Book of the Month At A Glance - October 2021

Posted October 2, 2021 by stuckint in Book Subscriptions, BOTM / 4 Comments

Hello everyone and welcome to one of my most popular monthly posts: Book of the Month At A Glance. Its a post where I share my breakdown of Book of the Month’s monthly selections and add ons. I pour over countless reviews, read excerpts and explore the themes of each pick in order to help you better decide the right pick(s) for you. That way, you can spend less time researching and more time reading. 

I don’t know about all of you, but I was not prepared for the sheer number of add ons that Book of the Month included this go around. I was honestly prepared for the two add ons we already knew about and was excited to have my post up the morning that the picks dropped. But with FIVE add ons, in addition to Apples Never Fall, it took me a lot longer to put this post together. The picks also leaned hard into the literary fiction or literary historical fiction. I know there was quite a bit of upset that there was not a legitimate horror pick for October and I’m here to say that I hear you. But also, I really think Book of the Month is doing some interesting experimenting to see what genres their members really love. Just a theory, but I’m still sticking with it because the amount of one genre this month is kind of mind blowing.

As always, if there is anything I am leaving out of these posts, let me know and I will do my best to include it. Regardless, I hope my post gets you excited for this month’s selections and that you find something you know you’ll love!

Main Picks

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Historical/Literary Fiction)

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Published by Viking on October 5, 2021
Pages: 416

The bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility and master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction returns with a stylish and propulsive novel set in 1950s America
In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the work farm where he has just served a year for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother and head west where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future.
Spanning just ten days and told from multiple points of view, Towles’s third novel will satisfy fans of his multi-layered literary styling while providing them an array of new and richly imagined settings, characters, and themes.

Let’s see if I can summarize this one better in my analysis post, better than I did in my predictions post. Intricately plotted, character-driven, and stylistically complex, Towles latest is reminiscent of beloved works and previous Book of the Month picks such as Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward and The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. Set in the 1950s our story follows eighteen year old Emmitt Watson, recently released from a juvenile work farm When Emmitt realizes that a handful of his buddies have followed him home, only making an appearance after the warden has driven away, Emmitt’s plan to take his brother and head west is suddenly derailed. This character driven story features a misfit band of friends who end up traveling from New York to San Francisco, all in the name of adventure and fresh starts. It’s about the families that we’re given as well as the families that we choose and features Towles’ characteristically gorgeous prose and thought provoking observations about the human experience. Towles’ latest novel is widely loved with the biggest frustration being that the novel kind of meanders. But if you love becoming deeply immersed in a story and falling in love with complex characters, The Lincoln Highway is the pick for you!

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (Romance)

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
Published by Avon on September 28, 2021
Pages: 320

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.
Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

Writing under the pen name of Erin Stirling, The Wife Upstairs author Rachel Hawkins has written a truly delightful romantic comedy perfect for Halloweeen. Vivienne Jones is a witch and nine years ago when her boyfriend Rhys Penhallow (what a name!) broke up with her, she did the only thing she could do to move on: she cursed him. But when Rhy returns to town, Vivienne is faced with the reality that a little hex might cause some big problems. The two must work together to save the town and break the curse. The Ex Hex sounds like an incredibly fun, Halloween-themed romp with plenty of chemistry and crazy shenanigans. It’s a whimsical novel that is getting comparisons to romance favorites like Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert and one that romance author Tessa Bailey describes as “the perfect Fall read.” Another comparison that I think will pique the interest of Book of the Month members is its similarities to Hocus Pocus, which many reviewers agree is a fair correlation. The biggest complaint I could find about The Ex Hex was the rare reviewer who said that they just did not enjoy the pairing of Rhys and Vivi- which is fair, I have read my share of romances where the couple just bugged me and it definitely impacted the reading experience. I do not think this should turn any potential readers off though, since you won’t really know until you try the book which camp you fall into. The other complaint was that The Ex Hex isn’t substantial beyond a fluffy romance and magical plot and honestly, I think those were the wrong expectations to have about this title. There are plenty of romances that tackle deeper and  difficult issues, but The Ex Hex is not one of them and was never billed as such. If you are looking for a fun, witchy read to get you in the mood for Halloween, read this book! You won’t regret it. 

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Historical/Literary Fiction)

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Published by Doubleday on September 14, 2021
Pages: 318

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.
“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…” To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

I know there was a lot of chatter about how frequently Book of the Month picks books that have already come out, especially the month prior, and I’m here to disagree with all those who say they never do it. Harlem Shuffle officially hit shelves August 23rd of this year and here it is, being selected as an October pick. Anyway, Harlem Shuffle appears to be a departure from Colson Whitehead’s previous novels: The Nickle Boys and The Underground Railroad. Set in 1960s New York, the story features Ray Carney, a young married man with one child and a baby on the way. He does his best to make a living as the owner of a furniture store and the occasional jewelry pawn that is only  made possible thanks to his cousin Freddie. When Ray gets caught up in a bank heist, it opens the door to some more shady- and arguably lucrative- financial opportunities. Whitehead employs a biting wit and caustic humor that his other two novels lacked- understandably so. However, it does rely on Whitehead’s flowery prose and its slightly meandering plot have made it a slow read for some reviewers. But, if you can get behind a more character driven story, that kind of involves a heist and a man trying to figure out where he fits in the world amid a familial history of crooks and criminals., I think you’ll like this one Overwhelmingly, reviewers found the pacing of the novel slow or inconsistent, opining that too much action happened off the page while the story was filled with backstory and transitory material that failed to move the narrative along. However, on a much more positive note, reviewers who enjoyed this book absolutely loved it, raving about its wit and cultural commentary. While Whitehead’s previous novels were heavy and reflective, Harlem Shuffle is being unilaterally described as optimistic and amusing. In sum, I think if you go into this one looking for another Underground Railroad, you will likely be disappointed. But if you want something in the vein of books that don’t take themselves too seriously, like: Finlay Donovan is Killing It and How Not To Die Alone, Harlem Shuffle will be a good pick for you!

The Perishing by Natashia Deón (Speculative Fiction)

The Perishing by Natashia Deón
Published by Counterpoint LLC on November 2, 2021
Pages: 304

An extraordinary novel featuring a Black immortal in 1930's Los Angeles who must recover the memory of her past in order to save the world--from NAACP Image Award Nominee Natashia Deón, the author of


, a

New York Times

Best Book of the Year.

Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she's from, only a fleeting sense that this isn't the first time she's found herself in similar circumstances. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She'll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou's extraordinary life is about to become even more remarkable. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of ever meeting him she's been drawing his face since her days in foster care.
Increasingly certain that their paths have previously crossed--perhaps even in a past life--and coupled with unexplainable flashes from different times that have been haunting her dreams, Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent to this place and time for a very important reason, one that only others like her will be able to explain. Relying on her journalistic training and with the help of her friends, Lou sets out to investigate the mystery of her existence and make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her from throughout the ages before her time runs out for good.
Set against the rich historical landscape of Depression-era Los Angeles, The Perishing charts a course through a changing city confronting racism, poverty, and the drumbeat of a coming war for one miraculous woman whose fate is inextricably linked to the city she comes to call home.

So I have to confess that this book was not on my radar at all! Which is saying something since I adore all things speculative fiction and make a huge effort to have a finger on the pulse of the genre, even if many are over the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. Judging by the amount of reviews on sites like Goodreads (13 to be exact), this is definitely an under the radar title. I’m always glad when Book of the Month leans into some more obscure picks. The novel opens with Lou, waking up an alley of 1930s Los Angeles with no recollection of who she is or how she ended up there. What we come to find out is that Lou is a reincarnated immortal being, who has reborn as a person of color in a plethora of time periods all in the region of southern CA. Intermingled into the narrative are stories about the future Lou who’s name is Sarah, which gives the reader more insight into Lou’s present life. Light on the magical realism and heavy on the historical fiction, Deón’s novel is beautifully composed and ambitiously plotted. The biggest complaint from the few reviewers that have actually voiced their thoughts dealt with the lack of science fiction actually in the novel, describing it rather as historical fiction with a smattering of sci-fi and dystopian elements. With beautiful prose, the author examines issues of racism, colonialism, and identity. As someone who always hopes Book of the Month will include more genre fiction, I will definitely be adding this one to my box. 

Everything We Didn’t Say by Nicole Bart (Contemporary Fiction/Mystery)

Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart
Published by Atria Books on November 2, 2021
Pages: 368

From the author of Little Broken Things, a race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) following a mother who must confront the dark summer that changed her life forever in order to reclaim the daughter she left behind.
Juniper Baker had just graduated from high school and was deep in the throes of a summer romance when Cal and Beth Murphy, a childless couple who lived on a neighboring farm, were brutally murdered. When her younger brother became the prime suspect, June’s world collapsed and everything she loved that summer fell away. She left, promising never to return to tiny Jericho, Iowa.
Until now. Officially, she’s back in town to help an ill friend manage the local library. But really, she’s returned to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, who’s been raised by Juniper’s mother and stepfather since birth—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders once and for all. She knows the key to both lies in the darkest secret of that long-ago summer night, one that’s haunted her for nearly fifteen years.
As history begins to repeat itself and a dogged local true crime podcaster starts delving into the murders, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Juniper lands back in an all-too-familiar place with the answers to everything finally in her sights, but this time it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance. Will revealing what really happened mean a fresh start? Or will the truth destroy everything Juniper loves for a second time? Baart once again brilliantly weaves mystery into family drama in this expertly-crafted novel for fans of Lisa Jewell and Megan Miranda.

First of all, let me say that this should not be confused as a thriller. No matter how Book of the Month classifies it, the publisher has done their best to market it as a contemporary fiction with mystery elements. Told in two alternating timelines, our protagonist is Juniper Baker- I guess if you are going to share a name with a berry or a tree you could do worse. Anyway, when the novel opens Juniper has returned to her hometown of Jericho, Iowa under the pretense of helping an ailing friend run the local library and to try and rekindle a relationship with her estranged thirteen year old daughter. When the history of fourteen years ago starts to repeat itself, it’s up to Juniper to unravel the truth before her daughter faces the consequences. On paper, Everything We Didn’t Say sounds like a page turning thriller but should be approached and read as a slower paced mystery and family drama. Some have said the book felt on the YA side because of the flashback chapters where we get Jupiter’s experience fourteen years earlier, when a couple in the town were being targeted and her brother was the suspect. The two narratives run parallel to each other as the reader unravels who could be tormenting the town of Jericho- and Jupiter’s brother- anew and what drove Jupiter away from her hometown in the first place. Many reviewers loved this book and the ones who did not, I think, went in with the wrong expectations. Many went in expecting a fast paced thriller and were met with a slow burn mystery. Additionally, some reviewers found the alternating timelines quite confusing with the coming of age chapters giving the book a bit of a YA feel. Book of the Month categorized this one as a thriller, but it is not that! If that is reality you are okay with, then I say, add it to your box! Its a pick I might get later in the month pending more reviews.  CW: death of dogs. 

Add Ons

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (Contemporary Fiction)

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on September 14, 2021
Pages: 467

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty comes a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest
The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .
If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?
This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.
The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?
The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.
One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.
Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

So this one would have made my predictions list had it not appeared on the Book of the Month site before I made my post. Moriarty’s latest novel, Apples Never Fall is a contemporary novel with some suspense that  follows the Delaney family. A mysterious woman named Savannah arrives on their doorstep after being assaulted by her boyfriend. When Joy Delaney goes missing, along with Savannah, the four Delaney siblings suspect their father but must decide how far they are willing to go in order to solve the mystery. Each has their own motives to protect their individual reputations and their family’s standing in the larger community. It gives me serious Not A Happy Family vibes, which for some will be a major selling point. In her signature, Moriarty interweaves into her engrossing prose, sharp and keen observations about family life and what it means to be human. It’s a story of the expectations that we place on ourselves and how we permit others to shape our dreams. For those who love Moriarty’s earlier work, Apples Never Fall is for you!

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Fantasy)

The Book of Magic (Practical Magic, #2) by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon Schuster on October 12, 2021
Pages: 400

Master storyteller Alice Hoffman brings us the conclusion of the Practical Magic series in a spellbinding and enchanting final Owens novel brimming with lyric beauty and vivid characters.
The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.
A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.
The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

Alice Hoffman lovers rejoice because you can now get all four of the books in her Practical Magic series directly from Book of the Month. Where Magic Lessons and Rules of Magic were prequels, The Book of Magic is a sequel to the original Practical Magic. When aunt Jet Owens hears the death beetle in a library, it’s clear that she only has a matter of days to live. Consequently, the Owen family sets out to break the curse that has haunted their family for centuries. Bringing together characters from previous books, as well as some new ones. Unlike some of the books on this list, I would recommend reading Hoffman’s other novels in the series before reading The Book of Magic. At the very least, I would advise reading Practical Magic. Hoffman brings back many of the characters that readers have grown to love as well as some new ones. In the conclusion to her much loved series, Hoffman explores issues of love, family, and what truly connects us. As someone who grew up with the movie Practical Magic, I have to confess that I’ve never read any of the books in the series but I hope to change that this Halloween season! For the most part, reviewers enjoyed this one and thought it was a solid conclusion to the series. I do think some reviewers knocked it down a few stars because it was their least favorite of the series. But, if you have adored the story of the Owens family and their journey thus far I think you’ll be satisfied. If you have loved Hoffman’s other Practical Magic series, or think you might want to try her out, there is no better time to add Hoffman’s books to your box. 

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (Contemporary Fiction)

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo
Published by Catapult on October 5, 2021
Pages: 304

Masterful in its examination of freedom, prejudice, and personal and public inheritance, Sankofa is a story for anyone who has ever gone looking for a clear identity or home, and found something more complex in its place.
Anna is at a stage of her life when she's beginning to wonder who she really is. She has separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother—the only parent who raised her—is dead.
Searching through her mother's belongings one day, Anna finds clues about the African father she never knew. His student diaries chronicle his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London. Anna discovers that he eventually became the president—some would say dictator—of a small nation in West Africa. And he is still alive...
When Anna decides to track her father down, a journey begins that is disarmingly moving, funny, and fascinating. Like the metaphorical bird that gives the novel its name, Sankofa expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present to address universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for a family's hidden roots.

Hailed as an Indie Next pick, Sankofa is the story of a middle aged Black woman who sets out on a journey to learn about the father she never knew. Her search eventually takes her to Nigeria And the small nation where her still living father rules as a dictator. With comparisons to works like An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams it promises to be simultaneously thought provoking and humorous as Onuzo considers issues of family, race, colonialism and what it means to explore and understand where we come from. I think it has a lot to offer Book of the Month readers who love a good contemporary novel from its older, recently divorced protagonist to its examination of what its like to set out to find yourself when you have already lived through so much. Sankofa is a quieter novel, so it might not be for readers who really need a plot to keep them interested. It’s much more about a complicated father-daughter relationship and the journey she goes on while she grieves certain losses in her life. Diving into reviews about this one were interesting because some reviewers claimed that this book was slow and meandering- and rated it lower for that reason. Still others felt that the book moved at a quick pace and rated it high. Honestly, I think it depends on what you are used to reading. If your go to novel is a fast paced thriller or propulsive mystery, you will probably find Sankofa slow for your taste. But if you love a character driven, literary story, I think you’ll find the novel quick and engaging. Fall and winter strike me as months when some readers like to dig into meaty literary fiction. If that’s you, you’ll definitely want to pick up Sankofa. 

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Memoir)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on April 20, 2021
Pages: 256

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A Best Book of 2021: Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, Wall Street Journal, and more
From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

Arguably one of the most beloved memoirs of the year, Crying in H Mart is the story of a mother and daughter, their bond that developed over food and Zauner’s journey to connect with her Korean roots. With an April release, this one honestly was not on my radar as a Book of the Month pick, but I’m happy to see it. I think Book of the Month should always include some kind of nonfiction pick, if for no other reason than it lends some variety to the monthly picks. Zauner’s writing is witty and sharp, packing an emotional punch as the author explores the loss of her mother and how their relationship changed over the years before her death. The writing is plain and straightforward, which some reviewers did not enjoy as much, but from what I’ve read of it, I think it lends an accessible feel to the book that most readers will appreciate. Readers who loved Crying in H Mart are lauding it as an emotional triumph and a book that has the power to prompt plenty of tears. This memoir is being billed inspiring like Wild by Cheryl Straid and humorous like the works of David Sedaris. The biggest complaint of Zauner’s memoir is that it felt like a book for the author and not for the reader, reading more like a biography than a memoir. Know that it is a memoir about grief, so those who were turned off by the heaviness of the book have footing, but I think that’s the point? In short, if you aren’t ready for a heavy, reflective read about grief and culture, maybe hold off on this one. But if you love a good food memoir that tackles issues of family and cultural tradition, you’ll want to add this one to your box. 

What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy (Literary Fiction)

What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy
Published by Tin House Books on October 5, 2021
Pages: 320

At the end of a long, sweltering day, as markets and businesses begin to close for the evening, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Award-winning author Myriam J. A. Chancy masterfully charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster—Richard, an expat and wealthy water-bottling executive with a secret daughter; the daughter, Anne, an architect who drafts affordable housing structures for a global NGO; a small-time drug trafficker, Leopold, who pines for a beautiful call girl; Sonia and her business partner, Dieudonné, who are followed by a man they believe is the vodou spirit of death; Didier, an emigrant musician who drives a taxi in Boston; Sara, a mother haunted by the ghosts of her children in an IDP camp; her husband, Olivier, an accountant forced to abandon the wife he loves; their son, Jonas, who haunts them both; and Ma Lou, the old woman selling produce in the market who remembers them all. Artfully weaving together these lives, witness is given to the desolation wreaked by nature and by man.
Brilliantly crafted, fiercely imagined, and deeply haunting, What Storm, What Thunder is a singular, stunning record, a reckoning of the heartbreaking trauma of disaster, and—at the same time—an unforgettable testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit.

This literary novel feels all too prescient in light of the recent devastating disasters in Haiti and surrounding Caribbean islands. Chancy recounts the tragedy and consequences of a 7.0 earthquake through a varied cast of characters from a small town drug dealer to an immigrant musician. Told from a plethora of points of view (more than eight), it explores a community’s effort to wrestle with horrific trauma and plunges the depths of the tenacious human spirit. The narratives are unique but interconnected, allowing the reader to continue to hear about other characters’ whose points of view the author has already introduced previously. It’s another Book of the Month title that examines our relationship to the natural world and our responsibility to it- think of books like Salvage the Bones and Once There Were Wolves. Reviews are few, which is exciting because I think Book of the Month should always strive to include a mix of well known authors and under the radar books. However, that means it’s hard to postulate what readers will and won’t enjoy about this book. From the few reviews I have seen, I think some people will be turned off by the sheer number of viewpoints that the story is told from. However, it appears that the author does an excellent job, fleshing out each character in vivid detail. I get the sense that What Storm, What Thunder will be a solid choice for individual readers and book clubs alike!

Monster in the Middle by Tiphabie Yanique (Literary Fiction)

Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique
Published by Riverhead Books on October 19, 2021
Pages: 288

From the award-winning author of Land of Love and Drowning, an electric new novel that maps the emotional inheritance of one couple newly in love.

When Fly and Stela meet in 21st Century New York City, it seems like fate. He's a Black American musician from a mixed-religious background who knows all about heartbreak. She's a Catholic science teacher from the Caribbean, looking for lasting love. But are they meant to be? The answer goes back decades--all the way to their parents' earliest loves.
Vibrant and emotionally riveting, Monster in the Middle moves across decades, from the U.S. to the Virgin Islands to Ghana and back again, to show how one couple's romance is intrinsically influenced by the family lore and love stories that preceded their own pairing. What challenges and traumas must this new couple inherit, what hopes and ambitions will keep them moving forward? Exploring desire and identity, religion and class, passion and obligation, the novel posits that in order to answer the question "who are we meant to be with?" we must first understand who we are and how we came to be.

This literary novel is, at its heart, a love story and a layered one at that. Fly is a Black musician from a mixed faith background and Stella is a Catholic scientist from the Caribbean. But Monster in the Middle is not just about Fly and Stella, it also deals with the love stories that came before them, the ones that created their families and shaped their heritages. The story unfolds in three parts. The love stories of Fly and Stella’s parents, the experiences of Fly and Stella as they grow from children to adults, and ends with Fly and Stella’s actual story. The prose is flowery and gorgeous and the characters are dynamic and complex. A few things readers should know going into the book is that some of the POVs contain some religious overtones that may feel alienating to some readers. There is also discussion of rape and abuse within the pages, so some more sensitive readers might want to skip this title. One thing all the early reviewers can agree on is that  Monster in the Middle is stylistically complex and a work of art. Having read a few excerpts I would characterize it like other Book of the Month picks such as The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr., where as much emphasis is placed on the shaping of the prose as well as the developing of the characters and the sequence of the plot. I’m someone who frequently avoids what I would characterize as “high literary fiction” , because I need a clear plot, but I think this one is worth a read if you are looking for something with meat on its bones and plenty to talk about. 

Diversity Breakdown

Book of the Month did a great job this month with its diversity breakdown, especially in the add ons. But again, I would love to see them pick more books by LGBTQIA+ authors, something they have struggled with consistently.

  • Authors of Color: 6/11 – 55%
  • Female Authors: 9/11- 82%
  • LGBTQIA+: 0/11- 0%
  • Repeat Authors: 4/11- 36%
  • Debut Novels: 0/11- 0%

In My Box This Month

I only got one box to start this month. I might get another one if I still really want a few of the picks once I get my first book. Be sure to let me know what you added to your box or hope to your add to your November box!

What About You?

What did you add to your box this month? What do you think of my picks? Let me know in the comments!

4 responses to “Book of the Month At A Glance - October 2021

  1. I appreciate the time and effort you put into this post! It was very informative and helpful. I just discovered your site from Book of the Month Predictions page on Facebook. I look forward to following you in the future.
    My box included The Ex Hex, Practical Magic and Apples Never Fall. Next month my add-ons will be The Book of Magic and Magic Lessons.

    • Lesa

      Always love reading your posts.
      My October box: The Lincoln Highway and Everything We Didn’t Say. A good friend got The Perishing so, I will get to read her copy.
      Looking forward to November!

  2. Ann

    At first I liked the diversity of genres, but honestly not sure what I’ll go with. Hate to skip bc that might mess with my reading challenge. Last year I was lacking one measly slot to finish ?. I am glad you made the comparison of Lincoln Highway to The Prophets. I read & have a copy of The Prophets & there are parts that are just so beautifully written, but I can’t say I liked it. And also glad you point out The Ex Hex is written by The Wife Upstairs author, bc that was a DNF only a few pages in for me. I’ve only read Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad. That was a long time ago. So, hmmmmm ?. Waiting on Jenna & Reese to announce their picks this month. I do have a copy of The Secret History on hand. I got that with an accumulated BOTM credit. So I could read & review toward my challenge. It is rather thick! Not a bad October read. I just finished The Turnout. That was a horror in and of itself!!!! Love reading these posts & ruminating. And waiting & analyzing the BOTM choices never gets old!

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