The best novels about the families we have and the families we make

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a book publicist of roughly twenty years, a writer, and a reader. My award-winning short story collection, To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts (Fomite Press, 2017), deals with family, reconciliation, loss, and hope. My first novel, Geographies of the Heart (Fomite Press) was released in January 2022. It’s about the importance of forgiveness, the power of legacies, and the fertile but fragile terrain that is family, the first geography to shape our hearts. I am surrounded by books, live and breathe books, work with books. Lucky me!

I wrote...

Geographies of the Heart

By Caitlin Hamilton Summie,

Book cover of Geographies of the Heart

What is my book about?

In Geographies of the Heart, Sarah Macmillan is devoted to her multi-generational family, but her younger sister, Glennie, is dedicated to her career. As they age and face loss and other challenges, they’re forced to confront their differing priorities, sometimes with Sarah’s husband, Al, serving as mediator. This is a novel about the power of legacies, the importance of forgiveness, and the fertile but fragile ground that is family, the first geography to shape our hearts. Southern Literary Review said, “This novel of four generations is rich in nuance and its warmth and generosity leave a lasting impression."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Safe from the Sea

Caitlin Hamilton Summie Why did I love this book?

This is a novel about loss, family, and reconciliation, and it moved me deeply. It’s set in Minnesota, where I spent about half my childhood, and it deals with personal and family histories, which I find quite compelling. In the novel, Noah’s father, Olaf Torr, lives under the weight of survivor’s guilt. Years earlier, thirty men went out on the ore boat, the Ragnorak, and only three returned. One was Olaf. As the novel begins, Olaf is dying, and he contacts Noah, from whom he’s estranged. But Noah still hasn’t forgiven Olaf for his alcoholism. Also, Noah and his wife, Natalie, are struggling with infertility issues. But Noah and Natalie come to see Olaf, who starts telling Noah what happened on that boat. 

By Peter Geye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Safe from the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota, Safe from the Sea is a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other. Meanwhile, Noah's own struggle to make a life with an absent father…

Book cover of Byrd

Caitlin Hamilton Summie Why did I love this book?

Spare and poetic, this beautiful debut novel explores teenage pregnancy, adoption, and secrets. Addie Lockwood knows Roland Rhodes during high school. They live in a small Southern town and develop a friendship over an appreciation of blues music. But later, in their thirties, when they reconnect in California, Addie falls in love with Roland. When she later realizes she’s pregnant, she makes a critical and heartbreaking decision: she doesn’t tell Roland about the baby, whom she names Byrd, and she gives the child up for adoption. But Addie never stops thinking about Byrd, wondering, hoping one day he will fly back her way. This novel is gorgeously written and what an ending.

By Kim Church,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Byrd as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chautauqua Prize Finalist, 2015
Crook's Corner Book Prize for Best Debut Novel Set in the American South, 2015
Independent Publisher Book Award, Bronze Medal for Literary Fiction, 2015
Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Long List, 2014
SIBA Book Award Long List, 2015
Balcones Fiction Prize Finalist, 2015

Addie Lockwood believes in books. Roland Rhodes believes in blues guitar. Coming of age in the small-town South of the 1970s, they form a friendship as extraordinary as it is unlikely.

They meet again in their disillusioned thirties, this time in California, where Roland's music career has landed him. Venice Beach is exotic, a…

Book cover of Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love

Caitlin Hamilton Summie Why did I love this book?

This is a slim, poignant, epistolary novel about two women friends, Jane, who is 27, and Imogen, who is 59. It starts in the 1960s because Jane sends a fan letter to Imogen about her columns on island life outside Seattle. But it turns in to a correspondence largely about food and recipes but then also culture, family and marriage, racism and change, trust and hope. This sweet novel explores more than what foods sustain us, but also what kinds of relationships. Love & Saffron includes sad moments, but the novel lives in a place of hope and acceptance, of connections, and of creating family on our own terms. I so enjoyed it. I gave it to my mom to read, and she enjoyed it, too.

By Kim Fay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Love & Saffron as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Instant National Bestseller and #1 Indie Next Pick

In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter--as well as a gift of saffron--to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for…

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Caitlin Hamilton Summie Why did I love this book?

Oh, I know this novel has likely appeared on countless lists, but I loved it. Grumpy, lonely, widowed Ove lives a rigid and structured life. He acts like an old man but is only 59. He has little tolerance for people and is annoyed when new neighbors move in and upset his carefully ordered world and its carefully ordered rhythms. What I loved about this novel was how Ove allowed his heart to grow, sort of like the Grinch, to accommodate new people in his life, to create a new family.

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked A Man Called Ove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



There is something about Ove.

At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find…

Book cover of Missing, Presumed

Caitlin Hamilton Summie Why did I love this book?

The mysteries that I most enjoy are those with strong character development. In Missing, Presumed, Susie Steiner gives us the character of Manon, a British detective who longs for romance and companionship, perhaps because her family relationships are weak. She doesn’t care for her stepmother, her mother passed when she was a child, and she and her sister no longer speak. Against the backdrop of a fantastic puzzle of a mystery, readers get to see Manon reach for more personal happiness, creating a new family on her own terms and in a deeply touching way.

By Susie Steiner,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Missing, Presumed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'Hits the sweet spot between literary and crime fiction - Gripping' ERIN KELLY

'For those who love their crime fiction rich in psychology, beautifully written and laced with dark humour. Dive in' LUCIE WHITEHOUSE

Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date - the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman - door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor.…

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Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

Book cover of Saving Raine

Marian L Thomas

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Saving Raine is a captivating tale of resilience, redemption, and the enduring power of love, penned by the acclaimed author Marian L. Thomas.

This contemporary fiction novel chronicles the compelling journey of Raine Reynolds as she confronts heartache, betrayal, and loss. Against the vibrant backdrops of Atlanta and Paris, Raine's story unfolds as she grapples with the aftermath of her husband's infidelity and tragic passing.

Through poignant prose and compelling characters, "Saving Raine" delves into themes of forgiveness, healing, and the strength discovered in confronting life's greatest challenges. Readers will be captivated by Raine's emotional odyssey as she unearths hope, redemption, and the courage to embrace a brighter future.

Saving Raine

By Marian L Thomas,

What is this book about?

Raine Reynolds stands at the crossroads of despair and opportunity.
When the life you've built crumbles and the past refuses to release its grip, sometimes you need a fresh start-a new beginning that promises hope and redemption.
Once a celebrated author, Raine's life unraveled, sending her fleeing to the picturesque streets of Paris to escape the tormenting heartache that threatened to consume her. Yet, no matter how far she traveled, the pain remained her unwelcome companion.
Returning to bustling Atlanta as a senior VP for an ad agency, Raine is forced to confront a city steeped in…

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