Cook & Serritella Debut Book Club Favorites | Fiction

Suspenseful literary fiction about a dysfunctional Southern family with dark secrets; this book begins as thriller and ends as a story of personal growth and redemption

Cook, Lindsey Rogers. How To Bury Your Brother. Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781728205373. pap. $16.99. F
DEBUT Just before her childhood home in Atlanta is to be razed, Alice Wright finds seven sealed letters hidden in a crawl space. The letters are written by her brother, Rob Tate, who died nine years earlier. Despite her disappointment that there is no letter for her, she sets out to deliver each of them, hoping to learn about Rob’s life and—especially—why he disappeared from home just before turning 16 and never returned. She and Rob had been particularly close, despite their five-year age difference, and she looked for him while his absence irretrievably damaged their family. Now, with her father dead and her mother in assisted living, Alice must face her own marital problems and family conflicts while struggling to stop the pattern of convenient lies. VERDICT Although the title suggests that this is a mystery, it’s actually literary fiction about a particularly dysfunctional Southern family with dark secrets, featuring a woman who confronts hard truths. This is an accomplished, insightful debut ideally suited for book groups, with reading group guide and author interview included.—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA
redstarSerritella, Francesca. Ghosts of Harvard. Random. May 2020. 480p. ISBN 9780525510369. $27. F
DEBUT Harvard freshman Cady Archer is on a mission to discover what happened during her brother’s time at Harvard that caused him to take his own life last spring in his junior year. It’s a solo journey portraying freshman loneliness and finding one’s way surrounded by people who have unknown motivations. In addition Cady starts hearing the voices of ghosts of former Harvard students. After veering into the surreal, the story returns to very human, if not always positive, motivations. As false friends reveal themselves, Cady finds her own inner direction and ways to heal and move forward. Finally she learns to differentiate herself from her family while gaining strength from the connection they all share. VERDICT Those who like novels by Joe Hill and Pat Conroy will also enjoy this his first novel by Lisa Scottoline’s nonfiction coauthor (and daughter). The book begins as thriller and ends as a story of personal growth and redemption. The writing is vivid and engaging, and it works for adults as well as for mature YA readers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/11/19.]—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

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