Robert Neubecker | Special to Hartford Magazine
If summer feels like the perfect season to escape with a good book, here's a geographically centered twist: Spend part of it immersed in great beach reads by Connecticut authors, well-regarded writers who call southern New England either home or their getaway address.
Ask those in the know — book-buyers, editors or critics — to name five great summer reads by Connecticut writers, and you'll get a list double that, at least.
Here are five beach reads — romance novels, family dramas or otherwise easy reads — that are the buzz, plus a few extras:
"The Summer Wives"
(384 pages, William Morrow, $26.99)
By Beatriz Williams, who lives near the Connecticut shore. Like her last two earlier novels, "The Wicked City," evoking New York in the Roaring Twenties, and "Cocoa Beach," set in Prohibition-era Florida, "The Summer Wives," due out in July, is historical fiction.
Set in the 1950s and '60s on a resort island in Long Island Sound, it's said to be one of the blockbuster novels of the season, one of romance, a murder and the overlapping worlds of wealthy summer families and the island's working class Portuguese fisherman and domestic workers.
(384 pages, Simon and Schuster, $28)
By Hannah McKinnon, who lives in Sherman, in western Connecticut. Published in June, the new release, described as heartfelt, is set on Cape Cod where the three Bailey sisters re-unite with their long-estranged father, now battling cancer.
They revisit old wounds, but also seek one last summer of forgiveness, closure and the possibility of new beginnings. McKinnon's 2015 debut novel, "The Lake Season," landed on several best summer read lists, and her second, " Mystic Summer," took place in, yes, the southeastern Connecticut village of Mystic.
"Good Luck With That"
(480 pages, Berkeley Books, $16)
By Kristan Higgins, a best-selling author of romance novels, who lives in Durham. Her latest, due out in early August, explores issues of body image and self-acceptance through the lives of Emerson, Georgia and Marley, three women and best friends since they first met at a weight-loss camp as teens.
The tragic death of Emerson and her dying wish pose a challenge to the two surviving women: As adults, isn't it time to conquer the fears they hold?
(240 pages, Random House, $27)
The latest by Amy Bloom , a professor of creative writing at Wesleyan University, came out in February.
It's a fictionalized account of the very real romance between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok ("Hick" to her friends), a reporter for the Associated Press.
(320 pages, Soho Crime, $26.95)
By James R. Benn who splits his time between Connecticut and Florida's Gulf Coast. Benn's latest, his 12th World War II mystery series, featuring U.S. Army detective Billy Boyle, came out last fall; his 13th, "Solemn Graves" is due out Sept. 4.
In "The Devouring," Boyle is called on to investigate a murder in wartime Switzerland, revealing Swiss complicity and profiteering with the Nazis. "Solemn Graves" is about a double murder in a French chateau right after D-Day.
Lots of other books get mentioned, including two just out in paperback, perfect for the beach. One is "Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage" (145 pages, Alfred A. Knopf, $9.98) by Litchfield County resident Dani Shapiro. It's her 2017 memoir of middle-age. Wrote one New York Times critic: "Her prose has a way of making even mundane disappointments feel portentous and universal."
The second is "The Sunshine Sisters" (400 pages, Berkley, $12.32) by Jane Green. It's about three estranged daughters who come home to help their mother end her life. It's set in London, New York, Los Angeles and Green's hometown of Westport.
If one of your summer goals is self-improvement, consider popular Hartford -area storyteller Matthew Dicks' new book of non-fiction, "Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling" (304 pages, New World Library, $15.95), which comes out June 12 in paperback. He's co-producer and performer at Speak Up live storytelling shows in and around Hartford. The story he told at the Jewish Community Center in West Hartford last winter made me cry.
Looking for a book for your kids? Consider "Team Players" (304 pages, Simon & Schuster, $16.99), by Mike Lupica, one of the most prominent sports writers in the nation. The book is for ages 8 to 12, and it's the New York Daily News sports columnist and New Canaan resident's fourth and final book in the Home Team series.
Any summer reading list of Connecticut authors needs to check on whether Norwich native Wally Lamb, who lives in Mansfield, has a new book out, warns Andrew Brennan, head buyer for adult books at R.J. Julia Booksellers. "He's arguably the most well-known and accomplished Connecticut author," says Brennan, whose bookstore in Madison is arguably the premier bookstore in the state. Reached by email in early spring, Lamb's assistant said the author was away for two months, working on a new novel.
Among the books she's excited about is "The Female Persuasion" (456 pages, Riverhead Books, $28) by Meg Wolitzer, author of "The Interestings" and "The Ten-Year Nap." The new novel, which came out in April, is about a young college freshman, inspired by a famous feminist icon. In this #MeToo moment, Quigley says this new book will draw a lot of attention.
Also abuzz, notes Quigley, is "Sometimes I Lie" (387 pages, HQ, $17.20), a psychological thriller and a debut novel of BBC writer Alice Feeney. It's about a woman who wakes up in the hospital totally paralyzed except she can hear, and nobody realizes it. She has no idea what happened but figures out her husband is involved.
Last year's National Book Award winner for fiction, "Sing, Unburied, Sing" (285 pages, Scribner, $15.30) by Jesmyn Ward, is being released in paperback in time for summer. And a debut novel that Quigley expects "to get a ton of buzz" is "The Ensemble" (352 pages, Riverhead, $23.40) by Aja Gabel, which came out in May. It's about friendship and music when four young friends form a string quartet.
And if you just don't care about Connecticut connections, at least consider the advice of West Hartford resident Jennifer Minton Quigley, a former editor at Vintage Books, an author events organizer and the author of "The Early Birds," about the premature birth of her twin sons. She's still well connected to the New York publishing world.