Novel Approach: So many books, so little time to review them all

Readers, it appears that the first week of February was very busy for publishers and the reviewer was inundated with press copies. For this week’s column we’re going to shake up our routine and give you a quick review about each of the four novels that were published on Tuesday.

Interestingly enough all four novels involve women and their varied relationships with their families

We Can Only Save Ourselves by Alison Wisdom

In her debut novel, Alison Wisdom offers a delicately chilling tale about a girl who runs away from home and becomes enamored with a stranger.

“We Can Only Save Ourselves” tells the story of Alice Lange, the neighborhood golden girl who suddenly decides she no longer wants to live her “perfect” girl life anymore and the story is told from the perspective of the neighborhood’s mothers. As Alice’s story unfurls, she decides to live with a charismatic older man who already lives with four other young women (including underage girls) and joins his chaotic family.

“We Can Only Save Ourselves” is written with a hypnotic community voice that echoes the narration in Jeffrey Eugenides “The Virgin Suicides” but it also incorporates the tense frisson of life within a cult. Alice falls quickly becomes infatuated with Wesley and she allows her feelings to blind her to the strange nature of life in the house and to the control the women give him over their lives.

Propulsive and beautifully written, “We Can Only Save Ourselves” reveals how Alice’s actions changed not only her life, but how her flight from suburbia cast a shadow over the whole neighborhood.

Landslide by Susan Conley

A mother’s efforts to carefully navigate the hormonal minefields of parenting teenage boys are documented in Susan Conley’s latest novel “Landslide.” The novel begins with Jill driving in the car with her two teen boys who mercilessly tease her over her taste in music as she reflects on her family’s hardships. Living in Maine, Jill’s family is struggling to get by as her husband carries on his family’s fisherman traditions. While away on a fishing expedition in Canada Jill’s husband is injured and she tries to juggle her duties as a wife and mother, caring for her husband in a hospital seven hours away and also attempting to raise her sons who she lovingly refers to as “the wolves.”

Jill finds herself struggling to manage her family when she discovers her younger son has been dabbling in drugs and has been playing hooky. Her stress only compounds when she begins to suspect that her husband has been cheating on her. Written with humor and grace, Conley crafts a narrative about the many cruelties a family can inflict upon their own while also conveying the delicate ache of a mother watching her children grow away from her. This poignant family portrait explores the daily chaos many parents can relate to, like financial struggles and the volatile nature of adolescents.

Send for Me by Lauren Fox

Inspired by letters from her great grandmother to her grandparents, Lauren Fox spins a story about pre-World War II Germany as anti-Semetic sentiment grips the country and a woman in modern day Wisconsin that feels the echoes of her family’s trauma. “Send for Me” jumps back and forth in time telling the story of Annelise and her life in Germany and that of her granddaughter Clare, who struggles to find her footing in life as she can’t seem to leave her hometown. As the story unfolds, Fox crafts a heartbreaking tale about how the separation of one mother and daughter was so excruciating that the shadow of that moment lingers on in the family’s descendents.

“Send for Me” examines how trauma can be inherited and how it’s lingering aches can impact future generations.

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

When an Irish immigrant agrees to be a stranger’s mail-order bride she didn’t quite know what to expect of her new life with a handsome widower and his silent daughter. Just as Sophie began to feel settled into her new life, her world is blown apart when a heavily pregnant woman arrives at her doorstep and tells her a strange story, which will change both of their lives forever. While trying to piece together what this information means for her, Sophie’s San Francisco home is shaken by a massive earthquake that causes her to flee with her stepdaughter and new friend.

Susan Meissner’s latest novel paints a surprising and engrossing tale about a found family that was forged through tragedy. Readers will find themselves glued to the book as Meissner reveals each new plot twist that provides additional insight into the protagonist's mind.