Looking Forward: August 2020

Even with moving, working, and life-changing, I’m still making time for reading. Hopefully, I’ll figure out how to make some more time for writing and reviewing soon too! This month though I’m excited to get these books on my shelf:

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens–and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis–the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations–a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

DROPS: August 4, 2020

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past–the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.

DROPS: August 11, 2020

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager

Sara Seager has always been in love with the stars: so many lights in the sky, so much possibility. Now a pioneering planetary scientist, she searches for exoplanets–especially that distant, elusive world that sustains life. But with the unexpected death of Seager’s husband, the purpose of her own life becomes hard for her to see. Suddenly, at forty, she is a widow and the single mother of two young boys. For the first time, she feels alone in the universe.

As she struggles to navigate her life after loss, Seager takes solace in the alien beauty of exoplanets and the technical challenges of exploration. At the same time, she discovers earthbound connections that feel every bit as wondrous, when strangers and loved ones alike reach out to her across the space of her grief. Among them are the Widows of Concord, a group of women offering advice on everything from home maintenance to dating, and her beloved sons, Max and Alex. Most unexpected of all, there is another kind of one-in-a-billion match, not in the stars but here at home.

Probing and invigoratingly honest, The Smallest Lights in the Universe is its own kind of light in the dark.

DROPS: August 18, 2020

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, varsity soccer practices, and an internship at his favorite tea shop, things are falling into place.

Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit, and Darius can’t tell whether they even like him. The internship is not going according to plan, Sohrab isn’t answering Darius’s calls, and Dad is far away on business. And Darius is sure he really likes Landon . . . but he’s also been hanging out with Chip Cusumano, former bully and current soccer teammate–and well, maybe he’s not so sure about anything after all.

Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn’t good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better.

DROPS: August 25, 2020

This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn

When Nick Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to their house. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why. He returns with his young daughter to the landscape of his youth, reflecting on how his feral childhood has him still in its reins, and forms his memories into lyrical bedtime stories populated by the both sinister and wounded Mister Mann.

With the spare lyricism and dark irony of his classic, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Flynn excavates the terrain of his traumatic upbringing and his mother’s suicide. This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire unravels the story of the fire that Flynn had to escape, and the ways in which, as an adult, he has carried that fire with him until it threatens to burn down his own house. Here Nick confronts his failings with fierce candor, even as they threaten to tear his family apart. His marriage in crisis, Flynn seeks answers from his therapist, who tells him he has “the ethics of a drowning man.”

This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire takes us on the journey of a man struggling to hold himself together in prose that is raw and moving, sharp-edged and wry. Alternating literary analysis and philosophy with intimate memoir, Flynn probes his deepest ethical dilemmas.

DROPS: August 25, 2020


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Contemporary classic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is a book that I’ve been scared to read. It’s one of those that is interpreted in so many ways that I’m concerned it’s going to fly over my head. At some point though, I’ve got to pick it up so why not now!

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who–from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister–dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú–a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere–and risk it all–in the name of love.


All photos and synopsis from Bookshop

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