The 12-part adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People seems to be a legitimate hit for Hulu. The show and the novel track the lives of two people who, despite, changing lives, are always irresistibly drawn back together.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
In An American Marriage we meet Celestial, a thirtysomething African American woman from an upper-middle-class Atlanta family who is a year and a half into a marriage with a man named Roy. Roy views his much more modest, small-town Louisiana upbringing as a gift of humility, but he’s also driven to make his mark in Atlanta’s high-powered business world. On the sidelines as the novel begins is Andre, a man who was Celestial’s best friend growing up, and who became a close friend to Roy during college. It was Andre who introduced the pair, and it is Andre to whom Celestial turns when Roy is sentenced to twelve years in a Louisiana prison for the rape of a white woman–a crime he did not commit. For years, Celestial sticks by Roy, visiting him, providing him with money, helping the lawyer pursue a reversal of the conviction, but over time her commitment wanes. Celestial questions their tumultuous marriage, begins to find her own way as an artist, and falls in love with Andre. When Roy is suddenly released from prison, his conviction overturned, Celestial, Roy, and Andre must each reexamine the bonds of love and friendship that have held them together, while at the same time searching for a way to move forward individually without sacrificing everything that had made their love possible.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed-or untoyed with-by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley. The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls-until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true-though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place-revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.