The modern world is rife with complexities and confusing paths constantly tangling up before us, a direct result of all the free time and opportunities we have available to us. Though I am definitely not saying the past was a better time, I think it’s reasonable to argue it was much simpler, with life being clearly defined alongside its rules and limitations.
Most importantly, most people knew their lot in life and simply didn’t have the time to wonder about who they really were deep down inside or if they understood themselves. These are very much the problems of a contemporary society, and literature hasn’t failed to notice this.
Contemporary fictions novels are virtually everywhere, each playing its tiny role in helping us gain a better understanding of ourselves as well as the society we live in. More often than not, they show us other people facing the same personal and societal problems many have to endure in real life, and I believe in doing so, they push us to think about our own trials, sometimes from a different perspective.
More often than not, works of contemporary fiction will also borrow from multiple other genres, but keep at the centre of its focus the internal growth of the characters.
Here you’ll find the contemporary fiction novels which I believe not only hold a valuable element (no matter how small it might be) to help us gain a better understanding of the world we live, but also do a good job at keeping the reader engaged and entertained by the story.
“Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyasi – The Fate-Scorched Family
Yaa Gyasi has stunned the world more than once since her recent arrival on the literary scene, and Transcendent Kingdom is her latest effort to draw on her unique life experiences to write a novel.
The story follows Gifty, a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience whose brother passed from a heroin overdose and whose suicidal mother basically lives in her bed. Struggling to find answers in both science and faith, Gifty sees there are no easy paths open to her.
“Normal People” by Sally Rooney – To Save a Soul
Sally Rooney has taken little time in becoming a distinguished figure in the realm of books with her debut novel in 2017, and only a year later she came back with another brilliant story titled Normal People.
To put it simply, it follows two young students as they walk parallel paths over the years and learn the hard way about the complexities of friendship, love, family, and life as a whole in general.
“Jerusalem” by Alan Moore – Holy City of English Decadence
Alan Moore may have established his reputation largely through timeless comic books such as Watchmen, but he has also proven himself to be a novelist with no equal, namely through his 2016 work titled Jerusalem.
In it, we are taken on an exploration of the madness, brilliancy, decay and degeneracy which has seeped over the years into the town of Northampton in the United Kingdom, taking a close look at the lives of its denizens, forgotten to the rest of the world.
“A Terrible Country” by Keith Gessen – Ode to a Home for a Soul
Keith Gessen is in a better position than most to truly ponder on the relation between home and country, having grown up in the United States since the age of six after his family emigrated there from the Soviet Union.
In A Terrible Country, he presents us with a man in his mid-30s by the name of Andrei who went through the exact same path, with a small difference: he chooses to come back to the country he left behind so many years ago.
With few prospects to dream about in the U.S., he hopes to find in Moscow the topic for an article to propel his career… unsuspecting of an infinitely greater prize to his journey: profound insights into the human soul.
“The Resurrection of Joan Ashby” by Cherise Wolas – The Unwanted Kinship
The question whether or not to have children is one that’s becoming more and more prominent in people’s minds, for long gone are the days when we needed to have as many children as possible to put them to work and have someone to take care of us.
There are many who decide against it, and in her debut novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, Cherise Wolas explores just such a woman. Having married a man who shared her desire not to have children, Joan sees her world turned upside down as she becomes unexpectedly pregnant, and against her instincts, decides to keep the child and nevertheless build the family she never really wanted.