The Cat’s Table
By Michael Ondaatje
In 1953, an 11-year-old boy spends 21 unsupervised days, aboard the ocean liner Oronsay, in order to meet up with his mother in London. This voyage proves momentous as significant events during the crossing profoundly impact the boy’s future while immensely expanding his world. Although seemingly at the periphery of society, seated at the so-called cat’s table, the boy’s dining mates are, in fact, a lot more instrumental in the ensuing intrigue aboard the ship than originally appears. As the years pass, the boy grows up to be an acclaimed writer with an international reputation (not unlike Ondaatje, especially for The English Patient, 1992), and frequently returns to the events of those three weeks and demonstrates how “over the years, confusing fragments, lost corners of stories, have a clearer meaning when seen in a new light, a different place.”
By Alice Hoffman
In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom comes to Masada by a different path.
House of Secrets
By Tracie Peterson
The lives of sisters Bailee, Geena, and Piper Cooper are shrouded in secrecy and shame. A request to return to the beach house of their youth is certain to unearth what they fear the most, and one thing is assured: their family will never be the same again. A romance for one of the sisters provides a welcome distraction. As facts are revealed and each character tries to accept the truth, readers will be riveted by Peterson’s skill in building mystery while deftly addressing the stigma associated with mental illness.
The Marriage Plot
By Jeffrey Eugenides
Set in the early 1980s, this is the tale of Madeleine Hanna, recent Brown University English grad, and her admirer Mitchell Grammaticus, who opts out of Divinity School to walk the earth as a pilgrim in India. Madeleine is equally caught up, both with the postmodern vogue and with the brilliant Leonard Bankhead, whom she met in semiotics class and whose fits of manic depression jeopardize his suitability as a marriage prospect. The book’s fidelity to its young heroes and to a superb supporting cast of enigmatic professors, feminist theorists, neo-Victorians, and concerned mothers, and all of their evolving investment in ideas and ideals is such that the central argument of the book is also its solution: the old stories may be best after all, but there are always new ways to complicate them.
By Charles Frazier
Luce becomes foster mother to young twins when her sister is murdered by her husband. The traumatized children seem to have reverted to a wild state; they do not speak and have a troubling inclination to set fires. She is so isolated that she never even hears the news that her brother in law has somehow been declared innocent and is headed her way, in search of money he believes his deceased wife may have passed along to her. Time passes slowly for Luce and the children: she takes up with a local man who has inherited the rundown hotel where she lives, and the twins gradually begin to open up. When the children’s father arrives on their doorstep, the story takes a shocking turn.