2017-07-05 / Columns

Plenty of great new fiction available for a relaxing summer read


Grab a cold drink, find a comfortable seat, and get lost in a book; it’s summer. Here are seven brand-new novels from our libraries, and one short-story collection, that should get you started…enjoy!

MINNA: “After the Fall” by Julie Cohen covers three generations of women in one family. Honor, the grandmother, has an accident that sends her into the home and lives of her widowed daughter-in-law, Jo, and granddaughter, Lydia. Shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2017, each of the characters carries a secret revealed at the climax.

AMY: For a not-so-traditional romance novel, readers will want to try “The Matrimonial Flirtations of Emma Kaulfield” by Anna Fishbeyn. Here we have the story of Elena Kabelmacher, who changes her name to Emma Kaulfield to sound more American. She is a Russian native who, together with her grandmother, parents, and sister, immigrated to the US and has become wealthy. Grandmother insists that Emma study statistics, which she hates, and marry fellow émigré Alex, whom she doesn’t wish to marry. But Emma has a chance encounter with Alex’s colleague Eddie, and, well…you know how these things go.

MINNA: “Great With Child,” by Sonia Taitz, is the story of Abigail Thomas, an ambitious lawyer dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Set in Manhattan, this story covers life as a working mother, the difficulties faced by ambitious women lawyers, and the romantic history of a woman involved with one man while pregnant with another man’s child. By the author of “Down Under.”

AMY: When we think of Jewish communities, Burma (today called Myanmar) might not come to mind. But in Charmaine Craig’s “Miss Burma,” we get a view of nearly 40 years of Burmese history, from 1926 to 1965, through the story of Benny, a member of the sizable Jewish community in the capital, Rangoon. Benny (a character based on the author’s grandfather) is an orphan sent to live with aunts in Calcutta, who later returns to Rangoon and marries Khin, a woman of Karen ethnicity, the Karens being one of the country’s minority ethnic groups. The novel follows the history of the Karens, including their rebellion against Burmese rule in a long civil war. Both the Jews and the Karens are “outsiders” in this land. Benny and Khin have a daughter (based on the author’s mother) who wins the title “Miss Burma” in 1956. This unusual story is garnering great critical praise.

MINNA: For lovers of short stories, “The Worlds We Think We Know” by Dalia Rosenfeld is the debut collection from an author who made aliyah from Virginia to Tel Aviv with her three sons. She now teaches creative writing at Bar Ilan University. The stories take place in locations ranging from the United States to Israel with the common theme of Jewish life.

AMY: I’ve been following the career of Allegra Goodman since she was an undergraduate at Harvard, which is when her first book, a collection of short stories, was published. She has written eight terrific novels since then, and her newest is “The Chalk Artist.” The story follows Nina, a teacher in Boston who is drawn to Collin, an artist. Nina’s father is the head of a gaming company that is doing cutting-edge work in virtual reality, and Nina brings Collin’s work to her father’s attention. The novel is a love story that explores the art world and gives the reader insight into the very contemporary culture of gaming.

MINNA: “What To Do About The Solomons” by Bethany Ball is about a large, widespread Israeli family. Each chapter is from a different point of view, with many characters ranging from Yakov Solomon, the family patriarch and kibbutznik, to his son, Marc, involved in a financial scandal in California.

AMY: “In the Shadow of Alabama” by Judy Renee Singer tells the story of Rachel Fleischer, a horse trainer whose father Martin is a WWII veteran. Like the author’s own father, Martin was a Jewish sergeant in command of a platoon of black soldiers in segregated Alabama. After Martin’s death, Rachel learns more about her difficult father’s traumatic war experiences and comes to understand the racism and violence he witnessed, leading to the PTSD his family, and he, never realized when he was alive.

For more information, contact us: Minna Siegel at Temple Beth Sholom (msiegel@tbsonline.org); and Amy Kaplan at Cong. Beth El (akaplan@bethelsnj.org). 

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