Escape into Fiction

Sometimes we all need an escape from reality.  Try living in one of these fascinating worlds for a while:

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Just try to resist this tale of a grad student who enters a subterranean library, hidden far below the surface of the earth, to find out why a story of his childhood is recorded in a rare book. Travel the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Get lost in this sweeping saga about a Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

This novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine who must travel into the Underworld part of the swamp in order to save her family’s dynasty of Bigtree alligator wrestling.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao suffers loneliness and bullying. She plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. Across the Pacific, novelist Ruth discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox–possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

What could go wrong during a summer vacation with friends and family at an extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean? If you read Koch’s The Dinner, then you know to expect the unexpected.  Nevertheless, I still gasped in horror at what happens.  Unputdownable and unforgettable.

 My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I have never fully recovered from Ferrante Fever and eagerly await her new book, The Lying Life of Adults, which is expected this fall.  In the meantime, we can return to her Neapolitan Novels.  The story begins in 1950s Naples. Growing up on these tough streets Elena and Lila learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else.

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

What I love about Ted Chiang is that he wrestles with the oldest questions on earth–What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?–and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.