The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

From River Bend Bookshop

We are excited for spring, and are looking forward to Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 24. We're ready to meet you where you are at: with virtual events, online giveaways, and some special activities on the front lawn (weather permitting). Be well, and well-read! -- Meghan

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...


By Kaitlyn Greenidge

(Algonquin Books, 9781616207014, $26.95)

"Libertie is a beautifully written, immersive historical novel inspired by the story of a Black doctor and her daughter who lived in a free Black community in Brooklyn during the Reconstruction era. It is also a profound meditation on what it means to be truly free--whether born free or formerly enslaved, whether in America, Haiti, or Liberia--while struggling against grief, sexism, racism, colorism, or classism. Libertie's quest to forge her own path is a much-needed inspiration!"
--Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

 (photo: Syreeta McFadden)

Independent booksellers across the country have chosen Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books) as their top pick for the April 2021 Indie Next List.

Libertie Sampson knows her future: go to medicine school, return home, and practice alongside her mother, one of the first Black female physicians in the United States. But that's not what she wants for herself--it's what her mother wants.

When a young man from Haiti gives her a way out of Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, she takes it with the promise that she'll be his equal on the island. But in Haiti, autonomy slips further and further out of her reach. As she navigates her marriage and place in the world, Libertie struggles to figure out what freedom really means for a Black woman, and where she must go to find it.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I worked for many years at a Black historic site called the Weeksville Heritage Center. It's dedicated to the history of a free Black community in Brooklyn. One of my jobs there was to work on their oral history project. I interviewed a descendant of Dr. Susan Smith Mckinney Steward, the first Black female doctor in New York State, and she told me this incredible story about her ancestor and her daughter. The descendant was named Ellen Holly--she is a famous actress and wrote all about this in her own memoir, One Life. When I sat down to write the book, I changed many details--including the time period the story was set in and other things as well. But that was where the idea originally came from.

Can you tell me about your writing process? What was writing this book like?

I've always worked at least two to three jobs, so I write whenever I can--I think it does a disservice to yourself and the inevitable changes that come with life to get too intent on a set routine. I had two fellowships while writing this book, which was new--one at Radcliffe, the other at Princeton. But I was also writing freelance while writing this book when at Radcliffe, and at Princeton, I had just had a baby. So my process is very much: write whenever you are able because life takes over quickly.

This story is centered on Libertie Sampson. How did you craft her character?

One of the things the book ended up being about was the emotional toll of Black Excellence--when you have bought into the lie that white supremacy tells you that you must be continually excellent and perfect and superior to even get basic respect--what does that pressure do to your inner life and your most intimate relationships? It quickly became clear that to explore that, the doctor had to have a daughter. That's where Libertie came from.

What was your research process like?

I really enjoy research, so I read a lot of histories of Haiti and also histories of Black American travelers in 19th-century Haiti. I tried to read what I could about how Vodoun is used as a community practice, as well.

Libertie explores the question of what freedom really means for a young freeborn Black woman in the Reconstruction-era North through the lens of a coming-of-age narrative. Can you talk about intertwining these two experiences?

Libertie as a character is trying to make sense of herself and the world she's been born into. It's a world that is rapidly changing. She has seen the impossible in her lifetime--the fall of the system of chattel slavery in the U.S., a system, at that point, that was nearly 400 years old. As such, she grows up in a world with incredible promise. But, of course, Reconstruction is the story of white backlash to Black freedom--a very old story. So, she's caught between these two currents.

We get bits of her mother's perspective through letters. While writing, did you think about including her POV? If so, why did you leave it out, and if not, why focus solely on Libertie?

The doctor is a much more interesting character when viewed from the outside. I've done enough oral histories and also read enough biographies that exceptional people are very rarely able to describe their lives in compelling terms. It's often, "It had to be done, so I did it." To get at that kind of stoicism, the doctor couldn't be the narrator.

What is one thing you'd hope readers take away from this story?

I hope readers begin to rethink what freedom could mean. I hope it inspires Black readers to think about what we mean when we ask for liberation--whether we want to truly imagine a better world, or only want the restrictions of this one, but to our advantage.

Flatiron Books: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint - Pre-order now>

More Indie Next List Great Reads

Broken (in the best possible way)

By Jenny Lawson

(Henry Holt and Co., 9781250077035, $27.99)

"Lawson speaks to all of us who are weird, wacky, and unafraid (but, really, often afraid) to share our quirks with the world. Some chapters of this book moved me deeply, where it felt as though she was narrating my own life. Other chapters made me ugly laugh, the type that turns strangers' heads in public. I'm so happy I was given the opportunity to start 2021 with this book. It set the bar high for hope in the year to come, and for the books that will be read."

--Jasmin Brooks, The Bookery Manchester, Manchester, NH

Of Women and Salt

By Gabriela Garcia

(Flatiron Books, 9781250776686, $26.99)

"Gabriela Garcia has delivered a gripping novel that moves between modern-day Miami and revolutionary and post-revolution Cuba to tell the stories of four generations of women whose past traumas continue to play out in current times. It's a story of strength, immigration, and the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters. Of Women and Salt took my breath away on multiple occasions and continues to take hold of my thoughts."
--Pat Rudebusch, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

The Night Always Comes

By Willy Vlautin

(Harper, 9780063035089, $26.99)

"The Night Always Comes is urgent. For two days and two nights, Lynette's future rests on a tightly plotted race through the gentrified and changing districts of Portland as she tries to secure what she believes to be a better life for herself and for her mother and brother. Willy Vlautin writes with honesty and generosity about people who are just a step ahead of disaster. He makes us care for lives that are singularly defined by the challenge of earning a living wage while navigating the circumstances of society, family, and self. Vlautin is a necessary writer for our times."
--Christine Kelly, Sundance Bookstore, Reno, NV

Raft of Stars

By Andrew J. Graff

(Ecco, 9780063031906, $26.99)

"Raft of Stars is an engaging coming-of-age story that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Believing they are murderers, two young boys go on the run in northern Wisconsin. As the adults in their lives set out to find them, questions of guilt, hope, and the future rise to the surface. With characters that come alive and a setting that is real enough to feel, touch, and smell, Graff's novel has action and emotion as well. Filled with themes of family and friendship, this warm-hearted adventure is sure to be a winner!"
--Betsy Von Kerens, The Bookworm of Omaha, Omaha, NE

Gold Diggers

By Sanjena Sathian

(Penguin Press, 9781984882035, $27)

"Gold as a drug. Gold as a metaphor for the glittering hopes and burdens new immigrants put on their children's shoulders. Gold as the thread weaving history, memory, and imagination, a meditation on how the past blends into the present. Gold as the object of an improbable heist. There is so much in this book, but it is first and foremost an extraordinarily good yarn, the story of two generations of American-Indian immigrants trying to become Americanized while clinging to a fetishized, culturally commodified India. There is love, drugs, alchemy, and stories about the gold rush, both the forty-niners and the new gold diggers of the tech bubble. It's fun and fast-paced, except when you stop short for a sentence so evocative you want to dwell on it. A seriously good book by a seriously talented writer."
--Françoise Brodsky, Shakespeare & Co., New York, NY

Mother May I

By Joshilyn Jackson

(William Morrow, 9780062855343, $27.99)

"I'm a huge Joshilyn Jackson fan, and she's written another fast-paced, exhilarating read with Mother May I. This domestic thriller is comparable to a roller coaster, taking you to dramatic, earth-shaking highs before dropping your heart into your stomach on the lows. I quickly devoured this book but didn't miss its poignant, timely message. Powerful, smart, thrilling--a new favorite."
--Beth Mynhier, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, IL

Northern Spy

By Flynn Berry

(Viking, 9780735224995, $26)

"This emotionally rich espionage story set in present-day Ireland looks at a country divided, the invisibility of motherhood, and the bonds of family that can supersede all else. It is the story of two sisters, one a paramedic and one a BBC news service employee. When one sister is apparently part of an IRA attack, the other refuses to believe it and sets out to prove her sister's innocence. I read this in one sitting--compelling is not a strong enough adjective for this thrilling novel!"
--Mary Lee Delafield, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA

The Elephant of Belfast

By S. Kirk Walsh

(Counterpoint, 9781640094000, $27)

"The Elephant of Belfast is a gem of historical fiction involving a young female zookeeper and an elephant during the Belfast bombings in 1941. The beautiful writing weaves an intricate balance between themes of loss, identity, and resilience during a difficult time. A wonderful book for those who need an element of surprise and who believe the love between animals and humans can make us whole."
--Kathy Detwiler, Buttonwood Books and Toys, Cohasset, MA

When the Stars Go Dark

By Paula McLain

(Ballantine Books, 9780593237892, $28)

"No matter what the genre, McLain is a masterful storyteller. Her protagonist in this latest novel is one of the most authentic and powerful characters I have ever experienced. Anna Hart, a missing persons detective, shares not only her knowledge as an expert on missing children but she lays bare her own personal demons as she struggles to find a teen who has disappeared. I was captivated from page one and couldn't stop until I finished this intense and provocative story. Absolutely mesmerizing!"
--Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL

Finding Freedom: A Cook's Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch

By Erin French

(Celadon Books, 9781250312341, $28)

"A memoir that grabs you from the beginning and immediately has you rooting hard for a scrappy, young, genius chef-to-be as she overcomes some pretty serious challenges along the way to owning one of the most sought-out restaurants in New England."

--Michael Herrmann, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, NH

Astrid Sees All

By Natalie Standiford

(Atria Books, 9781982153656, $27)

"Astrid Sees All is the novel for everyone who has ever moved to a new city to reinvent themselves --and hit some bumps along the way. In a love letter to the East Village of Manhattan, the neighborhood's grit, glamor, and romance feels palpable. The reader never stops rooting for these complex and compelling characters, despite their many missteps. What I wouldn't give to party with Phoebe and her friends for a night at Plutonium!"
--Erin Neary, Book Club, New York, NY

The Lost Village

By Camilla Sten

Alexandra Fleming (Transl.)

(Minotaur Books, 9781250249258, $26.99)

"Hearing this book described as a cross between The Blair Witch Project and Midsommar meant I could not grab it fast enough. This chilling novel, set in a remote village in Sweden, tells the story of a scrappy documentary film crew trying to find out why the entire town disappeared many years ago. The camp they set up in the town square is immediately beset with mysterious happenings that become less and less harmless. Tension mounts as they explore the mystery of where the residents of Silvertjarn went and wonder if they will meet the same fate."

--Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

Red Island House

By Andrea Lee

(Scribner, 9781982137809, $27)

"Shay, an African American professor married to a brash Italian businessman, is seduced by the beauty and exoticism of Madagascar. The lavish Red Island House her husband builds (supposedly for her but more as a testament to his success) affords Shay a dream vacation home, but as she navigates her role as its mistress, she must also come to terms with the effects of colonialism on the people of this island nation, a people with whom she shares skin color and a legacy. Across 20 years, Lee weaves stories of those who arrogantly deem a paradise for their taking with those left grasping for what is rightfully theirs. This is a provocative tale of magic, power, and identity."

--Linda Sherman-Nurick, Cellar Door Books, Riverside, CA

What Comes After

By JoAnne Tompkins

(Riverhead Books, 9780593085998, $28)

"Abandoned and homeless, a pregnant 16-year-old finds shelter in the home of a man who has recently lost his son and his faith. Achingly poignant, What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins brims with raw emotions and conflicting feelings. A redemptive story of loss and love. Keep tissues nearby."
--Jane Simons, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY

A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance

By Hanif Abdurraqib

(Random House, 9781984801197, $27)

"Using Black performance as a loose organizing principle, Abdurraqib has written a brilliant, expansive, insightful, and personal book. There is something of Montaigne's penchant for humility and brilliance in equal measure; of Susan Sontag's use of cultural criticism to understand history and the self; of Zadie Smith's verbal wizardry, playfulness, and wide-ranging curiosity; and Ross Gay's sensitivity, sense of beauty and poignancy, and, ultimately, joyfulness. Another gift from this magical writer!"
--Jeff Deutsch, Seminary Co-op Bookstore and 57th Street Books, Chicago, IL

The Good Sister

By Sally Hepworth

(St. Martin's Press, 9781250120953, $27.99)

"Having a title like The Good Sister might lead a reader to assume there is also a bad sister. Here we meet twin sisters Rose and Fern, whose mother was a sociopath. That upbringing affected Fern the most, so Rose cared for her sister during most of their childhood. Now adult women, Fern begins to come out of her shell and experience life on her own; she likes the freedom and the adventures. But Rose does not. When Fern makes a huge sacrifice to mollify Rose, the story grows more tense as it becomes clear who the good sister is and how bad the bad sister can be. Readers might change allegiances during the book, but no one will see the end coming! Highly recommended!"
--Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Every Vow You Break

By Peter Swanson

(William Morrow, 9780062980038, $27.99)

"I was hooked on Peter Swanson with Eight Perfect Murders, but he is now one of my favorite authors with Every Vow You Break. This book was brilliant! I was enthralled from the beginning and could not put this book down to save my life. The twists and turns were not expected, and I was very happy with the ending. Bravo!"

--Patty Reed, Ferguson Books & More, Grand Forks, ND


By Lisa Scottoline

(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9780525539766, $28)

"Eternal is an exhilarating, sweeping novel from the beloved Lisa Scottoline. Fans of The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See will instantly fall in love with this beautiful WWII novel. With a dash of everything you want in your next favorite read plus everything we have ever loved about Scottoline's writing, Eternal will without a doubt be at the top of every must-read list for 2021."
--Amanda Zirn Hudson, Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach, DE


By Eva Baltasar

Julia Sanches (Transl.)

(And Other Stories, 9781911508755, $15.95, trade paper)

"A lush and deeply incisive novel about what it means to love and to live as a woman, a novel that could only have been written by a poet as piercing as Eva Baltasar and translated by her perfect match, Julia Sanches."

--Emma Ramadan, Riffraff, Providence, RI


By Julia Alvarez

(Algonquin Books, 9781643751368, $16.95)

"Most people would make sour milk out of the lemons Antonia has been given, but she finds herself more resilient than she knew she was. When her husband passes away the same day she retires and the problems keep adding up, she must decide what to do. Julia Alvarez writes like she painted a picture you need to sit beside. Breathless and cinematic, this book is one to share with friends and the one we should be talking about in 2020."
--Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub

(Riverhead Books, 9781594634703, $17)

"A single sudden and shocking occurrence jolts Astrid Strick--widow, mother, and small-town stalwart--into reassessing her life, especially her failings with her three grown children. Even as she tries to find a path toward redemption, it's clear her offspring are nursing different hurts. Straub's lovely and charming comic novel explores the messy and dissonant truths that underpin the illusions we maintain about those closest to us. No one is at fault, and everyone is to blame. Even adults have to grow up. Utterly charming and completely engrossing."
--Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt

By Anonymous

(Mariner Books, 9780358569831, $15.99)

"After the collapse of her marriage and her whole life, the anonymous author of Becoming Duchess Goldblatt started a Twitter account, speaking in the voice of an imperious, slightly dotty, always caring 81-year-old writer. The Duchess became the focus of intense adoration and eventually helped her creator to reconnect with the 'real world' even as she kept her identity a secret. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is a glorious memoir, a truly 21st-century tale of life both online and off."

--David Enyeart, Next Chapter Booksellers, St. Paul, MN

The Book of Longings

By Sue Monk Kidd

(Penguin Books, 9780143111399, $17)

"I absolutely could not put this book down. Sue Monk Kidd has written a narrative that not only centers on women who are missing from or largely ignored in scriptural accounts, but it focuses on their voices, stories, and hardships--their everyday lives and bigger-than-everyday longings. As Kidd is writing Ana's story, Ana herself is writing the stories of women she's learned about and women she knows. Her determination to give them voices weaves beautifully and reverently with Jesus' teachings about reaching out to the marginalized and the forgotten."

--Anastacia Compton, Roundabout Books, Bend, OR

Braised Pork

By An Yu

(Grove Press, 9780802148728, $16)

"An astonishing look at a new widow's attempt to make sense of her husband's death and her newfound independence, through which she rediscovers her love of painting, forms new and profound bonds, rekindles previously dormant familial relationships, and ultimately finds peace in uncertainty. Set in Beijing and Tibet, Braised Pork is a poetic reflection on life and all of its meandering, unpredictable messiness."

--Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, Solid State Books, Washington, DC


By Chelsea Bieker

(Catapult, 9781646220557, $16.95)

"Within the first chapter of Godshot, you can hear Chelsea Bieker's fist swinging toward you, but it still won't prepare you for the punch to the gut this book delivers. Lacey springs off the page in her first moments and takes you along with her on her dust-torn, glitter-stained, bloodied journey. Sometimes I get tired of being reminded how dangerous it is to be a woman (because, dammit, I KNOW!), but Bieker's prose is so beautifully consuming I found myself whipping through words that twisted my insides. What a resounding book."

--Amy Van Keuren, Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerly, RI

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

By C Pam Zhang

(Riverhead Books, 9780525537212, $16)

"In the most inventive and fresh language I've seen in a long time, C Pam Zhang's How Much of These Hills Is Gold, set during the American gold rush, tells the story of siblings Lucy and Sam as they wander the western expanse to give their father a proper burial. Zhang transforms the mythology of the American West and reclaims it through the eyes of first-generation Asian-Americans, tackling themes of race, immigration, and gender and creating a new narrative of a voice and people often left out of this pivotal historical period. Strange and surreal, this is a novel to read with care and gratitude."

--Chris Alonso, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

A Long Petal of the Sea

By Isabel Allende

(Ballantine Books, 9780593157497, $17)

"Isabel Allende's latest novel couldn't come at a better time for American readers heading into an election season. With immigration and desperate people seeking asylum as its central narrative thread, the novel reminds us of the uncanny resiliency of the human spirit and the power of love--both of others and of country--to restore and heal. From his awe-inspiring feat in the novel's opening pages to his persistence in the face of a lifetime of adversity, cardiologist Victor Dalmau will live long and well in readers' minds."

--Kelly Barth, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS

Pretty Things

By Janelle Brown

(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780525479178, $17)

"Nina Ross is a grifter, just like her mom. She didn't have a lot growing up, and they were always on the move. Vanessa, heiress of a family fortune, is a famous Instagram influencer. Everyone loves her, but her smile hides a past filled with tragedy. Nina and Vanessa's lives become intertwined as part of a long con. Pretty Things is excellently written, with an intricate plot full of twists. I loved absolutely everything about this book. I highly recommend it."

--Rebecca Minnock, Murder by the Book, Houston, TX

The Roxy Letters

By Mary Pauline Lowry

(Simon & Schuster, 9781982121440, $17)

"Move over Bridget Jones, Roxy is here to stay! Thank goddess! I loved every sentence of The Roxy Letters; I found myself laughing out loud at some of her wacky antics. I also loved the quirky cast of characters that danced across the pages, and I think Roxy is the perfect antihero for the new millennium. I can't wait to see where Mary Pauline Lowry's career is headed!"
--Kathleen Caldwell, A Great Good Place for Books, Oakland, CA

Simon the Fiddler

By Paulette Jiles

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062966759, $16.99)

"Simon Boudlin's passion is to be the best fiddle player there is, beholden to no one and following his muse wherever it takes him. But when he meets the beautiful Doris Aherne, his plans change. Paulette Jiles once again captures the great promise and sweeping beauty of the Texas frontier in cinematic prose as poetic and lyrical as the tunes that pour forth from the fiddler himself. Simon joins that great pantheon of strivers for a better life, and readers will root for him every step of the way. Fans of News of the World can rejoice--with Simon the Fiddler, Jiles has done it again!"

--Peter Sherman, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Three Hours in Paris

By Cara Black

(Soho Crime, 9781641292580, $16.95)

"I couldn't put down this well-written and fast-paced thriller. This is the story of Kate Rees, an American female spy, and her tragedies and triumphs during WWII. Cara creates a captivating story around Hitler's three-hour visit to Paris, to which he never returned again, and takes you on a wild ride through the city that day. Each piece of the timeline is expertly stitched together, and I found myself completely involved! Cara Black, you have a new fan!"

--Lisa Valentino, Ink Fish Books, Warren, RI