Written By: Tim Ehrenberg & Emme Duncan | Photography By: Tim Ehrenberg
Yes, summer is officially over. But before you go crying over the beach-and-rosé days of past, take a moment to reflect on the amazing month upon us: September. In addition to changing leaves and the arrival of the pumpkin spiced latte comes a new lineup of books so engrossing that you’ll look forward to curling up with a blanket and a nice cup of tea. And who better to give us the top books for September than N Magazine‘s resident bookworm Tim Ehrenberg?
Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from — and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.
Tim says: The phrase “lost in a good book” was made for novels such as this one. With the scope reminiscent of a Charles Dickens classic and the heart of a John Irving novel, they truly don’t write them like this anymore. It’s a BIG story with memorable characters that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. It’s a saga all around one man’s life, Cyril Avery, and his journey of self-discovery from Ireland to Amsterdam to New York. It will be no surprise to me if it’s my favorite book of the year because it’s now one of my favorites of all time.
Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father. Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero — and in the process, becomes ours as well.
Tim says: I was a little hesitant to start reading “My Absolute Darling” because of some of the subject matter, but similar to “A Little Life” (a favorite book of mine from the last few years), it is worth it. The book is not easy in places, but neither is life, and you will root for the character of Turtle the whole way through.
When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead. From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized. But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied. Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment.
Tim says: I love a Louise Penny mystery. The people that live in the Three Pines Village have become my friends. This is book 13 in the series and it is another literary crime novel with big themes and life lessons. These books are so much more than just mysteries. I am thrilled to say that Louise Penny will be joining us for the 2018 Nantucket Book Festival.
In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.
Tim says: EPIC. That is what you call a Ken Follett novel. The saga beginning with “Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End”, two stories of the Middle Ages set in the fictional city of Knightsbridge, continues with “A Column of Fire.” It is the year 1558 and England is torn apart by religious conflict. As power shifts between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history. It is another big novel to get lost in this month.
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF.” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan — a jock and aspiring frat boy — discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.
Tim says: What is it about a Tom Perrotta book? “Mrs. Fletcher” is another example of his ability to write genuine characters that feel like real people from a 40 year old woman to her college age son. He is the king of satire that takes a microscope to suburbia making us laugh, reflect, and relate to the story on the page more than we may care to admit.
When Joan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she is stunned by Martin’s delight, his instant betrayal of their pact. She makes a fateful, selfless decision then, to embrace her unintentional family. Challenged by raising two precocious sons, it is decades before she finally completes her masterpiece novel. Poised to reclaim the spotlight, to resume the intended life she gave up for love, a betrayal of Shakespearean proportion forces her to question every choice she has made. Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written, “The Resurrection of Joan Ashby” is a story about sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens of expectation and genius. Cherise Wolas’ gorgeous debut introduces an indelible heroine candid about her struggles and unapologetic in her ambition.
Tim says: I will never pass up a book about books and the craft of writing them. Everyone will find a little bit of themselves in Joan Ashby as she struggles with parenthood over career, selflessness over selfishness. The stories with in the main story are an added touch to get in the mind of this fictional author who is too real on the page to not actually exist.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Tim says: I was a big fan of Celeste Ng’s first bestseller, “Everything I Never Told You.” “Little Fires Everywhere” is another beautifully written literary spotlight on bigger issues that consume the world today and make us reflect on what it means to be human.