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Culture Books

Freedom calling


Freedom calling

Four best-selling novels

The Guardians by John Grisham: In his 40th book, Grisham introduces Cullen Post, a lawyer/Episcopal priest who works for Guardian Ministries, a small nonprofit dedicated to freeing inmates wrongly convicted of murder. Post throws himself into his latest project: freeing Quincy Miller, a black man incarcerated for 22 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Post has to find evidence that will convince a judge to overturn the conviction, but his investigation alarms some dangerous people. Fueled by his religious convictions, Post works with a relentless focus. Though Grisham writes as an advocate, he doesn’t lose sight of the need to tell a good story, and he continues to write best-selling novels without resorting to the strong language that’s become typical in modern fiction.

The Tunnel by A.B. Yehoshua: Zvi Luria, a retired Israel Roads Authority engineer, learns he has the beginnings of dementia. His neurologist urges him to live fully, but already he’s forgetting first names and the ignition code for his car. When his pediatrician wife pushes him to become a volunteer assistant on a military road project, he gets roped into a plan to build an expensive tunnel—rather than razing a hill—to save a Palestinian family lacking proper Israeli identity papers. The novel offers a warm and often humorous view of a loving long marriage while exploring the increasing disorientation that comes with dementia. Yehoshua sets this particular story in the context of Israeli society, which seems as confused as Luria.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman: The offbeat protagonist of this best-selling 2017 novel is a lonely 29-year-old office worker who drinks vodka and watches TV every weekend. She has no friends and has never had anyone over to her house. When she and the IT guy at work rescue an old man who collapses in the street, her life changes. An unreliable narrator, Eleanor has no filter between what she thinks and what she says. She’s judgmental, lacks self-awareness, and is clueless about most things, which makes for humor and pathos. Kindness eventually breaks through the self-protective shell she created to deal with terrible childhood trauma. Reese Witherspoon optioned this 2017 novel for an upcoming feature film, which probably will need an R rating for language.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Abandoned by her mother and siblings—and finally even her abusive, alcoholic father—Kya grows up in the marshes near the North Carolina coast. She ekes out a living and becomes a keen observer of birds and other wildlife. Her interactions with people are more fraught. Shunned by respectable people, she becomes the subject of gossip. One boy shares her love of nature and teaches her to read and grow in her scientific understanding. Another uses her. The book combines lush nature writing, a murder mystery, and a detailed portrait of small-town life. Since its publication in 2018, the book has sold millions of copies, and Reese Witherspoon optioned it for a movie as well.