Best Reads for 2013 by Vicky Calmes, Colby Public Library Director
Each year, I compile a list of favorite reads. Here are my top 25 picks from 2013. After reviewing my list, historical fiction was the winner this year, followed by mystery/suspense. (Question: How can books about the 1960s be historical fiction? I was alive then!) Non-fiction works were apparently the big losers in 2013, as none appear on my list of favorites.
25. William Kent Krueger: Ordinary Grace
Tragedy unexpectedly strikes Frank’s family— which includes his Methodist minister father, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother. He finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.
24. Jennifer McVeigh: The Fever Tree
Frances Irvine, left destitute by her father’s sudden death in 1880, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and move to the Southern Cape of Africa. In this remote and inhospitable land, she meets two very different men. Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.
23. Harlan Coben: Six Years
Six years have passed since Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he is hoping for…but she is not Natalie.
22. Ian Rankin: Standing in Another Man’s Grave
For more than a decade, Nina Hazlitt feared the worst about her daughter’s disappearance. The police investigation ceased, and her pleas to the cold case department were ignored. It is then discovered that two more women have gone missing from the same road where Sally Hazlitt was last seen.
21. Kathy Hepinstall: Blue Asylum
During the Civil War, Iris Dunleavy is put on trial by her husband, convicted of madness, and sent to Sanibel Asylum. Her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic. On this remote Florida island, Iris meets a wonderful collection of inmates in various states of sanity, including Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier haunted by war, to whom she is attracted.
20. Ruta Sepetys: Between Shades of Grey
No, this is not a 50 Shades of Gray book. Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life in 1941 until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina documents these events by imbedding clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her artwork will make its way to her father’s prison camp.
19. Kate Alcott: The Dressmaker
Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had a lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be her personal maid on the Titanic. On the fourth night, disaster strikes, and amidst the chaos, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. The survivors are rescued and taken to New York, but then rumors begin to circulate about Lady Gordon—did she save herself at the expense of others? Tess is forced to confront a serious question.
18. Jamie Mason: Three Graves Full
More than a year ago, Jason Getty killed a man he wished he had never met; then, he planted the problem a little too close to home. Just as he is learning to live with the undeniable reality of what he has done, police unearth two bodies on his property—neither of which is the one Jason buried. Jason races to stay ahead of the consequences of his crime, and while chaos reigns on his lawn, his sanity unravels.
17. Koethi Zan: The Never List
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a sadist.
16. Karen White: The Time Between
Eleanor Murray will always remember her childhood on Edisto Island, where her late father shared her passion for music. Now her memories of him are all that tempers the guilt she feels over the accident that put her sister in a wheelchair and the feelings she harbors for her sister’s husband. Her boss offers her a part-time job caring for his elderly aunt, Helena, back on Edisto, which has been peaceful refuge for Helena, who escaped with her sister from war-torn Hungary in 1944.
15. Scott Turow: Identical
State Senator Paul Giannis is a candidate for Mayor of Kindle County. His identical twin brother, Cass, is newly released from prison, 25 years after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, Dita Kronon. When Evon Miller, an ex-FBI agent who is the head of security for the Kronon family business, and private investigator Tim Brodie begin a re-investigation of Dita’s death, a complex web of murder, sex, and betrayal unfolds.
14. Jodi Picoult: The Storyteller (A Holocaust Story)
Sage Singer is a baker. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor which is morally and legally challenging.
13. Chris Cleave: Little Bee
The novel tells the stories of Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee, and Sarah O’Rourk, a magazine editor in England. After spending two years detained in a British immigration detention center, Little Bee is illegally released. She travels to the home of Sarah and her husband Andrew, whom she met two years previously on a beach in the Niger Delta. Sarah is initially unaware of Little Bee’s presence, until Andrew’s guilt forces him to commit suicide. Little Bee surfaces to help Sarah cope and care for Charlie, Sarah’s son.
12. John Grisham: Sycamore Row
Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, maid, and lawyer into a legal tangle.
11. Liane Moriarty: The Husband’s Secret
Cecilia Fitzpatrick is a successful businesswoman, pillar of her small community, and devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home, but her life changes dramatically when she finds a letter written by her husband, to be opened after his death, which contains his deepest, darkest secret. She stumbles across that letter while her husband is still very much alive…
10. Chris Bohjalian: The Light in the Ruins
In Florence in 1943, the Rosatis believe the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Then, two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site. The tranquility is shattered as the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality.
9. Naomi Ragen: The Sisters Weiss
Sisters Rose and Pearl Weiss grow up in a loving but strict ultra-Orthodox family in Brooklyn in the 1950s. A chance meeting with a young French immigrant turns Rose’s world upside down. In rebellion, she begins to live a secret life. Forty years later, Pearl’s sheltered young daughter Rivka suddenly discovers the ugly truth about her Aunt Rose, the outcast, who has moved on to become a renowned photographer. Rivka sets off on a dangerous adventure that will stir up the ghosts of the past.
8/7. Kate Morton: The Secret Keeper/The Forgotten Garden
Keeper: Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime by her mother, Dorothy. Fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past through a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London.
Garden: A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dock master and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity.
6. Camilla Lackberg: The Stonecutter
This is the story of detective Patrik Hedström and his girlfriend, Erica Falck, the crime-solving duo whose first child has just been born. While they celebrate this new life, a suspicious drowning claims a little girl they knew well. As the murder’s implications widen, Patrik’s investigation threatens to tear apart the rural fishing village of Fjällbacka, where a secret lurks that spans generations.
5. Jaime Ford: Songs of Willow Frost
Seattle, in 1934, is steeped in the uncertainty of the Great Depression. William lives in the Sacred Heart Orphanage with an assortment of other children who are not truly orphans since their parents are still alive. William, after seeing a movie featuring an actress named Willow Frost, is sure that he is one of those with a living parent. With his best friend, a visually impaired girl named Charlotte, he goes in search of the truth.
4. Leif Enger: Peace Like a River
Eleven-year-old Reuben Land, an asthmatic boy living in Minnesota, believes in miracles. Along with his sister and father, Reuben finds himself on a cross-country search for his outlaw older brother who has been charged with murder. Their 1962 journey is touched by the kindness of strangers.
3/2. David Rhodes: Rock Island Line/Driftless
Rock Island: July Montgomery is rocked by the tragic death of his parents. Fleeing to Philadelphia, he fashions a ghostly existence in an underground train station. When a young woman appears to free him, they return together to the Iowa heartland.
Driftless: The story takes place in the fictitious town of Words, Wisconsin. A cast of interesting characters are intertwined through a drifter (July Montgomery) who forever alters the ties that bind a community.
And my favorite for 2013……
1. Betty Smith: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Young Francie Nolan grows up in Brooklyn in the early 1900s with a sweet but wayward father, disheartened mother, and a brother who will always be the favored child. Early on, Francie learns the meaning of hunger. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement and through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. While this book was published 71 years ago, it has become a classic which is still relevant today.