Often after losing a loved one, we find ourselves searching for that person both in our memories and in our physical spaces. It’s understandably difficult to move forward. In many ways, grief is a journey, and like all journeys, no two look exactly the same. Gathered here are stories of characters who must move through grief. Some of the paths they travel are internal, and others will take these characters to new parts of the world. No matter where they go, their searches for answers about the one they lost will lead them to discover a thing or two about themselves along the way.

 What We Lose
by Zinzi Clemmons

Raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother, Thandi has always felt torn between two different worlds — one black and one white, one American and one African — and yet, she never felt like she belonged in either one of them. When she loses her mother to cancer, she struggles to find her footing in a world without the woman who shaped her entire life. Suddenly, grief colors everything she experiences, but Thandi must learn to live and love in this new reality. Told through a series of vignettes, Clemmons navigates topics such as race, illness, death, romance, divorce and motherhood.

Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, NPR and countless other publications, this novel grapples with identity after the anchor to which it is tethered disappears. “A stunning work about growing up, losing your parents, and being an outsider,” writes Glamour. “Perfect for fans of tangled immigrant stories like Americanah.”

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 The Astonishing Color of After
by Emily X.R. Pan

On the same day she kisses her longtime best friend and secret crush, 15-year-old artist Leigh Chen Sanders receives the devastating news of her mother’s suicide. Suddenly, the joyful memory of growing closer to the one person with whom she had so much in common is tangled up in the grief of losing a parent. When a red bird appears, Leigh becomes convinced it’s her mother, beckoning her to travel to Taiwan. With her judgmental Irish-American father in tow, she arrives in Taipei ready to meet the grandparents from whom her mother was estranged, hoping they can provide answers about the woman who gave Leigh life but took her own.

As she gets closer to her family and learns their history, she uncovers long-concealed secrets that shed light on the harsh reality of her mother’s decision. Though the journey to finding herself is marked by tragedy, there’s hope waiting for her on the other side. Bestselling author John Green calls it a “brilliantly crafted, harrowing first novel [that] portrays the vast spectrum of love and grief with heart-wrenching beauty and candor.”

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 I Can Still Hear You
by Nicole Black

30-year-old Scarlett O’Conner’s life is a mess. After the death of her father, she’s not only grieving but, having left her dead-end job to care for her ailing parent, she’s also unemployed and broke. Who, in her situation, wouldn’t want to run off on a literal treasure hunt? A brief escape from her pain paired with a potentially huge payday seems to be just what she needs right now. So, armed with a cryptic map and a mysterious letter left by her father, she leaves Santa Monica behind and heads for Maui.

Tagging along on this adventure are her consistently unsupportive fiancé, Kevin, whose sudden interest in playing the doting lover may have more to do with gemstones than generosity; her childhood friend, Mark, who, understandably, doesn’t like Kevin; and her father’s estranged friend, Dave. The memories of her father and the wisdom he shared with her over the years guide Scarlett as she attempts to solve the mystery and, most importantly, face her fears before she leaves the island. Perhaps, this journey to unearth buried treasure will uncover her own inner strength and help her take back control of her life. Winner of the Bronze Independent Publisher Award, Black’s novel is a powerful story of grief, hope and personal discovery.

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 The Lost and Found Bookshop
by Susan Wiggs

After the sudden and tragic death of her mother, successful wine sales executive Natalie must leave beautiful Sonoma and return to San Francisco when she inherits her mother’s bookshop, enormous debts and the care of her ailing grandfather. Her plans to sell the business, move her grandfather and go back to her stable career in sales come to a screeching halt when dear old Grandy refuses to sell his shares. So, Natalie must commit to keeping the business afloat in an age where everyone shops online, in a city that’s far too expensive and in a building with an endless list of needed repairs.

As she sorts through the chaotic mess her mother left behind, she can’t help but wonder how her mother, as financially underwater as she was, could manage to be so happy. The more time Natalie spends in the charming bookshop, the more she realizes that the stability she’d been chasing all these years could never grant her the kind of happiness her mother seemed to have achieved while struggling to share her passion with the world. With help from a few new friends who seem to understand the unique magic the bookshop, she may just unlock the life she’s always desired. (Read our review here.)

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 Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo

Eagerly anticipating her father’s annual summer visit to the Dominican Republic, Camino Rios arrives at the airport ready to welcome him. Instead, she’s met by a mass of people in tears. At the same time in New York, the high school principal summons Yahaira Rios to the administrative office where her mother delivers the devastating news: her father has died in a plane crash. In an instant, the lives of two young women are forever changed — first by unimaginable tragedy and then by a shocking revelation. Camino and Yahaira are sisters, separated their entire lives by thousands of miles and their father’s secrets.

From Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X, this 2020 Goodreads Choice Award-Winning novel-in-verse is a poignant story of grief and forgiveness as two sisters, who have each lost the most important person to them, find each other in the wreckage.

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 Beach Read
by Emily Henry

Romance author January Andrews has lost all faith in “Happily Ever After.” The unexpected loss of her father was bad enough, but when his secret affair comes to light after his passing, she’s absolutely crushed. Her parents’ perfect relationship — the relationship she’s idolized and tried to emulate her entire life — has been a lie. Then, her boyfriend of seven years breaks up with her, and if January wasn’t convinced already that happy endings are fictional, she certainly is now.

It isn’t just her belief in “Happily Ever After” that’s been compromised; her career is in jeopardy as well. January’s broke and if she can’t produce another novel soon, she’ll have to move back in with her mother. So, she sequesters herself to the house off Lake Michigan that she inherited from her father, figuring she can crank out a halfway decent manuscript while preparing to put the place on the market. Her plans are complicated, however, by the presence of her brooding neighbor/former college rival, Augustus Everett. But maybe, a friendly wager between writers and confronting her father’s infidelity will help January finally write the kind of ending she’s been looking for. (Read our review here.)

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