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August 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Great Reads
First Novelists Who Haven’t Given Us Second Helpings (at Least, Not Yet)
Everyone knows that Harper Lee quit the business after publishing her first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. And, despite their fame, we only heard once from Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), and Ralph Ellison (The Invisible Man). (Ellison’s never-finished second novel was published in portions as Juneteenth and Three Days before the Shooting.) Debut authors naturally generate a lot of buzz—but what about those first timers who never give us a second chance to savor their talents? The following books are the only children of their authors, who, for one reason or another didn’t deliver a follow-up, at least not yet. While one of the authors is no longer with us, it’s possible that we are just still waiting on others to finish—heck, Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch, 2013) takes 10 years between each book, and many people thought she was going to be a one-hit wonder herself.
College Girl, by Patricia Weitz
In a quietly affecting story from 2009, Natalie barely escapes her low-income background to attend college via a scholarship and a string of part-time jobs. When she falls for a handsome classmate, she finds herself consumed by thoughts of him, to the detriment of her studies, and soon begins a downward spiral that threatens her standing at school. With an interesting character in a stage of life not often explored in general fiction, this novel leaves readers wanting more of Weitz’s storytelling.
The Killer’s Wife, by Bill Floyd
Serial killers are a dime a dozen, but here’s the story from a different viewpoint. Nina Mosely did what she was supposed to do when her husband was put on death row: changed her name, moved halfway across the country with her young son, and tried to forget that she lived with a madman for years without realizing it. Unfortunately, she’s tracked down by the father of one of her ex’s victims and finds herself at the center of a publicity nightmare. When copycat crimes start to happen, a desperate Nina turns to a husband-and-wife PI team for help. So far, this 2008 novel is Floyd’s only venture into the land of thrillers—or any other genre, for that matter.
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
Henry Townsend, born a slave, is purchased and freed by his father, yet he remains attached to his former owner, even taking lessons in slave owning when he eventually buys slaves himself. Townsend is part of a small enclave of free blacks who own slaves, thus offering another angle on the complexities of slavery and social relations in a Virginia town just before the Civil War. Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for this 2003 novel, but, a decade later, it remains his only full-length work of fiction (he has published two collections of short stories).
Nice to Come Home To, by Rebecca Flowers
Flowers’ warm, winning 2008 debut, set in Washington, DC, finds 36-year-old Pru Whistler down on her luck. Laid off from her job, she thinks her boyfriend is getting ready to propose—until he unceremoniously dumps her. Amid all the chaos, Pru takes a job as a salesgirl in a boutique clothing store and discovers she has a flair for fashion. Flowers’ engaging and heartfelt novel is a step above standard, fluffy chick lit, and women’s fiction fans would be thrilled to see another novel from her.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
In his letters to a never-identified person, 15-year-old Charlie reveals his innermost thoughts while trying to discover who he is and who he wants to be. Chbosky captures adolescent angst and confusion in all its glory in this extremely popular 1999 novel, but, oddly enough, hasn’t returned for a follow-up. In 2012 (not long after the film adaptation of Perks came out), he said in interviews and on Twitter that he was working on his second book, but, so far, that’s all he wrote.
Pick Me Up, by Zoe Rice
Isabel loves her job at a New York art gallery and can’t wait for her promotion, but when the owner of the gallery dies suddenly, Isabel’s life goes into a tailspin. She makes horrible first impressions on both her gorgeous new boss and the gallery’s latest hot-shot artist. Meanwhile, her best guy friend is turning into a newspaper sensation—a male Carrie Bradshaw—with his advice on using pickup lines, and her cousin, who once stole Izzy’s boyfriend, is now stealing her dream wedding. This 2006 chick-lit debut from Rice, a former editor at Dial Press, is begging for a follow-up featuring more of Izzy’s adventures in the big city.
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield
Margaret Lea is summoned to the home of Vida Winter, England’s most popular novelist, to write her biography. Facing imminent death and feeling an inexplicable connection to Margaret, Miss Winter begins to spin a haunting, suspenseful tale of an old English estate, a devastating fire, twin girls, a governess, and a ghost. A gothic tale to rival even greats such as Daphne du Maurier, Setterfield’s popular and critically acclaimed 2006 novel remains her only book—although rumor has it she’s working on a second.
Wonder When You’ll Miss Me, by Amanda Davis
In Davis’ only novel, teenage Faith is haunted by the fat girl she used to be. This alter ego follows her around in her mind, giving advice and a running commentary. Faith is also haunted by the memory of a brutal sexual assault and her subsequent suicide attempt. Unable to cope with “real” life, she finally decides to run away with the circus—literally. She joins the motley crew of the traveling Fartlesworth Circus, grooming animals and befriending misfits as she tries to make her way through her mixed-up emotions. This is a powerful story, with strong characters, and many readers and reviewers had Davis on their “one to watch” lists. Tragically, she was killed in a plane crash while on the book tour for this title.
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