The Long Island native, beachgoer and book lover behind the popular Instagram account @booksintheair shares her must-read books of 2023.
A Quitter’s Paradise by Elysha Chang (SJP Lit)
Elysha Chang makes a splash with her riveting debut novel that follows Eleanor as she embarks on a quest to do everything in her power to escape the reality of her mother’s death. Chang authentically writes about self-discovery and family relationships with a humorous twist. Dealing with the pain of her mother’s passing would also mean confronting her emotionally turbulent upbringing, so Eleanor chooses to do neither. The determination to avoid any semblance of grief is the catalyst of Eleanor going down a road filled with inexplicable (and, at times, hilarious) choices. Her impetuous behavior eventually catches up, and she must face her past demons to restore her tenuous relationships with her family and friends. Chang’s humor and honesty make A Quitter’s Paradise a page-turning story about a reckoning to find oneself.
The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende (Ballantine Books)
Isabel Allende gifts readers with a poignant and transportive novel that tells the journey of two children forced to leave their countries and families behind as they search for refuge. Samuel Adler is only 5 years old in 1938 Vienna when his mother must make the unfathomable decision to transport him alone out of Nazi-occupied Austria in hopes of a better life in England. Anita Díaz is only 7 years old in 2019 when she is separated from her mother while fleeing El Salvador for sanctuary in the United States. The plight of both characters showcases the turmoil experienced by children when they are forced to leave everything they know and love behind. Despite the vast extremes of the realities of these two characters, Allende is able to intertwine their timelines to make for a harrowing story of the lengths parents will go to protect their children and the resilience children will muster when faced with cataclysmic circumstances.
The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown and Company)
The “Queen of the Summer Novel,” Elin Hilderbrand, has only two more novels left before her bittersweet retirement in the summer of 2024. Fans will not be disappointed as Hilderbrand’s penultimate novel is one of her most captivating yet. Food blogger Hollis Shaw has an idyllic life that comes to a shattering halt when a sudden tragedy strikes. Eager to escape her insurmountable grief, Hollis embarks on a “five-star weekend” on the picturesque island of Nantucket and brings along four friends from various eras of her life. The dynamic of the group members is constantly evolving as more and more details from each of their pasts get brought to the surface. Hilderbrand effortlessly writes how each woman navigates through their own traumas while supporting each other. The Five-Star Weekend deserves a five-star review as this novel encapsulates the strength of friendship, the power of self-discovery and the importance of forgiveness.
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)
Readers will be delighted to be reunited with one of America’s most compelling authors, Ann Patchett. It is spring 2020, and the lockdown has forced Lara and her three daughters to retreat to their family orchard in northern Michigan. Uneventful days lead to curious minds as the sisters want to learn more about their mother’s time as an actress at the Tom Lake theater company. Lara finally succumbs to her daughters’ pleas and recollects a time where her aspirations of making it as a star were all-consuming. She also discloses to her daughters about the whirlwind romance she shared with a now well-known actor. This time spent revisiting her past forces Lara to reminisce on past dreams, reflect on past choices and reconsider her future. Her three daughters confront the parallels of their lives with their mother’s, and what that means for them going forward. Patchett skillfully crafts a story of love, regret and familial bonds that readers will be sure to devour.
Happy Place by Emily Henry (Berkley)
Emily Henry is back to deliver another one of her witty, heartfelt and romantic novels we all have come to crave from her. Harriet and Wyn are the golden couple of their friend group that is gearing up for their annual summer vacation. Unfortunately, they have been split up for the past five months. Not wanting to rock the boat on what is supposed to be a marvelous trip, Harriet and Wyn decide not to divulge the current status of their relationship to the group. Emotions are high for everyone as they learn their beloved Maine cottage is up for sale, and this will be their final getaway at the place that holds their most cherished memories. Henry’s immersive writing alternates between past and present timelines where readers will be able to glean how the pair’s love story started, and if there is any hope for a reunion. Happy Place tells the story of the unwavering bond of friends who are there to experience the pitfalls and pinnacles of life alongside you.
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (William Morrow)
June Hayward is unsatisfied with her career as an author. She is perpetually in the shadow of her Yale classmate, Athena Liu. Athena has had quite the ascent to literary acclaim as she is a cross-genre author who causes June to have incessant jealousy anytime she hears her name. As fate would have it, June is a witness to Athena’s sudden and tragic death. In her desperation to become a literary giant, June takes Athena’s unfinished manuscript and calls it her own. What starts as a rash decision during a moment of weakness turns into a tidal wave filled with grandiose lies that June is unable to sustain. June takes on a new persona as she undergoes a complete rebrand to convince her readers she is deserving of the No. 1 New York Times Bestseller spot. R.F. Kuang is able to deliver a narrative filled with amusement and levity, while also posing ethical dilemmas that are rampant throughout today’s literary landscape.
The Guest by Emma Cline (Random House)
Emma Cline gifts her readers with an enthralling and suspenseful tale of an outsider and her volatile time spent on Long Island’s East End. It is the week before Labor Day weekend and Alex has successfully weaseled her way into the elitist Hamptons society. After one wrong decision, Alex is on the precipice of being exiled back into her lamentable world when she decides to take matters into her own hands. To stay in her skillfully crafted reality, Alex exploits the vulnerabilities of the Hamptons Social Circle. Alex is the most cunning and calculating grifter that has no regard for the damage and turmoil she causes to each person she interacts with. Readers will be captivated to learn if Alex will crash and burn or successfully swindle her way back into this soughtafter world. Alex is an exemplification of the desperate lengths one person will go to prove they belong. Cline delivers a propulsive read that will keep you engrossed until the very last page.
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