As I looked back at Goodreads and my reviews on LitLovers.com to choose which books to list here, I noticed that my reading year was very much about fiction and to be more specific, about character-based fiction. The plots didn't matter much if the human beings appeared real to me. I hardly read any nonfiction worth mentioning. Could it be that the crazy world of 2017 (particularly in Washington, DC) was just too unreal and I fled to fiction even more than usual? Maybe so. I've always had a predilection for character-based fiction. I have to care about the characters to get into a novel. And so, here is my roundup of fictional favorites...
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, 2017). For those who enjoyed My Name is Lucy Barton (2016), here she is again: younger, vulnerable, easily affected and disaffected by her family and the folks surrounding her in small town Illinois. Strout's pared-down writing delves into the deepest soul of human matters.
Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Harper, 2017). We follow private investigator Naomi around the Oregon woods as she looks for young Madison Culver, missing now for three years. Soon we know Madison is alive but held captive. And here's the clencher: Naomi was a missing child herself and has not yet resolved the missing pieces of her past. A taut and rather literary suspense novel.
Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (Crown, 2017). WWII is raging and most of the men are gone. In a British village, a group of women band together to form a choir, a shocking move for the times. Chin up! Get ready to giggle and cry reading this cozy, engaging tale.
A Fugitive in Walden Woods by Norman Lock (Bellevue Literary Press, 2017). When Ralph Waldo Emerson gets involved in the Underground Railroad, he places runaway slave Samuel Long in a cabin near that of Henry Thoreau's on Walden Pond. Thrown into the company of the erudite, high-minded Transcendentalists, Samuel is in for quite the education. I was humbled by his point of view and learned a lot about the history of those times.
Gifted by John Daniel (Counterpoint, 2017). Henry Fielder is orphaned by the age of 16. Violence has come into his life and often he runs away to the woods. Animals come to him and they "share spirit." This is a rich, dark read (probably not for everyone) about a boy who seemed to me to be an old soul.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, 2017). When an offbeat artist and her daughter rent an apartment in a cookie cutter suburban town in Ohio, their landlord's large family is in for trouble. The title is both literal and metaphorical. I raced from character to character and worried about them all.
My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Mrs. Brown, a quiet woman of a certain age, gets it into her head that she must own an Oscar de la Renta dress. Her unlikely quest is such a hoot! Read this novel if you are in the mood to feel that good manners still exist and that the human race is a decent one.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books, 2013). Though the string of murders that occurred in the summer of 1961 in small town Minnesota seemed a bit unlikely, it mattered not for I was swept into the world of two brothers whose sleuthing, bungling and lying were well swept into the plot.
This book had the feel of a beloved classic.
Saints for All Occasions by Courtney Sullivan (Knopf, 2017). Two sisters from Ireland make their way in America, but end up not speaking to each other for decades. One becomes a wife and mother, the other a nun. Between them lies a whopping secret. I always fall for stories of Irish America and this one was a doozy.
Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 2016). In 1947, two friends marry very different Jewish brothers who own a box factory. The two couples share a two family house in Brooklyn. If this living arrangement sounds like trouble, you are right. Read it to share in their joys and sorrows.