Here’s the lowdown on some of the latest must-read new books.
‘Saving Ruby King’ by Catherine Adel West
Park Row, fiction, $27.99
What it’s about: Chicago writer Catherine Adel West’s debut novel follows two friends growing up on the South Side. When Ruby King’s mother Alice is killed at home, the girl loses her protector and is left alone with her violent father. Her best friend Layla Potter fights to save her by confronting their families’ secrets. In a twist, some chapters are narrated by . . . a church.
The buzz: “A multilayered love letter to South Side Chicago’s African American faith-based community,” Kirkus Reviews says of the work by the bachelor’s and master’s grad of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Publishers Weekly calls the tale of multi-generational domestic violence an “ambitious, keenly observant debut.”
‘The Merchant Prince of Black Chicago’ by Robert E. Weems Jr.
University of Illinois Press, nonfiction, $24.95
What it’s about: Robert E. Weems Jr., the author “Biilding the Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago,” mixes business history with a fascinating profile to tell the story of Anthony Overton, an important but not well-known name in Chicago history. Overton was born to enslaved parents, mentored by Booker T. Washington, became the first African American head of a major conglomerate — and came back after losing much of his Chicago business empire to the Great Depression.
The buzz: Weems “recalls the booms and busts of one of the leading African American entrepreneurs of the 20th century and restores him to his rightful place in American business history,” Publishers Weekly writes.
HarperOne, nonfiction, $26.99
What it’s about: Subtitled “A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border,” the book tells the story of a shopkeeper in barely functioning Guatemala who was shot, whose husband was murdered and whose oldest son was threatened by gangs. Mother and son made it to the United States, and Rosy Cruz found work in Chicago, printing and bundling catalogs. When criminals in Guatemala threatened to kidnap her older son if she didn’t pay them off, she returned to her homeland. Then, in 2018, she took both sons, but again left her daughters in the care of her mother. But U.S. immigration rules had changed drastically since her first trip, and all three were captured soon after crossing into the United States.
The buzz: “This wrenching story brings to vivid life the plight of the many families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Publishers Weekly says.
St. Martin’s Press, fiction, $28.99
What it’s about: Mega-bestselling author Nora Roberts’ latest thriller, centered on a kidnapping, is the perfect cure to your pandemic-induced reading slump, pulling you in from the first page and keeping you curled up with it all the way to the last page.
The buzz: “The romance-suspense hybrid, one of Roberts’ specialties, will make you think hard about the small and big moments that make a person’s life zig or zag,” The Associated Press writes.
HarperCollins, fiction, $27.99
What it’s about: When we meet identical twins Rose and Lily Winters, Rose is living in an anorexia rehabilitation facility, and Lily has found herself in an abusive relationship, addicted to a dangerous fad diet and in denial that she needs to change.
The buzz: “Clarke succeeds at creating a story that feels wholly unique while at the same time wholly relatable for young women who endure so many of the challenges Rose and Lily face,” The Associated Press writes.
Random House, fiction, $28
What it’s about: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz explores the evolving role of American women in a story about a teenage girl with big dreams in small-town, 1950s Ohio for whom everything changes when she learns she’s pregnant.
The buzz: “A masterful debut novel,” Kirkus Reviews says.
Ecco, fiction, $35
What it’s about: Adult children cope with the death of their father, a respected patriarch in a small town who dies after he intervenes in an incident of police brutality in this weighty examination of grief, race, class and trauma.
The buzz: “A significant and admirable entry in the Oates canon,” Publishers Weekly writes.