In 1896, after her family has fallen on hard times, Isabella goes into service as a maid. When an opportunity arises to interview for a cook position at Buckingham Palace, Isabella jumps at the chance, even though it's under false pretenses. After getting the job, Isabella finds that she has a gift for cooking and becomes a trusted member of Queen Victoria's household. However, the memory of her privileged upbringing and the fear of losing her job are never far from her mind. When love possibly comes her way, will Isabella choose a career over being a wife?
When twelve inmates organize a prison break that opens the doors for all the prisoners, the small town of Weldonville, Colorado, will never be the same. Two years after many in the town lost their lives, the mayor and city attorney of the town secretly authorize police officer Leah Hawkins to hunt down the twelve inmates and kill them.
A Small Town (2020) is the story of Leah's journey around the country to find some sense of justice in order for the town to begin to heal. Thomas Perry takes the reader on an action-filled ride that's hard to put down.
It's 1982 and 19-year-old Oona is deciding whether to go to the London School of Economics or on tour with the band she's in with her boyfriend, Dale. However, on New Year's Eve, Oona faints and wakes up in 2015 in her 51-year-old body, but feeling like she's still 19, with those years' memories. While Oona is stunned, her personal assistant, Kenzie, and her mother, Madeleine, explain that every New Year's Eve, Oona jumps backwards or forwards in time to a different year.
Through Oona Out of Order (2020), the reader is with Oona in many different decades of her life and gets to see both the highs and lows. This novel by Margarita Montimore is a clever and entertaining page turner.
In the Aisles (2018) tells the story of Christian, a new worker at a big box store in former East Germany. Taken under the wing by his coworker Bruno, Christian becomes enamored of a fellow employee, Marion. Check out this quiet leisurely-paced film full of charm and complex emotion.
In German with English subtitles.
In 1973, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are in training together to be New York City police officers. A couple of years later, they turn out to be next-door neighbors in the town of Gillam. However, Francis and Brian are not really friends. Still, Francis' youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian's son, Peter, have been close since they were born and share a deep bond. Eventually, a terrible act changes the relationships of the families forever, especially impacting Kate's and Peter's lives.
Ask Again, Yes (2019) tells the story of two families over many decades. Mary Beth Keane's book is a great read for book clubs and those who enjoy novels about family relationships. Looking for the next book to discuss with your group? Check out our lists.
Libby Jones has long known that when she turns 25, she inherits something from her birth parents' trust, but she is stunned to discover that it turns out a be a decaying mansion in one of the most expensive areas of London. It also is where her birth parents, Henry and Martina Lamb, died in a cult-like situation when she was ten months old.
The Family Upstairs (2019) recounts Libby's journey of discovering what happened in the family home all those years ago, interspersed with Henry Jr.'s retelling of the years when his family's status went from wealth and privilege to being prisoners in their own home. In the novel, the reader also meets Lucy, who lives a meager existence in France with her two children, but longs to get back to Britain, now that the baby (aka Libby) is now 25. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell is a creepily unputdownable read. Perfect for those who love Ruth Rendell's psychological novels, Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent, and the books of Erin Kelly.
Hatidze lives with her mother outside of Skopje, Macedonia, the only residents for miles. She makes her living selling her honey in the city and practicing sustainable beekeeping according to old traditions. Hatidze's life is forever changed when a Turkish family nearby decides to take up beekeeping, without any regard of her teachings. With beautiful scenery, Honeyland (2019) is a documentary about how a simpler way of life still exists in today's society, even in the face of modern pressures.
Honeyland has been nominated for both Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film of the Year for this year's Oscars.
In Turkish with English subtitles.
In the 1950s, we meet four characters whose lives will be intertwined for the next 50 years. Charles is from a wealthy Boston family and the son of a Harvard professor. Lily's parents are killed when she is a teenager and their absence leaves a void inside her for the rest of her life. James grows up poor in Chicago, the son of an alcoholic. Nan is the daughter of a southern minister, and sees firsthand the inner workings of being part of a family where faith and helping others is an integral part of life.
When Charles and James decide to take jobs as the co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village, the men, along with their wives, Lily and Nan, must live their lives amid the turmoil of the 1960s. They find their beliefs challenged by their circumstances and the other individuals in the quartet. In The Dearly Beloved (2019) by Cara Wall, the reader is immersed in the four characters' lives as revealed through moving, emotional writing.
In 1977, Robyn Davidson trekked across Australia, over 1700 miles, with camels that she had trained for the journey. Tracks (2013, PG-13), starring Mia Wasikowska as Robyn and Adam Driver as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, recounts Davidson's trip from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with beautiful scenery and a sense of how isolating the Australian outback can be. A real treat for those who love movies about independent women or travel.
This documentary tells the story of the first all-female crew to participate in the grueling Whitbread round-the-world yacht race in 1989. Englishwoman Tracy Edwards skippers Maiden over nine months and 33,000 miles. With tons of footage from the time, current recollections from most of the team's members, and interviews with the male-dominated media and other yachtsmen, Maiden (2018, PG) is an exciting view into the women's incredible journey.
In London after World War II, Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge operate The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, which is a matchmaking service. When one of their clients, Tillie, is murdered, and Dickie, the man they set Tillie up with, is arrested for the crime, Iris and Gwen take it upon themselves to find the killer because they know Dickie is innocent. They also know the scandal of the crime could ruin their business. Luckily, Iris worked undercover during the war, and those skills come in handy, as can having a partner like Gwen, who also can think fast on her feet.
The Right Sort of Man (2019) is a breezy, cozy mystery with colorful characters. Allison Montclair's debut is excellent for people who enjoy Jacqueline Winspear, Susan Elia MacNeal, and Alexander McCall Smith.
Penny lives with her mother, Emma, in the Hamptons and treasures her time with Henry Wyatt, a famous artist who has made Sag Harbor his home. When Henry dies and leaves his estate, most importantly, his home Windsong, to Penny, Henry's old friend, Bea, is furious. Years ago, she and Henry agreed that when he passed away, Windsong would be turned into a museum. Bea also wonders why Henry would give his estate to a teenage girl. Leaving Manhattan, Bea arrives at Windsong, vowing not to leave until the home is in her hands. Emma is not happy with Bea's appearance, but has her hands full. She is helping Penny manage her OCD, has a job at the American Hotel and must adapt to their newfound wealth.
After Tiffy breaks up with her boyfriend, she is finding it hard to locate somewhere to live in London on her limited budget. She decides her best option is to share a flat with a man named Leon. Leon, with his job as a palliative care nurse, only needs the apartment from 9am-6pm weekdays, since he spends weekends at his girlfriend's house. This arrangement suits Tiffy perfectly with her job as an assistant book editor at a small publishing house. Even though they are never at the flat at the same time, their lives begin to intermingle as they learn about each other through their possessions and notes to each other, which are at first pithy and humorous, then turn caring as they get involved in their respective lives. Soon, both Tiffy and Leon realize they have feelings for each other. Will they end up as more than just flatmates?
When Mrs. Braithwaite is ostracized by the community because of her recent divorce and her bossiness running the local Women's Voluntary Service, she decides to travel to London to see her daughter, Betty. When Mrs. Braithwaite arrives where Betty is staying, she discovers that Betty is missing. With help from Betty's landlord Mr. Norris, Mrs. Braithwaite finds herself involved in quite an adventure to bring Betty home.
Mrs. Braithwaite also discovers her life and herself changed forever for the better amid wartime London. The Spies of Shilling Lane (2019) is a delightful read, much better executed than Jennifer Ryan's debut, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. A great readalike for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.