Toss out the Kleenex and sad, terry-cloth bathrobe. There's no blow in life that just the right book can't help you recover from...
To Help You Remember: La Vie Est Belle
By Katherine Pancol
464 pages; Penguin Books
The French have a knack for living in the moment, and this international best-seller, just out in the States, makes for a lighthearted how-to. In prose that is as refreshing as a glass of Evian (but as addictive as chocolate), author Katherine Pancol plunges us into the world of Joséphine Cortès, a 40-year-old mother of two whose husband takes off with a manicurist on a wild scheme to run a Kenyan crocodile farm, leaving Joséphine practically penniless. She navigates around a hypercritical mother, a limelight-hogging sister and a diva of a teenage daughter. With the help of a few satisfying, if fairy godmother–esque plot twists, she learns that "...Life is like a dance partner...If you just relax and let go, you'll find yourself waltzing." Full of laugh-out-loud moments, the novel illustrates -- gently and intelligently -- how we have to keep taking tiny steps to create the lives we long for.
-- Susan Welsh
To Help You Recognize: Busy Hands, Bandaged Heart
By Lynn Chang
104 pages; Prospect Park Books
This ingenious book includes exercises and crafts for every dip and rise of your emotional roller coaster, from abject misery and incandescent anger to "rejoining the living. " Interestingly enough, the field of revenge crafts, or "crying and creating," as Chang jokingly calls it, can turn out some pretty cool and useful items. For example, transform his silk tie into a trendy, midcentury-esque sachet; or, turn the sleeve of his favorite cashmere sweater into a doggy-faced coffee-cup koozie. Even if you don't lift a finger to knit, glue or sew, just reading the book will help you feel that anything -- including yourself -- can be rehabbed.
-- Susan Welsh
To Help You Recognize: You're So Not Alone
By Daniel Jones
229 pages; William Morrow
As editor of The New York Times' "Modern Love" column, Daniel Jones has nine years of experience in others' love and loss and, in this engaging summary of his findings, he examines all the different forms our search for happiness with another human being can take. Skip the bits about the lucky few with destruction-proof relationships, and focus on the much more common tales of misunderstanding, wasted effort, downright deception and sheer bad luck -- some of which manage to work out in the end! One of Jones' best insights: "Vulnerability is what love is all about...Only when we open ourselves to the possibility of loss can we allow for the possibility of love."
-- Susan Welsh
To Help You Realize: Believe It Or Not, It Could Have Been Worse
You Should Have Known
By Jean Hanff Korelitz
448 pages; Grand Central Publishing
Reading this engrossing tale of a marital train wreck -- no, make that a marital mushroom cloud -- you may have the same feeling of wanting to step in and do something that occurs when you watch the blonde in a horror movie decide to go check out that awful noise in the attic. For a Manhattan couples therapist with a Harvard degree and years of experience diagnosing faults in others' relationships, Grace Reinhart Sachs is the last to figure out that not only is her husband leaving her, but maybe, just maybe, he is connected to a gruesome murder in her son's rarefied school community. It can't help but occur to any reader who's been through a garden-variety, albeit anguishing breakup that at least the parting of ways didn't spawn a homicide investigation. And since this is more of a psychological novel than a procedural thriller, Korelitz offers plenty to ponder about the way the ending of any partnership can set you willy-nilly on new roads both terrible and, truly, all for the best.
-- Susan Welsh
To Help You Figure Out: How To Get From Rage to Forgiveness
This Is How You Lose Her
By Junot Diaz
224 pages; Riverhead
In these fast-moving, lingo-laden stories, many of which chronicle the life of a whip-smart Dominican-American writer called Yunior, Junot Díaz explores every permutation of romantic crisis imaginable. Adding to the complexity are the ties between characters trying to make it in the States and their loved ones (or dumped ones) back in the Dominican Republic. The teenage Yunior, after a poignant, doomed affair with a middle-age teacher, grows up as macho as his missing father, juggling women -- only to lose out on real love (how he describes the hit: "Like someone flew a plane into your soul. Like someone flew two planes into your soul.") Díaz pulls off the miracle of making you feel for a jerk. Will it make you forgive a real-life one? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's worth the 224 pages of effort.
-- Susan Welsh
To Help You See: The Next Love Is Coming
Under the Wide and Starry Sky
By Nancy Horan
496 pages; Ballantine Books
In this novel, based on real events, eccentric, single-minded Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a mother with three children, heads to Europe to escape her cheating husband. In a resort town, she picks up a young beau who turns out to be future famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. Thus begins Fanny's new life as the wife of a Bohemian British writer, with whom she explores the South Pacific (among other adventures). Though her new relationship isn't all smooth sailing, the story proves that whether in the 1830s or the early 2000s, American lives, at least American women's lives, do have exhilarating second acts.
-- Amy Shearn and Susan Welsh
To Help You Appreciate: You're (Finally!) Free
By Sharon Olds
112 pages; Knopf
Sooner or later, it may happen to all of us: The guy we love just... well... leaves. After her marriage of 26 years fell apart, Olds wrote a book of poems that reads like a novel, one in which she learns to revel in the freedom of letting go and moving on, with courage, grace and joy. Yet another reason to read: Stag's Leap won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
-- Leigh Newman