm things down for Susan and liven things up for Herb. Her own history is murky but she’s a survivor. Off she and Herb go on a crazy road trip, which turns out to be his final journey but so worth it. Herb’s quite a character, as is Florida, so it’s a bittersweet and funny romp.
Juno Loves Legs by Karl Geary
In Dublin, teenagers Juno and Legs connect in the projects because they’re outsiders. She’s very poor and very smart. He’s awkward and gay. The tensions of the ’80 exacerbate their lives constantly, but they find solace in each other’s company. Juno drops out of school and gets drunk a lot. Legs is caught after he takes revenge on a cleric who molested him and made Juno’s life miserable as well. Juno lies to cover up her part in it. When Legs is released, they recognize how deep their bond has been and go their separate ways, both into better lives. Local color, beautiful language, intensity of feeling—quite a treat.
Maame by Jessica George
In Ghana, children get two names. Maddie, though she lives in England, resents the meaning of her alternative name: “woman, who takes care of everything”—which she’s been doing in London, with a full-time job plus tending to her father who has Parkinson’s. Her mother’s mostly been back in Ghana working in a family business. It’s all too much, so when her mother finally returns, Maddie sets out to discover who she is. A steep, dizzying learning curve with many missteps amid the pleasures. Luckily, two-spirited friends plus Google searches for answers to life’s puzzling questions provide guidance as well as laughs.