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New beginnings: Five novels of reinvention

Many people use the new year as an opportunity to change something in their life that they aren’t happy with. If you aren’t sure what you might want to change — or if you’d rather reading about someone else’s self-improvement than do it yourself — these five novels are not only fun to read, but they contain characters who change their lives in inspiring ways.

A Good American by Alex GeorgeA Good American
Alex George

Is there any start as fresh as one in a new country? When Jette ends up pregnant by Frederick — a man of whom her mother does not approve — the two of them decide to begin a new life in early 20th century America. As German immigrants settling in Missouri, Jette, Frederick and their family have much to adapt to in their new country. Before long, they are established and accepted by their neighbors. As their children and grandchildren grow up over the course of the 20th century with all its attendant changes, however, they are forced to reinvent themselves with each new generation.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah PekkanenThe Opposite of Me
Sarah Pekkanen

Lindsey is an advertising star, sure she’s on her way to becoming the youngest VP of advertising in her company’s history. But then she makes a stupid, out-of-character mistake, and suddenly her career is going down the tubes. So now, Lindsey is back at home and in the shadow of gorgeous and successful twin sister Alex. Starting over isn’t something that Lindsey ever expected to have to do, but now she needs something new and meaningful in her life if she is ever to move on — and if she is ever to feel equal to her sister. As Lindsey learns, though, sometimes the things that seem to be the biggest tragedies actually give you the best opportunities.

laura lamont's life in picturesLaura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
Emma Straub

As a child, Elsa loved her father’s theater and the actors who populated it every summer. A family tragedy when Elsa is 9 changes all of that, and by the time she hits her late teens, she is ready to take off and leaves Door County, Wisconsin, for Hollywood, California. In Hollywood, Elsa undergoes a fairly substantial reinvention. At the suggestion of a producer, she dyes her blond hair brown and changes her name from Elsa Emerson to Laura Lamont. This tale of Laura’s adventures is vastly more than just a vivid look at old Hollywood; Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is a novel about identity and the creation of a new life.

The Next Best ThingThe Next Best Thing
Jennifer Weiner

Sometimes new beginnings take a while. Ruth Sanders left Massachusetts at 23 to move to Hollywood and try to make it as a screenwriter. Now, six years later, she is finally getting her big chance when her sitcom, The Next Best Thing, gets picked up. Success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, though, as actors create problems and the studio bastardizes Ruth’s original script. Weiner writes with confidence about the opportunities and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, likely thanks in no small part to her own experiences as co-creator and executive producer of the ABC Family sitcom State of Georgia.

Mistress of My FateMistress of My Fate
Hallie Rubenhold

Henrietta Lightfoot was abandoned as a baby but had the luck to be raised with her cousins in a noble household. A love affair, though, causes Henrietta to leave everything that she has ever known. Now Henrietta is creating a new life for herself in Regency London, a life as a gambler, a courtesan and a woman at the intellectual heart of the city.

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