March 1, 2017 Booklist 49 www.booklistonline.com
H T ADULT And Then There Was Me. By Sadeqa Johnson. Apr. 2017. 320p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $26.99
When Lonnie moved his family to the
suburbs of New Jersey, Bea thought it was a
new start. Instead, her kids are the only nonwhite kids in school, and Lonnie continues
his cheating ways. She can’t seem to shake
the dark specter of her eating disorder—the
one she’s kept a secret from everyone but an
old doctor friend. But Bea can’t give in to
her need to binge and purge, because she is
pregnant, serving as a surrogate for a beloved
cousin with cancer. Just about the only thing
she can count on is her best friend, Awilda,
who is dealing with struggles of her own. All
of Bea is laid bare to the reader, from her inability to quit her philandering husband to
the thrill of preparing for a binge. The dialogue rings fresh and true and offers sweet,
light moments in a book that ratchets up both
internal and external drama. Combining the
warmth and sisterhood of Terry McMillan’s
novels and the tragedies and healing of those
from Kristin Hannah, this book should find
a wide, satisfied readership. —Susan Maguire
The Awkward Age.
By Francesca Segal.
May 2017. 368p. Riverhead, $27 (9780399576454).
Years after the heartbreaking death of her
husband, Julia Alden has rediscovered the
passion, companionship, and comfort that
comes with true partnership. James Fuller is
funny, friendly, and a perfect match for Julia.
Even though Julia and James
have fallen for one another,
their teenage children seem
to despise each other. Gwen
and Nathan are a year apart,
full of teenage angst and roiling hormones, and appear
constitutionally unable to
get along. Also orbiting this
new relationship are Julia’s former in-laws and
James’ ex-wife, as if there wasn’t enough pressure in their lives. As Julia and James figure out
how to nurture their relationship in the middle
of what feels like a fishbowl, everyone discovers
how much growing up they all have left to do.
Flitting among the perspectives of all three generations, author Segal allows all members of the
family their turn in the spotlight. Julia might
be the central character of Segal’s ode to the
Sandwich Generation, but strong-willed Gwen
steals the second half of the novel. Readers who
enjoyed Holly Chamberlin’s The Season of Us
(2016) and the works of Meg Wolitzer and
Matthew Norman will adore this frank and
unfiltered glimpse inside one family’s struggles
and successes. —Stephanie Turza
The Book of Summer.
By Michelle Gable.
May 2017. 416p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $25.99
Bess returns to Cliff House, her family’s
summer home for four generations, to ex-
tract her mother before the house slips off its
Nantucket bluff into the North Atlantic, vic-
tim to the passage of time and the ravages of
weather and erosion. The Cliff House guest
book, filled with letter-style narratives rather
than simple names and dates, illuminates
the near-century of lives it has sheltered.
As Bess tries to protect her mother and save
her family’s memories and heirlooms, she
also grapples with the end of her four-year
marriage. Coming home is a comfort and
a distraction, as are the denizens of Nan-
tucket, including Bess’s high-school love.
Told through contemporary narrative in-
terspersed with transcribed entries from the
guest book and local news stories, the story
of a family and its triumphs, tragedies, and
secrets unfolds, drawing the reader into Cliff
House from the 1920s to 2013. A sure bet
for women’s-fiction fans of Elin Hilderbrand
and Nantucket novels. —Alene Moroni
The Distance Home.
By Orly Konig.
May 2017. 336p. Forge, $24.99 (9780765390417).
Emma knew it wouldn’t be easy to come
back to Maryland after her father’s sudden
death, but she didn’t expect it to be this difficult. Sorting through her father’s things and
signing all the paperwork was manageable,
but just being back in Emmitsville brings
back memories that Emma has spent 16 years
trying to forget. After her mother’s suicide,
Emma found solace at Jumping Frog Farm,
learning to ride and losing herself in the barn
chores. Emma even made a friend at the
stable, Jillian. Emma hasn’t seen Jillian in 16
years, ever since the gossip around a terrible
car accident flew around Emmitsville. Now
that Emma’s back to manage her father’s estate, she has to decide which memories of her
past she’s willing to confront and how they’ll
affect her future. Author Konig’s debut novel
explores the turbulent years of teenage friendship, the emotional scars of parental neglect,
and the unbreakable bond between man and
beast. This will appeal to readers looking for
a powerfully heartwarming and introspective
story. —Stephanie Turza
The F Word.
By Liza Palmer.
Apr. 2017. 288p. Flatiron, paper, $15.99
It’s not the obvious f-word that haunts Hol-
lywood publicist Olivia Morten, who has a
seemingly perfect life. She and her hand-
some surgeon husband of 10 years live in
a picture-perfect home, and she has a busy,
successful career managing the reputations
of two accomplished stars. But she’s haunted
by her fat (that f-word), insecure teenage self,
even though she’s long since shed the weight.
When she runs into her high-school crush,
Ben, a former football player and cool guy,
her impeccable façade begins to crumble. She
realizes her marriage has become a passionless
partnership and her friendships are wholly
superficial. Having Ben around brings up
old feelings of longing, frustration, and self-
doubt. Fans of Palmer’s Conversations with the
Fat Girl (2005) and subsequent novels will
find the wry humor and honest depiction of
relationships here pleasingly familiar. Palmer
infuses her heroines with wit and warmth,
even when they’re melting down, making her
brand of smart women’s fiction resonate with
readers. —Aleksandra Walker
The Forbidden Garden.
By Ellen Herrick.
Apr. 2017. 384p. Morrow, paper, $15.99
(9780062499950); e-book (9780062499967).
Herrick (The Sparrow Sisters, 2015) moves
the story of the Sparrow sisters out of the
small New England town of Granite Point to
the English countryside when Sorrel Sparrow
accepts an invitation to revive a long-deserted
Shakespeare Garden. Sorrel immediately feels
like part of the family at Kirkwood Hall and
begins to develop a special relationship with
Lady Kirkwood’s brother, Andrew. Her ability to connect with plants and flowers appears
almost magical, and everyone is sure she is
just the person to finally bring life back to
a garden that has refused to thrive for years.
Yet even Sorrel may not be able to overcome
whatever curse seems to have overtaken the
garden before the entire family falls ill under
its spell. Though Herrick doesn’t quite find a
balance between contemporary women’s fiction and magic realism, her descriptions of
Sorrel’s rapport with the plants and garden
and the powers they possess will resonate with
those who enjoy stories of drawing strength
from the land. Recommend this to readers of
Sarah Addison Allen, Kate Morton, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh. — Tracy Babiasz
The Forever Summer.
By Jamie Brenner.
Apr. 2017. 368p. Little, Brown, $26 (9780316394871);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316394888).
Over the course of a summer, seven women
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