Maureen Corrigan

As America's population ages, we're going to be seeing a lot more of these kinds of books: I'm talking about memoirs, written by adult children, about the extreme adventures of caring for and reconnecting with their elderly parents.

I'm about to rave about two audacious works of historical suspense fiction: I say "audacious" because you have to have some nerve to tackle the subject of whaling after Melville, or to structure your story around a painting, after so many other novelists — most recently, Tracy Chevalier and Donna Tartt — have kick-started their own tales with the same device.

In the "Prologue" to her 2012 autobiography, Country Girl, Edna O'Brien tells readers about being tested for deafness a few years ago at a National Health clinic in London where she lives.

O'Brien was told by the technician there that in terms of her hearing, "she's a broken piano." That dismissive phrase haunted O'Brien and, somewhat in defiance, she wrote what turned out to be a spectacular memoir.

"[T]here was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well."

That fairly familiar line, a mere fleeting perception from The Great Gatsby, is the bedrock wisdom of Charles Bock's beautiful and harrowing new novel, Alice & Oliver. Alice is a new mother in her 20s who, one day, out of the blue, coughs up bloody phlegm, collapses and is diagnosed with leukemia.

Helen Oyeyemi is one of literature's weird sisters. She's kin to the uncanny likes of Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and Jeanette Winterson, whose names trail down the back covers of her books like a pagan invocation.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Pages