7 Literary Fiction Books To Read This Fall
Kit Crockett lives on a farm with her grief-stricken, widowed father, tending the garden, fishing in a local stream, and reading Nancy Drew mysteries from the library bookmobile. One day, Kit discovers a mysterious and beautiful woman has moved in just down the road.
Kit and the newcomer, Bella, become friends, and the lonely Kit draws comfort from her. But when a malicious neighbor finds out, Kit suddenly finds herself at the center of a tragic, fatal crime and becomes a ward of the court. Her Cherokee family wants to raise her, but the righteous Christians in town instead send her to a religious boarding school. Kit’s heritage is attacked, and she’s subjected to religious indoctrination and other forms of abuse. But Kit secretly keeps a journal recounting what she remembers—and revealing just what she has forgotten. Over the course of Stealing, she unravels the truth of how she ended up at the school and plots a way out. If only she can make her plan work in time.
In swift, sharp, and stunning prose, Margaret Verble spins a powerful coming-of-age tale and reaffirms her place as an indelible storyteller and chronicler of history.
Babur “Bobby” Singh, Indian immigrant, single parent, and owner of a fledging rideshare business, remains ever hopeful about ascending the ladder of American success. He lives in an affluent suburb of New York with his introverted teenage daughter Angie.
During summer break, Angie is walking home after swimming at the high school pool when she finds Henry McCleary, a white classmate from a wealthy family, stabbed and bleeding on the football field. The police immediately focus their investigation on Chiara Thompkins, a runaway Black girl who disappears after the stabbing and—it’s later discovered—wasn’t properly enrolled in the public high school.
The incident sends shock waves through the community and reveals jarring truths about the lengths to which families will go to protect themselves. Alternating between multiple perspectives, Our Best Intentions is a pulsating story about a father and daughter re-examining their familial bonds and place in the community. Both a gripping page-turner and an intimate portrait of an immigrant family, Vibhuti Jain’s provocative debut explores how easily friendships, careers, communities, and individual lives can unravel when the toxicity of privilege and racial bias are exposed.
Wade in the Water tells the layered story of a friendship that develops between Ella, a 12 year-old precocious and mistreated black girl who sees God in the clouds, and Katherine St. James, a mysterious, strikingly well-dressed white woman who arrives in rural Mississippi in the early 80s.
Wade in the Water adeptly weaves fiction with historical fact to tell the story of two traumatized people whose pasts still haunt them that are drawn together in a complicated friendship. Ella has her secrets, but she desperately wants to be loved and Katherine St. James’s arrival sets in motion a chain of events that ripples through both the black and white sides of the divided town of Ricksville, Mississippi. Soon Ella is willing to risk everything to keep Katherine in the town, even as she pushes at Katherine’s carefully constructed boundaries that guard a complicated past, with secrets that could have devastating consequences.
On a struggling Texas plantation, six enslaved women slip from their sleeping quarters and gather in the woods under the cover of night. The Lucys—as they call the plantation owners, after Lucifer himself—have decided to turn around the farm’s bleak financial prospects by making the women bear children. They have hired a “stockman” to impregnate them. But the women are determined to protect themselves.
Now each of the six faces a choice. Nan, the doctoring woman, has brought a sack of cotton root clippings that can stave off children when chewed daily. If they all take part, the Lucys may give up and send the stockman away. But a pregnancy for any of them will only encourage the Lucys further. And should their plan be discovered, the consequences will be severe.
Visceral and arresting, Night Wherever We Go illuminates each woman’s individual trials and desires while painting a subversive portrait of collective defiance. Unflinching in her portrayal of America’s gravest injustices, while also deeply attentive to the transcendence, love, and solidarity of women whose interior lives have been underexplored, Tracey Rose Peyton creates a story of unforgettable power.
Dr. Oliver Harding, a tenured professor of English, is long settled into the routines of a divorced, aging academic. But his quiet, staid life is upended by his new colleague, Ruhaba Khan, a dynamic Pakistani Muslim law professor.
Ruhaba unexpectedly ignites Oliver’s long-dormant passions, a secret desire that quickly tips towards obsession after her teenaged nephew, Adil Alam, arrives from France to stay with her. Drawn to them, Oliver tries to reconcile his discomfort with the worlds from which they come, and to quiet his sense of dismay at the encroaching change they represent—both in background and in Ruhaba’s spirited engagement with the student movements on campus.
After protests break out demanding diversity across the university, Oliver finds himself and his beliefs under fire, even as his past reveals a picture more complicated than it seems. As Ruhaba seems attainable yet not, and as the women of his past taunt his memory, Oliver reacts in ways shocking and devastating.
An explosive, tense, and illuminating work of fiction, The Laughter is a fascinating portrait of privilege, radicalization, class, and modern academia that forces us to confront the assumptions we make, as both readers and as citizens.
There was rarely a time when Phoenix Yuan-Whyller’s mother, Rain, didn’t live with her. Even when Phoenix got married, Rain, who followed her from China to Toronto, came to share Phoenix’s life. Now at the age of eighty-three, Rain’s unexpected death ushers in a heartrending separation.
Struggling with the loss, Phoenix comes across her mother’s suitcase—a memory box Rain had brought from home. Inside, Phoenix finds two old photographs and a decorative bottle holding a crystallized powder. Her auntie Mei tells her these missing pieces of her mother’s early life can only be explained when they meet, and so, clutching her mother’s ashes, Phoenix boards a plane for China. What at first seems like a daughter’s quest to uncover a mother’s secrets becomes a startling journey of self-discovery.
Told across decades and continents, Zhang Ling’s exquisite novel is a tale of extraordinary courage and survival. It illuminates the resilience of humanity, the brutalities of life, the secrets we keep and those we share, and the driving forces it takes to survive.
Savannah was four years old when her twin sister, Georgia, went missing from their small Louisiana town, fracturing their family. Twenty-eight years later, Savannah convinces her estranged older sisters, Rayanne and Sue Ellen, to honor the pact they made as children and retrieve the time capsule they buried in their old backyard. But coming home means confronting old ghosts…and their stubborn grandmother, Meemaw.
Sifting through the artifacts, they come across a photograph taken on the day Georgia disappeared and spot a familiar woman lingering in the background. While Sue Ellen and Rayanne want to move on with their lives, Savannah is determined to find the woman—and perhaps a clue to the past.
When old tensions, rivalries, and memories resurface, the sisters must reconsider what they thought they knew about that fateful day, about each other, and about themselves. On their search to uncover what happened to Georgia, each of them will discover what Meemaw has known all along: family is everything.