ON THE SHELF: Meet a menagerie of characters in these new selections

Published 11:52 pm Saturday, December 16, 2023

This column is submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week features titles from the New Adult Fiction collection.

The selections begin with the 2023 winner of the Mississippi Library Association’s Mississippi Author Award for Fiction: “The Girls in the Stilt House” by Kelly Mustian. Mississippi in the 1920s is full of hardships, but it’s especially difficult for Ada and Matilda who will be thrown together and form an unlikely partnership through murder. Ada has come back to her swamp home along the Natchez Trace after a year away in Baton Rouge where she saw a very different life. Now she is back to the hard life and her harsh father. She knows there is a price to pay for her decision to run away, but she had nowhere else to go except home. Matilda is the daughter of a sharecropper and lives on the other side of the Trace. She does what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of a certain element of locals. Matilda has formed a plan to go north to Ohio, but as she and Ada are drawn further into the dangerous world of bootleggers and moral corruption, they will be forced to face the tenuousness of their bond and the hidden past that links them in ways that could cost them their lives.

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Mitch Albom’s latest is called “The Little Liar.” Eleven-year-old Nico Krispis has never told a lie and his schoolmate, Fannie, loves him because of it. Nico’s brother, Sebastian, however, resents Nico for both these reasons. When war comes to their tight-knit community, all of their young lives are torn apart. Nico’s innocence and goodness is used against him and his community when a German officer takes advantage of Nico’s reputation for honesty by promising to save his loved ones. When Nico realizes the consequences of his betrayal, he can never tell the truth again. He will spend the rest of his life changing names, changing locations and identities, desperate to find his way to forgiveness — for himself and from the people that he loves. This story illustrates how love has the power to redeem us, no matter how strongly we blame ourselves for our mistakes.

Tananarive Due’s latest novel “The Reformatory” is set in Jim Crow Florida and follows Robert Stephens Jr. Gracetown School for Boys in Gracetown, Florida, in 1950 is full of horrors of racism and injustice. Robert is sent to this segregated reform school for six months after kicking the son of the largest landowner in town in defense of his older sister, Gloria. Robbie, as he is called, can see ghosts — or haints — and has seen them since he lost his mother. His gift, however, has become a glimpse into the truth of what really happens at the reformatory. Some of the boys forced to work to remediate their so-called crimes have gone missing, but the haints show Robbie the truth. His friends Redbone and Blue not only teach Robbie the rules, but how to survive. Meanwhile, Gloria is rallying every family member and connection in Florida to get Robbie out before it’s too late.

“Day” is a novel by Michael Cunningham. It’s April 5, 2019, and the veneer of domestic bliss contained in a cozy brownstone in Brooklyn is beginning to crack. Husband and wife Dan and Isabel are drifting apart — and both, it seems, are a little bit in love with Isabel’s younger brother, Robbie. Robbie is the mercurial member of the family who lives in the attic loft and is trying to get over his most recent boyfriend. He also lives vicariously through his glamorous online avatar. Robbie’s imminent departure is threatening to tear the family apart. Then there are Dan and Isabel’s two children — Nathan, age 10, and his sister Violet, age 5. One year later on the same day, the world is at the height of the pandemic and Nathan is taking his first steps towards independence while Violet goes around closing windows, obsessed with keeping everyone safe. Dan and Isabel communicate in sarcastic jabs and frustrated sighs. Robbie is stranded in Iceland, alone in a mountain cabin with nothing but his thoughts and his secret Instagram life to keep him company. Finally, on April 5, 2021, as the worst of the crisis is over, the family must now reckon with a very different reality. They must confront what they’ve learned, what they’ve lost, and how they might go on.

“Just Once” is a novel about a young woman torn between two brothers from bestselling author Karen Kingsbury. It’s 1941 and beautiful Irvel Holland is too busy keeping her secret to worry about the war raging overseas. She’s dating Sam but in love with his younger brother and her longtime best friend. Then, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and Sam is drafted. He convinces Hank to stay in Indiana where he and Irvel take up the battle on the home front. An undeniable chemistry builds between Irvel and Hank as Sam fights in Europe, but neither dare to cross the line. Two military men approach Irvel at the school where she teaches and want her to join a new spy network. One catch: she can tell no one. Irvel is caught between two brothers thousands of miles apart. Can love find a way, even in the face of the greatest heartbreak?