'Til the Well Runs Dry
By Lauren Francis-Sharma. (Henry Holt, 400, pages $27.)
Set on the tropical island of Trinidad, this sultry beach read is a blend of love story, dark magic and mystery. Star-crossed lovers Marcia Garcia and Farouk Karam desire a life of happily ever after, but scandal, disapproving families and a spiteful obea (sorceress), threaten their matrimony constantly.
The story is set against the backdrop of carnival, hip-swaying calypso and sweet and savory delicacies. It is told from the perspective of three characters: Marcia, Farouk and their daughter Jaqueline.
Marcia emigrates to the United States in hopes of earning enough money to eventually send for her children, but she encounters culture shock and the struggles of an immigrant's life in America. This is an anxious page turner, as a reader yearns to find out what's next in each chapter and, ultimately, how Marcia escapes her homeland with only part of her family and leaving part of her heart behind.
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Three Story House
By Courtney Miller Santo. (William Morrow, 416 pages, $14.99.)
This cleverly titled novel is told in three stories, each about a cousin as they try to save a family mansion (literally the three-story house) from being razed.
Lizzie, a professional soccer player, is nursing yet another knee injury, this one possibly career-ending. Elyse is running from the reality that her sister is marrying the man Elyse herself has loved for years. Isobel is looking for a fresh start to her stalled acting career. The cousins, all women of the same age and best friends, move into the Memphis home and begin restoration.
Each ends up understanding herself better and appreciating what they have rather than pining for what they lack. An interesting sidelight in the novel is the history of Spite Houses, dwellings built with vindictive feelings toward another. The oddly shaped mansion, wedged into a strange lot overlooking the Mississippi River, is such a house.
The three women are strong and likable characters, and the parallel stories of the women renovating the home while renovating their own lives weave together seamlessly. Highly recommended.
Judy Romanowich Smith