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A New Normal: 5 Books Depicting a Changed World

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 08, 2020

When will things go back to normal?

This is a question that many of us are hearing (and saying) again and again. But the truth is that things will likely never again be the same as they were before this pandemic. Global social distancing measures have forced us to make extreme lifestyle changes. As many areas ease back into the rhythms of modern life, we will likely discover a different world. Here are five novels, in which characters are adjusting to big changes.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This one may sound just a little too familiar! This gorgeous, transporting novel tells the story of a young Russian aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest in an attic room of a grand Moscow Hotel in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Count Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, must suddenly adjust to a sequestered life, while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold just outside the hotel's doors.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Recalling cult favorites like The Handmaid's Tale, this chilling dystopian tale depicts a future in which evolution seems to be reversing itself. As newborns begin to emerge in the form of a more primitive species, expectant mothers are being rounded up and held in detention centers. Meanwhile, Cedar, a young, pregnant Native American woman, evades capture as she embarks on a journey to track her own heritage and protect her unborn child.

A. D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

This bestselling graphic nonfiction masterpiece depicts seven extraordinary true stories of survival in the days leading up to and following Hurricane Katrina. Each individual possesses a compelling connection with the singular city. And each is forced to confront the same wrenching decision—whether to stay or to flee. As beautiful as it is poignant, A.D. presents a city in chaos and shines a profoundly human light on the tragedies and triumphs that took place within it.

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

This passionate, elegant, deeply engrossing novel visits a day in the life of Rasa, a young gay man in an unnamed Arab country, as he grapples with political and personal upheaval. With flashbacks recalling his time as a young Arab immigrant in a post-9/11 United States, the story explores the dangers and possibilities of abrupt social change.

Women Talking by Miriam Toewes

Based on a true story, this book takes deep dive into a strange, secretive world. In 2009, the women and girls of a cloistered Mennonite community learned that some of their brethren had been routinely drugging and assaulting them in the night. As they struggle with the anger and sadness of this knowledge, they hold secret meetings to discuss the life-altering decision they must make. Will they stay and fight or will they set out for an unknown future in a world they have never experienced?

Change is hard!

Although it is an inevitable aspect of life, an uncertain future rarely feels comfortable. Many of us find comfort in the illusory belief that we know what is coming. As we venture out into a society that has undergone massive changes, we can look to literature for some guidance on how to handle our emotions. From the practice of gratitude to a reliance on faith to the adoption of new identities, these characters show us how to find peace in a tumultuous world.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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