The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Synopsis: Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Synopsis: Richly imagined, gothically spooky, and replete with the ingenious storytelling ability of a born novelist, The Good Thief introduces one of the most appealing young heroes in contemporary fiction and ratifies Hannah Tinti as one of our most exciting new talents.
Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He longs for a family to call his own and is terrified of the day he will be sent alone into the world.
But then a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, and his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand and his parents persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? Journeying through a New England of whaling towns and meadowed farmlands, Ren is introduced to a vibrant world of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves. If he stays, Ren becomes one of them. If he goes, he’s lost once again. As Ren begins to find clues to his hidden parentage he comes to suspect that Benjamin not only holds the key to his future, but to his past as well.
The Gray Zone by Daphna Edwards Ziman
Synopsis: Kelly Jensen is thrown into foster care after witnessing her mother's murder and her father's wrongful conviction. By 15 she is a runaway, and has become a master of identity theft. Years later, estranged from a vicious husband and struggling to support her children, Kelly becomes a suspect in the murder of her lover, a congressman.
The Mercy Rule by Perri Klass
Synopsis: At first glance, Dr. Lucy Weiss looks like the typical high-achieving, upper-middle-class working mother who, along with her husband, is bringing up much-beloved children in a world of Saturday morning soccer, private-school teacher conferences, and hyperaggressive classroom mommies. But Lucy’s own history makes her an anomaly. Having overcome a difficult childhood in foster care, she is what’s called a super-survivor, a kid who grew up in the margins. Now a pediatrician, Lucy finds herself working with some of these same at-risk patients and their families.
The Mercy Rule is a novel about the all-important job of taking care of children. Lucy’s work takes her back into the world of families living on the edge, where every day she must decide whether parents’ actions are so incompetent—or so flaky—that their children are in danger. It’s her job to make the call and to step in when she has to. As she moves between her disparate worlds—from worrying about her own brilliant but odd son being labeled with a diagnosis to worrying about parents struggling with drugs and impossible living situations—Lucy must judge herself as a parent, critique other parents, and also deal with the echoes of her childhood.
Watching Lucy try to keep the balance, enjoy her own children, and look at other families with humor and justice and mercy, readers will understand why Chris Bohjalian said of Perri Klass, “Few writers write as beautifully or as authentically about parenting.”
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Synopsis: On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this story that unfolds over a quarter of a century - in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. Norah Henry, who knows only that her daughter died at birth, remains inconsolable; her grief weighs heavily on their marriage. And Paul, their son, raises himself as best he can, in a house grown cold with mourning. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the lost daughter, grows from a sunny child to a vibrant young woman whose mother loves her as fiercely as if she were her own.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Synopsis: A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
Synopsis: Two young drifters, Nate and Cat, are forced by stress and circumstance to give up their infant daughter Willa for adoption. For seventeen years, Willa has lived in elegant prosperity with Joe and Candace Golding, her adoptive parents, in the Massachusetts Berkshires, where she attends the elite, private Pioneer School. But the Goldings have fled a mysterious past, and when a cleaned-up Nate arrives at Pioneer to teach English, the well-varnished façade of an idyllic small town begins to crack.
Somebody Else's daughter is a collision between two fathers, biological and adoptive; a woman artist whose independence and unconventionality have led her to the dead ends of life and love; "pillars of the community" who are not what they seem; and a villain whose intentions slowly unfold with the help-witting and unwitting- of all those around him.
Brundage, the author of The Doctor's Wife, has given us another electric, suspenseful tale of conflicted characters and the fractured landscape of the American psyche.
Paper Angels by Jimmy Wayne
Synopsis: Kevin Morrell is a forty-three-year-old husband and father who runs a successful design and marketing firm that's crashed into the suffering economy. Attempting to navigate the busyness of the mall at Christmas, Kevin is humbled when he stumbles across the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Project. His wife insists that he take a paper ornament.
The name on the ornament is Thomas Brandt, a fifteen-year-old still reeling from the implosion of his family—from years of verbal abuse from an alcoholic father to a mother who finally left him behind, only to find herself and her children penniless and struggling. The only thing has allowed Lynn to survive is her faith. Thomas shares that faith, but he also wonders why God has seemingly abandoned them.
This is the story about a man and a boy one December. A man whose life is changed by a simple expression of kindness, and a boy who takes that expression of kindness and shows the true meaning of Christmas.