Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (Penguin, $32.99), Out February 4
Finishing a Marian Keyes novel is like saying goodbye to your best friend at the International Departures Gate; tears and laughs aplenty. The bestselling author’s new release, Grown Ups, has all the makings of a Keyes classic, with not one, but three strong female leads. Meet Cara, Jessie and Nell, three sisters-in-law dealing with life’s big challenges – relationship troubles, self-doubt, money worries, disordered eating, and painful parents-in-law – and pondering the question, is it finally time to grow up? The women are glorious, flawed and so bloody relatable. You’ll want to join them on their next family holiday.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury, $29.99), Out now
Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such A Fun Age first crossed my desk in November 2019 and I haven’t stopped talking about it since. I’m not alone, Reese Witherspoon picked it for her January Book Club, Entertainment Weekly called it “the most provocative page-turner of the year,” and acclaimed author Jojo Moyes said she couldn’t put it down. Such A Fun Age doesn’t just live up to the hype, it exceeds it. Telling the story of Emira, a black babysitter accused of kidnapping the white child she’s minding while at the supermarket, the novel deals with the messy dynamics of privilege, race, feminism and domestic work. Reid’s voice is fresh, wry and compelling. Jump on the bandwagon now.
Salt Water And Spear Tips by Thor F. Jensen (Pegasus Publishers, $20.99), Out February, Pre-order here
When Danish explorer and filmmaker Thor F. Jensen set out to complete the world’s first circumnavigation of New Guinea in a traditional sailing canoe, he wanted adventure. And that’s exactly what he got. Travelling 6,300 km through treacherous seas over 13 months and 21 days starting in 2016, Jensen braved the brutality of the ocean (and the fear of local pirates), made lifelong friends (in master sailors Sanakoli John, Justin John and Job Siyae), embraced Papua New Guinean culture (including receiving a traditional ‘spell’ for safe travels from an old man who had lost most of his teeth), and fell in love (with an Aussie anthropologist he met along the way). You will hold your breath from the very first chapter of Salt Water and Spear Tips; like Jensen did when he fell overboard at the start of the voyage after the canoe unexpectedly hit a wave and knocked his balance – drowning his iPhone and resulting in a stern lecture from his fellow sailors. “I was reassured to see the sailors didn’t want to lose the dim dim [white person] on the second day of the voyage,” Jensen writes, with his trademark sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour. The adventurer tells his story with brutal honesty, capturing PNG in all its glory: the flaws and beauty. It’ll make you want to embrace your inner explorer and book a trip to PNG. Or, at least, watch the Shailene Woodley sailing drama Adrift from the comfort of your couch. Either way, adventure awaits.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Hachette, $32.99), Out January 21
You will be a changed person after reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. The first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border, this page-turner is a timely look at the state of the world and the complex issue of immigration, but more than anything, it’s the story of a mother’s love. The protagonist Lydia flees a Mexican drug cartel with her eight-year-old son Luca and a machete strapped to her leg. The tagline is poignant and powerful: “Fear keeps them running. Hope keeps them alive.”
Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists by Julia Ebner (Bloomsbury, $37.99), Out February 20
It’s a sad and terrifying reality that extremism is all around us. No one knows this better than counter-extremist expert Julia Ebnber, who has spent years infiltrating tech-savvy extremist groups from jihadists to Christian fundamentalists, and white nationalists to radical misogynists. Her book, Going Dark, is a fascinating look at the darkest recesses of extremism – and what is being done to counter it.