A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon; behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

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Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

In 1972, Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible, but no one would speak of it. In 2003, after an accord brought peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother. Radden Keefe’s book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

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Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Tightrope draws us deep into an “other America.” The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue-collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of the children on Kristof’s old school bus died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. Taken together, these accounts provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes.

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A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

In the late 1930s, civil war gripped Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning.

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend. Sitting in the audience during the trial was Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case. Furious Hours is the stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Lee worked on obsessively in the years after publishing her first novel.

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All book summaries were borrowed from Goodreads.com.

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