Domestic Affairs | Wyatt’s World

Tales of families never fail to fascinate. Whether a story of zany characters or of bonds unraveled, how mothers, fathers, and siblings navigate their unions is always rich reading. Here are four novels and one memoir that solidify these points.

  • What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons (Viking).
    A novel about mothers and daughters, grief, identity, and coming of age, Clemmons’s freshman outing is drawing notable attention, with Vogue magazine calling it the “debut of the year.” Presented in a collage narrative format, this story packs a punch. It follows Thandi, a college student whose possible identities pull her in a number of directions, who must survive the death of her mother.
  • Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (Knopf).
    The fabulous Telemachus family—onetime TV darlings recognized for their amazing psychic gifts—have fallen from grace and are beset with bad news, including unwanted attention from the mob and the government. Gregory cleverly traces their history, fate, and idiosyncratic dynamics with glee.
  • The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson (Morrow).
    This July LibraryReads pick thrusts readers into the middle of a quirky Southern clan, complete with skeletons in the closet. Graphic novelist Leia Birch Briggs finds herself pregnant after a Comic Con hookup, but if she thinks that is the family’s biggest news,  she’s mistaken. Jackson’s engrossing and deftly written tale blends sass with serious concerns.
  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Holt).
    This intimate and sensitive tale from Khong is another buzzy first novel about a daughter dealing with family loss. Thirty-year-old Ruth leaves behind her job and broken relationship and moves home to help care for her ailing father, who is losing himself to dementia. There she finds both tragedy and comedy.
  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs (S. & S.).
    This memoir should be read with a box of tissues and a notebook and pen, as Riggs relates her own death and what it means to live. She moves between her family and literature, important friendships, and the places and times that make her happy. Lauded for its beauty and power, this is a core title in the heartrending microgenre of death testimonies.
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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at

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