Your summer reading list might include these books: Set in the 1950s, Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin, $14.95) captures the airlessness of that repressive era. For Ava Lark, being Jewish—like being divorced—is just one more code word for other. Since Ava is both, she is immediately suspect in her small community. And when Jimmy, her twelve-year-old son’s best friend goes missing, the neighbors—already contending with the Cold War, Communist paranoia, and bomb threats—use his disappearance as yet another reason to ostracize her.
The sudden death of a spouse—or an ex—is the jumping off point for two oddly similar new novels. In The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow (Viking, $27.95) Georgia Waltz has just finished sitting shiva when she learns that her husband Ben drained all their mutual assets, leaving her and their daughters penniless; in The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.99) Evie Glass finds herself unwillingly drawn into a relationship with her ex-husband’s new wife and baby. In each of these edgy novels, death offers the survivors an unexpected opportunity for self-examination, growth and, finally, spiritual transformation.
The essays in An Enlarged Heart by Cynthia Zarin (Knopf, $24.95) examine subjects as diverse as the author’s winter coats and the potentially fatal disease that afflicts her young daughter. Zarin, a poet, writes with precision and focus. When she learns just how serious her child’s illness is, she says, “Before she was born, before we decided to have a child together—she is the first child of our marriage and the only one—I thought, we are too happy, we are asking the evil eye to come among us…. Don’t shine too much light or the Devil will see. The Devil is like a moth—he is attracted to the light…Stop reading twigs in the forest you idiot Russian, my oldest friend laughs at me. But now it has come to pass.” yona zeldis mcdonough is Lilith’s fiction editor. Her fifth novel, Two of a Kind, is out in September.
Yona Zeldis Mcdonough is Lilith’s fiction editor. Her fifth novel, Two of a Kind, is out in September.