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Five Compelling Fiction Titles 

Cindy Burnett
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The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

This haunting and compelling mystery by Lou Berney is a page turner.

This week I am highlighting fabulous books that came out a while ago, some I read when they released, others more recently. All of them are ones that I loved and regularly recommend to people. I frequently find myself reflecting back on something from one of them – a story line, certain characters, or even occasionally the setting. 

Multiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra Multiple Choice is a one-of-a-kind read in the best possible way. Chilean author Alejandro Zambra styled his new book after the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test which students took every December from 1967 to 2003 if they planned to apply to college in Chile. Specifically, he chose the Verbal Aptitude section as he took it in 1993, which consisted of 90 multiple choice questions contained in five sections. As I spent time playing around with the answer choices and manipulating the sentences, I ended up focusing so much more on what he was saying and how he was saying it. Long after I finished a section or put the book down for a bit, I found myself still pondering what a particular question/passage meant or just the concept that rearranging sentences or choosing to delete a sentence or two can so dramatically change the meaning of a particular story. This is an extremely thought-provoking book.

The Last Days of Café Leila by Donia Bijan – Bijan’s story focuses on the impact of the Iranian Revolution on present-day Iran through her portrayal of everyday life at the fictional Café Leila. She effectively conveys what life is like for those still living there (many have sent their children abroad and often emigrated themselves) and the great loss of freedom and culture that those remaining experience. I truly cannot imagine living under those conditions, especially as a woman, with music, dancing, and access to other cultures banned by the Islamic Republic. Bijan portrays the sadness felt by those who lived in Iran prior to the revolution who truly mourn how much was lost when the Islamic Republic came into power. Her writing is magical and lyrical, and her characters are authentic and genuine. I was transported to Tehran and particularly Café Leila and its inhabitants, frequently feeling like I could visualize the café and its environs along with the Persian meals and foliage.

The Lido by Libby Page (the paperback is entitled Mornings with Rosemary) – This debut novel is a marvelous book celebrating the importance of community and relationships. The book tells the tale of Kate, a lonely 26-year-old suffering from anxiety, and Rosemary, an 86-year-old widow who swims daily at her local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center). The lido is targeted by a development company who wants to buy the land to build an expensive apartment complex, and working together, Kate and Rosemary rally the community to build support to save the lido while simultaneously learning the value of friendship and community. Page interweaves love, loss, aging, and the value of relationships into a tale that will appeal to everyone. 

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-BennHere Comes the Sun is both beautiful and heartbreaking. While the story was much sadder than I expected it to be, I truly loved the book and have continued thinking about the story and the characters long after I finished the book. Nicole Dennis-Benn weaves a tale of greed, longing, and betrayal on the island of Jamaica. She deftly portrays the paradox Jamaica has become where extreme poverty exists side-by-side with untold wealth and the trouble that results. Using Jamaican patois and highly descriptive prose, Dennis-Benn dispatches the reader to the coasts and seas that make up the island. The story is a deep and desperately sad tale that is definitely worth reading.

The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney – The fictional story is centered around a shooting in an Oklahoma City movie theater years before and the aftermath for the sole survivor who returns years later to work a harassment case. Interwoven with that story line is another about a girl who went missing at a local carnival, and the sister who cannot stop searching for her. There is so much depth to the story, and the way the storylines interweave together is very well done. The main character’s search for understanding and resolution drew me in and without spoiling the ending, I loved each plot line’s resolution. I highly, highly recommend this one. 

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her award-winning Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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