Author Spotlight: J. Courtney Sullivan

Every year I read dozens of debut novels by writers coming into their own and making their mark. I also happily devour the newest offerings from the established authors I follow. However, it is an infrequent and exciting occurrence when I read a new novel written by an author who has an entire backlist of books I have yet to explore! This happened recently with one of my new (to me) favorite writers: J. Courtney Sullivan.

Sullivan’s new book, Saints for All Occasions, seemed like a perfect fit for me: big, Irish-Catholic family, secrets, sisters, and heartbreak. I started reading and by page 15 I was wondering how I had been missing out on this wonderful writer for the past 8 years! After devouring the next 350 pages, I checked out two of Sullivan’s earlier novels: Maine (my absolute favorite) and Commencement (her fantastic debut). I’m saving The Engagements for a rainy day.


Don’t miss out on this author! Come to OWL and check out any (or all) of her 4 books today.

You’re welcome. 😉

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar


A story that “vividly captures how the bonds of womanhood are pitted against the divisions of class and culture.” Sera Dubash is an upper-middle-class housewife who devotes herself to caring for her pregnant daughter and son-in-law. Bhima has worked as a domestic servant for the Dubash family for over twenty years, pinning her hopes to escape the slums on her granddaughter Maya, a university student. But when Maya becomes pregnant and will not reveal who the father is, all of Bhima’s planning and hope for her family’s future may be lost forever.

For more books set in/about Bombay/Mumbai, check these out:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (nonfiction)

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg


“Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women–of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth–who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present–for Evelyn and for us–will never be quite the same again…” (This fabulous and thorough synopsis was taken from the publisher.)

I love this book. It’s set in the South. It’s domestic fiction. And it’s about friendship & family. Three of my favorite criteria for a novel–and one of many reasons I’m convinced I was Southern in a past life.

For more novels featuring sassy Southern belles, check these out:


Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews

Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells


The Red Tent by Anita Diamant


The Red Tent tells the story of the tribe of Jacob from the perspective of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. Through Dinah we learn about Jacob’s four wives: Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah and by extension the lives of women in biblical society. A fascinating, and beautifully written novel that retells the well known chapters of Genesis in a completely new way.

For other books based on biblical stories, check these out:

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

The Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer