The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking, $28)
“Literature has come a long way since Gone With the Wind depicted slavery as a charming way of life,” said Patty Rhule in USA Today. In her “searing” third novel, the author of The Secret Life of Bees “spares few details” about slavery’s corrosive effects as she reimagines the life of real-world heroine Sarah Grimké. At 11, Grimké was given a slave as a birthday gift, but this child of Southern privilege grew into an effective advocate for both abolition and women’s rights.
A Star for Mrs. Blake
by April Smith (Knopf, $25)
The government-sponsored pilgrimages that 6,700 American mothers made to their sons’ World War I grave sites represent a “wrongly forgotten historical footnote,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. Novelist April Smith conjures up a group of five of these women in this “graceful, evocative” tale, showing how fate—blind to their social and cultural differences—threw them together on a mournful but eye-opening adventure they never could have imagined.
by Alex Myers (Simon & Schuster, $26)
This “unforgettable Revolutionary War novel” brings another American heroine back to life, said David M. Shribman in The New York Times. Deborah Sampson was a former indentured servant who disguised herself as a man in order to fight for America’s freedom in a Massachusetts infantry unit. Transgender first-time writer Alex Myers hits the sexual-identity theme too hard, but he works much research into his account, and the story “speaks, if not shouts, for itself.”
The Wind Is Not a River
by Brian Payton (Ecco, $27)
From its “deeply involving” opening passage, Brian Payton’s World War II novel plunges us into a harshly beautiful world, said Beth Kephart in the Chicago Tribune. Its story about a war correspondent who witnesses the Aleutian Islands campaign—the conflict’s only engagement fought on American soil—has a suspenseful plot that resolves a little too tidily. But Payton possesses a great gift for evocative imagery. After finishing this book, “I would read anything Payton writes about landscape.”