Every year thousands of our readers vote for their favorite books of the year in the She Reads Awards. Find out more about the books that were nominated and see which book was voted the Best Contemporary Fiction of 2022.
The winner of the Best Contemporary Fiction of 2022 is . . .
Wahala by Nikki May
Best friends Ronke, Boo, and Simi, are living very different lives. Ronke is in search of a romantic happily ever after and a family; Boo, despite having a beautiful family, is frustrated and unfulfilled; Simi’s imposter syndrome is affecting her job and her marriage. When a captivating woman named Isobel enters the group, she brings out the best in Ronke, Boo, and Simi, and things start looking up for all three women. At first. But it’s not long before Isobel’s intervention wreaks havoc, and the girls’ friendship begins to crumble
The nominees for Best Contemporary Fiction of 2022 are:
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
When Eleanor Bennett passes away, she leaves a confusing and mysterious inheritance for the two children she leaves behind, Bryon and Benny. Along with a voice recording, Eleanor leaves a black cake that’s made from a family recipe which contains a long history. In the voice recording, Eleanor details a heartbreaking story about a young swimmer who flees her home island after being accused of murder. Eleanor reveals long-hidden secrets, including ones about a long-lost child. Byron and Benny’s beliefs of their family, their lineage, and themselves are challenged by their mother’s revelations. Will the estranged siblings be able to piece their once-close relationship back together, discover the truth about their mother’s history, and carry out her last request for them to “share the black cake when the time is right”? This evocative novel depicts a journey of a family forever changed by the actions and decisions of its matriarch.
Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen
Ava Wong is a Chinese American lawyer who always plays by the rules and seems to have a perfect life. But underneath, Ava struggles to find meaning and to fight the boredom of new motherhood. When an old friend from college, Winnie, makes a reappearance in Ava’s life, she’s surprised to see how much Winnie has changed. Winnie is superbly wealthy and she shares that she has been running a counterfeit scheme importing replicas of luxury purses. When Ava risks everything to join Winnie’s scheme, she experiences unbelievable success—until it all comes crashing down, and Ava is left holding the bag while Winnie quickly disappears.
Iona Iverson‘s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
Magazine advice columnist Iona Iverson travels the same ten stops by train everyday to get to work. She sees the same faces every morning, but knows them only by nickname: Impossibly-Pretty-Bookworm, Terribly-Lonely-Teenager… The commuters never speak to one another. Until one morning, a man chokes on a grape and is saved by a nurse who gives him the Heimlich maneuver. This event causes ripples the lives of the commuters as they experience the beauty of connecting with strangers and begin to better understand themselves, and the world around them.
Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean
Mika Suzuki is thirty-five years old and a disappointment to her traditional Japanese parents. Her last relationship imploded, her roommate might be a hoarder, and she was just fired from yet another dead-end job. But then Mika receives a phone call from the daughter she placed for adoption sixteen years ago. Determined to make Penny proud and forge a relationship with her, Mika begins to embellish facts about her life until Penny is convinced her mother is a mature, successful, and put-together woman. Mika also begins to develop feelings for Penny’s adoptive father, Thomas Calvin, with whom she forms a friendship, and eventually something more. Can Mika have it all? Or will her lies eventually catch up to her and destroy the relationships she’s worked so hard to build?
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo is a popular congressman representing the gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga, his sister, is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. Their lives are alluringly public, but it isn’t until Olga meets Matteo that she must face the long-held secrets of her family. Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord-turned-radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives. Set in 2017, painted across New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, this story confronts political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream, all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
The next great love story is here, and it’s between a mother and a daughter. When Carol dies, she leaves her daughter, Katy, reeling. As if losing her mother wasn’t enough, the trip they had both planned to Positano hangs in the balance. It was the place that Carol had spent a summer right before meeting Katy’s dad, and she has dreamed of going her whole life – but, she never wanted to go alone. But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. More than that, she actually can see Carol, in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and only thirty years old. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman who stands before her. However, she is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.
The Beach Trap by Ali Brady
When Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill meet at twelve years old, they quickly become best friends. But after discovering they’re actually half-sisters and share the same father, their friendship falls apart. Fifteen years later, when their father passes away, Kat and Blake find out that he’s left them the family beach house in Florida. The two sisters grapple with what they should do with the inheritance: Blake wants to sell it, but Kat is determined to hold on to her childhood memories. As the weeks pass, the house undergoes renovations, summer romances blossom, and the girls must learn how to accept their shared past – and how to become sisters.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
When Emma is diagnosed with a serious illness, her husband, an obituary writer, handles his grief in the best way he knows how –writing the story of Emma’s life. Yet Emma has never been honest with her husband about her past. In fact, she’s fabricated a persona and a past that is almost entirely fictitious. Her real name isn’t even “Emma”. As her husband begins to uncover the truth about her past, he realizes that the woman he loves doesn’t exist. Now, Emma must try to somehow convince Leo that she really is the woman he believed her to be. To do this, she’ll have to finally reveal everything about the past she’s been hiding, including telling him about the other love of her life.
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
After the sudden death of her mother, musician Greta James breaks down on stage. Months later, her career is still in jeopardy, and heartbroken Greta agrees to accompany her father Conrad on the Alaskan cruise he planned to take with his wife. Also on board is Ben Wilder, a historian who is facing his own battles. As Greta tries to rediscover herself and Ben attempts to accept his uncertain future, the two are drawn to one another. Surrounded by Alaska’s beauty, Greta begins to face the choices she’s made and the heartbreak she’s experienced, and forges a path forward that will help her find her voice once more.
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
‘Twas the night before Alice’s 40th birthday, and she doesn’t really have anything to complain about. She enjoys her job, even if it wasn’t exactly what she expected. She likes her apartment, her relationship status, her independence, and she loves her best friend. The only thing seemingly amiss is her ailing father. Yet, when she awakens on the day of her birthday, she finds herself in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. You’d think it would be the new—well, old—adolescent body that shocks her, but it doesn’t. The only thing that shocks her is her dad, the vital, charming 40-something version of her father. Now able to take on a new perspective of not only herself, but him, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
Yinka’s friends and family all have their own opinions about her love life. Her aunties pray that she meets someone soon, her work friends think she’s far too traditional, and her girlfriends are urging her to get over her ex already. Yinka knows that true love is not something you can force, but when her cousin gets engaged, Yinka is determined to find the perfect date for the wedding. Equipped with friends, spreadsheets, and one foot in two cultures, Yinka begins the search for a potential husband, but instead discovers more about herself than she ever realized.