In a crowded publishing world, writers work hard to be heard above the fray. The KCPL Book Team turns this month to first-time authors. These eight authors write in different styles and for different audiences, but each deserves to find their readers.
Angie Kim’s debut novel, “Miracle Creek,” is a multi-layered story centered on the Yoo family and the ripple effect of the character’s actions. The novel expertly combines elements of mystery, courtroom drama, and the challenges of immigrant families, to make for an absorbing read.
The Yoo family immigrates to the United States from South Korea, finding themselves at the time of the story in Miracle Creek, Virginia. Mr. Yoo operates a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, which is touted by the business as a means of treatment for a wide-variety of medical conditions. Early in the story, an explosion takes place at the therapy center, killing two patients while they were receiving treatment. The Yoos find themselves in an intense legal drama. What initially seemed like an accident, quickly unfolds to reveal suspicious activities and motives by multiple individuals for causing the explosion.
The author, a former trial lawyer and immigrant, weaves an intricate story with compelling courtroom drama. This story explores the consequence of the seemingly innocuous decisions humans make every day and how those decisions affect the decision maker and the lives of those around them.
‘We Cast a Shadow’
Maurice Carlos Ruffin tells a story that walks a line between dark satire and horror. “We Cast a Shadow” is told by Nigel’s father, who lives in a time when the strides of the Civil Rights Movement have been rolled back. Even as a lawyer, his position isn’t assured and needs his job for his son. As one of the few interracial couples around, he saves money for treatment to make his son white, even over the objections of his wife and son. If Nigel can be perceived as white, his father feels Nigel will be safe from a world of walled in ghettos and harsh racism.
Set against the backdrop of an apartheid America, what harm will our narrator endure and inflict in the name of love. Ruffin has created a world which stretches the rise in racism like a shadow to new proportions.
‘Evvie Drake Starts Over’
Longtime NPR pop culture contributor, Linda Holmes has published her debut novel, “Evvie Drake Starts Over.” It has recently made the New York Times Best seller list.
Evvie Drake has her bags packed, ready to leave her loveless marriage to the much-admired town doctor, when she receives a call that he has been killed in a car accident. Shocked, Evvie now finds herself a young widow and racked with shame for not grieving the loss of her husband.
Evvie grapples with revealing the controlling nature of her marriage because her husband was so esteemed in the community. Evvie deals with this by drawing inward and shutting out those around her until a new to town professional baseball player finds his way into her life.
The two help each other deal with the series of disappoints and failings in each of their lives, offering each other a new hope for the future. Evvie Drake is a story about second chances, even when you feel you don’t deserve them.
Farm-raised Emmett is sent away from his family in “The Binding” by Bridget Collins. Because of his health, he will be an apprentice to Seredith, a binder of books. The work of learning to bind the books brings a peace to Emmett. Over time he learns that Seredith helps people by recording trauma into the beautiful volumes. Once the memories are trapped within the pages, the person leaves no longer remembering them.
However, Collins asks the question, what if people forget for the convenience of those in power? What could someone do with the secrets bound in Seredith’s collection? Emmett finds himself pulled into these conflicts of honor and into the world of the aristocrat Lucian Darnay. In her debut adult novel, Collins has created a brooding fable with echoes of today’s world.
‘My Lovely Wife’
When a marriage gets stale, many couples try to spice things up, but not usually with a murder. Millicent’s husband is willing to do what he needs to make her happy, which includes finding her the perfect match and disposing of bodies. Samantha Downing has written a novel that is shades of “Mr. and Mrs. Dexter” without being too gore spattered. It is hard to say more about “My Lovely Wife” without giving too much away. Just be prepared for a wild ride.
In Lauren Wilkinson’s debut novel, “American Spy,” Marie Mitchell is an FBI officer who has been waiting for her big case. She is drawn to working in intelligence, following her revered older sister’s footsteps after her unexplained death.
As a strong, black woman working in the FBI during the Cold War in 1986, she is continually passed over for advancement. She finally receives the opportunity for an exciting case and takes it. She begins to work for the CIA to infiltrate African leader Thomas Sankara’s inner circle to gather information. What she does not anticipate is developing a connection with Sankara, one that leads to a complicated double-life.
After an attempt on her life is made, Mitchell writes a letter to her twin boys, to explain her story and the events of 1986. Wilkinson’s novel is inspired by the true events surrounding Thomas Sankara, who was the real-life president of the African nation Burkina Faso in the 1980s.
‘Holding On To Nothing’
Kanawha readers are always on the lookout for a new author reflecting on our region. Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne’s tale “Holding On to Nothing” offers a fresh take on a tale as old as time. Can a couple thrown together by an unplanned baby overcome the odds?
Lucy Kilgore thought she was on her way out of her rural east Tennessee town until a drunken evening ties her to Jeptha Taylor, a local ne’er-do-well. Shelburne creates a rich world of tobacco, music and the challenges of a broken economy. Fans of Silas House and Ron Rash will enjoy this new voice in fiction.
‘The Silent Patient’
Alex Michaelides’ debut novel, “The Silent Patient” has been extremely popular since hitting the shelves in February. It has already been optioned by Brad Pitt’s production company to be made into a movie.
Alicia Berenson was convicted of violently killing her husband. However, a motive for the crime has never come to light. Since the night of the murder, Alicia has not spoken a single word. This silence only compounds the mystery surrounding the crime and creates an almost celebrity-like status of Alicia and a fascination with the murder.
After six years of silence, psychotherapist Theo Farber gets involved in her case. The story is told through Theo’s eyes and Alicia’s diary entries, giving the reader an interesting perspective of the events leading up to the crime and its aftermath. Theo’s own story and trauma becomes an integral part of the story.
A page-turning psychological thriller that will keep you up at night, devouring every twist and turn until the end.
Interested in other works? Just ask the staff at your local library and we’ll be happy to find you a new or established author to add to your “To Be Read” stack.