Mrs. Lincoln: A Life by Catherine Clinton (Harper Collins)Mary Todd Lincoln, one of the most divisive first ladies, endured many tragedies: Only one of her four sons lived past the age of 18; she was sent to a mental asylum at age 57; and although Todd Lincoln outlived her husband by 17 years, she never recovered from his assassination. In this biography, she is finally celebrated for her tenacity and wit.Buy at Amazon.com Black Smoke by Margaret De Wys (Sterling)Composer De Wys was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. Her response? To leave behind her bereft teenage daughter and (eventual ex-) husband of 20 years for a quixotic pilgrimage to South America, where a charming Ecuadorian becomes her lover and healer (she believes he helped rid her of cancer). Although the structure of this memoir is a bit scattered, De Wys’s story inspires.Buy at Amazon.com Disquiet by Julia Leigh (Penguin)The plot of this brooding novella is simple: After escaping a violent marriage, a woman reluctantly returns to her childhood home in France. She is reunited with her mother, whom she hasn’t seen for 12 years, along with her brother and his wife, who are grieving for their stillborn baby. With its stylized dialogue and black humor, Disquiet reads like a gothic play.Buy at Amazon.com Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2008/January 2009.