Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
This week’s pick is one of those buzzy, Reese pick books that I bought when it first came out…and then it languished on my TBR stack for months. You know how it goes! But once I got to it, I really enjoyed it!
Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!
Content warning: violence, pregnancy loss
Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
Tessa lives an ordinary life in modern Belfast: She’s a single mom to an infant, a sister, a daughter, and a dedicated producer for a BBC news show. She’s used to getting a ribbing for working for the Brits, but the violence of the IRA doesn’t really touch her life until one day a robbery hits the news. It was carried out by the IRA, and Tessa’s beloved sister Marian is caught on camera pulling a mask over her face. Tessa’s life implodes as she goes into shock, then denial. There’s no way that Marian could be a member of the IRA…but if she is, that means Tessa must reconcile everything she thought she knew about her family with the tenuous reality of living in a country marked by violence.
I became intrigued by the Troubles of Northern Ireland a couple years ago when I happened to catch a documentary that touched on them, and I’ve recommended the nonfiction book Say Nothing: A true Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe in this newsletter before. But other than the contemporary aspects of Keefe’s book, I hadn’t read much about the Troubles that wasn’t firmly rooted in history, and I thought this was a really fascinating look at modern life shaped by these struggles. What struck me was how most people learned to just live against this backdrop of violence, while it deeply affected others in very different ways, inciting them to action. And then I realized that to those living in Northern Ireland, life in the U.S. must feel similar from afar, given how often our country faces unexpected and jarring gun and police violence.
In this novel, Tessa really has to dig deep into her own thoughts and feelings about how far she’ll go to protect her own family, and how deep she’s willing to wade into this conflict in order to buy herself and her loved ones some peace. The writing is elegant and also gut-wrenching, and I sped through the chapters because I truly had no inkling of how it would end. I highly recommend this if you like a more literary, interior thriller that looks at social and political issues.