It’s not every day that people run to the Northwoods, particularly in the Wisconsin region, for safety and stability. Yet it proves itself to be the perfect backdrop for Jill Stukenberg’s News of the Air. In this novel, Stukenberg paints the picture of a near future with repeated violent protests flooding the cities and wildfires rampaging the rest. In what starts off with a similar feel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Stukenberg details the journey of a young family, especially the mother, sacrificing the pleasures of city life for a new, safer life in the woods where her daughter can stretch her legs and peace can envelop them all. However, as life goes on, the daunting realization creeps up that trouble is everywhere and that running away from your problems often creates new ones, maybe even ones that you can’t run from anymore.
G.D. Brown’s Sinners Plunged Beneath that Flood is set in the dreary backdrop of a small Oklahoma town of Mayes County in the autumn of 1998—given life by the tantalizing group of characters who are thrust into solving this small town’s disappearances and other strange happenings.
In the opening lines of Sinners Plunged Beneath that Flood, Brown plants seeds into the reader’s mind by placing them in media res, teasing them with a glimpse into the characters, setting, and plot: “The fall of Jenn's senior year of high school, she learned that a person could be missing without having been gone for 48 hours, among other things. The leaves were brown and crunchy then, shriveled letters from the summer sun to warn of the coming cold” (1). In just the first few opening lines, Brown has the reader asking innumerable questions - those that can only be answered by delving deeper into the wayward world he builds throughout the novel.
A broken family of former slave owners. A pregnant woman awaiting her lover's arrival. A veteran that lost a hand in the civil war. A gathering with unexpected guests. In Sister Séance, a historical feminist horror novel by Aimee Parkison, a Halloween celebration brings together a range of characters in Concord, Massachusetts, and brings them face to face with their pasts.
Sister Séance is set shortly after the Civil War and centers around the history of two families: the Turners and the Haydens. A Dumb Supper, a meal where guests communicate without speaking, serves as the catalyst that gathers both families and most of the town along with two unplanned guests, the Usherwood Twins, a pair of mediums.
Yuvi Zalkow’s second and newest novel, I Only Cry With Emoticons, is a hilarious ride through dealing with human connection in a modern age littered with smartphones, tablets, dating apps, and hashtags. At its core, it’s a story about responsibility. It begs the question, how do we take responsibility for our irresponsible reliance on technology? How do we take responsibility for allowing ourselves to become so disconnected not just with one another, but our own lives?
Coming of age stories are nothing new, and neither are stories about characters who are “on the run.” Yet when these types of stories are executed in an original fresh way, it’s impossible to not find yourself being invested in the characters and themes. That was my experience when reading Lori Ann Stephens’ upcoming novel, Blue Running. In this novel, Stephens manages to take the classic thriller style story of a young girl, or rather two young women, on the run, desperate to escape their past actions, and melds it with a heartfelt coming of age story. The end result of this can only be described as one of the most nail-biting depictions of adolescence I’ve ever read.