Lucas Visser

The season's most engrossing long-haul reads provide a look into complicated relationships and interconnected lives.

These winter months are when relatives reunite for the holidays—sometimes happily, sometimes not. So it’s fitting that some of the most interesting book releases offer compelling accounts of domestic tension simmering beneath the surface, waiting to spill over.

In Tessa Hadley’s beautiful novel The Past (Harper), four siblings arrive at their grandparents’ shabby but still charming house in the English countryside—which may soon need to be sold. Steeped in childhood memories, the family discovers that its summer holiday has become a stage on which secrets are revealed and passions erupt. Elizabeth Strout, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Olive Kitteridge, is back with My Name Is Lucy Barton (Random House), a touching novel about a mother and daughter who come together in a New York City hospital after far too much time apart. Andria Williams’s debut, The Longest Night (Random House), set in Idaho Falls in the 1960s, tells of a marriage whose bond is tested against the backdrop of a nuclear accident. And Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Lee Boudreaux Books) is an extraordinary account of a young man named Victor who is swept up by the antiglobalization demonstrations at the World Trade Organization—and faces off against police chief Bishop, who just happens to be the estranged father he hasn’t seen in five years.

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