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Fiction Five: Compelling relationships

My five picks of new reads in May center on compelling relationships from near strangers, to spouses, to adult kids and parents, to old friends. These tales include mystery, romance, thrills, wicked fun and secrets. A random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in Meet Me at the Lake. In The Half Moon a couple in a small town navigate the complexities of marriage, family and longing. The Ferryman is a riveting novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia where the truth isn't what it seems. You'll find infidelity, backstabbing and murderous intrigue at an exclusive summer haven in Bad Summer People. Explore decades-long friendships, promises and secrets in The Celebrants.

1. Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

Ten years ago Fern Brookbanks had a day-long adventure with a stranger – Will Baxter. He was an attractive, idealistic artist and the two 20-somethings had an amazing connection. They agreed to meet one year later. Fern showed up, but Will didn't. She's spent too much time thinking about him during the past nine years.

Now 32, Fern's life is not what she expected. She's in her hometown running her mom's lakeside resort, which she had vowed never to do. The resort, managed by Fern's ex-boyfriend, is a mess. She needs a plan to make things better.

Surprisingly, Will shows up at the resort and he has a plan to help. While he may understand what she's going through, how can she trust this man she hasn't heard from in 10 years? He is nothing like the young man Fern briefly knew. She knows he's hiding something, but she's not sure she wants to know what.

“A perfect summery blend of sexy romance and second chances, Meet Me at the Lake is a poignant waltz between evergreen pines and poplars and heartache. I fell in love with Will and Fern over and over and over again." —Ashley Poston, New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics


2. The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane

Malcolm Gephardt, handsome and gregarious longtime bartender at the Half Moon, always dreamed of owning a bar. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches to buy the place. He sees magic and potential in the Half Moon and hopes to transform it into a bigger success, but struggles to stay afloat.

His smart and confident wife, Jess, is devoted to her law career. After years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be happen for her. Like Malcolm, she feels her youth beginning to slip away and wonders how to reshape her future.

Award-winning author Mary Beth Keane’s new novel takes place over one eventful week. Malcolm learns shocking news about Jess. A bar patron goes missing. And a blizzard hits the town, trapping everyone in place. With a deft eye and generous spirit, Keane explores the disappointments and unexpected consolations of midlife, the many forms forgiveness can take, the complicated intimacy of small-town living, and what it means to be a family.

“I adored this compelling, touching, exquisitely crafted story about a marriage in crisis.” —Liane Moriarty, New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies


3. The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, which measure physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they take a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett has a satisfying career as a ferryman. He gently shepherds people through the retirement process and, when necessary, enforces it. Then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group who may be fomenting revolution.

Soon Proctor is questioning everything he once believed. He's entangled with a much bigger cause and he's on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.

“The Ferryman is next to impossible to put down once you’ve read the first few pages. Exciting, mysterious, and totally satisfying, this is a book to get lost in.”—Stephen King

“A mind-bending novel full of big ideas and a roller coaster’s worth of twists and turns—so powerful and thrilling!”—Andy Weir


4. Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker rule the town of Salcombe, Fire Island every summer. They are skilled at manipulating people to get what they want. Their husbands, Sam and Jason, have summered together on the island since they were kids and they have some grudges and secrets. The group's one single friend, Rachel Woolf, is looking to catch a man even if that means taking someone else's husband. As always there's lots to gossip about, but the overall the summer starts relatively calm. Until a body is discovered off the boardwalk.

"This roiling beach community satire serves up wicked, clever fun that is White Lotus sharp. Emma Rosenblum gets to the comic heart of these nasty, nasty people. When I say she is unsparing and they are dreadful I mean it as the highest compliment. It is sinfully good like a summer cocktail you want to keep refilling. I found myself laughing out loud as I read and staying up way too late with this fabulous book.” ―Kevin Kwan, New York Times bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians


5. The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

It’s been five years since Jordan Vargas last saw his college friends, and 28 years since their graduation when their adult lives officially began. Now Jordan, Jordy, Naomi, Craig and Marielle are at the brink of a new decade, with all the responsibilities of adulthood, yet no closer to having their lives figured out. Though not for a lack of trying. Over the years they’ve reunited in Big Sur to honor a decades-old pact to throw each other living “funerals,” celebrations to remind themselves that life is worth living—that their lives mean something, to one another if not to themselves.

But this reunion is different. They’re not gathered as they were to bolster Marielle as her marriage crumbled, to lift Naomi after her parents died, or to intervene when Craig pleaded guilty to art fraud. This time, Jordan is sitting on a secret that will upend their pact.

A deeply honest tribute to the growing pains of selfhood and the people who keep us going. With Steven Rowley’s signature humor and heart, The Celebrants is a moving tale about the false invincibility of youth and the beautiful ways in which friendship helps us celebrate our lives, even amid the deepest challenges.

"The Celebrants made me laugh and cry...and make some overdue phone calls to old friends. A timely examination of why connections matter and a powerful ode to friendship. We should all have such a pact." –Shelby Van Pelt, author of Remarkably Bright Creatures


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