Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jonathan Lee, Joshua Henkin, Keenan Norris, and more—that are publishing this week.
The Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Great Mistake: “Lee (High Dive) dissects the life and murder of Andrew Haswell Green, one of New York City’s preeminent city fathers and adversary of the corrupt Boss Tweed, in this ambitious outing. In November 1903, at the age of 83, Green—a onetime comptroller and architect of Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Bridge—steps outside his Park Avenue home and is shot dead by a man in a bowler hat in broad daylight. To uncover the motive, Lee moves backward and forward in time. The detective assigned to the case probes the entanglements of wicked and wealthy bawd Bessie Davis and unstable gunman Cornelius Williams, who seems to have acted on private struggles. In chapters devoted to Green’s past, the reader learns of his father’s failing Massachusetts farm, his apprenticeship in Trinidad, and close friendship with New York governor and future presidential candidate Samuel Tilden, whose rise prefigures Green’s own pursuit to become ‘an elegant man.’ Lee’s two-tiered structure falters slightly under the weight of Green’s copious resume, but he sustains a captivating strangeness in his depiction of the period, such as the practice of hunting stray dogs on city streets for a bounty. By and by, a dynamic all-American character emerges, making for an audacious historical.”
Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Morningside Heights: “Henkin (The World Without You) brilliantly conveys the complexities of a New York City family in this humane, compulsively readable tale. In 2006, Shakespeare scholar Spence Robin, 57, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and his wife, Pru Steiner, is forced to return his book advance. Their daughter, Sarah, a med student, arrives from Los Angeles on a delayed flight, and Pru wryly reassures Sarah not to worry (‘It’ll be good practice for when you’re a doctor. You’ll be keeping people waiting for the rest of your life’). The focus then turns to Arlo Zackheim, Spence’s son from his first marriage, whose vagabond, self-centered mother left him with an emptiness he finds hard to fill. At 15, Arlo came to live with Spence for two years, and the marked contrast between his past and living with an erudite, structured father; a kind stepmother; and a bright younger sister is drawn with humor and insight. Henkin reaches further back to describe how Pru escaped her Orthodox Jewish family in Ohio and landed in grad school at Columbia University in 1976, and shows how Spence was a wunderkind in Columbia’s English department, making the tragedy of his illness particularly poignant. Equally well handled is Pru’s transformation from wife and lover to caretaker—wrenching changes that Henkin conveys without dissolving into sentimentality or cliché, but rather leaving readers with a kernel of hope. This is a stunning achievement.”
The Confession of Copeland Cane by Keenan Norris
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Confession of Copeland Cane: “Norris (Brother and the Dancer) delivers a powerful treatise on the double consciousness of a young Black man in this dystopian look at police oppression and surveillance in the 2030s. Coming of age in East Oakland amid racial terror in the form of televised police brutality and the ‘Ghetto Flu’ (alternately defined as a deadly flu similar to Covid-19 and the myriad challenges faced ‘due to living in the hood’) 18-year-old Cope Cane becomes a fugitive after his role in a protest that turned violent. Beloved by his swap meet queen mother and unemployed father, Cope, who previously landed a private school scholarship, now chronicles his transformation into a societal threat to freshman journalism student Jacqueline. In alternate chapters, Cope and Jacqueline unpack the complexities of miseducation, poverty, and policing, and give a nightmarish view of media-security empire Soclear Broadcasting. Cope’s persuasive and irresistible ‘confession’ to Jacqueline emerges in nonsequential strands, circling around the crime he’s suspected of having committed while outlining the economic, legal, and social disparities faced by a dark-complected person in a politically divided country ravaged by a global pandemic. In Cope, Norris has created a voice that cannot be ignored.”
Also on shelves this week: Last Comes the Raven by Italo Calvino (translated by Ann Goldstein).