In this month's best new releases, a poet returns home to an eccentric family, a scientist tries to change life goals before it's too late, a bunch of men feel lonely, an American heads back to China, and a dancer tries to dance.More
"Chemistry" by Weike Wang (Knopf), $25, penguinrandomhouse.com.
The Basics: The unnamed narrator of Wang's debut novel, a graduate student in chemistry, finds herself questioning her entire life path after her boyfriend proposes. Where does she see her PhD project going? What is the point of studying the same thing since high school? What if she doesn't "love chemistry unconditionally"? What if she doesn't even love her boyfriend?
Estimated Reading Time: Four days at 60 pages a day.
Good for Anyone Who… wonders what life would be like if they only read the things they wanted to read, only did the extracurriculars they wanted to do, and only took the classes they wanted to take.
Of Note: The narrator has to ask tough questions that eventually confront all of us in some form—but watching someone else work through these things should alleviate your own stress for a minute.
"The Leavers" by Lisa Ko (Algonquin), $26, algonquin.com.
The Basics: Deming Guo, son of a Chinese immigrant, is adopted by a white couple after his mother, Polly, disappears. Renamed Daniel, he grows up trying to please his new family, while lost in memories of and resentment toward his mother. Woven throughout is Polly's account of her journeys between China and the United States as she reinvents her identity again and again.
Estimated Reading Time: One week at 50 pages a day.
Good for Anyone Who… has ever suspected that their parents actually have a rich and complicated inner life.
Of Note: The novel pivots around Deming/Daniel, but it's his mother who is truly fascinating. She's listless, selfish, loving, brave, and secretive—a complex and profoundly flawed mother figure who feels very real.