Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Sam Lansky, Joyce Carol Oates, and more—that are publishing this week.
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Broken People: “Lansky follows his addiction memoir The Gilded Razor with a riveting novel about an L.A. writer named Sam who recently published a memoir about his drug and alcohol addiction. Sam, 28, and a friend plan to visit a shaman in Portland, Ore., on the strength of a testimonial that the shaman ‘fixes everything wrong with you in three days.’ With humor, verve, and cut-to-the-bone revelations, Lansky takes readers on an enthralling adventure as Sam reckons with his anxiety and discomfort with his body. Over three days in Portland, thanks to the shaman’s perspicacious insight, drumbeating, chanting, and careful administration of ayahuasca, Sam enters a mode of deep self-reflection. Lansky’s mesmerizing descriptions are unflinchingly raw as Sam examines his life choices, his self-obsession, and his mistreatment of men in his life, particularly Charles, his first real love. Lansky also offers a canny snapshot of modern gay life, with the specter of HIV hovering over intimate relationships. While Sam’s whining about his body occasionally grates, the author keeps the reader on his side with an endless supply of wit. Lansky’s tale of self-acceptance offers surprising depth.”
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pizza Girl: “In Frazier’s playful and unflinching debut, a pregnant 18-year-old pizza delivery driver dreams of a new life. The unnamed narrator, overwhelmed by anxiety about her pregnancy and her family, wants out of the house she grew up in, where she lives with her mother and her boyfriend, Billy, in suburban L.A. Enter Jenny Hauser, a 39-year-old stay-at-home mother who orders a large with pepperoni and pickles for her fussy son. From the moment Jenny opens her door, the narrator nurses a dream of escaping with her (‘I wanted to take her hand and invite her to come with me whenever I ran away’). The narrator comes to befriend Jenny and learns she is unhappy in her marriage; thinking of how her dead father abused her mother, she assumes Jenny is abused as well. At home, the narrator turns cold toward Billy and her mother, and embraces her isolation the way her deceased abusive father once did, by turning to alcohol. Her frequent intoxication colors her view of her relationship with Jenny, whom she manages to kiss once and makes a valiant but dangerous and unnecessary effort to rescue. Frazier’s characters are raw and her dialogue startlingly observant (‘The environment can suck a dick—I’m driving my F-150 to work again,’ one regular tells her). This infectious evocation of a young woman’s slackerdom will appeal to fans of Halle Butler and Ottessa Moshfegh, and will make it difficult not to root for the troubled and spirited pizza girl.”
Outside the Lines by Ameera Patel
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Outside the Lines: “Set in contemporary Johannesburg, South Africa, playwright and actor Patel’s exceptional debut is told by five narrators of different races and religions, whose paths cross in unexpected ways. Cathleen Joseph, the sly, drug-addled teenage daughter of a once well-to-do family, enters the terrifying world of addiction; meanwhile, her ineffectual father, Frank, sinks deeper into depression. Flora, the Josephs’ maid, is attracted to handsome, silent housepainter Runyararo, and begins to reexamine the part she has played in the lives of her employers. Runyararo, who recently arrived from Zimbabwe and whose goal is to send money back home to his family, is on the lowest societal rung and an easy target for exploitation. Farhana, who’s the girlfriend of Flora’s son, Zee, and has ‘dimples deep enough to hide secrets,’ must find a way to reconcile her Muslim beliefs with a future made uncertain by her being pregnant with Zee’s child. One lie alters the lives of all of them, leading to a brutal, impulsive act of rage. Patel displays an exceptional ability to plumb the depths of her characters, each of whose points of view throws light on the realities of the other narrators. Rays of hope and gentle overtures to love lift this vibrant novel.”
Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.: “Oates’s quintessential examination of grief (after Pursuit) draws on the closing lines of Walt Whitman’s ‘A Clear Midnight,’ which reverberate and reappear throughout this weighty chronicle of a family’s reckoning with the death of a father and husband. John Earle ‘Whitey’ McClaren, the 67-year-old ‘lynchpin’ of a Hudson, N.Y., family, and longtime mayor of a nearby town, is tased, beaten, and suffers a stroke after he intervenes during an incident of police brutality against Azim Murthy, a stranger to Whitey whom he registers as a ‘dark-skinned young man.’ Oates’s dispassionate description of the scene peels back the layers of fear and assumption that led the police to treat Azim and Whitey so brutally, retelling the events from Azim’s point of view. After Whitey dies, Jessalyn, his 61-year old widow, and their five squabbling children struggle to pick up the pieces. While Jessalyn casts about in semi-coherence—’stumbling through the illogic of a primitive philosopher just discovering quasi-paradoxes of being, existence, nothingness and the (limited) capacity of language to express these’—her children fear she is approaching a nervous breakdown. More concerning to them is the presence of Hugo Martinez, a mustachioed 59-year-old poet and their mother’s new suitor, who recites the Whitman poem during an awkward Thanksgiving dinner, and whom they fear will jeopardize their inheritance even as his presence has a life-affirming affect on their mother. With precise, authoritative prose that reads like an inquest written by a poet (‘death makes of all that is familiar, unfamiliar’), Oates keep the reader engaged throughout the sprawling narrative. This is a significant and admirable entry in the Oates canon.”
Also on shelves: The Clearing by Allison Adair.