New Novels Tomatoes are Reading this Summer
Our Tomato reviewers have recommendations for three new novels. One is the story of a forbidden romance. Another tells the story of a modern day woman faced with the dilemma of when to have children. And the third (a favorite of Barrack Obama’s too) tells the story of a poor Irish family in Philadelphia.
Bells for Eli, a novel by Susan Beckham Zurenda
First cousins Eli Winfield and Delia Green grow up across the street from one another. The setting for this novel is Green Branch, South Carolina in the 1960’s and 70’s. After Eli has a serious childhood accident, both of their lives are changed. Eli is teased and shunned by his peers due to his disfigurement. Delia takes on the task of defending and protecting him.
As Delia and Eli grow up their friendship turns into love. This is where the forbidden romance comes into play. They are in love with each other but do not act on it for obvious reasons. As they go off into the world, they seem to always find their way back to each other.
Bells for Eli is a novel that tackles subjects like bullying, forbidden romance, love and acceptance. This is a debut novel by Susan Beckham Zurenda. Cassandra King Conroy has called Susan “one of the most exciting new voices in southern fiction” and I so agree. Highly recommend this book. Get the book.
~Francene M. Katzen, Richmond, Virginia, advocate for parents and children with drug adictions
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, a novel by Jayne Allen
The first novel in a captivating three-book series about modern womanhood, in which a young Black woman must rely on courage, laughter, and love—and the support of her two longtime friends—to overcome an unexpected setback that threatens the most precious thing she’s ever wanted.
We thoroughly enjoyed Jayne Allen’s novel and loved her main character Tabitha Walker, a black woman with a plan to “have it all.” At 33 years old, she has a great job as a local news reporter, a “paper-perfect” boyfriend, two best friends, and everything seems to be falling into place.
Then Tabby receives an unexpected diagnosis that brings her picture-perfect life crashing down, jeopardizing the keystone she took for granted: having children. She is suddenly faced with an impossible choice between her career, her dream home, and a family of her own.
Her characters are rich and her best friends, the irreverent and headstrong Laila and Alexis, the mom jeans-wearing former “Sexy Lexi,” and the generational wisdom of her grandmother and the nonagenarian firebrand Ms. Gretchen. The novel is funny, warm, heartbreaking at times, and also helps the reader understand what it’s like to be a modern black woman. Get the book.
~Cheryl Benton, founder/publisher The Three Tomatoes
Long Bright River: A Novel by Liz Moore
Long Bright River by Liz Moore had me on the edge of my seat! A beautifully written book about a poor Irish family in Philadelphia, two sisters on opposite sides of the law. Born of a mother who dies of a drug overdose and raised by a hardened grandmother, one becomes a police officer, the other a drug-addicted street walker. As the officer tries to keep tabs on her sister, the pitch heightens when a string of murders cause her to obsessively hunt the streets for her. A portrait of the city and the pull of addiction emerges.
Set on the seamy side of the City of Brotherly Love, we see the damaged goods of neighborhoods gone to ruin and the poor souls who find refuge there. We see the toll of the opioid crisis on human nature. We get in inside glimpse of an urban police force that encompasses both evil forces and Good Samaritans and witness the struggle of good, decent people to stay honorable. This moral tug of war is the backdrop for a great cop thriller! (P.S. this is one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year.) Get the book.
~Joan Pagano, New York, New York, fitness guru, joanpaganofitness.com