Jodi Picoult is a favorite among readers who love emotionally-compelling novels about family, friendship, love, and loss. If you’re looking for new books like Jodi Picoult, we’ve compiled a list of recently-released novels that fit the bill, from historical fiction to contemporary sagas. Check out our recommendations below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.
It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, 23-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.
When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love — and the life — she was meant to have?
Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs
#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns with a deeply emotional and atmospheric story that spans oceans and decades, from the present-day Delaware shore to the battlefields of WWII France.
Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Palmer has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter Julie in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, Camille has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.
Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking unexpected memories — recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of the Second World War. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her — a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.
“Susan Wiggs seamlessly melds historical drama with contemporary romance,” raves Mary Kay Andrews. Now, this hugely popular author has created her biggest, most powerful story yet — a beautiful and heartfelt novel that celebrates the bonds of family and pays homage to the sacrifices of the past.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream — and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery
Janet Peery’s first novel, The River Beyond the World, was a National Book Award finalist in 1996. Acclaimed for her gorgeous writing and clear-eyed gaze into the hearts of people, Peery now returns with her second novel, The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs.
On a summer evening in the blue-collar town of Amicus, Kansas, the Campbell family gathers for a birthday dinner for their ailing patriarch, retired judge Abel Campbell, prepared and hosted by their still-hale mother Hattie. But when Billy, the youngest sibling — with a history of addiction, grand ideas, and misdemeanors — passes out in his devil’s food cake, the family takes up the unfinished business of Billy’s sobriety.
Billy’s wayward adventures have too long consumed their lives, in particular Hattie’s, who has enabled his transgressions while trying to save him from Abel’s disappointment. As the older children — Doro, Jesse, ClairBell, and Gideon — contend with their own troubles, they compete for the approval of the elderly parents they adore, but can’t quite forgive.
With knowing humor and sure-handed storytelling, Janet Peery reveals a family at its best and worst, with old wounds and new, its fractures and feuds, and yet its unbreakable bonds.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood — and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber
Shay Benson adored her younger brother, Caden, and that got her into trouble. When he owed money, Shay realized she would do anything to help him avoid the men who were threatening him, and she crossed lines she never should have crossed. Now, determined to start fresh, she finds herself in search of a place to stay and wanders into a church to escape from the cold.
Pastor Drew Douglas adored his wife. But when he lost her, it was all he could do to focus on his two beautiful kids, and his flock came in a distant third. Now, as he too is thinking about a fresh start, he walks through his sanctuary and finds Shay sitting in a pew.
The pair strike up a friendship — Drew helps Shay get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose — that, over time, turns into something deeper, something soulful, spiritual, and possibly romantic. Even Drew’s two children are taken with this woman who has brought light back into their lives. Perhaps most important, Shay learns to trust again as she, in turn, proves herself trustworthy to her adopted community.
But Caden’s return to town and a disastrous secret threaten to undo the life Shay has tried so hard to rebuild. It will take the utmost courage and faith if she and Drew hope to find healing and open their hearts to a brighter future.
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.
Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author’s celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after 17 years of absence.
Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout’s place as one of America’s most respected and cherished authors.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge — until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals — in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country — Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality — crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence. Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
A sweeping, unforgettable novel from The New York Times best-selling author of Maine, about the hope, sacrifice, and love between two sisters and the secret that drives them apart.
Nora and Theresa Flynn are 21 and 17 when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she’s shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn’t sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan — a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora’s favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together.
Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality — the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.
Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy — an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
Identical twin sisters who couldn’t look more alike… or live more differently.
Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.
Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.
Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills — Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode — and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.
One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.
After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands — and lives — to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.
The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy’s husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana’s hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana — skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she’s ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her. A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, The Goddesses is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers.
Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umrigar
The bestselling, critically acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The World We Found deftly explores issues of race, class, privilege, and power and asks us to consider uncomfortable moral questions in this probing, ambitious, emotionally wrenching novel of two families — one black, one white.
During a terrible heat wave in 1991 — the worst in a decade — 10-year-old Anton has been locked in an apartment in the projects, alone, for seven days, without air conditioning or a fan. With no electricity, the refrigerator and lights do not work. Hot, hungry, and desperate, Anton shatters a window and climbs out. Cutting his leg on the broken glass, he is covered in blood when the police find him.
Juanita, his mother, is discovered in a crack house less than three blocks away, nearly unconscious and half-naked. When she comes to, she repeatedly asks for her baby boy. She never meant to leave Anton — she went out for a quick hit and was headed right back, until her drug dealer raped her and kept her high. Though the bond between mother and son is extremely strong, Anton is placed with child services while Juanita goes to jail.
The Harvard-educated son of a US senator, Judge David Coleman is a scion of northeastern white privilege. Desperate to have a child in the house again after the tragic death of his teenage son, David uses his power and connections to keep his new foster son, Anton, with him and his wife, Delores–actions that will have devastating consequences in the years to come.
Following in his adopted family’s footsteps, Anton, too, rises within the establishment. But when he discovers the truth about his life, his birth mother, and his adopted parents, this man of the law must come to terms with the moral complexities of crimes committed by the people he loves most.
The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.
In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House — the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.
A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.
When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart–or be the path to their family’s future.
Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.
The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards
When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.
Toby is Graham’s darkest secret — his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.
A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love — and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul.
Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.
Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.
Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
Which of these books would you like to read? Share in the comments!