After several years of dark, dystopian novels and brooding, twisted thrillers, readers are turning to Up Lit. This growing genre features quirky characters, building personal connections and discovering love. While there are obstacles and sorrow to overcome, readers can generally expect an uplifting resolution.
‘The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr’
Elvira Carr’s controlling and critical mother separated her from the world because of Elvira’s “condition.” After her mother has a stroke and goes to a nursing home, Elvira finds the need to prove to herself and to others that she can cope with the unstructured outside world.
She creates a spreadsheet with “The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr” listed to help her with social situations. While they are good rules, the number of exceptions neurotypical people make to the rules create challenges for Elvira. With help from her neighbor Sylvia and others, she stretches her wings, growing strong enough to be out in the world and to deal with family secrets. Fans of “The Rosie Project” will like this debut novel by Frances Maynard.
‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’
In the book, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce, the main character, Harold Fry, is living an ordinary, somewhat mundane, post-retirement life. His marriage to Maureen has long ago lost its spark. Suddenly, he receives a letter in the mail from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend.
Queenie is dying in hospice in a town several hundred miles away. Rather than mail her a reply, Harold decides he will save Queenie from dying by walking the entire journey to see her in hospice. Maureen was not consulted and is less than pleased with this idea. After all, Harold is 65, not physically active, and left his mobile phone at home. However, Harold has made up his mind that he must walk to keep Queenie alive.
His walk becomes quite an adventure as he meets many interesting characters over the course of his pilgrimage. Harold not only learns about these strangers, but also a great deal about himself. Maureen, left behind at home, finds herself on her own poignant personal journey.
Rachel Joyce’s novel is about self-discovery and finding the beauty in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us.
‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’
In “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep” by Joanna Cannon, the local vicar proclaims that God is everywhere. So when Mrs. Creasy goes missing, 10-year-old Grace and her best friend Tilly begin their search for God, so she can be found. In the scorching heat of the summer of 1976, the two go through their neighborhood under the guise of a earning a scouting badge.
They learn many of the secrets of their suburban neighborhood and much of the gossip ties back to a fire, a death, and a baby from 1967. Mrs. Creasy and her listening ear knew all the stories up and down the avenue. What all did she know and what will the girls learn? Readers will fall in love with Grace and Tilly as they try to figure out what is happening. The pair grow and strengthen their friendship in this tale touched with sadness and humor.
‘The Art of Arranging Flowers’
Ruby has not been herself since her sister died. She spends her days with her dog, Clementine and pours herself into her work as a florist. However, Ruby has a special gift. Her floral arrangements are not only artistically beautiful, but also magically affect her customer’s moods. She is much beloved in her community but still feels lonely. Soon, she meets an unlikely ensemble of characters — a veterinarian, a little boy and a retired astronaut — who will change her life forever.
“The Art of Arranging Flowers” by Lynne Branard, is about loneliness, human connection, the kindness of others and community. The light supernatural element to the story lends itself to exploring the larger impact of how our actions affect others. The detailed and lovely descriptions of her floral arrangements will especially please readers with an interest in flowers or gardening.
‘In the Land of Second Chances’
Ebb, Nebraska, is a small town frozen in time. Like many small towns across the nation, its future is uncertain. Wilma Porter, owner of the local bed and breakfast, is worried for her friends and neighbors. She’s been praying for a miracle to tip the balance in Ebb’s favor. Enter Vernon Moore, the handsome stranger who’s come to town to sell games of chance. Perhaps this mysterious salesman is selling the people of Ebb something else.
The major problem facing Ebb is the fate of the local department store, an anchor of the small downtown. It faces financial issues and the threat of a Walmart. As if that isn’t enough for owner Calvin Millet, he is also coping with his terminally ill child. Will Vernon Moore be able to convince local banker Clem Tucker to see the good in investing locally? Will he help Calvin find peace? Will Wilma’s prayer for a miracle be answered? “In the Land of Second Chances” is the first in a series by George Shaffner.
‘Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One’
Camille has everything that should make her happy — a husband, a son and a good job. However the 38-year-old Parisian feels like something is missing. On a stormy day after a car accident, Camille meets Claude, a “routinologist.” He offers Camille unique advice and unusual tasks to help her rediscover her happiness. Readers will find Claude’s advice might apply to them as well, as, like Camille, they discover “Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One.”
Author Raphaelle Giordano is a therapist and the book ends with some tips for the reader to shake up their routines as well.
‘How to Stop Time’
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live a long life? Not just to age 90, but say 400? How would living that long affect your life or your psyche? Matt Haig explores this idea in his novel, “How to Stop Time.”
Tom Hazard has seen many historical events and even met some famous people, but none of that compares to the heartache he suffered many years ago. Due to his condition, he was warned against falling in love, but did not heed those warnings. You see, Tom does not age like normal people. He will die eventually. It will just take him an extremely long time to do so. The novel finds Tom struggling to navigate the modern world while still looking at it through the lens of someone who has 400 years of life experience behind him. He is also searching for Marion, his daughter, who suffers from the same affliction.
The novel goes back and forth between present-day and past events. While it’s not a novel about time-travel, one almost gets the sense of time-travel following Tom’s life story. If you like fantasy and historical fiction, this novel may be for you.
‘Summer Hours at the Robbers Library’
In Sue Halpern’s book, “Summer Hours at the Robbers Library,” head librarian, Kit, would rather be surrounded by books instead of people. After her marriage ended, she found her way to Riverton, New Hampshire. Riverton used to be a prosperous town, but like Kit, has seen better days. She spends most of her time focused on her job. Kit keeps her life private and others at a distance, until a 15-year-old home-schooled teenager, Sunny, enters her life. Sunny has been assigned to work summer hours at the library for stealing a dictionary. Through mentoring Sunny in her summer assignment, Kit’s carefully constructed harsh exterior begins to crack.
In addition to Sunny, a host of other quirky characters play a part in Kit’s mid-life transformation. A cast of misfit characters make Robbers Library an interesting place to spend some of your reading hours.