Fifty Words for Rain

 

Asha Lemmie, 2020

This stunning debut can be read on so many levels.  At eight years old, Noriko Kamiza is abandoned by her mother and left with her Japanese grandparents.  Nori is bi-racial, the product of an affair between her beautiful Japanese mother, Seiko, and an African-American GI touring Japan just before World War II.  The grandmother, Lady Yuko, is related to the Emperor and keeps Nori hidden in the attic of her estate in Kyoto, never allowing the disgraced child to go outside.

Very suddenly, at age 11, Nori discovers that she has a half-brother, Akira, the son of her mother and her husband.  The bond between the siblings is the most moving part of the novel.  Akira is a gifted violinist and pianist and he champions his little sister and protects her from the hurtful grandmother.

This is a story of love and survival that will warm your heart.

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84 Charing Cross Road

 Helene Hanff, 1990

This classic non-fiction story brings together 20 years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

 

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Try one of these read-alikes: 

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner 

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Passing by Nella Larsen

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman


 

Paris Never Leaves You

 

Ellen Feldman, 2020

This is a story of resilience, love and impossible choices.  Set in Paris during the German Occupation, the book alternates between Paris in the 1940’s and the New York publishing world of the 1950’s.  We meet Charlotte, a young mother, working in a bookstore and fighting for her life and the life of her infant daughter.  Starvation and disease haunt them until a German soldier enters the bookshop and takes a liking to mother and daughter.  Later, living in New York, she learns that survival never comes without a cost and the past is never past.

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The Vanishing Half

 Brit Bennett, 2020

Twins, inseparable as children, choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white.  Brought up in a small Southern town, Desiree and Stella run away together at age 16.  Their experiences lead to a changed racial identity for one of them.  Although they become separated by distance, their lives continue to intertwine.   This family story covers four decades from the 1950’s to the 1990’s,  exploring race, gender and identity.

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Things You Save in a Fire

 Katherine Center, 2019

This book is an emotionally resonant and deeply satisfying love story that features a resilient and courageous heroine with legitimate traumas and obstacles to overcome. Cassie is a firefighter, who has won the respect of the  males in her department. While Cassie's happy ending is never truly in doubt, she puts in the work to get there, and it feels well-earned and richly rewarding. Hopeful and heartwarming, Things You Save in a Fire is a moving testament to the power of forgiveness and love's ability to heal, even in the face of life's worst tragedies.

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