On the Shelf: Notable titles in New Adult Fiction
Published 8:00 am Sunday, February 20, 2022
This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.
This week’s column features titles from our New Adult Fiction collection.
“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison revisits characters from her 1983 short story of the same name. Twyla and Roberta have known each other since they were eight years old and spent four months together as roommates in the St. Bonaventure shelter. As inseparable as they were, life happens and they lose touch, but as they get older, they find each other again at a dinner, a grocery store and at a protest. Though they seem to be at opposite ends of every problem, and at each other’s throats each time they meet, the two women cannot deny the bond they formed so long ago. One of these women is white, the other Black, but which is which? Who is right about the race of the woman the girls tormented at the orphanage? Morrison gives readers a remarkable look into what keeps us together and what divides us, and how perceptions are turned into self-fulfilling prophecies.
“The Maid” is by Nita Prose. Molly Gray has trouble with social skills and misreads human interactions. Her grandmother used to interpret the world for her, laying out simple rules that Molly could live by. When Gran died a few months ago, 25-year-old Molly has been on her own and navigating life’s complexities on her own. She has thrown herself into her job as a hotel maid. Her unique character — along with her love of cleanliness and proper etiquette — make her the perfect fit for the work. She revels in wearing her crisp uniform, stocking her cart with miniature toiletries and returning the guest rooms to a state of order. On the day that Molly enters the suite of the rich and infamous Charles Black, she finds the room turned upside down and its occupant dead in his bed. Because of Molly’s peculiarities, she becomes suspect No. 1 for the police. She finds herself tangled in a web of lies that she doesn’t know how to unravel, but, fortunately, Molly has friends she never knew existed and they are ready to help her search for clues as to what really happened. More than a locked-room mystery, this book explores what it means to be just like everyone else, yet entirely different. It also teaches us that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.
Charmaine Wilkerson explores inheritance and spiritual growth in her debut “Black Cake.” In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves a mysterious inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her recording, Eleanor tells the harrowing story of a stubborn young swimmer who escapes her island home after being accused of murder. Byron and Benny question everything they knew about their family and themselves as they listen to their mother’s story unfold. They also learn of a long-lost child. As the siblings piece together Eleanor’s true history, they begin to reclaim their once-close relationship and prepare to fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right.” This novel is a story of how inheriting betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history.
Fiona Davis sets her novel “The Magnolia Palace” during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919. It has been eight months since 21-year-old Lillian Carter lost her mother to the flu and her life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the alias Angelica, Lillian was the most sought-after artists’ model in New York City — her figure is the basis for statues from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. With her mother gone, however, Lillian is grieving and severely depressed. She is also desperate because her work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her without a safe haven. When the haughty and demanding Helen Frick offers her a job as her private secretary, she jumps at the chance. Helen is the daughter and heiress of the industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick and ironically, their home features Lillian’s likeness. Lillian is drawn more deeply into the family’s lives and is pulled into a web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels and family drama that carries life or death stakes. Fifty years later, another aspiring model, Veronica Weber takes a job at the Frick home — now an impressive museum — and hopes she can solve her financial woes and take care of her family. When Veronica follows a series of hidden messages in the museum, they lead her to Joshua and possibly the truth behind a decades-old murder in the Frick family.
Asali Solomon has penned an expertly layered, naturally funny, and deeply human experience with her novel “The Days of Afrekete.” Liselle Belmont is having a dinner party. Though her husband has lost his bid for the state legislature, Liselle believes that a feast is a great way to thank his key supporters. Though she was never sure about her husband becoming a politician, never sure about the limelight and never sure about the life of fundraising and soapbox speeches, she stood by her husband. Then an FBI agent calls to warn her that Winn might be facing corruption charges and all Liselle can do is question: Is it possible he’s guilty? Who are they to each other; who have they become? How much of herself has she lost — and was it worth it? Across town on the same day, Selena Octave is slowly making her way through life as she always does — one foot in front of the other, keeping quiet and focused, trying not to see the terrors all around her. She worries about homelessness, starving children and other thoughts that make it difficult to live an easy life. Selena’s only been happy when she was with Liselle back in college, but they’ve lost touch. The one time they ran into each other just after Obama was elected, they barely spoke. As the day wears on, thoughts of Liselle begin to push Selena onto a different path. This book is a celebration of choices and where they take us, the people who change us and how we can re-imagine ourselves even when our fate seems sealed.