Thanksgiving is a time for many things: remembering our past, reminding ourselves of what we’re thankful for and, of course, family.
If we lived in a Norman Rockwell painting, maybe our families would be perfect. Yet, sometimes you just can’t help but roll your eyes at the dinner table.
This Thanksgiving, take a break from your real relatives and delve into the lives of families in a variety of literary genres: from magical realism to memoirs, young adult fiction to gothic children’s mystery, I’ve got you covered with these editor’s picks.
‘Miss Jane’ by Brad Watson
At birth, Miss Jane Chisholm’s fate is set for her: an unfortunate birth defect prevents Jane from ever having children, having sex or even interacting with children her own age.
However, Jane’s disposition remains cheerful. She spends her days on her family farm, exploring the neighboring woods and the complicated nature of human emotions.
Jane’s tale is one of self-discovery as she reconciles to herself that she’ll never be “normal.”
“Miss Jane” was long-listed for the National Book Award in 2016, and for good reason — Watson’s intensely personal storytelling is vivid, unapologetic and, overall, engrossing.
‘So Far From God’ by Ana Castillo
Set against the backdrop of rural New Mexico, Ana Castillo’s tale of family estrangements, enchantments and woes is an entertaining read for Thanksgiving weekend.
“So Far From God” follows the four children of Sofia and the unexplainable lives they lead: her youngest daughter, la Loca’s mysterious resurrection from the dead; Fe’s endless screams post-breakup; Caridad’s clairvoyance; and finally, Esperanza’s disappearance into the Middle Eastern desert.
Castillo’s novel pulls from local folklore in the New Mexico area, but also has important commentary on being a woman, religion and the burden history places on tradition and modern troubles.
‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket
Relive childhood memories through Lemony Snicket’s story of the Baudelaire children.
After their parents perish in fire, Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are put into the custody of Count Olaf, an evil relative who plans to kill the children for their inheritance.
As the children continue to dodge Olaf’s intricate plots for their demise, they discover secrets about secret societies and what really happened to their parents.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” had a revival in popular culture when Netflix released an adaptation last year, but nothing beats the original books. This series of children’s novels is surely to be a quick read over the Thanksgiving holiday, but will probably make you grateful your distant cousin isn’t plotting your death over dinner.
‘It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)’ by Nora McInerny Purmort
In 2014, Nora McInerny Purmort lost a baby to miscarriage, her father to cancer and her husband, Aaron, to a brain tumor.
Yet, the Minneapolis-based author, columnist, podcaster and speaker didn’t let the tragedies overwhelm the good she experienced.
In her memoir, Purmort writes about her and Aaron’s story, with some wit, humor and some sadness, too. But as the title suggests, it’s okay to laugh — and crying is cool, too.
Purmort’s story is a great accompaniment to a long car, bus or train ride, and even just resting on a stomach full of turkey.
‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ by Jandy Nelson
Twins Jude and Noah used to be close, trading in their imaginations the different features of the Earth. But after their mother’s death, the two separate — Jude becoming a moody, artsy teenager trying to live up to her mother’s expectations and Noah transforming himself to fit the mold of his high school.
After Jude discovers a secret about her mother’s past, the twins are forced to reconnect and relive what pulled them apart so many years ago.
Nelson’s second novel is one of my favorites. The humor, the pain and the issues Nelson writes about make this a novel I’m not afraid to recommend again and again, for any season, time or person.