In Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez, the titular character, who’s a successful wedding planner, and her brother, Prieto, who’s a congressman, are both prominent members of their Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn, New York. The two were brought up by their grandmother after their mother, Blanca, deserted them to become a political activist. Their lives are turned upside down when Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and an unexpected family reunion ensues. Gonzalez enriches this funny, stirring story with themes of loyalty, honesty and forgiveness, and reading groups will find plenty to talk about in her provocative novel.
Kimberly Duffy’s remarkable mother-daughter tale, The Weight of Air, is set in the intriguing world of turn-of-the-century circus performers. It’s 1911, and Mabel MacGinnis, known as Europe’s strongest woman, is a member of the Manzo Brothers Circus. After the death of her father, Mabel decides to find her mother, an aerialist named Isabella Moreau. When the two finally meet, Isabella must come to terms with herself, even as she and Mabel adjust to their roles as mother and daughter. Past and present collide in Duffy’s fascinating chronicle of circus life.
In Chibundu Onuzo’s Sankofa, Anna, a middle-aged woman living in London, decides to find her father, whom she has never met. Anna comes across his diaries among the possessions of her late mother and learns that he pursued politics, becoming president of a tiny West African country. After discovering that he is still alive, Anna sets out to find him in what turns about to be the quest of a lifetime. Filled with humor and compassion, Onuzo’s novel is a rich exploration of race, identity and the nature of family.
Set in Quebec, Joanna Goodman’s The Home for Unwanted Girls is a moving portrayal of family dynamics in the 1950s. When English-speaking Maggie Hughes falls for a French-speaking boy and becomes pregnant, her parents insist that she give up the child: a girl named Elodie. Although she comes of age in a miserable orphanage, Elodie’s spirit and intelligence blossom. Maggie eventually marries, and when she decides to locate Elodie, her life is changed forever. Discussion topics such as motherhood and the meaning of home make Goodman’s novel a great choice for book clubs.