Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Random House, $25) is without a doubt my favorite novel of the year. Helen Simonson’s extraordinary debut brings us to the small English village of Edgcombe St. Mary, where the widowed Major Ernest Pettigrew lives a quiet, refined life in his family home. Unexpected circumstances bring him into contact with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the village’s widowed Pakistani shopkeeper. The two soon develop a friendship over cups of tea, and their shared love of literature slowly blossoms into love. Not only was it a pleasure to read about older characters finding love the second time around, but there is also a lot of fun along the way involving the eccentricities of the village and its residents.
Ivan Doig’s charming character, Morrie Morris, returns to the world of historical fiction, this time stepping off a train at Butte, Montana in 1919. Work Song (Riverhead, $25.95) follows his quest to make a fortune in the copper-mining boomtown. Morrie quickly finds himself caught between Anaconda, the company controlling the town, and the union representing the men who risk their lives every day. Work Song is filled with quirky characters who always have something clever to say; with its constant, heartwarming reassurance that people will rise to the occasion when the situation seems at its worst, this novel is a pleasure to read.
It’s 1:00 a.m. and I have to be up early, but I am still reading this book, I CAN’T PUT IT DOWN! What is wrong with me? I don’t want to do anything but read The Passage (Ballantine, $25) by Justin Cronin. I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to go to work, I don’t want to sleep. If you think you don’t like horror fiction, think again--I guarantee that once you read the first few pages of this book you, too, will be hooked. Cronin’s is a story about a virus the army hopes will turn soldiers into super-weapons. The only problem is that, once infected, humans become super-scary, bloodsucking creatures. When the American population is exposed to and then ravaged by the virus, only small enclaves of people survive. The tale of how these survivors go on is utterly enthralling, adventurous, creepy, and exciting.