Notable works of fiction in 2020

THE WASHINGTON POST – As the year is coming to an end, it is time to celebrate the notable works of fiction that has came out this year (regardless of how terrible the year had been).

ACTRESS
by Anne Enright

The daughter of a legendary screen icon tries to make sense of her late mother’s life by separating the truth from the well-worn anecdotes.

AFTERLAND
by Lauren Beukes

After a pandemic nearly decimates the world’s male population, a mother and son go on the run in a hot-wired car, fleeing a government that wants to imprison them and a relative set on exploiting them.

ALL ADULTS HERE
by Emma Straub

When a widowed grandmother sees her nemesis mowed down by a bus, it inspires her to connect with her children in ways she’s always avoided.

AND I DO NOT FORGIVE YOU
by Amber Sparks

The 22 stories in this collection range from the surreal to the mundane – and all maintain a sense of righteous rage at society’s sexism.

THE AWKWARD BLACK MAN
by Walter Mosley

Coinciding with the announcement of a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation, Mosley released this collection of 16 stories about chronically misunderstood working-class Black men.

BIG SUMMER
by Jennifer Weiner

This send-up of Instagram culture follows an aspiring plus-size influencer who agrees to take part in the wedding of her mean-girl former best friend.

A BURNING
by Megha Majumdar

A riveting debut that illuminates three intertwined lives in contemporary India, including a woman whose offhand social media post prompts the government to pin a terrorist attack on her.

CLEANESS
by Garth Greenwell

Greenwell’s story collection revisits the Bulgarian setting of his celebrated novel, What Belongs to You, following a teacher who tries to forget his tortured upbringing by engaging in a romantic attachments.

THE DAUGHTERS OF ERIETOWN
by Connie Schultz

The Pulitzer-winning journalist’s first novel captures the lives of four generations of women in a hardscrabble Ohio town.

DAYS OF DISTRACTION
by Alexandra Chang

A narrative mosaic that intersperses the story with Urban Dictionary definitions and Pew Research studies, Chang’s debut follows a Chinese American reporter confronting racism and sexism in Silicon Valley.

DEACON KING KONG
by James McBride

In a housing project in 1960s Brooklyn, an elderly man shoots a drug dealer and sets a zany, fast-paced plot in motion.

DEAR EDWARD
by Ann Napolitano

A young boy, after surviving a plane crash that orphaned him, weathers public fascination as he tries to find a way forward.

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING
by Ken Follett

This prequel to The Pillars of the Earth imagines the founding of Kingsbridge, and it’s just as transporting – and lengthy – as Follett’s earlier epic.

EXCITING TIMES
by Naoise Dolan

Dolan’s debut has echoes of Sally Rooney with its tale of a 22-year-old Irish woman who moves to Hong Kong to teach English and finds herself in the middle of a love triangle.

A GIRL IS A BODY OF WATER
by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

In 1970s Uganda, a young girl tries to reconcile her innate rebelliousness with societal expectations of female compliance, and wonders if finding her estranged mother might hold the key.

THE GLASS HOTEL
by Emily St John Mandel

The Station Eleven author drew inspiration from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme for this sprawling novel that moves from a remote five-star hotel to an international cargo ship to a federal prison as it ponders the human capacity for self-delusion.

HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD
by C Pam Zhang

Two orphaned girls go on the run in this brilliant re-imagining of the cowboy narrative.

INTERIOR CHINATOWN
by Charles Yu

Yu’s Hollywood satire, a National Book Award winner, follows an Asian actor whose dreams of landing a leading role are forever stymied by typecasting and racism.

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND
by Rumaan Alam

In this novel, shortlisted for a National Book Award, a White family’s idyllic vacation is abruptly transformed when a massive power outage sends a Black family – the purported owners of the rental home – to the doorstep.

THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS
by Elena Ferrante

Fans of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels will be thrilled with this Kirkus Prize finalist that once again considers the divergent yet interlinked worlds of Italy’s haves and have-nots through the eyes of a young female protagonist.

MEXICAN GOTHIC
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a troubling letter from her newly married cousin, a young woman in 1950s Mexico travels to a remote dilapidated house to investigate a creepy family with generations of secrets.

THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT
by Hilary Mantel

The final instalment in Mantel’s trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s scheming right-hand man, has the famous fixer getting the comeuppance his many foes had long hoped for.

THE NEW WILDERNESS
by Diane Cook

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Cook’s debut tells the story of a couple who, to save their sick daughter from toxic city air, agree to live off the grid on the only stretch of untamed land that still exists in an ecologically ravaged world.

THE NIGHT WATCHMAN
by Louise Erdrich

A tapestry of stories about the people living on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in 1950s North Dakota revolves around one man’s efforts to stop the government from enacting legislation that would wipe out his tribe’s identity.

NIGHTS WHEN NOTHING HAPPENED
by Simon Han

The life of a Chinese immigrant couple who have settled in Texas begins to unravel after their daughter’s sleepwalking prompts a misunderstanding within their suburban community.

THE OFFICE OF HISTORICAL CORRECTIONS
by Danielle Evans

This second collection from the author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self takes a wry look at the many forms racism takes in modern America.

PIRANESI
by Susanna Clarke

In a departure from Clarke’s beloved, lengthy Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, this slim, hypnotic novel takes place in a surreal house where the lone inhabitant spends his days exploring the seemingly infinite halls.

PLAIN BAD HEROINES
by Emily Danforth

Danforth ingeniously interweaves two threads: a gothic tale of a cursed all-girls school in 1902 and a modern-day Hollywood satire of a cursed movie about that school.

THE PULL OF THE STARS
by Emma Donoghue

The 1918 flu pandemic is the timely backdrop for this searing portrait of Irish women’s lives scarred by poverty and too many pregnancies in a society that proclaims, “She doesn’t love him unless she gives him 12.”

THE QUEEN OF TUESDAY
by Darin Strauss

The author, whose grandfather once met Lucille Ball, imagines what would have happened if the two had begun a relationship, creating in the process a striking exploration of how fame confounds the lives of prominent and obscure people.

READY PLAYER TWO
by Ernest Cline

The sequel to Cline’s Ready Player One picks up where that best-selling novel left off, with Wade Watts on a mission to save humanity by embarking on a new quest within the virtual world of OASIS.

REAL LIFE
by Brandon Taylor

Taylor’s debut novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, broadens the embrace of the traditional campus novel with the tale of a melancholy PhD student who is Black, and southern.

THE RESISTERS
by Gish Jen

Set in AutoAmerica – a future world of surveillance and melted polar ice – a couple of activists find their lives transformed by their daughter’s baseball prowess.

RODHAM
by Curtis Sittenfeld

The author of Prep conjures an alternate reality in which Hillary never marries Bill – and Donald Trump isn’t president.

RUN ME TO EARTH
by Paul Yoon

Though presented as a novel, this tightly integrated collection of six stories begins in the bombed-out shell of 1960s Laos, then jumps across decades and continents as characters ricochet around the world.

SIMON THE FIDDLER
by Paulette Jiles

As the Civil War winds down, a spunky, redheaded musician falls for a pretty Irish nanny and has to overcome major obstacles to make her his wife.

SUCH A FUN AGE
by Kiley Reid

When a grocery store security guard accuses a Black babysitter of kidnapping her White charge, it complicates the woman’s relationship with her employer, a social media influencer who fancies herself woke.

TASTE OF SUGAR
by Marisel Vera

Set in Puerto Rico on the cusp of the 20th Century, a teenager’s romantic vision of marrying for love collides with reality when she settles into her new life on her husband’s struggling coffee farm.

UTOPIA AVENUE
by David Mitchell

Mitchell’s groovy rock novel belts out the lives of a fictional band in such vivid tones that you may imagine that you once heard the group play in the late ’60s.

VALENTINE
by Elizabeth Wetmore

Told through a rotation of female perspectives, residents of 1970s Odessa, Texas, have a variety of reactions to the harassment of a Mexican teenager.

THE VANISHING HALF
by Brit Bennett

Bennett’s follow-up to The Mothers examines the lives of twin Black girls from Louisiana after one grows up, moves away and passes for White.

WEATHER
by Jenny Offill

Told in fragments, as was her 2014 novel, Dept of Speculation, Offill’s story concerns a librarian and mother who is haunted by a seemingly imminent apocalypse.