Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Powers, Alameddine, Ozeki, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Richard Powers, Rabih Alameddine, Ruth Ozeki, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bewilderment: “Pulitzer winner Powers (The Overstory) offers up a marvelous story of experimental neurotherapy and speculations about alien life. Astrophysicist Theo Byrne simulates worlds outside Earth’s solar system as part of lobbying efforts for a new spaceborne telescope. As a single parent in Madison, Wis., his work takes a back seat—his wife, Aly, mother of their nine-year-old, Robin, died two years earlier. Theo shares his fictional descriptions of life on exoplanets with Robin in the form of bedtime stories, and they bond over a Trumpian administration’s hostility to scientific research. Theo allows Robin to protest neglect of endangered species at the state capitol, despite Robin’s volatile behavior. He’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s, OCD, and ADHD, and Theo refuses to give him psychoactive medication (‘Life is something we need to stop correcting,’ goes Theo’s new ‘crackpot theory’). More cutting-edge is the neurofeedback program run by an old friend of Aly’s, who trains Robin to model his emotions from a record saved of Aly’s brain activity. It works, for a while—the tragic, bittersweet plot has some parallels to Flowers for Algernon. The planetary descriptions grow a bit repetitive and don’t gain narrative traction, but in the end, Powers transforms the wrenching story into something sublime. Though it’s not his masterpiece, it shows the work of a master.”

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Wrong End of the Telescope: “A Lebanese doctor travels to the island of Lesbos to help refugees and confront her past in the profound and wonderful latest from Alameddine (The Angel of History), a meditation on loss, resilience, and love. Born in Beirut but long settled in the U.S., Mina Simpson is trans and estranged from every member of her family except her older brother Mazen, who flies to the island to assist her. Soon, their paths cross that of a blocked Lebanese writer. The chapters alternate between Mina’s account of her time on Lesbos, where she treats a Syrian woman named Sumaiya who is dying from liver cancer and pleads with Mina not to tell her family, and second-person narration directed at the writer, who encouraged Mina to write about the refugees because he didn’t feel up to the task (‘You weren’t able to find the right words even after numerous sessions on your psychiatrist’s couch,’ Mina narrates). Confronted by the pain so many refugees describe, Mina recalls the lost world of her own childhood and bonds with Sumaiya over their shared desire to protect their families from the truth. As Mina and her writer-interlocutor are each consumed by the effort to communicate the horror of the refugee experience, Alameddine crafts a wise, deeply moving story that can still locate humor in the pit of hell (Mina, agreeing to let the writer tell her story, jokes, “Whatever you do … don’t fucking call it A Lebanese Lesbian in Lesbos”). This is a triumph.

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When Ghosts Come Home: “The trouble for Sheriff Winston Barnes, the upstanding hero of this leisurely whodunit set in 1984 from bestseller Cash (A Land More Kind than Home), begins when he drives late one night to the tiny Oak Island, N.C., airport, where an airplane has crash landed. On the runway near the plane, which is empty, lies the body of Rodney Bellamy, who’s been shot to death. Rodney went to school with Winston’s estranged daughter, Colleen, and was the son of one of the county’s leading civil rights advocates. An FBI investigation into the mysterious plane, which may have been carrying cocaine, threatens Winston’s image as a capable cop—and his chances in a tough re-election against rich boy Bradley Frye. Racial tensions escalate as Frye’s crew of thugs threaten Rodney’s widow and her 14-year-old brother. Meanwhile, Colleen is in town from Texas to figure out her law career and marriage after the death of her baby. A surfeit of background exposition and multiple tangential story lines slow the momentum of the murder plot. This rich character-driven tale works best as a social portrait of a community and an era.”

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Body Scout: “Michel’s brisk, entertaining debut weaves familiar cyberpunk tropes through a gritty, near-future world of corporate greed and pro baseball. As young boys growing up in the bleak underground warrens of a New York City partly submerged due to climate change, Kobo and his best friend, JJ Zunz, dreamed of playing ball in the big leagues. Kobo washed out of the now-defunct Cyber League and became a talent scout for the pros, though the sport is now controlled by Big Pharma, whose cutting-edge drug blends fuel the top players. Zunz, on the other hand, had the skills and luck to become a star hitter for the Monsanto Mets—until he drops dead on the field during a playoff game. Was it poison or a careless overdose? Kobo’s determined to find the truth, and his investigation plunges him deep into a web of corporate politics, intrigue, and cutthroat shenanigans. The plot moves fast and features well-wrought if expected worldbuilding details, including floating billboards, advanced drug and gene therapies, cybernetic rebuilds, obnoxious and über-wealthy CEOs, and ecological collapse. Readers won’t need to be baseball fans to enjoy this gripping ride.”

Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lean Fall Stand: “McGregor’s stunning latest (after Reservoir 13) explores the aftermath of a traumatic accident. Robert Wright has spent a good deal of his professional life as a technician at Station K in Antarctica with a team of geographic researchers. During a storm, Robert is separated from his crew and suffers a near-fatal injury. McGregor beautifully captures Robert’s ensuing struggle for survival through passages of fragmented stream of consciousness. After Robert’s wife, Anna, is informed he had a stroke, she flies to meet him in Chile, where he has been hospitalized. But the Robert she encounters is a very different man from the one she last saw: among other injuries, his stroke has severely affected the language center of his brain. As the survival story becomes one of recuperation, Anna, an academic who studies the effects of global warming, must care for her disabled spouse, and McGregor portrays the tribulations of speech therapy with as much drama and depth as the depictions of men fighting for their lives on an Antarctic ice floe. Readers will be drawn into Robert and Anna’s heartbreaking struggle, all rendered in McGregor’s crystalline language. This gorgeous work leaves an indelible mark.”

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Book of Form and Emptiness: “Zen Buddhist priest Ozeki’s illuminating postmodern latest (after the meditation memoir The Face: A Time Code) explores themes of mourning, madness, and the powers of the imagination. Benny Oh, a 13-year-old boy, begins hearing voices after his jazz musician father dies in a tragicomic accident involving a truck full of chickens. The voices launch Benny on a quest of self-discovery at the library, where he meets a slovenly poet-philosopher called ‘the Bottleman’ and his stunning, anarchic protégé, ‘the Aleph,’ a young woman obsessed with Borges and the Situationists. The duo cause Benny’s life to become more chaotic and yet more thrilling as they encourage him to embrace his inner madness. Meanwhile, Benny’s mother, Annabelle, whose job for a media-monitoring agency requires her to clip and catalogue print newspaper and magazine articles, and who now works from home, starts hoarding, and the house’s clutter becomes increasingly overwhelming. Sometimes this reads like a simple coming-of-age tale, but Ozeki playfully and successfully breaks the fourth wall—Benny, embarrassed by a passage about him being bullied, says to ‘the Book,’ ‘Can we just skip this, please?’—and she cultivates a striking blend of young adult fiction tropes with complex references to Walter Benjamin, Zen Buddhism, and Marxist philosophy. This is the rare work that will entertain teenagers, literary fiction readers, and academics alike.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Whitehead, Jones, Williams, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Colson Whitehead, Gayl Jones, Joy Williams, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Harlem Shuffle: “Two-time Pulitzer winner Whitehead (The Nickel Boys) returns with a sizzling heist novel set in civil rights–era Harlem. It’s 1959 and Ray Carney has built an ‘unlikely kingdom’ selling used furniture. A husband, a father, and the son of a man who once worked as muscle for a local crime boss, Carney is ‘only slightly bent when it [comes] to being crooked.’ But when his cousin Freddie—whose stolen goods Carney occasionally fences through his furniture store—decides to rob the historic Hotel Theresa, a lethal cast of underworld figures enter Carney’s life, among them the mobster Chink Montague, ‘known for his facility with a straight razor’; WWII veteran Pepper; and the murderous, purple-suited Miami Joe, Whitehead’s answer to No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh. These and other characters force Carney to decide just how bent he wants to be. It’s a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead’s loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone—’that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete’—which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce’s Dublin. Don’t be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award.”

Palmares by Gayl Jones

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Palmares: “Jones (Mosquito) reemerges after a 21-year hiatus with an epic and inventive saga that weaves together magic, mythology, and Portuguese colonial history. Eight-year-old Almeyda is enslaved on a 17th-century Brazilian plantation when her enslaver welcomes a man who seeks the blood of a Black virgin for a cure. While an herbal drink from her mother serves as protection, the price for it comes heavy as the mother is sold and separated from her. Later, as a young woman, Almeyda is rescued and taken to Palmares, a hidden settlement for freedom seekers. There, she is chosen by settlement member Anninho and the two are married. Soon after, Palmares is razed by Portuguese soldiers and its leader, King Zumbi, is killed. While in the soldiers’ custody, Almeyda wakes to find her husband gone. Determined to reunite with him, Almeyda escapes again to journey through Brazil. She hears of a New Palmares and that Zumbi’s spirit may still be alive, perhaps transformed into a bird, and apprentices with a medicine woman who knows Anninho and gives her a lead on his whereabouts. The magical elements are difficult to get an initial purchase on, as they aren’t given much explanation, but Jones brings her established incisiveness and linguistic flair to the horrifyingly accurate portrayal of racial struggle. All in all, it’s a triumphant return.”

The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Spectacular: “Whittall (The Best Kind of People) delivers a clear-eyed portrait of maternal ambivalence in her impressive latest. Missy Wood, 21, is on a mission to have her tubes tied. She’s about to go on tour with her band, the Swearwolves, and doesn’t want to worry about getting pregnant. Though two doctors say she’ll regret the move and refuse to do it, her bandmate Billy had no trouble getting a vasectomy. (‘I told him I was the lead singer in a band. He got it immediately. Isn’t that sexist?’) While Missy is held up in Vancouver by U.S. customs agents for carrying cocaine, she reads a magazine story about an ashram sex scandal that mentions her mother, who left Missy when she was 13 and whom Missy hasn’t been able to locate. Whittall switches points of view between mother and daughter as their paths gradually converge, and adds an extensive and extraneous section from the point of view of Missy’s paternal grandmother, Ruth, on Ruth’s earlier life in Turkey. Whittall is excellent at writing the small, intimate details and sharp dialogue, as well as the mostly propulsive plot, while making no bones about opinions on gender inequities. Whittall is a great storyteller, and her latest does not disappoint.”

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Wrong End of the Telescope: “A Lebanese doctor travels to the island of Lesbos to help refugees and confront her past in the profound and wonderful latest from Alameddine (The Angel of History), a meditation on loss, resilience, and love. Born in Beirut but long settled in the U.S., Mina Simpson is trans and estranged from every member of her family except her older brother Mazen, who flies to the island to assist her. Soon, their paths cross that of a blocked Lebanese writer. The chapters alternate between Mina’s account of her time on Lesbos, where she treats a Syrian woman named Sumaiya who is dying from liver cancer and pleads with Mina not to tell her family, and second-person narration directed at the writer, who encouraged Mina to write about the refugees because he didn’t feel up to the task (‘You weren’t able to find the right words even after numerous sessions on your psychiatrist’s couch,’ Mina narrates). Confronted by the pain so many refugees describe, Mina recalls the lost world of her own childhood and bonds with Sumaiya over their shared desire to protect their families from the truth. As Mina and her writer-interlocutor are each consumed by the effort to communicate the horror of the refugee experience, Alameddine crafts a wise, deeply moving story that can still locate humor in the pit of hell (Mina, agreeing to let the writer tell her story, jokes, ‘Whatever you do … don’t fucking call it A Lebanese Lesbian in Lesbos’). This is a triumph.”

Kaya Days by Carl de Souza (translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kaya Days: “De Souza’s electric English-language debut recounts Mauritius’s 1999 Kaya riots over two days as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Teenager Santee leaves her village to pick up her younger brother Ramesh in the large town of Rose-Hill, not knowing that the singer Kaya has been jailed and found dead in his cell, or that the discovery has sparked riots in town. A case of mistaken identity leads to the owner of a gambling den trying to rape her. She gets away and into the first cab that stops. Halfway through the night, after the driver ditches Santee, she meets Ronaldo moments before a group of young men flip the cab and light it on fire. Santee’s perspective is delivered in a dreamlike rush as she allows chance encounters to pull her along. In the streets, gardens, and gorges of the burning city, Santee continues her search for Ramesh. Encountering Chinese, Creole, Hindu, and Muslim Mauritians, her circuitous trek opens up the otherwise anonymous nature of the mob to find personal stories and uncover human community. De Souza’s unpredictable, propulsive tale is a rip-roaring trip teeming with beauty, anger, possibility, and helplessness.”

Inter State by José Vadi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inter State: “Part love letter, part indictment, this moving debut essay collection from Vadi captures the changing landscape of California. A native Californian, aging skateboarder, and poet, Vadi laments in deeply felt prose California’s transformation. ‘Standing in the Shadows of Brands’ covers the rise in homelessness in the Bay Area as the tech economy reshaped the city’s culture and skyline, while ’14th and Jackson’ describes the diminishing of a ‘decade’s worth of artistic potential’ in Oakland as the city has gentrified. The title essay bears witness to the quickly vanishing landmarks of the California to which his grandparents came as migrants from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl—and sees Vadi heading toward ‘the only local landmark I know, a skate park.’ Things often come back to skateboarding—’but then I remember those visceral, intrinsic moments when the earth beneath our skateboards shook, and we asked one another with our eyes, Did you feel it?’—and many of his references will land best for readers familiar with San Francisco and Los Angeles. But even those who have never stepped foot in California will recognize Vadi’s anguish and frustration in watching the place change. The provocative observations will please essay fans.”

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body: “Milks’s engaging debut novel (after the collection Kill Marguerite) blends the tropes of classic girl fiction like Nancy Drew with a 16-year-old sleuth’s tumultuous exploration of her queer identity. Margaret Worms, president of the Girls Can Solve Anything club, now spends her days alone, operating as the club’s sole remaining member in an attempt to forget her now-fractured friendships and developing anorexia. But when her disorder leads to repeated fainting spells and visits to her doctor, Margaret is shipped off to the Briarwood Residential Treatment Center, where she encounters the magnetic and rebellious Carrie, a roommate and romantic interest; kindhearted doctors; and even a suffragist ghost—all of whom prompt Margaret’s reckoning with her own body, gender identity, and desires. Weaving together flashbacks, pop culture references (GCSA originated as the Shady Bluff Baby-Sitters Club), and accounts of old GCSA cases, Milks’s dynamic, fast-paced novel beams with wonderful insight, even as its various timelines and registers do not always meld into a consonant whole. The book’s exploration of eating disorders, mental illnesses, and healing is superbly nuanced, as Milks carefully dives into the clinic’s various characters’ histories. Throughout, this is emotionally complex and illuminating.”

Assembly by Natasha Brown

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Assembly: “Brown’s provocative and lyrical debut follows a young Black British woman’s navigation of the racism and sexism at her investment banking job while she contends with a breast cancer diagnosis. Brown opens with three third-person vignettes describing an unnamed woman’s sexual harassment from a man she works with, who calls her hair ‘wild’ and her skin ‘exotic,’ then shifts to a first-person account from an unnamed woman, possibly the same one, of why she chose to work for banks. ‘I understood what they were. Ruthless, efficient money-machines with a byproduct of social mobility.’ Her ‘Lean In feminist’ work friend thinks the narrator’s white boyfriend will propose during an upcoming visit to his parents’ estate, but the narrator can tell her would-be mother-in-law hopes it’s a passing fling. Before the trip, she gets the results of a biopsy and tells her boyfriend there’s nothing to worry about. She also reflects ominously on the doctor’s admonishment on her resistance to getting surgery (‘that’s suicide’), and on the notion that a successful Black person can ever ‘transcend’ race. References to bell hooks’s writing on decolonization and Claudia Rankine’s concept of ‘historical selves’ bolster her fierce insights. This is a stunning achievement of compressed narrative and fearless articulation.”

Harrow by Joy Williams

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Harrow: “Pulitzer finalist Williams (The Quick and the Dead) returns with a dystopian saga of environmental cataclysm that is by turns triumphant, damning, and beguiling. Sometime in the near future, Khristen is sent to a boarding school in the desert of the American West by her mother, a woman haunted by the fact that she believes Khristen briefly died as an infant and came back to life. After the school is shut down, Khristen sets off across a decimated landscape only to end up lodging at a remote hotel inhabited by elderly ecoterrorists, visionaries, and would-be assassins, led by their host, Lola. Among these residents, Khristen also meets a strange 10-year-old named Jeffrey, and together they face the environmental ruination and human depravity that mark the new world these characters all inhabit, while still remembering ‘the old dear stories of possibility’ and noting how ‘no one wanted them anymore, but nothing had replaced them.’ Rollicking with language that is at once biblical and casual, this builds like a sermon to a fever pitch. Williams’s well-known themes of social decline and children in danger are polished to a gorgeous luster in this prescient page-turner. The result serves as both an indictment of current culture and a blazing escape from it.”

Also on shelves this week: Other Girls to Burn by Caroline Crew.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Rooney, Tóibín, Groff, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Sally Rooney, Colm Tóibín, Lauren Groff, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Beautiful World, Where Are You: “Rooney (Normal People) continues her exploration of class, sex, and mental health with a cool, captivating story about a successful Irish writer, her friend, and their lovers. Alice Kelleher, 29, has suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of her work’s popularity. After moving from Dublin to a small seaside town, she meets Felix, a local with a similar background—they both grew up working-class, and both have absent fathers—who works in a shipping warehouse. She invites him to accompany her to Rome, where he falls in love with her but resents what he takes to be her superior attitude. Meanwhile, in Dublin, Alice’s university friend Eileen Lydon works a low-paying literary job and explores her attraction to a childhood friend who seems to return her feelings but continues seeing other women. Alice and Eileen update each other in long emails, which Rooney cleverly exploits for essayistic musings about culture, climate change, and political upheaval. Rooney establishes a distance from her characters’ inner lives, creating a sense of privacy even as she describes Alice and Eileen’s most intimate moments. It’s a bold change to her style, and it makes the illuminations all the more powerful when they pop. As always, Rooney challenges and inspires.”

The Magician by Colm Tóibín

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Magician: “The Booker-shortlisted Tóibín (House of Names) unfurls an expansive fictional biography of Thomas Mann, a Nobel laureate who was devoted to family, obsessed with physical beauty, and driven by desire. Tóibín draws on excerpts from Mann’s diary entries, exposing unrequited loves and erotic encounters with male classmates and boarders as a young man in Lübeck, Germany, around the turn of the 20th century. The Mann who emerges in these pages is a man led by dangerous impulses and constantly pursued by the ‘lure of death and the seductive charm of timeless beauty’ who creates a thinly veiled depiction of a merchant family from Lübeck in Buddenbrooks, records his hypersexual attraction to a young Polish boy in Death in Venice, and draws from his visits to his ailing tubercular wife at a sanatorium for The Magic Mountain. An academic sojourn in Princeton and worldwide lecture tours lead a U.S. State Department official to tell him, ‘after Einstein, you are the most important German alive.’ But a series of traumatic events including several suicides (siblings and two of his six children) compound the effects of the wars and his struggles with his sexuality, and he goes into exile in the Pacific Palisades. The glory of music dominates much of the novel—the strains of Wagner’s Lohengrin; the ‘collision between bombast and subtlety’ of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony; and the glow said to have radiated from Bach when his music was performed, which Mann aspires to replicate in prose. This vibrates with the strength of Mann’s visions and the sublimity of Tóibín’s mellifluous prose. Tóibín has surpassed himself.”

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Matrix: “Groff (Florida) fashions a boldly original narrative based on the life and legend of 12th-century poet Marie de France. After Marie is banished to a poverty-stricken British abbey by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine at age 17 in 1158, she transforms from a reluctant prioress into an avid abbess. With the rhythm of days and nights regulated by the canonical hours from Lauds to Prime, from Compline to bed, Marie reshapes the claustrophobic community into a ‘self-sufficient… island of women,’ where ‘a woman’s power exists only as far as she is allowed.’ To that end, she confesses a series of 19 beatific visions that guide her in designing an impenetrable underground labyrinth as a secret passageway to the convent, building separate abbess quarters, establishing a scriptorium, and constructing a woman-made lake and dam to insure a constant water supply. Groff fills the novel with friendships among the nuns, inspirational apparitions, and writings empowered by divine inspiration. Transcendent prose and vividly described settings bring to life historic events, from the Crusades to the papal interdict of 1208. Groff has outdone herself with an accomplishment as radiant as Marie’s visions.”

How to Wrestle a Girl by Venita Blackburn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How to Wrestle a Girl: “Blackburn (Black Jesus and Other Superheroes) presents a variety of Black and queer voices in this provocative collection. In ‘Bear Bear Harvest TM,’ a girl’s family members have their excess body fat siphoned and sold for food processing. In ‘Biology Class,’ a girl’s classmates bully a teacher into a breakdown. The second half of the collection follows an unnamed Black queer teen through a series of linked stories as she struggles to endure after her father’s death and her mother’s neglect. In ‘Fat,’ she reacts to a white male physician’s assistant telling her she’s fat. In ‘Dick Pic’ and ‘Black Communion,’ she ponders her mother’s relationship with a pastor who sends pictures of his penis to her sister, and in ‘Halloween,’ she and her friend Esperanza intervene after witnessing a car suspiciously follow a little girl. ‘Ground Fighting,’ one of the strongest and longest stories on offer, finds the narrator coming out to a friend. Blackburn relies a bit too much on clever forms, such as crossword puzzles and lists, which tend to feel like exercises, but many entries present well-wrought narratives of young women coming to terms with their bodies and sexuality. It’s a mixed bag, but Blackburn clearly has plenty of talent.”

On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint by Maggie Nelson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about On Freedom: “Critic Nelson (The Argonauts) traces the limits of liberty and the call to care in this expansive and sharp-eyed study. Exploring ‘structural questions’ about freedom, Nelson exposes instances where conventional uses of the term—for instance, the ‘intensely American’ idea ‘that liberty leads to well-being’—clash with the contradictions of human nature. Skillfully reading the works of such critics as Eve Sedgewick and Hannah Arendt, Nelson outlines the complexities at the heart of her subject: the paradox of sexual freedom, for example, means ‘many of our most basic and hard-earned sexual freedoms… are legally dependent on principles of individual liberty.’ On climate change, she probes the costs of personal liberty when humans are changing the planet in ‘genocidal, geocidal’ ways. Patient and ‘devoted to radical compassion,’ Nelson turns each thought until it is finely honed and avoids binaries and bromides. While the literary theorizing is rich, this account soars in its ability to find nuance in considering questions of enormous importance: ‘We tend to grow tired of our stories over time; we tend to learn from them what they have to teach, then bore of their singular lens.’ Once again, Nelson proves herself a masterful thinker and an unparalleled prose stylist.”

Hao by Ye Chun

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hao: “Chun’s tender and skillful debut collection explores the power and shortcomings of language for a series of Chinese women in the U.S. and China over the past three centuries. In the gripping opener, ‘Stars,’ Luyao is doing graduate studies in the U.S. when she suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. Her speech therapist gives her exercises in English, which reminds her of when she learned the language as a child in China, though she craves the ability to speak Chinese again. In the title story, set during the Cultural Revolution, Qingxin plays a ‘word game’ with her four-year-old daughter, Ming, tracing Chinese words on Ming’s back for her to guess their meaning. ‘Milk’ depicts a young man selling roses in an unnamed Chinese city while posting commentary on his blog about anachronisms on the streets of his purported ‘world class metropolis.’ ‘Gold Mountain’ features an abstract but vivid portrait of 1877 anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco, as a woman takes shelter above a store and tries to decipher overheard English speech. While some stories feel like exercises, serving mainly to provide connective tissue for the overarching theme, Chun consistently reveals via bold and spare prose how characters grasp onto language as a means of belonging. Not every entry is a winner, but the best of the bunch show a great deal of promise.”

The Archer by Shruti Swamy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Archer: “Swamy’s affecting debut novel (after A House is a Body) follows a woman’s interest in dance and self-determination after growing up in poverty in 1960s Northern India. At seven, Vidya encounters a class of girls learning kathak, a form of Indian classical dance. By the time she’s in her teens, Vidya has become a dedicated kathak pupil, devoted to the ‘wild, nearly unbearable pleasure’ of dance. In college, she studies engineering while continuing to work every day with a new dance teacher from Bombay. Always set slightly apart from her peers by her poverty and intensity, Vidya is surprised by the depth of her connection to another student, the solitary and brilliant Radha. Swamy writes with keen perception of Vidya’s anger and unyielding will to dance, despite her predicament (she never forgets that she is ‘dark, overeducated, unpedigreed’). Later in the book, after Vidya’s brief romance with Radha, she marries a man from a very different socioeconomic class, a decision that further illustrates how the odds are stacked against her as a young woman attempting to live on her own terms. Swamy confidently evokes the time and place with spare, precise prose. This writer continues to demonstrate an impressive command of her craft.”

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Beautiful Country: “In this extraordinary debut, civil rights lawyer Wang recounts her years growing up as an undocumented immigrant living in ‘the furtive shadows’ of America. During China’s Cultural Revolution, her uncle was thrown in prison for criticizing Mao Zedong, leaving his parents and younger brother, Wang’s father, to pay for his ‘treasonous’ ways in the form of public beatings and humiliation. This fueled her father’s desire to find a better life in America, the ‘Beautiful Country.’ In China, Wang’s parents were professors, but upon arriving in New York City in 1994, their credentials were meaningless. ‘Pushing past hunger pains,’ they took menial jobs to support Wang, who worked alongside her mother in a sweatshop before starting school at age seven. During her five years in the States—’shrouded in darkness while wrestling with hope and dignity’—Wang managed to become a star student. With immense skill, she parses how her family’s illegal status blighted nearly every aspect of their life, from pushing her parents’ marriage to the brink to compromising their health. While Wang’s story of pursuing the American dream is undoubtedly timeless, it’s her family’s triumph in the face of ‘xenophobia and intolerance’ that makes it feel especially relevant today. Consider this remarkable memoir a new classic.”

The Breaks by Julietta Singh

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Breaks: “In a kind of spiritual successor to the genre-defying No Archive Will Restore You, Singh, an associate professor of English and gender studies, reveals the most intimate details of her life and politics. Using the form of a letter to her daughter, Singh offers ‘alternative histories… of those who have faced annihilation and lived toward survival’ in the face of Western capitalism’s ‘wholesale destruction of the earth,’ and criticizes the ‘dominant narratives’ that have shaped mainstream culture—such as Disney’s painting of Indigenous peoples as ‘savage’ and the white man as ‘fundamentally good’ in the movie Pocahontas. To go ‘against the grain’ of these racist depictions, Singh recalls her youth fighting discriminatory aggression as a mixed ‘Brown’ child in the ‘purportedly multicultural Canada of the 1980s,’ her lifelong endurance of bodily and medical trauma, and the home she’s created with her partner—as ‘queer collaborators’ who play ‘with what constitutes family.’ Singh has a tendency to wax academic, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of her insights as she exquisitely links theory and poetics to her own fears, insecurities, and certainty that one day her child will need to break away from her. This is a stunning work.”

The Water Statues by Fleur Jaeggy (translated by Gini Alhadeff)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Water Statues: “In this strange and shimmering nonlinear text from Swiss writer Jaeggy (I Am the Brother of XX), the lonely children of the wealthy and their eccentric employees negotiate the boundary between companionship and solitude. In Amsterdam, Beeklam grows up with only his father, Reginald, after the death of his mother, Thelma. Reginald never remarries and lives in seclusion with his servant, Lampe, a man curiously similar to him: ‘the two men had hardly met but were in perfect agreement, two finicky little plants,’ Jaeggy observes. As an adult, Beeklam stocks the basement of his house with statues and spends more and more time with them, ‘losing control of the hours and of life.’ Beeklam, too, has only one companion: his servant, Victor. After Reginald, at 70, suddenly leaves his house and abandons Lampe, Lampe goes to work for Kaspar, another widower who was a friend of Thelma’s. Through this new connection to Kaspar and a child who lives with him and may be Kaspar’s daughter, Beeklam and Victor’s small universe grows a little larger. In short, enjoyably expressionistic sections, Jaeggy sketches the emotional lives of people marooned but not content to remain entirely alone. What emerges is a fascinating and memorable portrait of a milieu obsessed with the passing of time.”

Martita, I Remember You by Sandra Cisneros (translated by Liliana Valenzuela)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Martita, I Remember You: “In this bilingual edition (written originally in English and translated into Spanish by Liliana Valenzuela) of Cisneros’s exquisite story (after Puro Amor), a woman relives her time in Paris two decades earlier via a cache of discovered letters. At 20, Corina aspires to become a writer and escape her poor Mexican Chicago family, prompting her to travel to Paris. She meets Marta, from Chile, and Paola, from Italy, and mingles with artists, dancers, and performers. She stretches her money to stay longer, realizing, ‘I can’t go home yet. Because home is bus stops and drugstore windows, elastic bandages and hairpins, plastic ballpoints, felt bunion pads, tweezers, rat poison, cold sore ointment, mothballs, drain cleaners, deodorant.’ Back in Chicago, she holds onto a photo of herself with Marta and Paola, but swiftly loses touch with them. Decades later, she discovers a letter from Marta sent shortly after she’d left, suggesting they meet in Spain, ‘in case you’re still traveling.’ Corina speaks to Marta in her thoughts and gives the rundown of her life: divorced, remarried, two daughters. Cisneros’s language and rhythm of her prose reverberate with Corina’s longing for her youth and unfulfilled promise. The author’s fans will treasure this.”

Also on shelves this week: Heart Radical by Anne Liu Kellor, Letters to Amelia by Lindsay Zier-Vogel and Misfits by Michaela Coel.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Hamya, Wolitzer, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jo Hamya, Hilma Wolitzer, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Rooms: “Hamya’s cerebral debut explores a young British woman’s identity formation while her country is besieged by inequality, disconnection, and political instability. In the fall of 2018, the unnamed narrator, a millennial woman of color, has just moved into student accommodations at Oxford for a temporary research assistant position. Trying to find her footing, she spends most of her time online, contemplating how others manage their online personae, such as a student named Ghislane, whose father recorded a hit ‘faux-folk’ song of the same name in the 1990s (‘Ghislane was not as famous as her father,’ the narrator notes, perusing her Instagram profile, ‘but there were the beginnings of some distinction there’). Later, the narrator moves to London and scrapes by while working yet another temporary job at a society magazine with a pitiful salary. As Brexit divides the nation, she reflects on the changing cultural climate and the purposelessness of her toils: ‘When did it become ridiculous to think that a stable economy and a fair housing market were reasonable expectations?’ In precise prose, Hamya captures the disillusionment and despair plaguing her protagonist. This perceptive debut will delight fans of Rachel Cusk.”

Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Several People Are Typing: “Kasulke’s ambitious if underwhelming debut, a fantastical workplace comedy, unfolds via Slack messages sent by employees of a New York City PR firm. Gerald works from home, trapped indefinitely ‘within the confines of [Slack].’ Other colleagues also find opportunities to ‘wfh,’ citing a blizzard, or kids, but one of them, Tripp, continues going into the office, where he meets Beverly, a new team member, and the two begin a secret romance. Kasulke does a good job pulling together the signifiers of office culture—the team trade pet pics and carry on inside jokes with an emoji named ‘dusty stick’—and they work on a campaign for a dog food company that’s in crisis mode over its product allegedly containing poison. But none of these or the other internal mini dramas—such as the incessant ‘howling’ Lydia hears or Gerald’s unease-turned-existential crisis—are particularly engaging or inspiring, and things take a series of odd turns after the Slackbot AI takes over Gerald’s body with his mind still stuck in the digital realm. However clever the setup is, the satire lacks bite and feels not unlike listening to a friend complain about their job. For a book about Slack, it’s largely that.”

Moon and the Mars by Kia Corthron

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Moon and the Mars: “Playwright and novelist Corthron (The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter) combines a propulsive coming-of-age story with a fascinating history of the years before and after the Civil War. Beginning in 1857, biracial seven-year-old narrator Theo Brigid Brook observes the social upheaval and racial injustice leading to the conflict. She lives in Manhattan’s infamous Five Points neighborhood with her Grammy Brook and Grammy Cahill, who are discriminated against for being Irish and Black, respectively. Other residents of the Brook household include a barber who boards with them and a woman who escaped from slavery in South Carolina. Theo is acutely attuned to such events as the Metropolitan Police riots, and her intense relationship with the rough-and-tumble Irish lad Ciaran seems fated from an early age. While Theo is bookish and entrenched in family and community, Ciaran eschews education and takes a series of manual labor jobs. Corthron smoothly weaves in historical developments as divisions flare in the Five Points, such as the implications of the Dred Scott case, something Grammy Brook sums up concisely: ‘Whenever the rich make a crisis, you know what gonna fall to the poor is catastrophe.’ Corthron’s ambition pays off with dividends.”

Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket: “In this sage collection of stories, many of which were published in the 1960s and ’70s, Wolitzer (An Available Man) considers love, marriage, and motherhood. The title story is narrated by a woman who regrets her inability to help when she sees a woman with two children having a nervous breakdown in a supermarket. In ‘Mrs. X,’ a housewife receives a note signed from an ‘anonymous friend’ hinting that her husband is having an affair and grows angry at the friend for interfering in their lives. In ‘Overtime,’ a husband and wife allow the former’s needy ex to move in with them temporarily—with unsurprisingly uproarious results. In the affecting ‘Mother,’ a woman who has just given birth worries that something is wrong with her premature baby and leaves the maternity ward to search the hospital for her. Several of the stories revolve around a New York couple, Paulette and Howard; in a contemporary story, the couple must cope with the coronavirus pandemic: ‘We were going to have a Zoom meeting, whatever that was,’ Paulette narrates about a March 2020 book club meeting, her memories undercut with a wistfulness over the devastation that would come in the months to follow. Throughout, Wolitzer captures the feel of each moment with characters who charm with their honesty. The result is a set of engaging time capsules.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Levy, Jeffers, Barker, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Deborah Levy, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Pat Barker, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Real Estate by Deborah Levy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Real Estate: “Levy (The Cost of Living) brings her trilogy of autobiographies home in this incandescent meditation on writing, womanhood, and the places that nurture both. From her shabby flat in North London, she imagines a dream property: ‘a grand old house with the pomegranate tree in the garden,’ and returns to this refrain throughout her delightful memoir-in-vignettes. Levy is 59 and single, and, with her youngest daughter off to university, takes a fellowship in Paris and contemplates the nature of middle-aged female freedom that includes, for her, a deep longing for an expansive kind of rootedness. ‘Domestic space,’ she observes, ‘if it is not an affliction bestowed on us by patriarchy, can be a powerful space. To make it work for women and children is the challenge.’ She accumulates treasures for the ‘unreal estate’ of her dreams, contemplates a friend’s extramarital affair, rents a crumbling old home in Greece, and encounters sexist male writers. Despite what physically occurs, this is a cerebral affair—Levy’s mind is both troubled and titillated by the slipperiness of time and place—and her wry wit and descriptive powers are more pleasurable than any plot. Eloquent and unapologetically frank, Levy’s astute narrative is a place worth lingering in.”

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: “Poet Jeffers (The Age of Phyllis) debuts with a staggering and ambitious saga exploring African American history. Ailey Pearl Garfield, the youngest daughter of Geoff Garfield, a light-skinned Washington, D.C., physician, and Belle Driskell Garfield, a Southern school teacher, reckons with ancestral trauma while growing up in the 1980s and ’90s. Throughout, historical sketches (or ‘songs’) link Ailey to her ancestors: Creeks, enslaved Africans, and early Scot slave owners. Ailey follows in the footsteps of her parents, attending the southern HBCU where they met and married as undergraduates before moving north to the ‘City,’ where Geoff attended medical school at Mecca University (a thinly veiled Howard). W.E.B. Du Bois’s theories emerge in epigraphs throughout and are sagaciously reflected in the plot, as the accounts of Ailey’s college life correspond to the ‘talented tenth.’ Later, tragedy unfolds as Lydia, Ailey’s oldest sister who is haunted by childhood sexual abuse, succumbs to crack addiction. The multigenerational story bursts open when Ailey unearths some unknown family history during her graduate studies, as well as secrets of the Black female founder of her family’s alma mater. Themes of family, class, higher education, feminism, and colorism yield many rich layers. Readers will be floored.”

Something Wonderful by Jo Lloyd

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Something Wonderful: “Each story in Lloyd’s crisp and layered debut collection is like a picture postcard from the Welsh countryside, belied by family secrets, dashed hopes, and the long shadows of history. In ‘My Bonny,’ a widow raises her son after her husband is killed at sea, beginning a family saga that stretches into an ominous future in just a few short pages. The unseen upper-class visitors to a close-knit community leave a mark on its citizens in ‘The Invisible,’ and in ‘Butterflies of the Balkans,’ set in the run-up to WWI, two young women pursue a passion for lepidopterology. Other stories feature hopeful young people falling in and out of love as they make their first forays into adulthood, as in ‘Ade/Cindy/Kurt/Me’ and ‘Your Magic Summer’; the latter follows the friendship of two girls as they become women, marry, and find their rapport threatened by the changes in their lives. Perhaps the best entry is the gothic ‘The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies,’ wherein the imperious and self-made lord of a humble township ventures into the lowlands, only to meet a mysterious fate. Throughout, the author shows a knack for stretching each germ of a story into a miniature epic. Lloyd’s singular talent is on full display.”

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Women of Troy: “In Barker’s masterly continuation of her fiercely feminist take on Homer’s Iliad (after The Silence of the Girls), the Greeks drag their wooden horse into Troy and achieve victory after a 10-year siege, but a freak storm prevents their ships from returning home. As time drags on, Briseis, the heroine of the previous installment, struggles to survive as an enemy noncombatant prisoner in the siege camp. A former queen of a Trojan ally, she was kidnapped by Achilles as his prize of honor and turned into his sex slave. But now Achilles is dead and Briseis is pregnant. Handed down to Lord Alcimus as his wife, she spends her days, as soldiers play football with a human head, commiserating with the other Trojan women—Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache and, of course, Helen, the cause of the war. Briseis shares narrative duties with Pyrrhus, the bloodthirsty son of Achilles, and Calchas, a canny priest of Troy. In a novel filled with names from legend, Briseis stands tall as a heroine: brave, smart and loyal. The author makes strategic use of anachronistic language (‘living in the real world,’ ‘keep a low profile’) to illuminate characters living at the dawn of myth. Barker’s latest is a wonder.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Moreno-Garcia, Myo Kyaw Myint, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Velvet Was the Night: “This seductive neo-noir thriller from bestseller Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) draws on the real-life efforts of the Mexican government to suppress political dissent in the 1970s. Maite, a 30-year-old secretary in Mexico City who feels life has passed her by, escapes from routine by reading the magazine Secret Romance, oblivious to the political upheaval around her. When her beautiful art student neighbor, Leonora, disappears, Maite, with the help of Rubén, Leonora’s former lover, begins a search that takes her into the world of student radicals. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Elvis, muscle for a clandestine, government-funded shock troop employed to suppress student protests, longs for something more and wishes to escape his old life. When Elvis’s boss assigns him to track down Leonora, his search crosses that of Maite, with whom he becomes fascinated. As the two get closer to discovering the reason behind Leonora’s disappearance, they uncover secrets that shadowy forces, both domestic and foreign, will kill to protect. This is a rich novel with an engrossing plot, distinctive characters, and a pleasing touch of romance. Readers won’t be able to put it down.”

Against White Feminism by Rafia Zakaria

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Against White Feminism: “Attorney and journalist Zakaria (Veil) makes a lucid and persuasive argument that feminism must address its ‘problematic genealogies’ of whiteness. She notes that British suffragists refused to support Indian self rule, while those in the U.S. demanded that white women get the vote before Black men, and critiques early feminist theorists including Simone de Beauvoir for centering white womanhood as universal. Zakaria, a Pakistani Muslim woman, describes her own dismissive treatment at the hands of white feminists, but the book’s strongest sections detail how Western aid organizations and feminist groups including the National Organization for Women alienate and devalue women of color worldwide. Among other topics, she dissects the culturally myopic attitudes embedded in sex-positive ’empowerment’ messaging and the ‘ruthless individualism’ of white women journalists who seek to ‘gain access to the intimate spaces of Black and Brown women.’ Zakaria also links ‘moral outrage’ in the West over Muslim ‘honor killings’ to the ‘agenda of colonialism,’ which ‘involved manufacturing definitions of new crimes and new classes of criminality to make a point about the moral degeneracy of the people whose freedom, goods, and land were being looted.’ Tackling complex philosophical ideas with clarity and insight, Zakaria builds an impeccable case for the need to rebuild feminism from the ground up. Readers will want to heed this clarion call for change.”

Names for Light by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Names for Light: “In this hypnotic memoir, Burmese-American novelist Myint (The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, a Haven) looks to myth and folklore to explore her family’s legacy. Ghosts, reincarnated relatives, dark omens, and imagined scenes populate a timeline that oscillates between the author’s forbears’ past and present day, stretching from Myanmar, where she was born in 1989, to Thailand, California, Spain, and Colorado. In lyrical prose, Myint straddles dream and reality beginning with a mythic take on her great-grandfather, who ‘died a man but was reborn as me.’ Lived experience is overlaid with speculative history, as Myint, who moved to the U.S. as a child, mines the alienation—sowed by the colonialism and racism endured by generations of her family—that has rendered her ‘a ghost’ throughout her life. To fill the void of loneliness surrounding her, she pieces together her family’s past, from her mother’s ‘cursed’ home in Yangon and her parents’ marriage on a lake that was ‘constructed by the British’ to her older brother’s illness and death (‘I also believed he had drowned in the lake’). While her poetic narration is indisputably alluring, the nonlinear story line can sometimes become taxing. For those willing to put in the work, this serpentine narrative is a thing of beauty.”

Gordo by Jaime Cortez

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Gordo: “Artist and graphic novelist Cortez (Sexile) celebrates Chicano life in this exuberant collection. Stories such as ‘El Gordo’ focus on the experiences of the title character, a child of migrant farm workers. Cortez then moves with ease from depictions of Gordo’s family to the intersecting lives of the inhabitants of Watsonville, Calif., in the 1970s. In ‘The Jesus Donut,’ a heretical young girl becomes a hero after she shares a donut with other kids, offering bits of it as communion. In ‘Alex,’ Gordo’s family helps out their injured butch lesbian neighbor, Alex, and the burgeoning friendship becomes a cover for Gordo’s mother to help Alex’s abused femme partner escape to safety. In ‘The Problem of Style,’ bullied sixth grader Raymundo gains confidence when he decides to grow his hair out and become ‘artistic.’ At their best, Cortez’s stories highlight the community’s functional and paradoxical stew of interpersonal relationships, brimming with threats as well as love. Cortez has a bright, clear voice that avoids stereotypes and navigates issues of identity with ease: ‘Raymundo tossed his hair, turned smartly on his heels, and crossed an unmarked border into a new country.’ Readers will be delighted.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Chin, Murray, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from YZ Chin, Sabina Murray, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Edge Case by YZ Chin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Edge Case: “Chin makes an impressive debut with this sharp take on faltering romance, the American dream, and self-realization. Edwina and her husband, Marlin, are both Malaysian immigrants working for tech startups in New York City. Edwina endures a sexist and uninspiring work environment at AInstein, hoping that if she excels in her job her employers will sponsor her green card application. Then she comes home one day to discover Marlin has moved all of his things out. For the next 18 days, Edwina searches for her husband and tries to figure out how their marriage went wrong. When Edwina met Marlin, she was drawn to his logical mind, but more recently Marlin had turned to psychic dowsing and other forms of divination in the six months since his father died. While Edwina was alarmed by Marlin’s behavior, she also wonders whether her mental health has been damaged by her mother, who constantly criticizes Edwina’s weight and suggests that Edwina’s struggles are the consequences of transgressions committed in previous reincarnations. Edwina’s wry outlook and wrestling with thoughts about what it means to make it in America will resonate with readers. Those who enjoy the work of Charles Yu should take a look.”

The Shimmering State by Meredith Westgate

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Shimmering State: “A dangerous new party drug hits the streets of Los Angeles in Westgate’s ambitious debut. Mem, short for Memoroxin, an experimental, shimmering pill, contains a person’s happy memories, which they’ve selected. While Mem is manufactured to help those with Alzheimer’s, trauma, and mental illness, it becomes a hot black-market item thanks to its ability to allow people ‘to experience a moment as someone else.’ Lucien, a flailing photographer, steals his grandmother’s Mem pills in hopes of seeing his deceased mother through the grandmother’s memories. Sophie, an ambitious ballerina and a waitress at Chateau Marmont, also gets hooked on Mem. Both Lucien and Sophie end up in a rehab facility run by the drug’s producers, where they form a deep connection and Lucien feels they’ve met before. When they’re out, they collaborate on a film project inspired by Lucien’s grandmother’s memory. In chapters alternating before and after the rehab stint, Westgate weaves a tight tale of relationships and loneliness in a city populated by people always on the hunt for the next big escape. It’s a captivating story, one that leaves readers wondering if a life scrubbed of pain and real connection is a life at all.”

Ramadan Ramsey by Louis Edwards

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ramadan Ramsey: “New Orleans music industry veteran and Whiting Award winner Edwards (Oscar Wilde Discovers America) returns after almost two decades with an ambitious globe-trotting epic as luscious and musical as the city he calls home. The tale takes readers from the Crescent City to Istanbul and finally to the war-torn city of Aleppo, as the eponymous hero searches for his father with an old letter found in a convenience store as his only clue. In between, Ramadan bonds with his grandmother, basks in the beauty of the Mississippi River, survives Hurricane Katrina, and makes countless friends in the Middle East by bonding over basketball, hip-hop, and other bits of Americana that appeal to young men across the world. Ramadan’s resilience, quick wit, and steadfast spirit render him something of a 21st-century update on the characters of Dickens and Twain. Edwards, meanwhile, is a rare writer of deep, paternal wisdom, who can find the deeply, upliftingly spiritual element of nearly everything. (Even a potato chip can be as ecstatically powerful as those “symbolic bodies of Christ” that are offered at communion.) This will have readers enthralled with the beauty of life, despite all its tragedies and sorrows.”

The Human Zoo by Sabina Murray

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Human Zoo: “Smart, crisp prose distinguishes Murray’s action-packed latest (after Valiant Gentleman). The beautiful Christina Klein, or ‘Ting’ as she’s known to her Filipino family, is newly separated from her American husband when she shows up on the doorstep of her wealthy 90-year-old aunt in Manila, uninvited and with no plan for the future. A journalist who reported on the corruption and violence of the Philippines’s populist regime, Ting soon catches up with old friends and an old flame, Chet, whose murky business dealings may be connected to the regime. Meanwhile, her research for a book on ‘human zoos’ in turn-of-the-century New York City digs up a devious entrepreneur who tricked native Philippine Bontoc tribesmen into participating, prompting her to reflect on the historical relationship between the U.S. and poor, indigenous Filipinos: ‘It was as if the United States still needed the Philippines to be recognizable but savage in the same way that Heart of Darkness needed Africa to make Europe seem enlightened.’ When someone close to her dies violently, Ting finds herself embroiled in a dangerous mystery, unsure whether Chet is friend or foe. By interrogating Ting’s privilege, Murray successfully and cleverly avoids writing a human zoo herself. This is captivating.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring So, Kleeman, Awad, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the late Anthony Veasna So, Alexandra Kleeman, Mona Awad, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Afterparties: “So (1992–2020) conjures literary magic in his hilarious and insightful posthumous debut, a collection that delves into a tightly knit community of Cambodian-American immigrants in California’s Central Valley. Many of the characters are haunted by memories of genocide—one, an Alzheimer’s and dementia nurse in ‘Somaly Serey, Serey Somaly,’ is inhabited by the spirit of a deceased relative who suffered a life of tragedy under the Khmer Rouge. The protagonist of ‘Human Development,’ meanwhile, negotiates his Khmer heritage on a more quotidian level: While at a beer pong–fueled party with his Stanford friends a few years after graduation (‘Why’s the goal of this party to reclaim the culture of closeted frat bros?’ he asks), he messages with another Cambodian man on Grindr, then leaves the party to hook up after confirming they aren’t related. What makes the stories so startling is the characters’ ability to embrace life and all its messy beauty despite the darkness of the past. Characters have weddings, play badminton, fall in love, read Moby-Dick, and sometimes quip, surprisingly nonchalantly, about their national traumas—’there were no ice cubes in the genocide!’ yells a father in ‘Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts.’ Some leave home (‘the asshole of California,’ one of them calls it in ‘Maly, Maly, Maly’); others want to stay, despite how little their region has to offer. After this immersive introduction to the Central Valley community, readers won’t want to leave.”

Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Something New Under the Sun: “Kleeman’s ranging and ambitious latest (after Intimations) imagines a climate-ravaged near-future California. Novelist Patrick Hamlin has just arrived in Los Angeles to assist with the adaptation of his melancholy novel Elsinore Lane, based on his father’s death. Hollywood calculations, though, quickly distort the story beyond recognition. Worse, the producers have cast in the leading role unpredictable former child star Cassidy Carter, whose career is on the downturn. Even worse yet, Patrick is made a production assistant and tasked with chauffeuring the unpredictable Cassidy to and from set. Meanwhile, Patrick’s wife, Alison, who previously suffered a breakdown, takes her daughter to an Upstate New York eco-retreat; California has recently converted to using WAT-R, a synthetic water product; and green vans make rounds to pick up sufferers of a mysterious new dementia. Cassidy and Patrick are then drawn in by conspiracy theories involving a supposed link between WAT-R and Cassidy’s old show, Kassi Keene: Kid Detective, and Patrick streams episodes looking for clues. While a few plot twists are telegraphed, the action is propulsive and entertaining even as the horrors of climate change smolder around every corner. Readers will be captivated by this intelligent, rip-roaring story.”

Blind Man’s Bluff by James Tate Hill

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Blind Man’s Bluff: “Essayist Hill (Academy Gothic) shares a stirring if meandering story about losing his sight. At age 16, he was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy and deemed legally blind. When asked about what he can and can’t see, Hill writes, ‘The short answer is this: I don’t see what I directly look at.’ While his narrative sometimes digresses into tangents about unrelated childhood crushes and his mom’s Weight Watchers meetings, humor buoys his account as he lays bare his attempts hide his legal blindness in a sighted world. He’d arrive early for dates so he could be found first; memorized buttons on the microwave and the route to the convenience store; and even entered a creative writing program where classmates, unaware of his blindness, attributed his unapproachability to him being ‘an asshole.’ Eventually he met and married a fellow MFA student, but their relationship buckled under his denial about his disability (‘I will not help you hide your blindness from the world,’ his wife wrote to him before their divorce). In the wake of their split, Hill struggled to write about his condition—’the thought of readers… knowing I was blind, disabled, felt like the opposite of why I chose to be a writer’—but after finding love again, his reluctance gave way to self-acceptance. This moving account doesn’t disappoint.”
The President and the Frog by Carolina De Robertis
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The President and the Frog: “De Robertis (Cantoras) meditates on the fight for democracy in her pleasing latest. An unnamed 82-year-old former president of a ‘near-forgotten’ Latin American country ‘at the bottom of the world’ answers a journalist’s probing questions: How did the former guerrilla fighter rise from obscurity and imprisonment to become ‘The Poorest President in the World,’ and how can his country serve as an international symbol of hope? As he considers his replies, he recalls lessons from his darkest hours: 40 years before, he was captured after a failed revolution and condemned to isolation in a dirty pit, where his only companion was a talking frog. To satisfy the creature’s demand for ‘true stories,’ the narrator recalls memories that inspired his love of his country and his care for its people, such as strangers coming together during the initial military crackdowns to dig underground tunnels and free prisoners. Though he understands the frog is a manifestation of madness, the president ruminates on the sacrifices of the poor and abuses of the powerful as the narrative strands of past and present become one. While the allegorical aspects can feel a bit pat, the tale’s simplicity belies considerable depth and resonance: ‘Even horror is an opening, every moment a new beginning, until we reach the end.’ In such a charged political moment, this lands as both a balm and a paean to national pride and unity.”

Savage Tongues by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Savage Tongues: “The narrator of Whiting Award–winner Oloomi’s uneven cerebral latest (after Call Me Zebra) reconsiders a relationship she had as a teenager with an older man. Writer Arezu returns from the U.S. to an apartment in Marbella, Spain, where she lived 20 years earlier, when she was 17. During that ‘strange, wild summer,’ she had an all-consuming sexual relationship with the 40-year-old Omar, whom she describes as ‘my lover, my torturer, my confidant and enemy.’ Her best friend, Ellie, flies in to help Arezu process her emotions (as with the friends’ past ‘recovery journeys,’ the pair seek to ‘reverse the language-destroying effects of unbearable pain’). The plot mostly stays put—Arezu swims, the women go out at night, Ellie does a tarot reading—with the narrative focused on Arezu’s inner turmoil. While her self-analysis effectively conveys her anguish and Omar’s manipulation and emotional abuse, the prose is often stilted (‘The injustices he’d assailed against me… could not be contained in a single temporal dimension’). Musings on Middle Eastern politics, including a trip to Israel and occupied Palestine with Ellie, add insight, but in the end, the weighty themes are sunk by portentous delivery. Readers can take a pass.”

Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Radiant Fugitives: “This dazzling, heartrending debut follows two Indian sisters and their mother as they work to patch up fractures in their family. In 2010, pregnant Seema Hussein, 40, hosts her terminally ill mother, Nafeesa, from Chennai, and her devoutly Muslim doctor sister, Tahera, from Irvine, Tex. Seema’s father disowned her when she came out as a lesbian, and the visit is a tentative step to mend fences as she frets about the birth and how involved in mothering she wants her younger Chinese American lover to be. The narration, artfully and convincingly handled from the point of view of Seema’s son, Ishraaq, moves backward to 2003, when Seema meets 34-year-old Bill Miles, a Black lawyer, at an anti-war protest and is disarmed by his ‘princely masculine courting.’ They marry, and Seema throws herself into work for political campaigns. Then, while going through a divorce with Bill, Seema discovers she is pregnant. Back in the present, Nafeesa plans an elaborate meal for Seema’s friends, while Tahera learns troubling details of anti-Muslim activity back home and struggles to reconcile her religious views with her role as a sister. Ahmed brilliantly maps the tension between the three women with emotional acuity, and as Seema’s pregnancy unfolds, Ahmed slowly builds to a showdown, culminating in a shattering and unforgettable conclusion. This is a gem.”

The Luminous Novel by Mario Levrero (translated by Annie McDermott)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Luminous Novel: “The puzzling second work in English from the late Uruguayan author Levrero (1940–2004, after Empty Words) follows a 60-year-old writer named Mario who’s just received a Guggenheim grant. Mario begins keeping a diary until he feels ready to return to what he describes as a ‘luminous novel,’ which he started 16 years earlier, but never finished. Mario can’t sleep; he plays computer games and downloads pornography; tries to quit smoking and using the computer so much; records and analyzes his dreams; reads detective novels; laments the heat; and more than anything, bemoans that his relationship with ‘beautiful and seductive’ Chl is no longer sexual, even though she still brings him food and occasionally spends the night. What Mario does not do, until nearly a year later, is write the novel, which mainly recounts the women he slept with. Indeed, Mario believes that ‘these days a novel is practically anything you can put between a front and back cover.’ It’s a credible documentation of writer’s block and narcissism, but readers will be left wondering what purpose it serves. This is literature in the same way that John Cage’s 4’33” is music.”

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Once There Were Wolves: “Australian author McConaghy (Migrations) returns with a vividly realized story of trauma and the attempted ‘rewilding’ of the Scottish Highlands. Empathetic biologist Inti Flynn, raised in part in Sydney, Australia, and in part in the woods of British Columbia, is on a project site in Scotland with a group of biologists, where she works to introduce North American wolves into the Scottish ecosystem. She has brought her mute identical twin sister, Aggie; Inti knows the source of Aggie’s trauma, but the details are kept from the reader until late in the narrative. When Inti discovers the body of a man she suspects was abusive to his wife (he said she fell off of a horse; she looked like she was beaten up), and who might have been killed either by a wolf or another person, she impulsively buries the body and sets out to solve the mystery of the death, a process complicated by her sexual relationship with the local police chief, as they have a hard time trusting each other, and by an unexpected pregnancy. In a story full of subtle surprises, revolving around Aggie’s painful past as well as the source of the violence on the project site, McConaghy brings precise descriptions to the wolves—’subtly powerful, endlessly patient’—and to Inti’s borderline-feral way of existing in the world. The bleak landscape is gorgeously rendered and made tense by its human and animal inhabitants, each capable of killing. Throughout, McConaghy avoids melodrama by maintaining a cool matter-of-factness. This is a stunner.”

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Perfume Thief: “Schaffert’s intoxicating blend of decadence and intrigue (after The Swan Gondola) brings Nazi-occupied Paris vividly to life. Narrator Clementine, a gender-fluid American expatriate in her 70s, is a perfumer and former thief who embraces the transgressive habitués of the city’s bordellos and cabarets. When a singer friend asks Clementine to steal the hidden diary of her father, the world-renowned perfumer Pascal, from the house the Nazis ejected them from, Clementine hopes to kill two birds with one stone: keep Pascal’s perfume formula out of his enemies’ hands, and take possession herself of his trade secrets, some of which she believes he stole from her. To achieve her goal, Clementine turns latter-day Scheherazade, stringing along Pascal’s Nazi usurper, bureaucrat Oskar Voss, while unfurling a running account of her colorful and queer personal history as she searches the perfumer’s premises. Schaffert’s evocation of Paris and its wartime demimonde is sensual and alluring, but the heart of his novel is Clementine’s demonstration through her own adventures of how every life is its own heady perfume, distilled from the personal experiences of the individual. This is a rich and rewarding tale, as original and unique as the handiwork of its eponymous character.”

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When the Reckoning Comes: “McQueen’s arresting debut novel (after the essay collection And It Begins Like This) features a vengeance-fueled ghost story on a former tobacco plantation. Mira, a Black high school teacher in present-day Winston-Salem, N.C., fled her segregated hometown of Kipsen on a college scholarship, leaving behind her close friend and love interest Jesse and their friend Celine, who is white. McQueen shuffles Mira’s flashbacks to high school with passages describing memories of the enslaved people who haunt the Woodsman plantation, unfurling a fateful night when the friends trespassed on the plantation ruins and Jesse was suspected of murder after the body of a white man was found nearby. A decade later, Celine invites Mira to Celine’s wedding at the renovated plantation, which has been turned into a resort and tourist attraction, defending her choice against Mira’s objections: ‘It hasn’t been a plantation for over a hundred years, and it’s not like my family owned slaves.’ But many of the guests’ ancestors did, which doesn’t bode well for them on the ghosts’ turf. Readers might lose their suspension of disbelief at certain supernatural moments, but McQueen does a good job balancing the various timelines to show how a place can be haunted by living history. This leaves readers with much to consider.”

Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Agatha of Little Neon: “A quartet of nuns navigates unexpected changes in Luchette’s dynamic and resonant debut. Frances, Mary Lucille, Therese, and narrator Agatha are transferred to a Rhode Island halfway house called Little Neon that’s painted the ‘chemical, lurid’ color of Mountain Dew and houses a collective of eccentric characters such as Lawnmower Jill, who drove drunk too many times and now resorts to driving the vehicle from which her nickname is derived. Luchette profiles the nuns with crisp precision, portraying their leader Mother Roberta as a tinderbox of nerves and pent-up frustrations who is angry that ‘the church she’d loved all her life was reluctant to change’; noting the sisters’ ‘ovarian synchrony’; and describing the secretly gay Agatha’s observation of two girls kissing in her classroom (she also teaches at a local high school) as ‘moving their heads the way pigeons do.’ As Agatha builds confidence while giving geometry lessons, she and her sisters are challenged by the home’s residents’ judgments of their biblical teachings, such as one who claims the story of Noah’s ark is about ‘how God hates gay people.’ Employing short, clipped chapters and shimmering prose, Luchette garnishes each scene with tender and nuanced descriptions of longing and chastity, creating a lovely story of how cross-cultural exchange can foster hope and fruitful advancements. This is charming and remarkably thoughtful.”

All’s Well by Mona Awad

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All’s Well: “The pill-addled theater professor at the center of Awad’s scathing if underwhelming latest (after Bunny) is nearing the end of her rope. Miranda Fitch passes her days in a self-medicated haze, numbing the debilitating pain she’s felt since falling off the stage in a production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. Worse still, no one seems to believe the severity of her condition. After the cast of her student production insists on putting on Macbeth rather than All’s Well, Miranda is approached at a bar by three mysterious men who give her the ability to transfer her pain to others. In the first instance, she wrests a script from a mutinous student, who then clutches her wrist in pain where Miranda touched her. Eventually, Miranda’s elation at escaping her pain gives way to a dangerously vindictive, manic spiral. Awad’s novel is, like Miranda says about Shakespeare’s All’s Well, ‘neither a tragedy nor a comedy, something in between.’ Unfortunately, it falls short on both counts: Miranda’s acerbic inner monologue reaches for humor but mostly misses, and the overwrought tone undermines the story’s tragedy (when asked why she wanted to teach at the college: ‘I thought: Because my dreams have been killed. Because this is the beginning of my end’). It’s an ambitious effort, but not one that pays off.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ohlin, Adrian, Jin, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Alix Ohlin, Emily Adrian, Ha Jin, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
We Want What We Want by Alix Ohlin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Want What We Want: “Ohlin (Dual Citizens) delivers another rich collection full of insights and sticky contradictions. In ‘The Brooks Brothers Guru,’ Amanda is recruited to rescue her long-lost cousin by his girlfriend, from a possible cult in Upstate New York. While there, Amanda, who spends much of her life on various devices, begins to understand the appeal of her cousin’s quiet new life. ‘The Point of No Return’ follows Bridget from her 20s into middle age as she views her life at a distance, seeing herself as ‘a tiny animal she had happened upon by chance one day and decided to raise.’ The strongest stories feature connected characters, such as ‘The Universal Particular,’ told by a Swedish-Somalian orphan, a beard blogger, a gamer, and a massage therapist as each longs to break out of their isolation. Ohlin also does a great job capturing her characters’ perspectives on life. As Bridget in ‘The Point of No Return’ begins to understand, sometimes one’s 20s are a ‘performance of adulthood,’ while Tamar in ‘The Universal Particular’ imagines telling her husband, during a fight, that adulthood requires one ‘to embody a role and not be able to escape it.’ Throughout, Ohlin reveals the depth of her characters with empathy and precision. The strongest stories are more than worth the price of admission.”

The Second Season by Emily Adrian

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Second Season: “The spare, bold latest from Adrian (Everything Here Is Under Control) follows a sportswriter as she reckons with middle age. Ruth Devon, 42, covers NBA games and longs for a television analyst position now held by her ex-husband, Lester, who is about to retire. Meanwhile, Ruth and Lester’s daughter, Ariana, a high school senior, aspires to be a model, and Ruth has a boyfriend, Joel, who is six years her junior. When Ruth learns she is unexpectedly pregnant, she struggles with deciding whether to tell Joel and weighs her career ambition as well as her devotion to Ariana. Adrian cleverly structures the novel around Ruth’s experiences during the NBA finals, as she covers a conflict between two best friends who play play for the opposing teams (‘For the next four games he’s my enemy,’ one says). As the games unfold in sharp detail, with attention paid to the action on the court and on the sidelines, Adrian raises the stakes on Ruth’s attempt to keep a handle on things. Even the sports-averse will be caught up in the drama.”

Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fierce Little Thing: “After 12-year-old Saskia’s father goes to prison for her little brother’s murder and her mother decamps to Mexico in this haunting psychological thriller from bestseller Beverly-Whittemore (June), Saskia goes to live in a Manhattan loft with her friend Xavier. While Xavier’s mother is traveling, his father, an eccentric artist, decides that he and the kids should summer in Maine at a lakeside commune dubbed Home. Saskia quickly falls under the thrall of the commune’s charismatic leader and finds a sense of belonging she’d do anything to preserve. Twenty-five years later, reclusive Saskia is sequestered inside her Connecticut home when Xavier comes knocking: someone has been writing to Home’s former teen residents, threatening to tell the world about the crime they committed unless all five of them return. Saskia’s evocative, elegiac narration cycles rapidly between past and present, escalating pace and imparting suspense while developing the keenly rendered characters and their thorny histories. Not every revelation feels earned, but on balance, Beverly-Whittemore delivers a twisty, rewarding tale of friendship, secrets, and childhood trauma. Donna Tartt fans, take note.”

The Minister Primarily by John Oliver Killens

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Minister Primarily: “Killens (1916–1987), a member of the Black Arts movement and author of And Then We Heard the Thunder, cleverly satirizes 1960s American politics in this sharp thriller. Jaja Okwu Olivamaki, prime minister of the Independent People’s Democratic Republic of Guanaya, sees his country lifted from obscurity after a great quantity of the radioactive metallic element cobanium is found there, making it the newest front in the Cold War. African-American musician James Jay Leander Johnson travels to Guanaya to learn ‘the folk songs of his people,’ only to become a suspect in a plot to murder Olivamaki. Johnson’s life takes an even stranger detour after his resemblance to his supposed target leads to his being asked to impersonate the nation’s leader, a pretense he must maintain on a state visit to the U.S. Killens is pointed in his barbs; when the imposter is asked his opinion of Malcolm X, he declares he believes in the same kind of nonviolence the U.S. does: ‘I believe we should keep everybody nonviolent, even if we have to blow them off the face of the earth, in the American tradition.’ Throughout, Killens maximizes the potential of his plot with outrageous humor. Readers will be glad to find this gem unearthed.”

A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Song Everlasting: “At the onset of the uninspired latest from Jin (The Boat Rocker), set in the early 2010s, singer Yao Tian stays behind in the U.S. for a few extra days after his state-sponsored choir’s tour ends. When his employer asks him to turn over his passport as punishment, Tian instead returns to the U.S. and settles in New York City, leaving behind his wife and teenage daughter. Now free to make his own decisions, Tian performs occasionally, sending what funds he can to his family, but after the Chinese media spreads the story of a violent altercation between Tian and his manager, his reputation is tarnished. He relocates to Boston and works for a cousin on home renovation jobs, all the while clinging to his dream of restarting his singing career, but the Chinese government cancels his passport, stranding him in the U.S. with few prospects. Jin has a knack for seamlessly compressing large swaths of time, yet Tian remains something of a mystery, with little effort made to explore his singing abilities. And though the author shuttles his protagonist through a series of trials over many years, Tian’s unfailing ability to overcome setbacks lessens the novel’s dramatic pull. As far as itinerant heroes’ quests for freedom go, this one doesn’t get the heart racing.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring El Akkad, Kitamura, Hoby, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Omar El Akkad, Katie Kitamura, Hermione Hoby, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What Strange Paradise: “Akkad (American War) delivers a stirring if straightforward account of a young boy’s flight from Syria during the country’s civil war. Amir Utu sets out for Egypt with his mother, uncle/stepfather Younis, and baby stepbrother. When Younis boards a ferryboat overloaded with migrants, Amir follows him and ends up on a disastrous journey across the Mediterranean, of which he is the sole survivor. The details of what went wrong emerge gradually: first, Amir flees from soldiers on an unnamed island’s beach. He is then found by disaffected 15-year-old Vänna Hermes, who helps him evade detention. Here, Akkad explores a world in which migrants routinely wash up dead on the beach and are viewed as an inconvenience for wealthy tourists. The chapters alternate between the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ of Amir’s arrival on the island, chronicling the characters and challenges Amir faces on the boat and on land, and depicting the injustice, intolerance, and violence that refugees face in a hostile global landscape. The result is a moving if somewhat predictable story of survival and the need for compassion and camaraderie across languages, cultures, religions, and borders. While readers may find themselves wishing for more complexity, there is plenty of moral clarity.”

Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nightbitch: “Yoder’s guttural and luminous debut blends absurdism, humor, and myth to lay bare the feral, violent realities underlying a new mother’s existence. An unnamed stay-at-home mother lives through a monotonous routine with her two-year-old son, while her kind yet mostly uninterested husband leaves for weeklong work trips each Monday. Things begin to change when the mother notices a patch of hair growing on the back of her neck; spots her new, curiously sharp canines in the mirror; and begins to feel a tail emerging from her lower back. Bewildered by her metamorphosis, the mother searches online for explanations with terms such as ‘looks like I was punched hard in both eyes.’ Horrified by the dizzying results, she treks to the library, a zone that promises the comfort of knowledge but is colonized by other mothers (‘She actively resisted making friends in a mom context and objected to the sort of clapping and cooing that went on in the library room… the happiness and positivity that would also be mandatory,’ Yoder writes). She checks out a book titled A Field Guide to Magical Women, which validates her experience and encourages her to embrace the freedom of her new animal nature. Bursting with fury, loneliness, and vulgarity, Yoder’s narrative revels in its deconstruction of the social script women and mothers are taught to follow, painstakingly reading between the lines to expose the cruel and downright ludicrous ways in which women are denied their personhood. An electric work by an ingenious new voice, this is one to devour.”

The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal (translated by Jennifer Croft)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Woman from Uruguay: “This introspective outing from Mairal (The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra) follows a writer’s eventful day as he travels from Argentina to Uruguay to game the exchange rate and collect advances on two books. Lucas Pereyra hopes the money will solve all his problems, including his marital strife with Catalina, who may or may not be having an affair. While in Montevideo, Lucas plans to meet up with Magalí Guerra Zabala, a woman he recently met at a festival, whom he has built up in his mind as another source of salvation. After securing the money from the bank—’a whole year in my pocket’—he rents a hotel room to pursue his ‘hormonal agenda’ with Magalí, though, as is to be expected, nothing goes as planned. Instead, Lucas has run-ins with a pit bull, a tattoo artist, thugs at the beach, and his old mentor. While Lucas’s objectifying of Magalí wears thin, the story ends beautifully and judiciously, as Lucas must decide what he wants and who he wants to be. It adds up to an intimate and mostly fresh look at middle age.”

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Intimacies: “Kitamura’s plodding latest (after A Separation) follows a group of jet-setting young professionals in The Hague, where a translator finds herself enmeshed in the private lives of her colleagues. There’s something vaguely unseemly about the unnamed translator’s married suitor, Adriaan, as well as other characters, including her boss in Language Services, the preppy curator she house-sits for, and a book dealer who is mugged during a recent wave of violence. But it’s hard to discern what anybody is actually up to. Meanwhile, in the courts, the translator is entrusted with the cases of a recently extradited jihadist and a well-heeled former president of a West African country on trial for war crimes, with whom she must match wits. There are, unfortunately, plenty of unused opportunities for deeper character development; Adriaan in particular is built up as a nemesis, but he does little more than preen, while even less can be said of the various other dilettantes and sexual rivals. Subtle to a fault, this adds up to very little outside of a plethora of dinner scenes and undeveloped subplots, while the translator simply drifts through a Henry James–style chronicle of life abroad. Kitamura is a talented writer, but this one disappoints.”

Virtue by Hermione Hoby

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Virtue: “Hoby (Neon in Daylight) delivers an accomplished take on class and protests against racial injustice. ‘That was just what you did on weekends—brunch and protest,’ Luca Lewis wryly narrates in 2027, looking back on his time interning at a New York City magazine as a naive 22-year-old in 2016–2017. He yearns to befriend fellow intern Zara McKing, an attractive Black woman, but feels ashamed of his whiteness and unsure of how to be an ally. Luca also becomes enamored with Paula Summers, an artist working at the magazine, and her indie filmmaker husband, Jason Frank, and spends the summer with the couple and their five kids in Maine as Paula and Jason fight over how to respond to racial injustice (in the city, Jason took the kids to protests; in Maine, Paula insists on carrying on traditions such as a Fourth of July parade). Toward the end of the summer, Luca learns of a tragedy involving Zara during a protest. Hoby’s writing sparks with inventiveness (‘The sky had a passive-aggressive quality, bruised clouds withholding their light while telling you they were fine’), and she offers insights on the damage of power imbalances in relationships. This speaks volumes on the shallowness of white privilege.”