Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Vaishnavi Patel, Janelle Brown, Lara Williams, and more—that are publishing this week.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kaikeyi: “Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana. As the only girl of eight royal siblings, Kaikeyi grows up knowing her value as a person is determined by her eventual marriage. When her mother is banished, Kaikeyi is forced to take up her duties in the royal court. In between all her new work, she turns to the palace’s scrolls on magic and learns how to enter the Binding Plane, where she can exert a magical influence over others using the invisible strings that connect her to them. Then Kaikeyi is unwillingly married off to the Raja of Kosala, where her lack of friends and allies means the bonds of the Binding Plane operate differently. Still, Kaikeyi earns her place at her husband’s side, wins the love of her subjects, and raises a son, Rama. Throughout her life, Kaikeyi often recalls a story her mother told of a woman who could not avoid the punishment of man, even when the fault of her actions fell upon a god himself—but the tale’s true message is lost on her until it’s too late. Readers familiar with the source text will be wowed by Patel’s reimagining, while those new to the story will be won over by its powerful, multilayered heroine and epic scope. This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.”
I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I’ll Be You: “Bestseller Brown (Pretty Things) infuses this twist-packed mystery with an intense story of creating one’s identity, rife with deep family trauma and a low-key, creepy depiction of the dark side of twin intimacy. Samantha Logan’s dream-worthy stint as a child TV star depended highly on her identical twin Elli’s initially grudging participation, which eventually created deep bonds between them. In adulthood, Sam’s alcohol addiction and Elli’s traditional lifestyle in Santa Barbara, Calif., has left the two women estranged. So when Elli disappears after going to a mysterious spa in Ojai, with her husband having left her and their parents calling Sam in to help with the toddler Elli has recently adopted without informing her family, Sam feels sure that something is profoundly wrong in her sister’s life. Brown seamlessly uses Sam’s retrospection into the twins’ childhood experiences impersonating and protecting each other both as character development and plot device, letting the latter flow naturally while never feeling cheesy. The perfectly paced emotional reveals of the twins’ shared history pull the reader toward fierce investment in Elli’s safety and the sisters’ reconnection. Brown has upped her game with this one.”
Search by Michelle Huneven
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Search: “Huneven frames her bloated latest (following Off Course) as the second edition of restaurant critic and food writer Dana Potowski’s latest book, also titled Search, which documents a Southern California Unitarian Universalist church’s search for a new minister. The search committee is a motley crew of eight, ranging in age from 20-something Jennie Kanematsu-Ross, a feisty former goth girl; to long time member and former church president Belinda Bauer, 82. There’s also 50-something Dana, who joins in order to write the book, sensing an opportunity to describe the meals that take place during the meetings. Along the way, she chronicles her own spiritual development, which involved her enrollment in a seminary two decades earlier. Huneven’s descriptions of the committee’s machinations are engaging, as are the group’s internecine struggles—the younger members favoring showmanship and originality in a minister, while the older set values more traditional qualities. Huneven injects humor and tension, but the endless cataloging of minutiae (meetings, ‘packets,’ surveys, more meetings called ‘cottage groups’) wears thin, and the denouement may leave some cold. Readers will need to be patient and generous to get the most out of the insights buried in this slow-going affair.”
The Odyssey by Lara Williams
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Odyssey: “A young British woman employed on a surreal cruise ship is at the center of Williams’s stylish if cold latest (after Supper Club). The protagonist, Ingrid, is devoted to her work aboard the WA, a gargantuan vessel with a ‘surf simulator, ice-skating rink, outdoor zip line,’ and floating restaurant, helmed by the mysterious Keith, a guru-like figure preoccupied by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Ingrid shuffles through many onboard jobs, from working in a gift shop to the ship’s nail salon, and, in the book’s final third, to lifeguarding (ironic, since she can’t swim). Early on she is inducted into a shadowy inner circle called ‘the program’ in which she meets periodically with Keith to discuss wabi-sabi and recall traumatic memories from her past. Soon, she is promoted to a managerial role, a development that alienates her two closest friends. The prose is generally excellent and occasionally razor-sharp (describing Ingrid’s pre-WA void, ‘The getting never really felt as good as the wanting, but the not-getting felt fucking catastrophic’); unfortunately, the plot is meagre and overly self-conscious. Ingrid belongs to a particular breed of disaffected, Moshfeghian narrator, but here there’s more affect than substance. In the end, this feels eccentric for eccentricity’s sake.”
Also on shelves this week: Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller and When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley.