| By Tamara Butler |
Exotic Locations & Strange Disappearances
Perfect reads for a sizzling summer afternoon include unusual characters in exotic locations and the mysteries surrounding family members who suddenly disappeared. Birnam Wood is a taut psychological thriller that takes place in beautiful New Zealand, where an enigmatic American billionaire works with a group of collective gardeners living outside the law to supposedly create a survivalist utopia. In The Last Animal, two sisters travel with their scientist mother to Siberia, where they uncover an ancient baby mammoth that starts a chain of events with surprising consequences. A sex therapist and desperate love are the subjects of Big Swiss, where two women live in a barely habitable ancient farmhouse full of bees and disrepair. One of them, Greta, transcribes sex therapy meetings from her boss and becomes attached to one of his clients. When she meets her in real life, she becomes desperate to keep her object of affection in her life. Life and Other Love Songs explores the story of a father who disappeared years ago. Through the unraveling of what happened to him, the family discovers that they may never have really known him at all. Lastly, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez focuses on the reappearance of a family member who had been missing for over a decade, and the impact her disappearance had on the family. So, grab a beach towel and dive into these gripping and powerful Thorndike titles this summer.
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Starred Reviews – Publishers Weekly, Booklist & Kirkus
The Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries brings us Birnam Wood, a gripping thriller of high drama and kaleidoscopic insight into what drives us to survive. A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass on New Zealand’s South Island, cutting oﬀ the town of Thorndike and leaving a sizable farm abandoned. The disaster presents an opportunity for Birnam Wood, an undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice. The gripping psychological thriller is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both inﬂuences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. A brilliantly constructed study of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is a mesmerizing, unﬂinching consideration of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.
The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel
Starred Reviews – Publishers Weekly & Kirkus
Teenage sisters Eve and Vera never imagined their summer vacation would be spent in the Arctic, tagging along on their mother’s scientific expedition. But there’s a lot about their lives lately that hasn’t been going as planned, and truth be told, their single mother might not be so happy either. Now in Siberia with a bunch of serious biologists, Eve and Vera are just bored enough to cause trouble. Fooling around in the permafrost, they accidentally discover a perfectly preserved, four-thousand-year-old baby mammoth, and things finally start to get interesting. The discovery sets off a surprising chain of events, leading mother and daughters to go rogue, pinging from the slopes of Siberia to the shores of Iceland to an exotic animal farm in Italy, and resulting in the birth of a creature that could change the world—or at least this family. The Last Animal takes readers on a wild, entertaining, and refreshingly different kind of journey, one that explores the possibilities and perils of the human imagination on a changing planet, what it’s like to be a woman in a field dominated by men, and how a wondrous discovery can best be enjoyed with family.
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin
Indie Next Pick
Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss. One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice in town and they quickly become enmeshed. While Big Swiss is unaware Greta has eavesdropped on her most intimate exchanges, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship …
Life and Other Love Songs by Anissa Gray
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Time ∙ Essence ∙ Real Simple ∙ Good Housekeeping ∙ Atlanta Journal-Constitution ∙ The Root ∙ She Reads ∙ Atlanta Magazine ∙ Zibby Mag
It’s a warm, bright October afternoon, and Ozro Armstead walks out into the brilliant sunshine on his thirty-seventh birthday. At home, his wife Deborah and daughter Trinity prepare a surprise celebration; down the street, his brother waves as Oz heads back to his office after having lunch together. But he won’t make it to the party or even to his briefcase back at his desk. He’s about to disappear. In the days, months, and years to follow, Deborah and Trinity look backward and forward as they piece together the life of the man they love, but whom they come to realize they might never have truly known. In a gripping narrative that moves from the Great Migration to 1970s Detroit and 1990s New York, we follow the hopes, triumphs, losses, and secrets that build up and tear apart an American family.
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jiménez
Indie Next Pick
Starred Reviews – Publishers Weekly, Booklist & Kirkus
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Elle ∙ USA Today ∙ Today.com ∙ Ms. Magazine ∙ Good Housekeeping ∙ Bustle ∙ The Week ∙ Goodreads ∙ Book Riot ∙ She Reads ∙ Litreactor ∙ Electric Lit ∙ The Mary Sue ∙ People Español ∙ Zibby Mag ∙ Debutiful ∙ Her Campus
Belletrist and Reader’s Digest Book Club Pick
The Ramirez women of Staten Island orbit around absence. When thirteen‑year‑old middle child Ruthy disappeared after track practice without a trace, it left the family scarred and scrambling. One night, twelve years later, oldest sister Jessica spots a woman on her TV screen in Catfight, a raunchy reality show. She rushes to tell her younger sister, Nina: This woman’s hair is dyed red, and she calls herself Ruby, but the beauty mark under her left eye is instantly recognizable. Could it be Ruthy, after all this time? The years since Ruthy’s disappearance haven’t been easy on the Ramirez family. It’s 2008, and their mother, Dolores, still struggles with the loss, Jessica juggles a newborn baby with her hospital job, and Nina, after four successful years at college, has returned home to medical school rejections and is forced to work in the mall folding tiny, bedazzled thongs at the lingerie store. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is a vivid family portrait, in all its shattered reality, exploring the familial bonds between women and cycles of generational violence, colonialism, race, and silence, replete with snark, resentment, tenderness, and, of course, love.