On the first day of a fresh year, I’m offering up three debut novels that have book group appeal. Compelling stories, discussable points, and realistic characters make these books fine choices for a reading group.
Gardens of Water by Alan Drew—Two families of differing faiths and cultures come together in Turkey in the aftermath of the cataclysmic earthquake of 1999. Irem, a Muslim girl, lives downstairs from Dylan, an American boy. As the teens fall in love, their parents struggle with the differences in family values and beliefs in addition to creating a new life from tragedy. Readers will enjoy discussing the decisions the adults make that impact their families, and Irem and Dylan specifically.
Over and Under by Todd Tucker—A 2009 Alex Award winner, this story set in the summer of 1979 follows best friends Andy and Tom as they come of age during a labor dispute at a local factory that pits their fathers against each other. Reminiscent of Stand by Me and To Kill a Mockingbird. The themes of friendship, loyalty, and family will give readers a jumping off point for discussion.
The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore—a young woman returns to her family home after the death of her father. She and her sister were child-models for a controversial photographer and someone wants to bring her past into the present. The realistic and sympathetic characters and the compelling, suspenseful story line will draw readers in while they ponder the author’s thoughtful exploration of the classic social question, “What is Art and who gets to decide?”