Renee Montagne

It's the summer of 2008, and Andrei Kaplan doesn't have a whole lot going for him in New York. Money's tight, his girlfriend dumped him, and, at 33, his academic career has stalled. So, at the urging of his brother, he returns to Russia, where he was born, to take care of his aging grandmother, Baba Seva.

Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant.

"I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime," she says with a laugh.

Journalist Rania Abouzeid has had a front-row view of the conflict in Syria from the very beginning.

"I witnessed what was one of the first demonstrations in Damascus in late February 2011, and I was trying to figure out what it all meant and what was happening," she says.

Abouzeid's new book No Turning Back: Life, Loss, And Hope In Wartime Syria traces the stories of four Syrians from those small protests through a bloody war that still has no end in sight.

The Night Diary is novel set at a pivotal — and bloody — moment in history, and told in the voice of a 12-year-old girl. Nisha takes us on her personal journey as part of the mass exodus of millions of Hindus and Muslims across the border between India and newly established Pakistan, a turbulent time known as Partition.

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It seems every mother has a tale of discovering she was pregnant. Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State, and she'd be the first to say her reaction may not be what you'd expect.

Arguably the most successful musical theater composer ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber looks back on his early days in the business in the new memoir, Unmasked.

The opioid epidemic has hit Huntington, W.Va., very hard, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average.

Documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon chose Huntington as the setting for her short doc about America's opioid crisis, Heroin(e). It's now nominated for an Oscar.

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On a melancholy Saturday this past February, Shalon Irving's "village" — the friends and family she had assembled to support her as a single mother — gathered at a funeral home in a prosperous black neighborhood in southwest Atlanta to say goodbye.

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When Sandra Daugherty's father died unexpectedly at 73, there was no plan. The only thing the family knew was what Grady Ross Daugherty didn't want.

"He was really freaked out about cement liners," said Sandra. "Like this Tupperware container that you get placed in, in the ground. He hated the idea of that. But other than that no wishes. He would say just surprise me. With a twinkle in his eye."

She decided not to choose a standard funeral.

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(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

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