The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Swallow the Air by Tara June Winch
When May’s mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn’t seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets off to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.
I can’t recommend this book enough. Swallow the Air is a poetic story of a young Wiradjuri woman who is trying to connect with her country and culture, while confronting the inter-generational trauma of colonisation. Her resilience and connection to country are powerful and I think important reading.
Natural Histories by Guadalupe Nettel
Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, cats, a snake, and a strange fungus all serve here as mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature buried within us. The traits and fates of these animals illuminate such deeply natural, human experiences as the cruelty born of cohabitation, the desire to reproduce and the impulse not to, and the inexplicable connection that can bind, eerily, two beings together. Each Nettel tale creates, with tightly wound narrative tension, a space wherein her characters feel excruciatingly human, exploring how the wounds we incur in life manifest themselves within us, clandestinely, irrevocably, both unseen and overtly. In writing that is candid and subtle, these stories give us nuanced insights into human nature.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
From one of America’s iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life – in good times and bad – that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later the night before New Year’s Eve the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John suffered a massive and fatal coronary. The result is an exploration of an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad.
I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me by Maggie Hutchings, illustrated by Evie Barrow
Everyone walks right past Pete – except for one little boy. He sees Pete’s big smile and bright drawings, and they make a connection. The boy can’t give Pete a home, but when Pete gets sick, he can show he cares.
A heartfelt, moving story about the importance of really seeing the world around us and the power in tiny acts of kindness.
$1 from each sale donated to The Big Issue.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.
This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.