Four Groups and a Loner

May new releases highlight the challenges, drama and fun of being part of a group or being alone. Check out these reads about personal relationships and making it on your own.

1. Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

In 1970s Detroit it’s the cusp of punk and high school loner Danny Yzemski is moving toward hard-rock rebellion after a soft-rock upbringing. This coming-of-age story addresses death, race, music and youth in a voice that has been compared to Nick Hornby and Tobias Wolff.

“He’s [Zadoorian] skilled at capturing the feeling of release that music can provide (“something snaps in your heart and a jolt of pure happiness shoots through you better than all the dope in the world”) as well as the anxiety the novelty of that experience can produce in a sheltered kid. ”—Kirkus Review

Michael Zadoorian is the author of the critically praised The Leisure Seeker—now a film starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, released by Sony pictures Classics this year.


2. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy 

Soon to be a movie starring Scandal’s Kerry Washington.

In this psychological thriller a group of women become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

A group of new moms get together twice a week for some adult time. One night when the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow moms convinced her everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a race to find Midas. Secrets are exposed, marriages are tested and friendships are destroyed.

“A riveting psychological thriller that takes a sharp, insightful look at motherhood, The Perfect Mother explores the pressures, the hopes, the fears, and the secrets between a group of friends who realize how little they know one another when a crisis strikes. A fast-paced, twisty, engrossing read—I loved it!” — Megan Miranda, author of All the Missing Girls


3. The High Season by Judy Blendell

Ruthie Beamish can take life in stride knowing she has the house by the sea that she lovingly renovated. The house, which is in a quiet Long Island village two ferry rides from the Hamptons, is her nest egg. However, to afford the house, she must rent it out every summer, the best part of the year. This year, a snooty Hampton set have arrived to rent the house, bringing with them all kinds of trouble including Ruthie’s old flame.

“Luscious but not too sweet, astute but not too serious, Blundell’s novel is a treat you don’t have to feel guilty about and a sign of good things to come.” ―Kirkus Review


 4. The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel

This entertaining debut novel about a utopian summer camp and its charismatic leader asks smart questions about good intentions gone terribly wrong.

Framed by the oil bust and the real estate boom, by protests against Reagan and against the Gulf War, this novel focuses the lives of five characters and how idealism, love, class and a piece of land changes everyone.

Caleb Silver, the beloved founder of the back-to-the-land camp Llamalo, is teaching others to live simply. The ranchers, Don and his son Donnie, gave up their land to Caleb and want it back. Rebecca Silver is determined to become an activist like her father and David is a teenager who has turned Llamalo into his personal religion.

“A coming-of-age story set in the age of Reagan and Bush, Heather Abel’s wonderful novel asks a question that’s more relevant now than ever: Amid the maddening news of the world, how do you go about living an authentic life? Perceptive, funny, and utterly original, The Optimistic Decade is a book for anyone who’s navigated the twin crises of idealism and youth.”—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix


 5. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

Four young friends in the Van Ness Quartet—Brit, Jana, Daniel, and Henry—undergo personal and professional successes as well as turmoil in this debut about the power of music and the importance of friendship. This novel gives the reader a look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of classical musicians. The Ensemble is a portrait of ambition, friendship and the tenderness of youth.

“Sweeping, romantic, elegiac, The Ensemble gives you the feeling of being inside the music of a quartet, a look into the relationships under the music, the love and heartbreak, set against their ruthless commitment to both their art, and to each other. Aja Gabel is a phenomenon.” —Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel


I’m the library’s fiction selector and I’ve been suggesting new books to library and bookmobile customers for over 17 years. I keep up on all the new book reviews, and my favorite question is “What are you reading?” I love to talk about books and to read books. I like to tell library customers, “Try something new. If you don’t like it, at least the price is right!”