Beach Reads

Need an escape? Check out some of our favorite titles from 2017 to read on the beach.

The Last LaughThe Last Laugh by Lynn Freed

To escape their griping grown children, husbands and lovers, and an abundance of grandchildren underfoot, three self-proclaimed “old bags,” Dania, Ruth, and Bess, head for a quiet island on the Aegean Sea. They’ll spend a year by the water–watching the sunset, eating grilled fish and fresh olives, sipping ouzo. They deserve it, they say. After all those years, the three women will finally have some peace.

Except that they can’t. For one, Bess, a pampered, once-beautiful inheritress, falls swiftly into an affair with a poetry-writing taxi driver–who has, of course, a territorial wife. And Dania, a therapist, begins to receive an increasing number of cryptically menacing phone calls from a psychotic patient. An ex-lover of Ruth’s shows up unexpectedly, right before one of Bess’s does–and then the women’s children arrive, with their own demanding children in tow. As the island quickly becomes crowded, the women’s serene year in Greece devolves perilously, and uproariously, into something much more complicated.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

When Graham Cavanaugh divorced his first wife it was to marry his girlfriend, Audra, a woman as irrepressible as she is spontaneous and fun. But, Graham learns, life with Audra can also be exhausting, constantly interrupted by chatty phone calls, picky-eater house guests, and invitations to weddings of people he’s never met. Audra firmly believes that through the sheer force of her personality she can overcome the most socially challenging interactions, shepherding her son through awkward play dates and origami club, and even deciding to establish a friendship with Graham’s first wife, Elspeth. Graham isn’t sure he understands why Audra longs to be friends with the woman he divorced. After all, former spouses are hard to categorize–are they enemies, old flames, or just people you know really, really well? And as Graham and Audra share dinners, holidays, and late glasses of wine with his first wife he starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did I make the right choice? Is there a right choice? A hilarious and rueful debut novel of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami, Standard Deviation never deviates from the superb.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul

In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter , Scaachi Koul deploys her razor-sharp humor to share all the fears, outrages, and mortifying moments of her life. She learned from an early age what made her miserable, and for Scaachi anything can be cause for despair. Whether it’s a shopping trip gone awry; enduring awkward conversations with her bikini waxer; overcoming her fear of flying while vacationing halfway around the world; dealing with Internet trolls, or navigating the fears and anxieties of her parents. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of color: where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision, or outright scorn; where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, leaving little room for a woman not solely focused on marriage and children to have a career (and a life) for herself.

With a sharp eye and biting wit, incomparable rising star and cultural observer Scaachi Koul offers a hilarious, scathing, and honest look at modern life.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Or did she?

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author’s celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence.

Saints for All OccasionsSaints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

A sweeping, unforgettable novel from  The New York Times  best-selling author of Maine , about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.

Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan–a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.

 

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