PEOPLE Picks the Best New Books of the Week

PEOPLE Picks the Best New Books of the Week

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

When children begin dying in an African village devastated by an American oil company, the local madman leads a revolt that shapes villagers’ lives for generations to come. The fallout is told from the perspective of the affected children, most of all Thula, a girl who goes off to school in the U.S. and returns to ignite a battle against her country’s dictatorship. Mbue (Behold the Dreamers) has written a brilliant exploration of modern colonialism and capitalism — and the fight for justice. — Claire Martin

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Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews

When her #metoo complaint backfires, jobless Florence gets an offer to be personal assistant to “Maud Dixon” — a popular novelist whose real identity is known only to her agent. Dark comedy meets twisty thriller when “Maud” and Florence head to Morocco to research a novel. Couldn’t be more fun. — Marion Winik

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What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Coster weaves together two seemingly disparate fractured families in a saga that begins with a newly integrated southern high school and addresses racism, colorism, drug addiction and homophobia over decades. The complex characters will stay with you — maybe even change you. — Benilde Little

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We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Cape Haven, Calif., is a pretty town of broken souls. Its chief cop clings to the past as his body fails. A drunk former beauty can barely care for the kids she loves, and her fierce 13-year-old daughter Duchess Day Radley imagines herself an outlaw willing to do anything to defend her little brother. A murder roils the town, setting in motion an intriguing mystery. But what lingers after the scores are settled is Duchess, in all her defiant, heartbreaking glory. — Ellen Shapiro

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The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

Part memoir, part feminist treatise, Allende’s latest rejects the “machismo” she says has always surrounded her. Filled with astute observations about the struggles of women everywhere, it also celebrates female sensuality, aging and what it means to love. — Sam Gillette

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Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman

Kooky Irish octogenarian Millie is saddled with a home caregiver to help curtail her shoplifting habit just as her hell-raising granddaughter is banished to a boarding school. Each falls prey to a questionable new friend, careening toward calamity — and each other. A witty, exuberant debut. — Claire Martin

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Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara’s story begins in the display window of a store that sells “Artificial Friends” for the children of a future world whose disturbing features are slowly revealed in this utterly captivating fable. Klara, surely the smartest and sweetest robot in all of literature, studies the people around her with an intelligence that sheds light on our deepest questions. What is love? What makes us human? Is there a God? Nobel Prize winner Ishiguro spins a tale to delight all ages. — Marion Winik

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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Beginning with teenage Talia escaping a Colombian correctional facility to join her family in America, Engel movingly captures the shadow lives of undocumented migrants. Weaving Andean myths with the cold realities of dislocation and “the phantom pain of a lost homeland,” this is a profound, beautiful novel. — Ellen Shapiro

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Come Fly the World by Julia Cooke

In the 1960s and ’70s, Pan Am stewardesses changed a sexualized job requiring weigh-ins and retirement at 26 into a forum for serious work. They became ambassadors, transported traumatized soldiers, rescued Vietnamese children in Operation Babylift. A fascinating history of a bygone era. — Caroline Leavitt

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Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

As the Nazis overwhelm France, Vera and Max, Russian Jews in exile, must report for internment. Fearing the worst, they escape from the camp, leaving their daughter Lucie with her nanny. She’ll be safely hidden — or so they believe. Settled in Los Angeles, Vera is consumed by guilt and loss that tear at her marriage, and she aches to return to Lucie after the war’s end. Sweeping and lyrical, this novel is a gripping story of a mother’s unyielding love. —Helen Rogan

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Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Martha Friel, the narrator of this improbably charming novel about mental illness, will have you chortling and reading lines aloud. Martha is almost 40, and nothing — not the love of her husband, not a parade of doctors and meds — has ever stopped the pain. Fortunately, that’s just the beginning of this story. —Marion Winik

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The Officer’s Daughter by Elle Johnson

Decades after her cousin Karen is murdered, Johnson — a crime-show writer — wrestles with whether to help free Karen’s killer. To decide, she investigates what really happened and painful truths about her dad, a parole officer. A powerful memoir painting a portrait of one family’s “grief that would never end.” —Richard Eisenberg

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Send for Me by Lauren Fox

After fleeing Nazi Germany, Fox’s grandmother received increasingly desperate letters from her mother back home. Using snippets from those actual missives, this incandescent novel tells the story of three generations of women connected by sacrifice, courage, the comforting aroma of baked goods and the indelible impact of words on a page. Send for Me reads like a memoir but has the kind of intimate detail born in the imagination of a novelist at the top of her game. —Kim Hubbard

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All Girls by Emily Layden

Arriving at their exclusive prep school in August, students pass by signs announcing “a rapist works here.” Is it true? The #metoo-era mystery permeates every aspect of the year as Layden’s novel serves up a full menu of girls, from gossips to strivers, legacies to loners, all with secrets of their own. —Mary Pols

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The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin

Borrow names and plot elements from Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Satirize progressive parenting and education à la Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Then light it all up with the feminist fire ignited by the Brett Kavanaugh hearings — and what do you get? A fun, timely novel that’s unexpectedly full of hope. —Marion Winik

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