Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Nagamatsu, Sanchez, Wang, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Sequoia Nagamatsu, David Sanchez, Weike Wang, 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.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How High We Go in the Dark: “Nagamatsu’s ambitious, mournful debut novel-in-stories (after the collection Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone) offers a mosaic portrait of the near future, detailing the genesis and fallout of an ancient alien plague reawakened from a Neanderthal corpse thanks to the melting permafrost in the Siberian tundra. Combining the literary and the science fictional, each subtly interconnected chapter examines a point of failure during the dying days of the great human experiment: in the social safety net, in marriages, in families, and in compassion for non-humanoid life-forms. As the flu-like pandemic intersects with increasing climate change and exposes society’s flaws, the characters bear witness to a massive extinction event happening to them in real time. Nagamatsu can clearly write, but this exploration of global trauma makes for particularly bleak reading: the novel offers no resolutions, or even much hope, just snapshots of grief and loss. (Those with weak stomachs, meanwhile, will want to skip the ‘Songs of Your Decay’ for its graphic descriptions of corpse decomposition.) Readers willing to speculate about a global crisis not too far off from reality will find plenty to think about in this deeply sad but well-rendered vision of an apocalyptic future.”

All Day Is a Long Time by David Sanchez

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All Day Is a Long Time: “Sanchez’s shimmering debut uses rapid-fire prose and dark humor to sketch the hardscrabble coming-of-age of a boy on the Florida Gulf Coast. The troubled David tells of Xanax blackouts in high school classrooms, shooting up oxycodone and meth at home, running away at 14 to pursue a girl, and a series of stints in the Palm Beach County jail, before and after he turns 18. Flush with ‘energy, rage, and terrible longing,’ David burns through a series of behavioral therapists and rehab facilities and trades sex for meth. The school wrestling team becomes a temporary distraction before a full-on return to drug stupors and near-lethal blackouts. The frenetic scenes are saturated with panic, stress, and simmering desperation, and the narration can be overly gloomy; its saving grace arrives when David, already a casual reader of Descartes, takes a community college literature course, and new possibilities open up for him. Sanchez is a daring, clever writer: a passage on the particulars of smoking crack is as vivid as David’s sober awakening and his yearning to make amends with family. This gritty and engrossing account of a man traversing into and out of hopelessness will stay with readers.”

The Hard Sell by Evan Hughes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hard Sell: “Journalist Hughes (Literary Brooklyn) takes a revelatory deep dive into the ignominious history of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, the leadership of which was convicted in 2019 of federal racketeering and conspiracy charges. John Kapoor, the founder of the Arizona company, and others had bribed doctors to prescribe their fentanyl-based pain medication Subsys even when medically unnecessary. Insys also persuaded physicians to delegate seeking prior authorizations for insurance coverage to an Insys contractor, a practice that Hughes notes is tantamount to a kickback (‘If you write our product instead of the other one, we’ll pay for the grunt work’). Hughes does an excellent job of illuminating the inner workings of Big Pharma’s malicious practices; for example, it was routine practice for sales reps to document their pitches, and some of those notes referenced lies about the medications being pushed (such as OxyContin being less addictive than other opioids). To avoid legal jeopardy, several major drug manufacturers altered their record-keeping systems so as to eliminate the risk of an employee recording incriminating information. While the arc of this story won’t surprise readers familiar with the recent Purdue Pharma headlines, this is a powerful indictment of abhorrent industry practices. It’s a worthy complement to Gerald Posner’s Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.”

Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Joan Is Okay: “Wang’s profound latest (after Chemistry) portrays two generations of a grieving Asian American family. Joan, a 36-year-old self-possessed physician, works long hours at her Manhattan hospital’s ICU and lives alone in a sparsely decorated apartment despite the insistence of her well-to-do brother, Fang, that she move to Connecticut to be closer to him and his family. But when their father, who has lived in Shanghai with their mother ever since Joan went to college, dies after a stroke, Joan begins to feel unmoored. Their mother then returns to the U.S. after 18 years, only to be stranded in Connecticut due to the pandemic travel bans. Because of language barriers, her old age, and lack of a driver’s license, she depends on her children to get around and to communicate. Wang offers candid explorations of family dynamics (‘berating is love, and here I was at thirty-six, still being loved,’ Joan reflects after Fang shames her for not going with him and their mother on a fancy Colorado skiing trip), and Joan’s empathy for her ailing patients, as well as her disapproving brother and sister in law, are consistently refreshing. It adds up to a tender and enduring portrayal of the difficulties of forging one’s own path after spending a life between cultures.”

A Dream Life by Claire Messud

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Dream Life: “Messud (The Burning Girl) offers an intriguing if slight domestic drama. When Alice Armstrong’s husband, Teddy, gets a job in Sydney, Australia, she moves there with him and their two young children, Sadie and Martha, from New York City. Their imposing new house, dubbed Chateau Deeds after its owners, offers Alice ‘a hiatus from reality,’ but it also requires tremendous upkeep, which proves too much. The first two housekeepers Alice hires don’t work out, leading a friend to recommend getting live-in help. The choices presented by her applicants leave her feeling ‘assailed by the arbitrariness, the strange irrelevance, of her Australian existence.’ Alice hires Simone Funk, a choice that may be foolhardy—Simone tells wild, possibly tall tales about being a runway model as a teen. Simone also has an outburst that may be a red flag (‘Stuck-up cow. She doesn’t know the first thing about me,’ Simone says of a house guest). There is some chilliness between Alice and Simone, and things come to a head after it’s revealed that Simone has Alice’s daughters massage her. Messud keeps readers on tenterhooks waiting for a shoe to drop, and when it does, everything recalibrates. The story may be slim, but the writing is crisp—’Guilt swept across their features like a veil’—and so is Messud’s attention to detail. This is worth savoring.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Schulz, Attenberg, Yanagihara, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Kathryn Schultz, Jami Attenberg, Hanya Yanagihara, 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.
Lost & Found by Kathryn Schultz
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lost & Found: “‘Just as every grief narrative is a reckoning with loss, every love story is a chronicle of finding,’ writes Pulitzer Prize winner Schulz (Being Wrong) in this stunning memoir. As Schulz recounts, she contended with the pain and ecstasy of both narratives colliding when she fell in love with her future wife, C., 18 months before Schulz’s father died. She explores the grief of loss and joy of finding through penetrating reflections on the life of her father, a deep thinker with an endless appetite for the world; an ‘intimate study of [her] beloved’ wife; and philosophical forays into literature, poetry, and art. She ruminates on the ‘intrinsic pleasure of discovery’ in quest narratives, is reminded how ‘the entire plan of the universe consists of losing’ when C. reads her Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and thinks of her father’s memorial service, one of the ‘greatest parties I ever attended,’ when remembering C. S. Lewis’s quote that ‘we all have… many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst.’ By the end of these exquisite existential wanderings, Schulz comes to a quiet truce with her finding that ‘life, too, goes by contraries… by turns crushing and restorative… comic and uplifting.’ Schulz’s canny observations are a treasure.”
I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Came All This Way to Meet You: “Novelist Attenberg (All Grown Up) meditates on the virtues and vices of an unscripted life in this sparkling memoir. In vivid essays, Attenberg recalls her couch-surfing years in her 20s, an assault she survived in college (‘That moment remains a burning hot coal in my chest’), and teaching fiction in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a ‘newly moderately successful writer’ in 2013. She writes of her decision to eschew tradition in pursuit of art and adventure, but how, at age 40, she began to envy her more grounded, married friends: ‘I did not want… the husband, the kids. But I did want that refrigerator full of food.’ The tension between rootedness and wanderlust makes for brisk descriptions of locale: from Brooklyn on the cusp of gentrification, where she ‘had birthdays… and went broke several times,’ to New Orleans, where she wrote ‘religiously, daily,’ to a chapel made of bones in Portugal. Though her narrative flits around in time and space, her writing emerges as a bedrock from which to both grow and settle into. From the vantage point of 2020, she observes: ‘We are all homebound…. We can’t go back to the same way…. Everything is just sideways.’ Tilted or upright, Attenberg’s story shines with wit and empathy.”
The Stars Are Not Yet Bells by Hannah Lillith Assadi
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Stars Are Not Yet Bells: “Assadi (Sonora) returns with a lyrical and melancholic tale of grief, love, and a marriage’s open secrets, narrated by a woman who has Alzheimer’s. In 1941, Elle Ranier and her jeweler husband, Simon, moved from New York City as young newlyweds to a remote island off the coast of Georgia in search of a variety of jewel akin to diamonds and known locally as the ‘blue legend.’ Many people have drowned while seeking the minerals, which are believed to lie at the bottom of the ocean, and Simon’s fruitless search eventually leaves his business in shambles. Now, in 1997, Elle remembers her previous lover, Gabriel, in Brooklyn, whom she arranged to work with Simon on the island after claiming he was her cousin, and who died shortly after they arrived. Then, in 1961, Simon grows close with a geologist hired to prospect for the jewels. Elle’s reminiscences become hazy as a result of her Alzheimer’s, though ‘for a while, life remained in [her] bright dreams,’ which evokes a sense of magic with images of mermaids and fairies. As the story of the trio’s arrival to the island and their subsequent misfortunes gradually unfolds, Elle circles around the secrets about her and Simon’s relationships with other men. The beauty of Assadi’s prose and the splendid depiction of a love that transcends death make for a singular rendition of an oft-told story. This will leave readers undone.”
Yonder by Jabari Asim
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Yonder: “Novelist and cultural critic Asim (We Can’t Breathe) delivers a searing and redemptive story of slavery and survival. Set in the antebellum South, it is narrated primarily by enslaved people who call themselves the ‘Stolen’ and white people ‘Thieves.’ To sustain themselves through the cruelties of their owner, Cannonball Greene, a philandering pseudo-intellectual planning a study of Africans in America, the Stolen rely on their rituals and bonds. Inspired by myths of the Buba Yalis, Zander, a teen, believes he will one day fly like his African ancestors. Cato eases the shattering grief of his lover’s death by adding her name to the seven words chosen by the elders for each Stolen at birth, in the belief that ‘words were mighty enough to change [their] condition.’ William doubts the power of all words, trusting action instead. When he stops Cupid, the plantation’s slave foreman, from bullying Zander one night, the two men fight. Cato steps in and kills Cupid, then helps William bury him in the woods. Faced with Greene’s rage, the others, heeding the promises of freedom offered by an itinerant Black preacher, consider a risky escape. Asim convincingly portrays what W.E.B. Du Bois would later term ‘double consciousness’ among the Stolen: ‘All of us have two tongues,’ an unnamed Stolen says, distinguishing between the ‘lament cloaked in deception’ used for their enslavers and the rich, transgressive language used among themselves. At once intimate and majestic, the prose marries a gripping narrative with an unforgettable exploration of the power of stories, language, and hope. With a bold vision, Asim demonstrates his remarkable gifts.”
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen Kirby
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Shit Cassandra Saw: “Kirby’s excellent debut collection follows a series of women empowered by new circumstances, sometimes with fantastical results. In ‘A Few Normal Things That Happen a Lot,’ a man tells a woman to smile, and she responds by revealing a mouthful of fangs, which she uses to bite off the man’s hand, ‘crack[ing] the bones and spit[ting] them out.’ Another woman in the same story uses her ‘laser eyes’ to transform a man who gropes her into the exact change for her bus fare. In ‘The Best and Only Whore of Cwm Hyfryd, 1886,’ the women of a Welsh settlement in Patagonia are generally too tired to have sex with their husbands, leaving the job to a sex worker. That woman, meanwhile, writes letters home to her brother and pretends to be married. The prose is sharp and calibrated to suit each of Kirby’s temporally and geographically diverse settings. She is even able to wring pathos from a story written in the format of a Yelp review, narrated by one of the rare male voices in the book, in the very funny ‘Jerry’s Crab Shack: One Star,’ in which reviewer Gary F.’s account of a miserable night at the Crab Shack slips into a chronicle of his crumbling marriage. It’s all accomplished through risk-taking and assured, well-developed craft. This is remarkable.”
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mouth to Mouth: “Wilson (Panorama City) explores the intertwined fates of two inscrutable men in the Los Angeles art world of the early 2000s in this shifty work of psychological suspense. The unnamed narrator, a novelist delayed at the airport on his way to Berlin, runs into an old college acquaintance, Jeff Cook. Jeff invites the narrator to the first class lounge, where he tells him a long story. Twenty years earlier, while strolling along the beach, Jeff resuscitated a drowning stranger, Francis Arsenault, a successful art dealer who showed no interest in his savior. Jeff, by contrast, attempted to learn everything about Francis, and ingratiated his way into Francis’s gilded life—insisting to the narrator that his motives, though obscure even to himself, were not necessarily mercenary. Francis is a prickly figure, a ‘master manipulator’ whose bullying and shady business practices caused the upright Jeff to belatedly question whether Francis was worth saving. Though the frame narrative can feel contrived, and Francis might not be as memorably monstrous as, say, Graham Greene’s Harry Lime, the extended scenes of self-fashioning and occluded vision make good use of Patricia Highsmith’s influence. There’s plenty of satisfaction in watching the characters navigate the blurred line between plausibility and truth.”
The Boy We Made by Taylor Harris
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Boy We Made: “Essayist Harris weaves a medical mystery, love story, parenting memoir, and tale of survival in her stunning debut. When Harris’s sweet-natured 22-month-old boy, Tophs, started showing a host of inexplicable symptoms—including hypoglycemia, developmental delays, and speech and language difficulties—she was forced to reckon with the ways in which his health issues stoked anxiety issues that she’d spent most of her life battling. In writing that is heartfelt and raw, she recounts her distress at the evasive explanations that she received from doctors as her son underwent test after test, while braiding in reflections on motherhood (‘Being a Black mother in a… country, built for whites was hard’), faith, and the idea of existing within liminal spaces: ‘Caught somewhere between ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet’…. It was getting harder to see what, if anything, was being formed in Tophs, in me, or in us as a family through this search for answers.’ Though medical professionals believed Tophs had ketotic hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood glucose levels drop unexpectedly, Harris and her husband never received a conclusive diagnosis. But out of that uncertainty grew a love and calmness that Harris couldn’t have foreseen, and a story of acceptance that mesmerizes with its vulnerability: ‘He had always been my son…. It was my job to let him be.’ This is astounding.”
High-Risk Homosexual by Edgar Gomez
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about High-Risk Homosexual: “In this crackling debut, Gomez recounts his coming-of-age as a queer man, passionately exploring what it means to celebrate one’s identities and to make space for joy in the most unlikely places. ‘In a world desperate to erase us, queer Latinx men must find ways to hold on to pride for survival,’ he writes, ‘but excessive male pride is often what we are battling, both in ourselves and in others.’ In essays packed with dry wit and searing cultural insight, Gomez blows open this paradox as he contends with the difficulties and traumas of compulsory heterosexuality that were forced upon him growing up in his Nicaraguan family. He brings readers on an exhilarating trip through his teens in Central America, where bloody cockfights at his uncle’s bar pulsated with machismo; reflects on meeting a group of encouraging trans sex workers, whose simple freedom both terrified and enticed him as a young gay person; recounts his awkward attempts to navigate hookup culture in his early 20s in Florida; and reflects on how taking PrEP instantly labeled him medically as a ‘high-risk homosexual.’ The result transcends a simple coming-out story to instead offer a brilliant and provocative interrogation of sex, gender, race, and love.”
Wahala by Nikki May
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wahala: “In May’s breezy if overdramatic debut, the mutual friendship of three Anglo-Nigerian women is threatened by an interloper, a Russian Nigerian on a revenge trip. Isobel Adams holds a particular grudge against each of the successful and ambitious women who have been best friends for 17 years. There’s Boo, one of the numerous children Isobel’s father had with multiple women; Ronke Tinubu, the daughter of the man who had an affair with Isobel’s mother, and who now dates the man Isobel wants; and Simi, Isobel’s friend since they were five years old, who describes Isobel in a conversation with the others as ’embarrassingly rich,’ and whose father has been in a longtime feud with Isobel’s. May’s characters, despite all their accomplishments and intelligence—Ronke is a dentist, Boo has a PhD in bioinformatics, and Simi works as a brand executive for a fashion house—are easily taken in by Isobel, due to Isobel’s willingness to help open doors for them. After Isobel manipulates her way into the trio’s lives, someone in their orbit winds up violently killed. While some of Isobel’s destructive behavior is outlandishly implausible, May’s nuanced exploration of race and gender makes this refreshing. This will leave readers intrigued to see what May does next.”
Call Me Cassandra by Marcial Gala
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Call Me Cassandra: “In Cuban poet and novelist Gala’s lyrical and elegiac return (after The Black Cathedral), a young man grows up feeling stifled by life in Castro’s Cuba. At 10, Rauli Iriarte is effeminate and bookish, imperiled by the strict gender roles embodied by his violent brother, drunken father, and unsympathetic school board. He’s more comfortable in the company of his mother and his father’s Russian mistress, Svetlana. As it happens, Rauli is also Cassandra, the Greek prophetess of ancient myth, cursed with the knowledge that he will die as a young soldier in Angola, where he is dispatched as part of the Cuban Intervention. There, on ‘a continent full of ghosts, the ghosts of kings, dark ghosts of dark wizards,’ he is simultaneously swept up in the Trojan War and forced to relive The Iliad’s cycle of death and carnage. Lodged irrevocably between genders, historical periods, and legends, Rauli—who’d rather be acknowledged as Cassandra—must find meaning and purpose in a life he knows to be tragically foreshortened. It’s a fascinating premise, but not a whole lot happens. Still, Gala’s prose, elegantly translated by Kushner, perfectly conveys the protagonist’s dual realities (‘We are but shadows set on the canvas of this life, my Zeus,’ he thinks, while on the battlefield). In the end, the author offers a singular invocation of immortality.”
Present Tense Machine by Gunnhild Øyehaug (translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Present Tense Machine: “The playful and poignant latest from Øyehaug (Wait, Blink) unfurls the alternate realities that separate a mother and daughter. In 1998, Anna misreads the word ‘trädgård’—Swedish for ‘garden’—as the nonsense word ‘tärdgård,’ and the slip-up sends her into a parallel universe. Her two-year-old daughter Laura has never existed, and she eventually gives birth to two new children, Peder and Elina. In the other universe, Laura grows up with no memory of Anna, and now an adult, she lives with her musician partner, Karl Peter, and is pregnant with her first child. Both women study literature, and they both sign up to take part in the same group piano concert of Satie’s ‘Vexations.’ Yet while they’re sure something is missing from their lives, they fail to recall their bond. Øyehaug employs a metafictional narrator who frequently addresses the reader, noting that she’s writing while riding a bus and feeling dislocated, or reflecting on a Youtube video about astrophysics. Some of the mundane details of Anna’s, Laura’s, and the narrator’s lives slow the story, but the ruminations on existence and purpose consistently captivate. Ultimately, Øyehaug steers this to a wholly satisfying conclusion.”
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about To Paradise: “Yanagihara’s ambitious if unwieldy latest (after National Book Award finalist A Little Life) spins a set of three stories in New York City’s Washington Square over 200 years. David Bingham lives in the utopian ‘Free States’ of 1893. He rejects a proposed arranged marriage with another wealthy, older man, opting to pursue a love match with a music teacher who lives a hardscrabble life. At a dinner party in 1993, the host’s oldest friend is dying from AIDS as the other guests consider the meaning of one’s legacy. One of them, also named David Bingham (this one a native Hawaiian paralegal), is cautiously optimistic about his relationship with his wealthy older boyfriend, Charles Griffith. A century later, a woman named Charlie Griffith deals with dystopian conditions such as a series of pandemics and a totalitarian society in which the press and homosexual relationships have been outlawed, and struggles to build a meaningful relationship with her husband. The stories are united by the characters’ desire for love as their freedom is diminished. The prose in the first section effectively conjures the style of Henry James, but there’s too much exposition and not enough character development in the final section, where the author spends too much time building out the future world. There’s a great deal of passion, but on the whole it’s a mixed bag.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Percy, Ho, Chan, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Benjamin Percy, Jean Chen Ho, Jessamine Chan, 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.
The Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Unfamiliar Garden: “Percy’s masterful second Comet Cycle genre-bender (after The Ninth Metal) combines a missing-person case, romantic reconciliation, and a riveting sci-fi what-if imagining of a sentient fungi, spawned by debris from a passing comet, that symbiotically absorbs flora and fauna—including human beings. On the day the comet swept Earth with a dramatic meteor shower, ‘fun dad’ Jack, a mycologist, took his eight-year-old daughter, Mia, on a mushroom study trip through a dank forest outside Seattle—where she vanished. This devastating loss breaks up Jack’s marriage to Nora, a type A police detective. Now, five years later, Nora investigates a series of eerie, ritualistic Seattle homicides, while Jack boozily self-destructs his academic career. The pair gradually reconnect by probing into the ominous fungal invasion—a line of inquiry that may lead them to Mia. Meanwhile, a sinister governmental operation attempts to militarize the fungus, developing it into a mind control serum. The juxtaposition of malignant military-industrial machinations and well-delineated human tension works wonderfully, and sci-fi fans will appreciate Percy’s extraterrestrial biological lore. It’s a thoroughly satisfying near-future glimpse of both disaster and salvation.”

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fiona and Jane: “In Ho’s intimate debut collection, two childhood friends, Fiona and Jane, grow up, grow apart, and then back together. The first story, ‘The Night Market,’ begins with 18-year-old Jane’s visit to her father in Taiwan. On her last night there, her father reveals he’s in love with his male friend Lee and that he will not be returning to Jane and her mother in Los Angeles. Reeling after this revelation, Jane reflects on her parents’ relationship and her own budding romantic feelings toward her female piano teacher. From there, the stories follow more or less chronologically, with ‘Go Slow,’ flashing back to an eventful night drinking soju at a strip mall Korean bar when Fiona and Jane are 16, then forward to Fiona’s ambitious move to New York with her boyfriend, Jasper, after college in ‘The Inheritance,’ while Jane stays in California. ‘Cold Turkey’ finds Jane grieving over her father and breaking up with her girlfriend. In later stories, Fiona leaves both law school and a cheating Jasper, and the old friends reconnect. Ho excels at creating characters whose struggles feel deeply human. This packs in plenty of insights about love and friendship.”

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The School for Good Mothers: “Chan’s enthralling speculative debut opens with a woman having ‘one very bad day’ in Philadelphia. Frida Liu, Chinese American and recently divorced, has left her daughter, 18-month-old Harriet, alone at home in an ExerSaucer for two hours so she can work, a decision that results in Harriet’s removal to a crisis center. Frida is then sentenced by a family court judge to one year in a live-in rehab program for bad moms that will use constant instruction, training, and supervision to determine if she can make ‘sufficient progress’ as a mother or if her parental rights should be terminated. Guided by the mantra ‘I am a bad mother, but I am learning to be good,’ Frida and the other 200 moms must prove their worth by raising surrogate children in order to earn their own children back. Chan raises the stakes as she explores Frida’s relationships with the other mothers, Harriet and Emmanuelle (her surrogate daughter), her ex-husband’s new family, and her romantic interests. Chan (a former PW reviews editor) also tightens the screws of the program itself as the leaders capriciously deny privileges, such as 10-minute Sunday phone calls home, and broaden the definitions for what’s considered an offense. Woven seamlessly throughout are societal assumptions and stereotypes about mothers, especially mothers of color, and their consequences. Chan’s imaginative flourishes render the mothers’ vulnerability to social pressures and governmental whims nightmarish and palpable. It’s a powerful story, made more so by its empathetic and complicated heroine.”

The Latinist by Mark Prins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Latinist: “Prins puts a contemporary spin on the Apollo and Daphne myth in his laudable debut, which revolves around the relationship of a classical philology student and her unscrupulous mentor. Tessa Templeton is just weeks away from receiving her doctorate from Oxford when she discovers that her trusted adviser, Christopher Eccles, professor of classics at Westfaling College, has effectively sabotaged her budding career with a misleading recommendation letter that he sent to the universities she’d applied to for teaching positions—leaving her only option to accept a faculty job at Westfaling, where she would be subject to Eccles’s continued scheming and enamored attention. As Tessa attempts to free herself from his obsessive manipulation, she uncovers groundbreaking revelations regarding a second-century female Roman poet with a penchant for limping iambs that could propel her career into the stratosphere. Prins’s riveting tale of love, power, and possession matches deep characterization with an intriguing plot involving ancient texts, necropolises, and archaeological sites. Fans of academic thrillers will dig this.”

Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Velorio: “Navarro Aquino debuts with an elegiac and fervent ode to Puerto Rico that opens in the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, as people grow increasingly desperate for food, water, and gasoline. In the absence of effective government, a magnetic young man named Urayoán sees an opportunity to take power, and—supported by his red-shirted minions—founds a self-sufficient society called Memoria. Urayoán limits Memoria’s inhabitants to young adults and teens, and the novel follows several of them, first as they follow signs in search of Memoria, rumored to be ‘the center of all things,’ and later as they contend with Memoria’s growing violence and instability. There’s tough, independent Bayfish; his happy-go-lucky friend Banto; and Camila, who wanders the island, trancelike, carrying the corpse of her older sister, who was killed by a mudslide. The ambitious, polyphonic first half takes a little while to build steam, but once the characters gather in Memoria, the narrative takes off as Memoria threatens to collapse. Graphic, unsettling scenes of animalistic violence orchestrated by Urayoán are studded with moments of emotional clarity and grace. Throughout, Aquino’s characters grapple with all they have lost and wrestle with the temptation to feed their nostalgia for a place and a past that never really existed. This lyrical and emotionally raw story will leave readers reflecting on the pain and promise of memory.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Keegan, Riordan, and Hall

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Claire Keegan, Maurice Riordan, and Donald Hall—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.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Small Things Like These: “Irish story writer Keegan’s gorgeously textured second novella (after Foster) centers on a family man who wants to do the right thing. It’s almost Christmas in a small town south of Dublin, Ireland, in 1985. Bighearted coal dealer Bill Furlong makes deliveries at all hours, buys dinner for his men, plays Santa Claus for the local children, and cares for his five daughters along with his wife, Eileen. Meanwhile, rumors circulate about the ‘training school’ at a nearby convent, suggesting it’s a front for free labor by young unwed mothers to support a laundry service, but no one wants to rock the boat. When Bill is there on a delivery, a teenage girl begs him to take her with him, and he politely makes excuses. He also notices broken glass topping the walls. Eileen tells him to ‘stay on the right side of people,’ but he feels he should do something—not just because he imagines his own daughters imprisoned there, but because he was born to a 16-year-old unwed mother who could have suffered a similar fate. Keegan beautifully conveys Bill’s interior life as he returns to the house where he was raised (‘Wasn’t it sweet to be where you were and let it remind you of the past… despite the upset’). It all leads to a bittersweet culmination, a sort of anti–Christmas Carol, but to Bill it’s simply sweet. Readers will be touched.”

Also on shelves this week: Shoulder Tap by Maurice Riordan and Old Poets by Donald Hall.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lydia Davis, Preti Taneja, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Lydia Davis, Preti Taneja, 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.
Essays Two by Lydia Davis
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Essays Two: “In this riveting and erudite collection (after Essays One), Davis documents the adventures and challenges of her work as a translator, moving with ease between the technical challenges posed by a complex text and her personal relationship with literature. Several pieces describe her process of translating Proust’s Swann’s Way into English: ‘The Child as Writer’ provides critical and biographical insight as Davis diagrams the syntax of Proust’s ‘sophisticated and polished’ sentences, while in ‘Proust in His Bedroom,’ she reads his correspondence and pays a visit to his apartment in Paris. Sections are dedicated to her experience learning Spanish, Dutch, and Norwegian, often through context and logic: In ‘Learning Bokmal’ (an older form of Norwegian), Davis explains how she is exhilarated by ‘the fact of doing it by myself.’ In ‘Translating ‘Bob, Son of Battle: The Last Gray Dog of Kenmuir’,’ Davis describes her desire to keep a book from her childhood from being forgotten, and her project of modernizing the book’s language, while ‘Buzzing, Humming, or Droning’ considers the many Madame Bovary translations. Thorough, idiosyncratic, and inimitable, Davis is the kind of intelligent and attentive reader a book is lucky to find. Readers, in turn, are lucky to have this collection, a worthy addition to the Davis canon.”
 
Aftermath by Preti Taneja
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Aftermath: “Novelist Taneja (We That Are Young) explores colonialism, violence, and grief in this stunning experimental collection. Taneja taught creative writing for three years at a prison in Britain, until one of her students, Usman Kahn, went on to kill two people after his release. She digs into her subsequent grief and places it within the context of capitalism, white supremacy, and terrorism. ‘There is a hierarchy to grief,’ she suggests in ‘Disenfranchised grief,’ while in an essay titled ‘An event happens and,’ she writes ‘In moments of deep loss we become as children, trained to seek comfort in the old fairy tales: the fundamental good versus the fundamental evil.’ In ‘Violence as trauma as form,’ meanwhile, she wishes for ‘a different map… other words.’ Taneja writes with clarity, depth, and specificity about the role of writing as a source of survival and power, while remaining blunt and clear-eyed about the moments when words fail. She also turns a critical lens toward the way language shapes violence, suggesting in the epilogue that “Power tells a story to sustain itself, it has no empathy for those it harms.” This poetic, urgent, and self-reflective work will delight fans of Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.
People from My Neighborhood by Hiromi Kawakami (translated by Ted Goossen)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about People from My Neighborhood: “Kawakami’s magical and engaging collection (after Strange Weather in Tokyo) pulls the reader into a small Japanese community via stories told by unnamed narrators. In ‘The Secret,’ the narrator’s life changes upon meeting a child who never ages despite the two spending 30 years together. ‘Grandma’ follows a neighbor who plays cards with a child narrator and asks the child for money, until something causes their dynamic to change. ‘The Office’ features a gazebo where a man waits for ‘customers.’ The narrator brings a friend named Kanae to the gazebo, who is rude to the man, though they later discover the man has a surprising talent. In ‘Brains,’ Kanae encourages the narrator to tickle her older sister, a form of torture, because her sister’s nearly blue eyes make her look like a stranger, despite her Japanese features. In ‘The Hachirō Lottery,’ a group of families take turns caring for a neighborhood child who has 14 siblings. Everyone fortifies themselves against an alarming gravity-defying event in ‘Weightlessness,’ though Kanae convinces the narrator to sneak out of school to experience the phenomenon. Throughout, Kawakami effectively anchors the stories’ uncanny moments with everyday details. This thought-provoking, offbeat collection is worth a look.”
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Small Things Like These: ‘Irish story writer Keegan’s gorgeously textured second novella (after Foster) centers on a family man who wants to do the right thing. It’s almost Christmas in a small town south of Dublin, Ireland, in 1985. Bighearted coal dealer Bill Furlong makes deliveries at all hours, buys dinner for his men, plays Santa Claus for the local children, and cares for his five daughters along with his wife, Eileen. Meanwhile, rumors circulate about the ‘training school’ at a nearby convent, suggesting it’s a front for free labor by young unwed mothers to support a laundry service, but no one wants to rock the boat. When Bill is there on a delivery, a teenage girl begs him to take her with him, and he politely makes excuses. He also notices broken glass topping the walls. Eileen tells him to ‘stay on the right side of people,’ but he feels he should do something—not just because he imagines his own daughters imprisoned there, but because he was born to a 16-year-old unwed mother who could have suffered a similar fate. Keegan beautifully conveys Bill’s interior life as he returns to the house where he was raised (‘Wasn’t it sweet to be where you were and let it remind you of the past… despite the upset’). It all leads to a bittersweet culmination, a sort of anti–Christmas Carol, but to Bill it’s simply sweet. Readers will be touched.”
Also on shelves this week: Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd and In Transit by Nicholas Pierce.
 

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Patchett, Byatt, and Llosa

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ann Patchett, A.S. Byatt, and Mario Vargas Llosa—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.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about These Precious Days: “In this eloquent collection, novelist Patchett (The Dutch House) meditates poignantly—and often with wry humor—on ‘what I needed, whom I loved, what I could let go, and how much energy the letting go would take.’ In ‘How to Practice,’ Patchett writes of her ‘journey of digging out’ and the feeling of lightness she begins to notice as she gets rid of possessions. In the title essay, she shares the story of Sooki, Tom Hanks’s publicist, whom Patchett invited into her home and offered solace and comfort as Sooki underwent pancreatic cancer treatments: ‘What Sooki gave me was a sense of order, a sense of God, the God of Sister Nena, the God of my childhood, a belief that I had gone into my study one night and picked up the right book from the hundred books that were there because I was meant to.’ Other essays cover the lessons Patchett learned on her first Thanksgiving away from home, insights from a year in which she didn’t go shopping, and what she’s picked up from Snoopy. The elegance of Patchett’s prose is seductive and inviting: with Patchett as a guide, readers will really get to grips with the power of struggles, failures, and triumphs alike. The result is a moving collection not easily forgotten.”

Medusa’s Ankles by A.S. Byatt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Medusa’s Ankles: “These stories by Booker winner Byatt (Possession), three of which are previously uncollected, offer a scintillating look at three decades of the author’s work. Her stories transcend genre and stylistic limits, traversing through landscapes fantastical and real, as they bewitch, unnerve, and comfort the reader. ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye’ blends the natural and supernatural worlds when a scholar falls in love with a djinn she released from a mysterious bottle from an Istanbul bazaar. ‘Dolls’ Eyes’ oscillates between the real and unreal too, as it follows a schoolteacher with a large collection of dolls, some of which are alive. In a similar vein, ‘The Lucid Dreamer’ presents a man for whom real life and dreams begin to mesh as he struggles to regain his ability to dream while processing the loss of his beloved. Grief resurfaces as a theme in ‘A Stone Woman,’ which blends fantasy and Scandinavian myth with the story of a woman who turns to stone after her mother’s death. ‘Racine and the Tablecloth’ is equally effective in the realist mode, detailing the power dynamics between a student and the vulturine headmistress at an all-girls’ boarding school. Each story showcases Byatt’s exquisite prose and her wide-ranging mastery of the short story form. For the uninitiated, this makes for a perfect entry point.”

Harsh Times by Mario Vargas Llosa (translated by Adrian Nathan West)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Harsh Times: “Peruvian Nobel laureate Vargas Llosa (The Neighborhood) spins a complex and mostly propulsive tale of deception, centered on Guatemala’s political strife during the 1950s and ’60s. The Eisenhower administration latches onto a lie about communism taking root in the country via president Jacobo Árbenz, propagated by juggernaut banana importer United Fruit, which faces taxes for the first time under Árbenz’s regime. As part of its containment policy, and hoping to appease the company, the U.S. backs Lt. Col. Carlos Castillo Armas’s successful coup d’état. Once in power, the married Armas takes a lover, Marta Borrero Parra, who advises him and acts as conduit to his ear. Meanwhile, Dominican Johnny Abbes García is sent to Guatemala by his own country’s political leaders, who feel jilted by Armas, to orchestrate Armas’s assassination. Johnny takes a shine to Marta and befriends Armas’s director of security, Enrique Trinidad Oliva, with whom he plans the president’s murder. Vargas Llosa follows this trio up to and beyond Armas’s demise, as Johnny and Marta abscond to the Dominican Republic while Enrique is thrown in prison, and he employs a lovely Rashomon-style narration of Armas’s death through multiple perspectives. The fragmented storytelling leads to unnecessary murkiness at some points, but once the action kicks in, everything falls into place. Vargas Llosa writes with confidence and authority, and overall this hits the mark.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Seçkin, Sen, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Mina Seçkin, Mayukh Sen, 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.
The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Four Humors: “Grief is the point of entry for this perceptive debut from Seçkin, the story of a young Turkish American college student’s complicated summer in Istanbul. Sibel, the daughter of immigrants, visits Istanbul before her senior year, ostensibly to help her paternal grandmother, who has Parkinson’s. She is there with her blond American boyfriend, Cooper, a helpful, culturally sensitive type who quickly becomes of a favorite of Sibel’s large, opinionated extended family. Sibel, on the other hand, is increasingly irritated by him, particularly as he nags her to visit the grave of her father, who died unexpectedly the previous winter. But Sibel has found it difficult to grieve a man with whom her relationship was difficult, and who, as she comes to discover, was keeping some pretty hefty secrets. Seçkin moves with poise from Sibel’s modern-day, deadpan tone to the stories of her older relatives, which are related as stand-alone narratives and are often entangled with Turkey’s tempestuous political history. The grandmother is particularly well drawn, with her ‘giant beige bras drying out on the laundry rack,’ her habit of watching soap operas, and her secrets. Things unfold at a measured pace, with a fairly straightforward plot that’s low on suspense. Like many debuts, this packs a lot in, with varying degrees of success. At its heart, though, it’s a moving family story.”

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Taste Makers: “In this dazzling debut, James Beard Award–winning food writer Sen looks at the lives of seven remarkable immigrant women whose passion for their homeland’s food transformed how Americans cook and eat. While he originally set out to write about immigration using food as his lens, Sen ended up ‘interrogating the very notion of what success looks like for immigrants under American capitalism.’ What results is a vibrant, empathetic, and dynamic exploration of culture, identity, race, and gender. The story of Iranian-born cookbook author Najmieh Batmanglij examines how America became, for her, ‘a wonderful place for the stateless,’ even as the prejudice she faced in the 1980s stifled the potential reach of her work. The late Chao Yang Buwei’s revolutionary How to Cook and Eat in Chinese (1945)—’a manual of gastronomic diplomacy’—and Elena Zelayeta’s Mexican cookbooks in the 1960s made their home cuisines palatable for an American audience, while the late acclaimed chef Norma Shirley resisted assimilation and eventually returned to Jamaica, because ‘making food for white Americans was never her chief aim.’ Thoughtfully written, Sen’s portrayals of his subjects reveal how rich and nuanced being ‘American’ can truly be. Food lovers with a big appetite for knowledge will gobble this up.”

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Noor: “Convenience and comfort come at a cost in this probing, brilliant near-future odyssey from Okorafor (Remote Control). Anwuli Okwudili changed her name to Augmented Organism, or AO, as a nod to the body augmentations she’s used to compensate for her physical and mental disabilities over the years. Now she’s partially robotic, with various cybernetic limbs, organs, and implants produced by the mega company Ultimate Corp—and at times she feels more connected to Ultimate Corp’s machines than to her own people in Abuja, Nigeria. When AO is attacked while at the market, she inadvertently kills her assailants in self-defense, displaying the deadly range of her cybernetically enhanced capabilities. Branded a murderess, she goes on the run with Dangote Nuhu Adamu, or ‘DNA,’ a Fulani herdsman wrongfully accused of terrorism. Together, the fugitives battle never-ending sandstorms and evade both Ultimate Corp’s watchful eye and the Nigerian government’s retribution as they make their way across the desert. Okorafor exposes the cracks in this technology-driven, highly surveilled society as each detour in AO and DNA’s route adds layers of intrigue on the way to a jaw-dropping finale. Frequent instances of suicidal ideation may be triggering to some readers, but Okorafor handles heavy subjects well. This is a must-read.”

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Chouette: “Oshetsky’s wild and phantasmagorical debut takes a Dantean journey through the violent fever dreams of a woman in the trials of pregnancy and early motherhood. Tiny, an accomplished cellist, believes she has been impregnated by her ‘owl-lover’ and that the baby inside her will most certainly be an ‘owl-baby.’ Her husband fails to understand this, and Tiny leads the reader into the lonely terror she feels as she considers abortion, followed by her overwhelming, hormone-driven desire to have and protect the child. When Chouette is born, she is indeed strange: winged, ferocious, and ugly. Tiny’s husband, who insists on calling his daughter Charlotte, goes to great lengths to try to fix her, taking her to dicey doctors offering outlandish cures. But encouraged by Tiny, Chouette is allowed to become her true self. Tiny feeds Chouette frozen pinkie mice, and she hunts gophers in the backyard. When the husband finally tries to wrest Chouette away from Tiny, it becomes a mortal battle between good and evil. Tiny’s day-to-day struggles with child-rearing, blood-soaked and feces-covered, on the one hand offer a familiar view of a young mother’s delirious tedium, with the desperation and horror made vivid and strange by Oshetsky’s parable. No reader who has cared for a tiny human being will fail to recognize the battleground this talented author has conjured.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Erdrich, Wideman, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Louise Erdrich, John Edgar Wideman, 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.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sentence: “Pulitzer winner Erdrich (The Night Watchman) returns with a scintillating story about a motley group of Native American booksellers haunted by the spirit of a customer. In 2019 Minneapolis, Tookie, a formerly incarcerated woman, is visited at a bookstore by the ghost of Flora, a white woman with a problematic past. Despite being a dedicated ally of myriad Native causes, Flora fabricated a family lineage linking her to various Indigenous groups including Dakota and Ojibwe. Many of the story’s characters reckon with both personal and ancestral hauntings: Tookie with a childhood of neglect and her time in prison for unknowingly trafficking drugs; her husband, Pollux, a former tribal police officer, confronts his past experiences of using force after the murder of George Floyd; and Asema, a college student of Ojibwe and Sisseton Dakota descent, pieces together an ominous historical manuscript depicting the abduction of a 19th-century Ojibwe-Cree woman, which Flora’s daughter brought to the store. As the Covid-19 pandemic takes hold and the store pivots to mail orders, several of the characters join the protests against police brutality. More than a gripping ghost story, this offers profound insights into the effects of the global pandemic and the collateral damage of systemic racism. It adds up to one of Erdrich’s most sprawling and illuminating works to date.”

The Perishing by Natashia Deón

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Perishing: “Deón follows the critically acclaimed Grace with a provocative if unruly adventure through time featuring an immortal Black woman struggling to discover her destiny. Lou wakes up naked in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles as a teenager, with no memory of her past. Taken in by a foster family, she completes her education and becomes a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, where her beat consists of reporting on the deaths of ‘colored people—all shades of brown: Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Native American, and, depending on our country’s mood, Irish Catholic.’ Among those she interviews is a petty criminal who lives in an iron lung and a firefighter whom she has no memory of having met, but whose face she has drawn again and again for years. Interwoven are flashes of other lives, among them a murderess a century in the future, and the light-skinned lover of a Chinese doctor in 1871. These others are cognizant of their connection to Lou, but she knows nothing of them, and Deón burns a lot of pages with commentary on the various historical periods before elucidating Lou’s purpose. Lou does not discover who she really is, however, until the final pages, so though Deón can turn phrases in new and powerful ways, the story fails to find a satisfying ending. Deón is a very gifted writer, but this won’t go down as her best work.”

Admit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Admit This to No One: “Pietrzyk dissects the messy interpersonal power dynamics of Washington, D.C., in this sharp debut collection of linked stories. In the opener, ‘Til Death Do Us Part,’ an unnamed Speaker of the House, whose sex scandals adjusted his status from ‘not-president’ to ‘never-president,’ is stabbed while meeting his 15-year-old daughter for dinner at the Kennedy Center. His 40-year-old daughter, Lexie, who initially assumes the assailant was one of the Speaker’s exes, hears the news in ‘Stay There,’ and abruptly departs her own art opening to visit him at the hospital. The Speaker’s exceptionally competent, longtime senior staffer, Mary-Grace, stars in ‘I Believe in Mary Worth,’ where she butts heads with an eager young female new hire, and the title story, which flashes back to the Speaker’s doomed presidential run in 1992. Some stories move beyond the Speaker’s family, including ‘People Love a View,’ where a couple on a first date witness an increasingly tense traffic stop, and ‘This Isn’t Who We Are,’ in which a white, middle-class ‘Northern Virginia’ woman, in a series of sentences starting with the word ‘pretend’ (‘Pretend that your desire to compliment her hair isn’t about you;), wrestles with her implicit racism and classism. Throughout, Pietrzyk writes with insight and wit, and makes even tertiary characters feel fully developed. This ambitious work is pulled off with verve.”

The Dawn of Everything by David Wengrow and David Graeber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Dawn of Everything: “he transition from hunter-gatherer life to agriculture, urbanism, and civilization saw a blossoming of egalitarian politics and social order, according to this sweeping manifesto. Surveying 26,000-year-old European graves, Stone Age Turkish towns, the musings of 17th-century Iroquois philosophers, and more, archaeologist Wengrow (What Makes Civilization?) and anthropologist Graeber (Debt), who died last year, critique conventional theories of historical development. Far from simplistic savages living in a state of ‘childlike innocence,’ they argue, hunter-gatherers could be sophisticated thinkers with diverse economies and sizable towns; moreover, agriculture and urbanism did not necessarily birth private property, class hierarchies, and authoritarian government, they contend, since many early farming societies and cities were egalitarian and democratic. Vast in scope and dazzling in erudite detail, the book seethes with intriguing ideas; unfortunately, though, the authors’ habitual overgeneralizations—’one cannot even say that medieval [European] thinkers rejected the notion of social equality: the idea that it might exist seems never to have occurred to them’—undermine confidence in their method of grand speculation from tenuous evidence. (For example, they see ‘evidence for the world’s first documented social revolution’ in the damaged condition of elite habitations in the 4,000-year-old ruins of the Chinese city of Taosi.) Readers will find this stimulating and provocative, but not entirely convincing.”

O Beautiful by Jung Yun

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about O Beautiful: “In Yun’s revelatory sophomore outing (after Shelter), a former model turned freelance journalist’s big magazine assignment sends her back to her hometown in North Dakota. Elinor Hanson grew up near the Bakken Formation with her Air Force father, who is white, and her Korean mother, and the assignment, which she took over from a former professor, Richard, involves reporting on the oil boom in nearby Avery, N.Dak. On the flight from New York City, Elinor faces sexual harassment and discrimination for being Asian, experiences that recur throughout the novel. As Elinor interviews men who came from all over the country in pursuit of the economic opportunities provided by the oil industry, she learns that some of her former grad-school colleagues are preparing to sue Richard for sexual harassment. Elinor also begins asking around town about a woman who disappeared two years earlier, but her editor, who is romantically involved with Richard, admonishes her not to write a ‘dead-girl story.’ By the end of Yun’s tightly plotted narrative, Elinor has figured out the angle of her story in a way that ties together the drama around Richard and the problems in her hometown. Yun successfully takes on a host of hot button subjects, drilling through them with her protagonist’s laser-eyed focus.”

Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone by John Edgar Wideman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone: “Two-time PEN/Faulkner winner Wideman’s bold latest (after You Made Me Love You) resonates with themes of racial identity, incarceration, poverty, and history. The stage is set with a quick one-two: the brief stream-of-consciousness opening story, ‘Art of Story,’ and ‘Last Day,’ in which the narrator ponders visiting his brother in prison, where his Blackness is felt in ‘hard, rigid, premeditated’ overtones. A boy’s sadness is palpable in the gorgeous ‘Separation’ as he stands by his beloved grandfather’s coffin while the narrator recounts the family’s heritage as a tender requiem. A letter written to R&B legend Freddie Jackson forms the soul of the epistolary ‘Arizona’ as the narrator travels to prison with his son and his lawyers so his son can continue serving a life sentence for murder. A brother anxiously awaits a reunion, 44 years in the making, with his formerly incarcerated brother in ‘Penn Station.’ Other gems feature Wideman’s piercing observations; in ‘BTM,’ the narrator recounts seeing the three letters painted on the side of a building in New York City, then transformed to ‘BLM,’ and reflects on the ‘hopelessness of railing against race.’ Wideman’s memorable collection reinforces his reputation as a witty and provocative social observer and raconteur who challenges stereotypes and creatively reaffirms the realities of Black American life.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Shteyngart, McCarthy, Davies, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Gary Shteyngart, Tom McCarthy, Peter Ho Davies, 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.
Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Our Country Friends: “Shteyngart (Lake Success) returns with the droll and heartfelt story of a Russian American couple who invite a group of friends to ride out the lockdown with them on their Hudson Valley ‘estate’ in March 2020. Sasha Senderovsky, a bumbling writer, clumsily prepares for his guests: ‘Because he did not believe in road marks or certain aspects of relativity, the concept of a blind curve continued to elude him,’ Shteyngart writes of Sasha’s driving, which ends with a case of liquor shattered in the trunk. Sasha’s wife, Masha, bans smoking on the property, which Sasha allows his friend Ed Kim to break immediately after showing Ed to his bungalow, one of five along with the main house. There’s also Vinood Mehta, a once aspiring writer whose abandoned manuscript factors into a late-breaking plot involving jealousy and betrayal. The couple’s eight-year-old adopted daughter, Nat, who is of Chinese descent and is obsessed with K-pop, bonds with their friend Karen Cho, who, like Ed, is Korean, and Shteyngart drops in about as many illuminating details about the Korean diaspora as he does about Russian immigrants and their American children. The author shows great care for his characters, making Sasha’s vulnerability particularly palpable when an uncertain screenwriting project threatens his financial stability. Shteyngart’s taken the formula for a smart, irresistible comedy of manners and expertly brought it up to the moment.”

The Making of Incarnation by Tom McCarthy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Making of Incarnation: “McCarthy’s acclaimed previous novels all revealed a fascination with spatial diametrics and information theory, and the intricately calibrated latest (after Satin Island) soars even further from plot and character conventions with a study of motion, data, and trajectory. At the center of many looping narratives is Pantarey Motion Systems, whose chief engineer, Mark Phocan—who had a boyhood epiphany during a mishap at an exhibition of Joan Miró paintings where he first encountered camera playback technology—oversees the company’s various models comprising vectors and the measurement of bodies through all matter of space. Its interests include motion capture studios, various experiments with wind tunnels and water tanks, the course of an affair between Norwegian dignitaries, a mysterious client looking into the copyright of dance moves and, most prominently, the special effects department working on a science fiction movie called Incarnation. Crucial to Pantarey’s work are the boxes created by form-and-motion innovator Lillian Gilbreth to measure the pathway of workers through factories, one of which—Box 808—has gone missing. The search for the missing motion-map provides one more course through a series of set pieces that meditate on topics as diverse as the physics of space travel and the pathway of the bullet that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (There are also airplanes, astronauts, and Russian spies.) McCarthy arcs and zigzags through the parameters of contemporary fiction and achieves a brilliant new form. The whooshing, trawling result is the epitome of sui generis.”

New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about New York, My Village: “Akpan’s ambitious debut novel (after the collection Say You’re One of Them) follows a Nigerian writer in New York City as he navigates myriad permutations of racism and prejudice. Ekong Otis Udousoro has a four-month fellowship in 2016 to understudy with a small U.S. publisher and edit an anthology of stories about Nigeria’s civil war of the late 1960s. Ekong, a member of Annang tribe (a ‘minority of minorities’), has his visa denied twice before finally securing entry with help from his stateside editor-in-chief. The all-white publishing house greets Ekong with friendly overtures, but his diverse neighbors in Hell’s Kitchen offer only icy stares, leading him to take refuge in Times Square and at Starbucks. While fighting for underrepresented authors and against bloodthirsty bedbugs, Ekong learns that first impressions don’t always reveal true character. Throughout, he strives to bear witness to the atrocities and lingering animosities of the Biafran War among compatriots living in the Bronx, in New Jersey, and in his village back home. Akpan writes as much to educate as to entertain, adding lengthy and lucid historical passages with footnotes to source material along with excerpts from the book Ekong is editing. This layered novel tells more than it shows, but it’s well worth listening to.”

Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Island of Missing Trees: “Booker-shortlisted Shafak (10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World) amazes with this resonant story of the generational trauma of the Cypriot Civil War. Just before Christmas in the late 2010s, 16-year-old Ada Kazantzakis confounds her London classmates by screaming during class. Shortly after, Ada and her botanist father, Kostas, receive a visit from Meryem, an aunt she’s never met, the older sister of her dead mother, Defne. Ada feels growing shame about the scream, and is surly toward the free-spirited Meryem, who spouts strange adages such as, ‘We’re not going to search for a calf under an ox.’ Shafak then jumps back to 1974, when Greek Cypriot Kostas and Turkish Cypriot Defne had assignations in a taverna built around a living fig tree, which narrates part of the book and offers lessons on the human condition via anecdotes about insects and birds. Kostas’s mother, meanwhile, prompted by her disapproval of the courtship and worried over growing violence, sends him to London. Defne and Kostas are later reacquainted in the early 2000s on Cyprus, where she works searching for bodies of the disappeared. The reunion uncovers delicate secrets while expertly giving a sense of the civil war’s lingering damage, and by the end Ada’s story reaches an unexpected and satisfying destination. Shafak’s fans are in for a treat, and those new to her will be eager to discover her earlier work.”

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Win Me Something: “Wu’s compassionate debut traces one woman’s search for belonging via her memories of growing up in two households. Willa Chen’s upbringing and biracial identity left her feeling caught between worlds. Her parents’ divorce when she was young meant splitting her time between her white mother’s house in New Jersey and her Chinese American father’s in Upstate New York. Both of her parents’ second families—her white stepfather and half brother, and her white stepmother and two mixed-race half sisters—never seem to have room for Willa. At 24, she takes a job as a nanny for an upper-class white family, the Adriens, in New York City. The job becomes a live-in situation, and Willa grows closer to the daughter, Bijou, and the parents, particularly mother Nathalie. As her relationship with the family deepens, Willa confronts memories of her own childhood, and when one of her half sisters moves to the city for college, she hopes to make a connection. Through the characters’ kinships—some familial, some chosen—Wu brilliantly lays out the complicated dynamics of love, belonging, and care that exist within all relationships. Fans of Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age will love this.”

Blue-Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Blue-Skinned Gods: “Sindu’s marvelous coming-of-age story (after Marriage of a Thousand Lies) features a young healer in Tamil Nadu, believed to be an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, who eventually breaks away from his domineering father. Kalki Sami has blue skin and black blood, and his father, Ayya, has built an ashram for the family to live in, where Kalki, on the eve of his 10th birthday, must undergo three tests, beginning with the performance of a miracle. After struggling to heal Roopa, a sick girl brought to the ashram, he doubts the prophecy about him. Kalki may be seen by strangers as a guru, but as a teen he is easily swayed by Ayya; his cousin, Lakshman, who is his best friend; and Roopa, whose condition eventually improves and with whom Kalki falls in love. After Lakshman leaves the ashram, Kalki travels to New York City as part of a ‘world healing tour’ conceived by Ayya to promote Kalki, where the cousins unexpectedly reunite, and Kalki learns some news that breaks his life in two. Sindu juxtaposes the closed world of the ashram with Kalki’s vibrant experiences in New York, where he performs with Lakshman’s band, the Blue-Skinned Gods; eats meat; and ‘figures out who I was and who I was going to be.’ The imagery is vivid—’my body a colony of ants puttering in all directions’—and the slow-burn narrative by the end becomes incandescent. Sindu’s stunning effort more than delivers on her initial promise.”

God of Mercy by Okezie Nwọka

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about God of Mercy: “Nwoka’s dense, mythologically charged debut takes place in an Igbo village in an unspecified area of Africa, at an unspecified time. There, magic is a part of daily life, the inhabitants attribute their fortunes to the Igbo gods, and young, mute Ijeoma discovers she can fly. Her dissolute father, Ofodile, decides this power is dangerous, and, without the knowledge of Ijeoma’s mother or the rest of the community, exiles her to Precious Word Ministries, where she is abused, caged, and regarded as a witch. After years of maltreatment, during which she writes hundreds of diary entries entreating the village god Chukwu to save her, she and her rebellious friend Ikemba make plans to escape, and their scheming brings about magical and transformative consequences. Nwoka immerses the reader in an often-bewildering world, and though readers unfamiliar with the culture will have a tough time making sense of the parameters, those who stick with it will be rewarded with a rich sense of place. This stirring coming-of-age story holds its own in a recent wave of feminist fiction set in Africa.”

Pity the Beast by Robin McLean

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pity the Beast: “McLean (Reptile House) returns with a category-defying novel of revenge, survival, and transcendence in modern-day Montana. While Ginny and her husband, Dan, assist a mare with a difficult birth on their ranch, the couple fights bitterly about Ginny’s infidelity with a neighbor, Shaw. Locals arrive to help with the foaling, and as the night wears on, drunken arguments turn violent: Dan rapes Ginny, and nearly all of the men do, as well, urged on by her sister, Ella. Presuming Ginny dead, they toss her inert body into the pit for dead livestock. But Ginny survives and emerges with an avenging fury and strikes back at one of her assailants with a plank spiked with nails. Armed with a stolen horse, weapons, provisions, and memories of her tough Granny, she flees into the mountains, hoping to have the authorities bring the men to justice. Hot in pursuit, though, are Dan, Ella, Ella’s husband, and two other men. The story of the posse alternates with prehistoric myth, natural history, excerpts from an imaginary western, data from 22nd-century extraterrestrial botanists, and the wise ‘thoughts’ of superintelligent, telepathic mules. But, however provocative, these passages don’t manage to integrate with the main narrative. Raw and elemental, searing yet wry, this has much to say on law and lawlessness, sexual politics, and humans’ animal nature.”

Chasing Homer by László Krasznahorkai (translated by John Batki, musical performances by Szilveszter Miklós, illustrated by Max Neumann)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Chasing Homer: “Krasznahorkai’s strange and engrossing novella (after Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming) reads like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie dreamed up by Beckett and Kafka. Killers with an unknown motive are chasing the narrator, who has become by necessity an autodidact of survival skills, through Croatia along the Adriatic Coast. At a tourist bar in Korčula, holed up after being chilled to the bone by ominous gusts of the ‘Bora,’ the hero overhears a tour guide convince a couple to let him lead them on a tour of Mljet, a small island believed by its inhabitants to be the true location of Odysseus’s sojourn with Calypso, and follows them there. The hero’s account up to this point has been filled with reports of fast, chaotic, unpredictable movement to ward off the hunters, and of pledges to resist the animalistic pleasures in life, which would lead to doom, but at Korčula, something changes. Batki’s translation exquisitely captures the grace underlying the hero’s frenetic mindset (‘I must plunge, from the edge of a moment right into its midst, just like some Moby-Dick, or a dying butterfly between two flower petals’), as do the vignettes scored by free jazz drummer Szilveszter Miklós for each chapter (accessible via QR codes that appear in the text). Whether on a large canvas or small, Krasznahorkai never ceases to impress.”

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Art of Revision: “Novelist Davies (A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself) draws on his experience teaching at the University of Michigan’s writing program in this terrific guide to revising fiction. ‘Perhaps our ultimate resistance to revision, to doneness is that it prefigures death—the final draft, the last word,’ Davies writes. He rejects Thomas Wolfe’s categorization of writers as either ‘putter-inners’ or ‘taker-outers’ and posits that revision is the process of finding out what one really means to do with a story and involves both cutting out ‘darlings’ (or the ‘scaffolding… that can be taken down after the story is built’) and by adding when more is needed. Along the way, Davies surveys the methods writers have used for revision, including those of Frank O’Connor and Isaac Babel, and the relationship between Raymond Carver and editor Gordon Lish—in each case, he shows why revisions were made and how they changed a story. Davies also devotes a chapter on knowing when one is done with a story—a moment, he says, ‘when you understand why you told your story in the first place, what your intent actually was.’ Full of spirit and sound advice, this survey will be a boon to writers.”

Also on shelves this week: Sacred City by Theodore C. Van Alst.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Mahmoud, Davidson, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Doma Mahmoud, Craig Davidson, 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.
Cairo Circles by Doma Mahmoud

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cairo Circles: “Mahmoud’s uneven debut explores the discrepancies of class and wealth in modern Cairo and the Egyptian diaspora through multiple strands of plot that jump back and forth in time and merge only tangentially. In mid-2000s New York City, wealthy Sheero, an undergraduate at NYU, is gleefully breaking every Muslim law in the book, doing lines of cocaine daily and living with his girlfriend, Carmen, a non-Muslim. Then his cousin Amir sets off a suicide bombing in the city’s subway, killing several other people and leading the FBI to question Sheero. Mahmoud then shifts to Cairo several years earlier for a story involving Sheero’s friend Taymour, whose housemaid’s 11-year-old daughter, Zeina, vanishes, possibly kidnapped. As Zeina’s younger twin brothers, Omar and Mustafa, grow up, their lives diverge, with Omar becoming a drug dealer and later a chauffeur for Taymour, and nerdy, depressed Mustafa studying mechanical engineering. Mahmoud explores the complexities of life in contemporary Cairo through the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Individually, his characters are well developed, and his grasp of recent history is firm and illuminating. But almost every dramatic situation fizzles out, as the action becomes decreasingly credible and the narrative connections increasingly strained. It’s an ambitious effort with many striking details of life, but it’s undermined by its convoluted structure.”

Cascade by Craig Davidson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cascade: “The six tales in Davidson’s wonderful and gritty collection return to the bucolic backdrop of Cataract City, a stand-in for Niagara Falls (and the title of Davidson’s earlier novel). Energized by a familial bond and propelled by tragedy, the opener, ‘The Ghost Lights,’ depicts the frenzied rush of a car crash’s survivors. That bloodline bond hinges and anchors other stories where family runs deep regardless of occupation or circumstance, as in ‘The Vanishing Twin,’ in which two teenage twin brothers trade stories of their ‘devilry’ from inside the walls of a juvenile correctional facility and realize just how different they are from each other. The struggles of a burned-out social worker in the emotionally resonant ‘Friday Night Goon Squad’ are palpable as she attempts to assuage her clients’ family issues while desperately trying to start a family of her own. A circus performer and a firefighter in ‘Medium Tough’ and ‘Firebug’ have their respective crosses to bear, and Davidson portrays each vividly. Throughout, the author displays deep empathy and conveys emotional resonance. The result is a blissful, wholly satisfying assemblage of cinematic stories, sure to please Davidson’s fans and attract newcomers.”

The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven by by Nathaniel Ian Miller

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven: “Miller’s captivating debut bears out its eponymous narrator’s observation that ‘a life is substantially more curious, and mundane, than the reports would have it.’ Sven Ormson, an indolent Swedish mill worker with a spotty employment history and a fascination with polar exploration, decides in 1916, at age 32, to take on a two-year contract mining coal on the island of Spitsbergen on the edge of the Arctic Sea. Before his contract is up he loses an eye during an avalanche, an event that convinces the already misanthropic Sven to shun further contact with fellow humans. So begins his apprenticeship as a trapper during the harsh winter months when all but three other hunters have left his portion of the island. Though Sven keeps to himself as much as possible, inevitable friendships and family ties eventually draw him into contact with others, even as his life remains relatively untouched by historical events unfolding just beyond his sphere for the next 30 years. Miller offers a marvelously detailed look at a way of life and a profession practiced in an extreme environment, and though purportedly based on a historical figure, the character’s colorfully rendered experiences are the stuff of powerful dramatic fiction. This has Miller off to a promising start.”

Also on shelves this week: Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva and On Girlhood, edited by Glory Edim.