People PICK

The Husband’s Secret

by Liane Moriarty |

REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL

Before she found the letter marked “to my wife … to be opened only in the event of my death,” Sydney mom and “part-time Tupperware consultant” Cecilia Fitzpatrick would have sworn she knew her husband, John-Paul, through and through. But the letter’s contents (I mean, who wouldn’t open it, even if said husband were healthy as an ox?) prove her horrifyingly wrong. Her discovery sets in motion a novel that’s perfect for vacation reading: There’s humor, suspense, a circle of appealing women whose dilemmas intersect with Cecilia’s and enough food for thought to keep you from feeling empty afterward. Should Cecilia act on what she knows even if it means destroying lives? What is it that makes any love last? And does the truth set us free—or just enslave us in new ways? “Whatever happens, don’t get all rigid,” one character advises. “Be a bit … bendy.” There are worse words to live by.

Paris Was the Place

by Susan Conley |

REVIEWED BY ELISABETH EGAN

FICTION

Still smarting from the loss of her mom, Willie Pears moves to Paris to build a life alongside her mysteriously ill brother Luke. Through her work with immigrant girls seeking asylum in France, Willie feels the heady rush of her own mama-bear instinct and falls for a sexy lawyer with a past. But will she risk everything to save one girl? And will her new obligations distract her from Luke when he needs her the most? Conley’s debut novel is a satisfying cassoulet of questions about home, comfort and love, served with a fresh perspective on a dazzling city.

Coming Clean

by Kimberly Rae Miller |

REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

MEMOIR

Wrap your mind around this: parents who are devoted and want the best for their daughter, yet are so mentally ill that living in squalor would be a step up from what their child had to endure. Miller’s father is a hoarder, her mother is depressed, and to compensate, Miller becomes the perfect child, keenly observant yet able to adapt to the conditions in her Long Island home. The rotting food, the rats, the fleas: “I would capture them between my thumb and forefinger and cut their slim little bodies in half with my fingernail,” she writes matter-of-factly. At one point Miller herself is driven to despair, but she turns her life around. Her struggle to appear normal to the outside world, combined with her parents’ helplessness, makes the story all the more harrowing. You root for her, you root for them, and, at the end, you marvel at the capacity for human resilience.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

by Emily Croy Barker |

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

FICTION

Nora Fischer needs to hit reset after her boyfriend announces he’s marrying someone else and her faculty adviser expresses doubt about Nora’s job prospects. But a walk in the woods sends Nora into far deeper trouble when she wanders into an enchanted realm controlled by a fairy queen. It takes a few hundred pages—and a violent assault—for Nora to escape. Only then, under the tutelage of magician Aruendiel, does she find a new direction. Centered on more adult concerns than the Harry Potter books, Barker’s debut is full of allusions to dark fairy tales and literary romances. If Hermione Granger had been an American who never received an invitation to Hogwarts, this might have been her story.

The Night of the Comet

by George Bishop |

REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

FICTION

It’s the summer of ’73, and the Kohoutek comet is hurtling toward Earth. The media hypes doomsday, while in a dull Louisiana backwater an obsessed science teacher becomes unraveled by his passion for the approaching mass of ice and gas. Told through the eyes of his 14-year-old son, himself tortured by passion for the new girl in town, this lyrical family saga twinkles with bittersweet humanity. As the comet becomes a laughingstock, Bishop (Letter to My Daughter) does a heavenly job telescoping the heady promise of youth tinged with the sorrow of lost dreams.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

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