Here's what I chose for this year:
June: In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld
At 34 years of age, Scarlet has come home for the passing of her famous mother, the bird artist Addie Kavanaugh. The year is 2002. Though Addie and her husband, the world-renowned ornithologist Tom Kavanaugh, have made their life in southeastern Pennsylvania, Addie has chosen to die at the home of her dearest friend, Cora. This is because their ramshackle cottage in Burnham, Pennsylvania, is filled with so much history and because, in the last ten years or so, even birdsong has seemed to make Addie angry, or sad, or both. These are the things that Scarlet needs to understand. Cora and Lou (the third woman in Addie's circle) will help Scarlet to see her mother in full. In addition, Scarlet carries her own secret into these foggy days-a secret for Addie, one that involves Cora, too. Joyce Hinnefeld's debut novel is rich in so many ways beyond the taut mother-daughter dynamic and the competition among even the closest of women. The natural world, an artist's vision, the intensity of long-lasting love, the flight of a bird's song and the sighting of an extinct-or perhaps illusory-samll creature all work to shape the plot of the novel. Even the prose seems filled with birdsong-at once raucous and transporting. In its structure and style, In Hovering Flight follows in the tradition of writers like Virginia Woolf, Harriet Doerr and Carol Shields: musical and dramatic, with myriad stories and voices. But the evocative language of this soaring novel is Hinnefeld's own.
July: The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.
August: Inukshuk by Gregory Spatz
John Franklin has moved his fifteen-year-old son to the remote northern Canadian town of Houndstitch to make a new life together after his wife, Thomas’ mother, left them. Mourning her disappearance, John, a high school English teacher, writes poetry and escapes into an affair, while Thomas withdraws into a fantasy recreation of the infamous Victorian-era arctic expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin. With teenage bravado, Thomas gives himself scurvy so that he can sympathize with the characters in the film of his mind—and is almost lost himself.
While told over the course of only a few days, this gripping tale slips through time, powerfully evoking a modern family in distress and the legendary Franklin crew’s descent into despair, madness, and cannibalism on the Arctic tundra.