If You’re Going to Read One Book In April, Make It This One

updated Mar 30, 2021
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After a brutal winter, everyone is ready to cloak themselves in spring’s warmth, sweetness, and promise of a fresh new season (and maybe, if we’re all lucky and careful, a vacation). As you turn to a new month in your calendar, make room for some of April’s best new books to fill your bookshelves or Kindles with. Out with the snow, in with the stories that will keep you enraptured all month long. 

One book worth your attention is Gabriela Garcia’s debut novel “Of Women and Salt.” Garcia’s world encompasses five generations of Cuban women, breaking off and following a Salvadoran mother and every sacrifice she makes for her young daughter so that the two can live in the U.S. While “Of Women and Salt” is largely a narrative that explores the complexities of immigration and immigrant identity, it’s also a story about mothers and daughters and the traumas we unknowingly pass down to our children. 

The novel begins in Camaguey, Cuba in 1866, two years before the Ten Years’ War. A woman who works in a cigar factory falls in love with a political activist, and the two marry and have a baby daughter named Cecilia, whose father is shot and killed before she ever meets him. Fast-forward to Miami in 2014 when Jeanette, Cecilia’s great-great-granddaughter, is struggling with addiction and is trying to turn her life around. One night, she witnesses ICE taking her neighbor away, resulting in the neighbor’s young daughter Ana to arrive at an empty house. Jeanette takes the girl in, and her and Ana’s life unravel from that day forward.

Each chapter tells a story of struggle, survival, pain, and trauma from different female perspectives. One is a mother who must come to terms with the possibility that she failed to protect her American daughter from the same evils that tormented her as a girl in Cuba. Another is a detained mother who wills her daughter to stay strong and survive. What these women have in common is that “they are force,” an important literary mantra that continues to get passed down from generation to generation to the ones who need to hear it most. 

Here are some other options of books to read this month:

Caul Baby” by Morgan Jerkins

This is a story about family, power, and magic — it’s also the definition of a page-turner. In “Caul Baby,” we meet Laila, a woman who tried a seemingly endless amount of times to get pregnant, only to experience miscarriage after miscarriage. When she becomes and stays pregnant for much longer than she ever has before, Laila becomes fearful.
Willing to do anything for her child, she asks for help from the Melacons, a powerful Harlem family who possess the caul, a layer of skin that is supposed to heal and protect whomever it serves.

The deal between Laila and the Melacons fall through, and her baby is tragically stillborn. Then, Laila’s niece Amara gives birth to a baby who is given to the Melacons. They believe this child named Hallow is the key to preserving their power. When the families collide, Hallow is forced to decide who she sides with.

Early Morning Riser” by Katherine Heiny

If you live in or are from a small town, then you probably understand how hard it can be to keep certain things all to yourself. In “Early Morning Riser,” 26-year-old elementary school teacher Jane has just moved to the quiet town of Boyne City, Michigan. Immediately (literally in the first paragraph), Jane falls in love with Duncan, a 40-something-year-old woodworker who is charming, kind, and almost effortlessly wonderful. To Jane’s dismay, it turns out many other women also appreciated Duncan’s qualities. It seems like Duncan has dated nearly half the town, and he still has a close relationship with his ex-wife, Aggie (for whom he mows the lawn, because he’s a very decent guy). Jane can’t help but feel like she has to share Duncan, even with Duncan’s employee, Jimmy, who is described as “slow learning.”

After Jimmy is involved in a terrible accident, Jane and Duncan must care for him. Although this could be the final straw that drives a wedge between Jane and Duncan, the opposite happens. Heiny’s storytelling is known for its delightful quirks that make you fall in love with each and every character, and “Early Morning Riser” is no different.

Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner

Musician and writer Michelle Zauner’s memoir “Crying in H Mart” is a tender and honest exploration of loss, family, and identity. Zauner, whose essay of the same title in The New Yorker made the internet rounds in 2018, writes about her upbringing. She shares what it was like being the only Asian American kid at school in Eugene, Oregon, the pressure her mother put on her, and what the Asian supermarket H Mart means to her now that both her mother and aunt are gone.

Zauner grieves her losses through food, since this was the love language between herself and her mother. “Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem — constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations — I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them,” Zauner writes. Beautiful and endlessly cathartic, “Crying in H Mart” will make you cry as you work your way through it.