Recommended novel: Fallen Land, by Patrick Flanery

Click to buy.This deftly subdued thriller charts the dovetailing lives of five members of three tormented families living in a corner of a subdivided farm.

An old widow squats in the farmhouse where she was born, grieving as her ancestral land is carved up, torn up and developed around her. The new neighborhood is left partly built when the developer goes bust, losing his wife, kids, home and sanity along the way.

When a family moves in next door to the widow — into the model home where the developer intended to house his own family, replete with a secret bunker and passageways — only the youngest among the new tenants knows a terrifying secret: In this house, they are not alone.

This is a remarkable story — not just for its riveting plot and creative storytelling, but for the deep connections that Patrick Flanery explores between Americans and the places they call home.

This might never be marketed as an environmental novel, but the story drips with a cynical exposé of the desecration of urban planning by failures of modern democracy.

— John Upton