Stephanie Kirkland

Jan Karon, author of the best-selling series of Mitford novels, is back with another that readers won’t want to miss. Come Rain or Come Shine picks up where Karon’s last novel left off—with the upcoming marriage of aspiring veterinarian Dooley Kavanagh and his longtime sweetheart, Lace Harper.

In true Mitford style, Dooley and Lace have decided to get married in a barn, on the farm they’ve just purchased for Dooley’s vet practice. They want their wedding to be simple, so they’re doing it potluck-style. Of course, nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and the threat of a torrential downpour and 60-mile-per-hour wind makes for a logistical nightmare, not to mention the already grueling task of shuttling guests to various locations on the 100-acre farm. But with seemingly inexhaustible help from those they hold most dear, the couple has vowed to savor every minute of it.

This beautiful novel examines a Southern tradition—the do-it-yourself, at-home wedding—in all of its intricacies, from the cast of characters who make the big day a reality and the new relationships that form in such intimate settings to the surprises that wedding guests will tell stories about for years to come. In this case, readers encounter two unexpected wedding guests, including the farm’s first bull, Choo-Choo, who nearly crashes the wedding at the most inopportune moment.

Karon has a gift for breathing life into small moments that make readers both laugh and cry. In one moment, just days before the wedding, Dooley and Lace test the lights that they’ve strung up in the trees and exchange a heartfelt set of promises that are built on years of history. In another, the couple’s good friend Harley vaults a fence at a near-sprint to get away from the horns of the almighty Choo-Choo.

Come Rain or Come Shine is about immeasurable love, the inevitability of change and the extraordinary power of ordinary moments. 

 

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Jan Karon, author of the best-selling series of Mitford novels, is back with another that readers won’t want to miss. Come Rain or Come Shine picks up where Karon’s last novel left off—with the upcoming marriage of aspiring veterinarian Dooley Kavanagh and his longtime sweetheart, Lace Harper.

Jean Perdu is a self-described literary apothecary. From his barge-turned-bookshop on the Seine, he doesn’t just sell books; he prescribes them as a pharmacist prescribes medicines, matching books to their perfect readers to help customers overcome life’s difficulties. And he does so with near perfect success. The only exception to the rule is Perdu himself.

Haunted by the love of his life, Manon, who left him more than 20 years ago, Perdu has distanced himself from reality: He avoids romance entirely, refuses to utter Manon’s name and leaves her final letter unopened. His imagination tells him that she left him because she got tired of him.

An encounter with his grieving neighbor across the hall, Catherine, a soon-to-be divorcée, finally drives Perdu to open the letter. What he discovers shocks him to his core and sends him cross-country to rediscover and make peace with the life he has lost. By barge, lock and dam, he travels all the way to the South of France, befriending a distinctive cast of characters—and staying in touch with Catherine via letter—along the way. 

Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, already a bestseller in Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands, is a beautiful story of grief, companionship, forgiveness and building a life worth living. A vulnerable, relatable tale of great love and loss, missed opportunities and moving on, The Little Paris Bookshop is, like the books its main character recommends, medicine for the wounded soul.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Jean Perdu is a self-described literary apothecary. From his barge-turned-bookshop on the Seine, he doesn’t just sell books; he prescribes them as a pharmacist prescribes medicines, matching books to their perfect readers to help customers overcome life’s difficulties. And he does so with near perfect success. The only exception to the rule is Perdu himself.

What happens when a book meets its perfect reader at precisely the right moment? For the narrator of The Library of Unrequited Love, a librarian who has witnessed many such encounters during her lifetime, her heart flutters. She knows the power of books to capture the full range of human experience and, as a result, help people when they feel their most abandoned, lonely and worthless.

It is at one of these low points that we meet the librarian, a single, middle-aged bookworm who fell in love, once, but was left. While preparing to open the library one morning, she finds a patron who has locked himself in the library’s basement, where the narrator spends most of her time, overnight. A monologue follows in which she gushes with observations about love, life and, you guessed it, libraries.

The Library of Unrequited Love, a debut novel by French writer and journalist Sophie Divry, is as much an ode to libraries as it is a monologue on heartbreak and loneliness. The narrator’s passion for literature, French history and the organizational precision of libraries is infectious. She is as knowledgeable about the history written in books as she is about the world before her, which she captures effortlessly through observations about different “seasons” of patrons—winter’s “central heating refugees,” spring’s students, summer’s buzz of people searching for something to do.

And though it would be easy for her to romanticize the library, she doesn’t. She admits its hierarchy, its monotonous drone and its lack of quality books and readers, while she also confesses her love for a student researcher who barely notices her. In many ways, the narrator is looking for love as much as she is that spark she sees her patrons experience in books.

Funny, smart and incredibly sincere, The Library of Unrequited Love is a lovely, quick read that speaks to the bookworm in all of us.

What happens when a book meets its perfect reader at precisely the right moment? For the narrator of The Library of Unrequited Love, a librarian who has witnessed many such encounters during her lifetime, her heart flutters.

Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, has its fair share of glamorous and not-so-glamorous stories. M.O. Walsh, author of My Sunshine Away, grew up there, so he captures these contradictions effortlessly in his stunning debut.

Set in 1989, the novel tells the heartbreaking story of Lindy Simpson, the once carefree and spirited track star whose life goes awry after she is attacked on her own street. The mystery unravels from the perspective of Lindy’s childhood neighbor and playmate, now 14, who has been in love with Lindy for as long as he can remember.

While showing the chilling effect the crime has on all of Piney Creek Road, Walsh also raises the question of how a horrific crime can happen in a seemingly idyllic neighborhood. And the answer is, like so many things in Louisiana, that nothing is as ideal as it seems. Kids playing in the street are in constant battle against being smothered by mosquitoes and humidity. Neighborhood cookouts buzz with energy but also the gossip of divorce and family tragedies.

Walsh juxtaposes the beauty and terror of the place in a way that leaves you utterly captivated. It’s a world that seems foreign to outsiders but also resonates with the most universal of sentiments, including the desire to belong, the way memory can both create and fill voids, and how peace often follows the realization that the potential for good is in all of us.

From beginning to end, My Sunshine Away is full of wisdom, wit and wonder.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, has its fair share of glamorous and not-so-glamorous stories. M.O. Walsh, author of My Sunshine Away, grew up there, so he captures these contradictions effortlessly in his stunning debut.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is at once alluring and unexpected. The novel opens with a letter from 83-year-old Etta to her husband, Otto. Etta has left the couple’s farm in Saskatchewan to walk more than 3,000 kilometers to see the ocean. In the letter, Etta tells Otto that she will try to remember to come back, a hint at her failing memory. Otto, hands trembling, decides not to follow.

The setting quickly shifts to the early 1930s, where we meet young Otto and his 16-member family of farmers; Etta, who lives in town with her parents and sister; and Russell, a displaced orphan who lives with his aunt and uncle next door to Otto. From there, the novel—still told partially in letters—alternates between the characters’ early years to Etta’s current-day cross-country journey, revealing how the trio met, what drives them, and how their lives became so intimately interwoven.

Layered alongside Etta’s journey is Otto’s trip across the Atlantic at age 17 to fight during World War II. As Otto serves abroad, Etta looks after Russell, and the two become more reliant on one another. In the present, Otto’s memories of the war come to the forefront as he copes with Etta’s absence.

Emma Hooper’s debut is intelligent, moving and captivating. Inspired by a piece of her own family history, the author examines with creativity the consequences of great love and loss, blurring the lines between memory, illusion and reality. Perfectly crafted and endearing in its unpredictability, Etta and Otto and Russell and James pulls readers along with every page turn.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is at once alluring and unexpected. The novel opens with a letter from 83-year-old Etta to her husband, Otto. Etta has left the couple’s farm in Saskatchewan to walk more than 3,000 kilometers to see the ocean. In the letter, Etta tells Otto that she will try to remember to come back, a hint at her failing memory. Otto, hands trembling, decides not to follow.

Elephant Beach used to sparkle. Before the boardwalks rotted and the hotels and mansions along the bay boarded up their windows, there were ballrooms, parties, dancing. Now, the town smells of cigarettes. The streets are filled with drugs. Haunting screams accompany moonlight as traumatized veterans relive pieces of Vietnam in their sleep.

Katie loves the beach and the town where she grew up, but she is also different. She paces herself, controls her emotions and drives her friends around town when they’re drunk. And her friends are as diverse as they come. Among them are a girl everyone wants to be friends with, a Hispanic track star and a one-legged drunk who, in more ways than one, has been marred by the war.

In an interwoven collection of short stories, we meet characters who struggle—with death, inequality, heartbreak—but somehow manage to take what they’re given, make the best of it and dream of better days ahead.

If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful, a debut short story collection by playwright Judy Chicurel, examines the everyday struggles of everyday people in 1970s America. It is a provocative story of unlikely friendships, unmatched compassion and learning to accept downtrodden people for who they are. With prose as clear as glass and words that carry even the most complicated of images, Chicurel reveals her characters’ best moments, their worst moments and moments of which they may only dream. The book reminds us that sometimes, something as simple as a beachfront view is enough to make something beautiful. And other times, the best things are in front of us without our knowing it.

 

Stephanie Kirkland is a full-time writer and editor living in Alabama, where she manages publications for her alma mater, The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Elephant Beach used to sparkle. Before the boardwalks rotted and the hotels and mansions along the bay boarded up their windows, there were ballrooms, parties, dancing. Now, the town smells of cigarettes. The streets are filled with drugs. Haunting screams accompany moonlight as traumatized veterans relive pieces of Vietnam in their sleep.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!