You’d think that the freezing winds and slushy streets would make me long for bright, summery reads. But if you think that, you’d be wrong. The last thing I want in January is to read about beaches, sunshine, and springtime love blossoming. What I need is commiseration. I want to feel that somewhere out there in the world, others have experienced the same frigid conditions and the twinge of bleak winter blues. Here are a few recommendations with plenty of chills and a few ice-cold hearts.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
If you think your winter weather is bad, try a remote Wisconsin village at the turn of the century. And if you feel a bit lonely in your snowbound homes, imagine arriving at a deserted train platform in the dead of winter. That’s the case for Catherine Land, who has left her life in Chicago to meet wealthy businessman Ralph Truitt, answering his newspaper ad for “a reliable wife.” A New World mail-order bride, Catherine has agreed to marry Ralph based only on their exchange of a few letters. But Catherine has misled her future husband. She hides her past, sends a false photograph, and disguises her true intentions…
The Reliable Wife is a thriller, a mystery, and a love story. Catherine and Ralph have a flavor of Heathcliffe and Catherine Earnshaw–a doomed love . . . or is it? Recommended for hopeful romantics (because no romantic should be hopeless).
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
This story opens in a blizzard. Dr. David Henry’s wife, Norah, is in labor and the icy roads make it impossible to reach the nearest hospital. Forced to deliver his twins himself, Dr. Henry immediately realizes that his daughter has Down’s Syndrome. In a split-second decision, he decides to tell his wife that only their son survived and asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the “impefect” child away. But with the new baby tucked into her back seat, Caroline realizes she’ll never be able to give her up. She flees town and raises the child herself, her birth family unaware of her existence.
Kim Edwards has been on my mind recently since her new book, The Lake of Dreams, looks equally haunting and beautiful.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s true crime masterwork makes the list for its chilling look into the mind of a killer. In 1959, the Clutter family was brutally murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. Later, two men were arrested for the crimes, tried, and convicted, but no apparent motive was ever established. Upon finding an article in the NYTimes about the case, Capote became obsessed with discovering the truth and traveled to Kansas with his friend Harper Lee to interview the killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. His book is a dark story of a senseless crime, but a compelling portrait of two criminals. It’s also the precedent for much of the true crime we read today.
I also highly recommend watching the 2005 film Capote after reading this book. Capote is portrayed by the stunning Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the story of Capote’s trips to Kansas are given significant screen time.