Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Jemisin, Ehrenreich, Giddings, Kemp, Mandel, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of N.K. Jemisin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Megan Giddings, Marina Kemp, our own Emily St. John Mandel, 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 City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The City We Became: “The staggering contemporary fantasy that launches three-time Hugo Award-winner Jemisin’s new trilogy (following the Broken Earth series) leads readers into the beating heart of New York City for a stunning tale of a world out of balance. After hundreds of years of gestation, New York City is awakening to sentience, but ‘postpartum complications’ threaten to destroy it. An alien, amorphous force, personified by the Woman in White, launches an attack on New York. Five people—one for each of the city’s five boroughs—are called to become avatars dedicated to protecting the city. If they can combine their powers, they’ll be able to awaken the avatar of the city as a whole and defeat the Woman in White, but first they’ll have to find each other. While the Woman in White works to undermine them, the five avatars, whose personalities delightfully mirror the character of their respective boroughs (the Bronx is ‘creative with an attitude,’ Manhattan is ‘smart, charming, well-dressed, and cold enough to strangle you in an alley if we still had alleys’), learn the extent of their new powers. Jemisin’s earthy, vibrant New York is mirrored in her dynamic, multicultural cast. Blending the concept of the multiverse with New York City arcana, this novel works as both a wry adventure and an incisive look at a changing city. Readers will be thrilled.”

Had I Known by Barbara Ehrenreich

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Had I Known: “Activist and journalist Ehrenreich (Natural Causes) addresses numerous hot-button issues in this argumentative and passionate collection. She challenges the status quo throughout, while also including a healthy dose of self-questioning. The 40 selections—assembled into six categories (Haves and Have-Nots; Health; Men; Women; God, Science, and Joy; and Bourgeois Blunders) and published between 1984 and 2018—address race, class, and gender with admirable breadth. Writing on sexual harassment in 2017, Ehrenreich reminds the reader of how little focus has been accorded to abuses committed against working-class women. An essay from over a decade ago on immigration is notably topical, as is one written soon after the 2008 financial crash on the ‘criminalization of being poor.’ She is wittily satirical at times, as when skewering adherents to ‘the cult of conspicuous busyness,’ who feel ’embarrassed to be caught doing only one thing at a time,’ and bitterly Swiftian at others, proposing a combination of ‘welfare and flogging’ as an acceptably punitive compromise for opponents of government aid to the poor. Her most acerbic passages will be off-putting to some, but most will find this a gripping look at why ‘dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.'”

Lakewood by Megan Giddings

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lakewood: “In Giddings’s chilling debut, Lena Johnson takes a leave from college after her grandmother dies and must find a way to financially support herself and her mother, who suffers from a mysterious but debilitating illness. Serendipitously, she receives an invitation to apply to the Lakewood Project, a series of research studies about memory. If chosen, Lena will receive a hefty paycheck and, crucially, insurance that would cover all of her mother’s health-care costs. After an invasive screening process that includes uncomfortable questions about race and being injected with strange substances, Lena is invited to participate. This involves moving to Lakewood, a nearby town in Michigan, and leading a double life. After signing an NDA, she’s instructed to tell her family and friends, through monitored communication, that she works for a shipping company. In reality, she and the other participants—all of them black, Indian, or Latin—must undergo grueling evaluations and take part in experiments (such as eye drops that change eye color, and being put on a diet of cream pellets only) that can have fatal consequences, all under the watch of ‘observers,’ all of whom are white. Though the book’s second half doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first, Giddings is a writer with a vivid imagination and a fresh eye for horror, both of the body and of society. This eerie debut provides a deep character study spiked with a dose of horror.”

Marguerite by Marina Kemp

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Marguerite: “In Kemp’s stellar debut, a young nurse gets caught up in romance, jealousy, and gossip on a farm in the South of France. Having trained to become a nurse in order to help treat her sister’s meningitis, Marguerite Demers takes a job caring for the prideful, cruel Jérôme Lanvier at his dilapidated Saint-Sulpice farmhouse. There, she befriends Suki, an Iranian who wears a hijab, causing the townspeople to call her a ‘witch doctor.’ Both women provoke jealousy in Brigitte, who, along with her husband, Henri, works for Jérôme. Suki has long been picked on by gossipy and insecure Brigitte, who slanders her perceived rivals with abandon. Meanwhile, Henri, a handsome, sensitive farmer, is having an affair with Edgar, a writer, and is resigned to stay at the farm with Brigitte, where he tries to find contentment working in the dirt, enjoying ‘the day’s long accumulation of filth.’ As Henri stands up for Marguerite, the pair’s connection heightens. Eventually rumors, combined with Suki, Brigitte, and Edgar’s jealousy, threaten Marguerite and Henri. Precise, distinctive prose (train doors close ‘with a hiss like a punctured tyre’) and well-drawn characters make this satisfying tale all the more memorable. Expect Kemp to make a big splash.”

Marrow and Bone by Walter Kempowski

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Marrow and Bone: “Kempowski (All For Nothing) offers an astute and ever-surprising comedy of the cultural divide between East and West in 1988. At 43, war orphan Jonathan Fabrizius halfheartedly pursues a life of the mind in Hamburg, where he works as a sometime journalist. After Frau Winkelvoss, a representative of the Santubara car manufacturer, offers Jonathan an opportunity to document a trip across Poland for an upcoming rally, Jonathan readily accepts out of interest in his birthplace in former East Prussia. Jonathan takes ironic pride in a painful past (“As far as suffering was concerned, this guaranteed him an unparalleled advantage over his friends”) and adopts a wry attitude toward the way he’ll be perceived as a German abroad (‘When you’d started a world war, murdered Jews and taken people’s bicycles away (in Holland) the cards were stacked against you’). On the road in Poland with Winkelvoss and a famous race car driver at the wheel of the flashy V8, Jonathan plays the part of arrogant Western intellectual as their adventure turns picaresque, complete with a car jacking. As Jonathan tunes in to the wreckage of war, Kempowski’s unsparing, dagger-sharp prose leads Jonathan to face the loss of his parents and homeland. This hilarious, deeply affecting exploration of postwar dichotomies successfully channels the satire of Confederacy of Dunces and the somber reflectiveness of Austerlitz.”

We Inherit What the Fires Left by William Evans

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Inherit What the Fires Left: “Evans (Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair) poignantly addresses in this vulnerable collection his experience raising his daughter in the suburbs while reckoning with the memory of his own father and childhood. In three titled sections—’Grass Growing Wild Beneath Us,’ ‘Trespass,’ and ‘Aging Out of Someone Else’s Dream’—Evans recounts the mundane moments of pride and learning that come with fatherhood, as well as the larger systemic threats and legacies of violence that underlie his experience as a black American. In ‘Waves,’ his daughter asks a question about the ocean, which brings to mind the slaves forced to cross the Atlantic. The poem closes with acknowledging another threat: ‘On the ride home, after I have/ quieted the bark, an officer/ pulls us to the side of the road/ and asks me whose car I am driving/ my family home in.’ In ‘Pledge to Raising a Black Girl,’ he asks, ‘How do you know what you have a taste for// if you’ve been told never to show your teeth?… The elders want us to raise// girls with a song in their heart, but we only respect/ the classics if they respected us, which is why// if you ask me how I’m doing, I say still breathing.’ These poems offer sensitive portraits of race and fatherhood and richly explore the past while providing hope for the future.”

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Glass Hotel: “Mandel’s wonderful novel (after Station Eleven) follows a brother and sister as they navigate heartache, loneliness, wealth, corruption, drugs, ghosts, and guilt. Settings include British Columbia’s coastal wilderness, New York City’s fashionable neighborhoods and corporate headquarters, a container ship in international waters, and a South Carolina prison. In 1994, 18-year-old drug-using dropout Paul Smith visits his 13-year-old half-sister, Vincent, in Vancouver. Vincent has just lost her mother and acquired her first video camera. Five years later, in the wilderness north of Vancouver, Vincent tends bar at a luxury hotel where Paul works as the night houseman. Paul leaves after writing on a window in acid marker a message even he doesn’t understand. Vincent relocates to the East Coast and what Mandel calls the kingdom of money to play trophy wife for investor Jonathan Alkaitis. When Jonathan’s Ponzi scheme collapses, he goes to prison, where his victims’ ghosts visit him. Finished with Jonathan and the affluent lifestyle and ignored by her best friend, Vincent takes a job as assistant cook on a container ship. Paul, meanwhile, has set Vincent’s old videos to music. The videos have helped Paul, despite a lifelong drug problem, tap into his creative gifts. Using flashbacks, flash-forwards, alternating points-of-view, and alternate realities, Mandel shows the siblings moving in and out of each other’s lives, different worlds, and versions of themselves, sometimes closer, sometimes further apart, like a double helix, never quite linking. This ingenious, enthralling novel probes the tenuous yet unbreakable bonds between people and the lasting effects of momentary carelessness.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Que Mai, Kalb, Ramey, Lisicky, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, Bess Kalb, Sarah Ramey, Paul Lisicky, 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 Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Mountains Sing: “Nguyễn’s lyrical, sweeping debut novel (after the poetry collection The Secret of Hoa Sen) chronicles the Tran family through a century of war and renewal. As middle-aged writer Hương revisits her native Hanoi in 2012, she reflects on the lessons shared by her late grandmother Diệu Lan (‘The challenges faced by Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks’) and chronicles their journey of survival during the Vietnam War. Hương was 12 when bombs encroached on Hanoi, where she lived with Diệu Lan after her mother, Ngọc, a physician, left to search for her father, a soldier in the NVA. After an evacuation to the mountains, Diệu Lan ‘opened the door of her childhood’ to Huoung with stories of being raised by a wealthy family to pursue an education and resist old customs such as blackening her teeth. Diệu Lan also describes the harrowing truth of the Việt Minh Land Reform, during which her family’s land was seized in the spirit of resource distribution, encouraging her to question what she’s been taught in schools. Grandma and Hương return to Hanoi and find their house decimated, and Ngọc, who survived torture and rape while imprisoned by South Vietnamese soldiers, comes home without Hương’s father. In a subtle coda, Nguyễn brilliantly explores the boundary between what a writer shares with the world and what remains between family. This brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers.”

Nobody Will Tell You This but Me by Bess Kalb

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: “Jimmy Kimmel Live! writer Kalb honors her late grandmother, Bobby Bell, in an amusing debut memoir written in the grandmother’s sassy voice. The book, framed as a love letter to Kalb and featuring excerpts from grandma’s funny voice mails and phone calls, contains intriguing family stories about Kalb’s great-grandmother, who, at 12, emigrated to New York from Belarus, alone, to escape Jewish persecution; about Bobby’s marriage to Kalb’s grandfather, a scrappy businessman who got rich building houses; and about Bobby’s contentious relationship with Kalb’s fiercely independent mother. Kalb does a great job of capturing the voice of an opinionated, chronically concerned grandmother who’s convinced that she knows best. Bobby shares her thoughts on everything from Kalb’s choice of pets (‘we are not cat people’) to her decision to live in San Francisco (‘San Francisco is for people who wear polar fleece to restaurants and try to convince each other to go camping’). The book spans Bobby’s life and beyond (there are cheeky sections written from beyond the grave) and offers both wisdom and unsolicited advice (‘you’d be gorgeous if you went a little blonder’). This is a fun, touching tribute to family, and the perfect book for anyone who treasures their domineering, spirited grandmother.”

Pride of Eden by Taylor Brown

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pride of Eden: “Brown (Gods of Howl Mountain) sets his haunting, empathetic latest in a wildlife sanctuary on the Georgia coast. Ex-jockey and Vietnam War vet Anse Caulfield and his lover, Tyler, a veterinarian, run Little Eden, a haven for exotic animals rescued from exploitative roadside zoos, circuses, and private owners. It’s a dangerous enterprise, since Anse must rescue his animals under the cover of night and constant threat of discovery by the unsavory people he rescues his animals from. He’s aided by his friend Lope, a firefighter, falconer, and drone operator, who, in the devastating opening pages, saves Anse from Henrietta, a lioness who escaped her enclosure and is subsequently killed. Newcomer Malaya is an Iraq vet fresh off a job thwarting poachers in South Africa that went south. When a reclusive wolf breeder threatens their little slice of heaven, they must embark on their most dangerous mission yet. With a lush sense of atmosphere, Brown paints an evocative portrait of Anse, a man who has devoted his life to broken and abused animals, out of love and as atonement for past sins, as well as of Malaya, who struggles with PTSD and finds new purpose in their work. Couched in a thrilling narrative, Brown’s heartbreaking yet hopeful message of humanity’s moral responsibility for the natural world and its magnificent creatures will linger with readers.”

Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Beheld: “Nesbit (The Wives of Los Alamos) cleverly recasts pilgrim history in this deeply enjoyable novel of murder in Plymouth Colony, Mass. To those living in Plymouth in 1630, the colony is not the land of freedom they’d envisioned. The Puritans hold an iron grip on religious observations, alienating the Anglicans among them, while the colonists haven’t received the benefits promised to them, such as land. John and Eleanor Billington, former indentured servants, distinguish themselves as rebels in the colony, never hesitating to point out inequities and hypocrisy, particularly those of prominent settlers William and Alice Bradford and the storied Myles Standish. After the arrival of John Newcomen, a new settler who’s been promised land belonging to the Billingtons, more than one person ends up dead. Capturing the alternating voices of the haves (the Bradfords, Newcomen) and the have-nots (the Billingtons), Nesbit’s lush prose adds texture to stories of the colony’s women, and her deep immersion in primary sources adds complexity to the historical record. Fans of Miriam Toews’sWomen Talking will eagerly devour this gripping historical.”

The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: “In this illuminating debut memoir, musician Ramey offers an account of a mysterious illness that plagued her for more than a decade, beginning when she was in college in the early 2000s. Ramey recounts years struggling with excruciating pain, at times being unable to rise from bed. She pursued multiple medical treatments, but her pain persisted; when she turned to alternative approaches such as acupuncture and positive thinking, she found some relief, but also what she felt to be a New Age tendency to blame the victim. Though this medical saga is disturbing in the many miscalculations her doctors made, Ramey’s hilarious and upbeat sense of humor lightens even the direst of circumstances (a surgeon who performed the wrong surgery on her is dubbed Dr. Oops, and others merit such glib monikers as Dr. Vulva, Dr. Paxil, and Dr. Bowels). As Ramey relentlessly researched her own ailment, she learned that millions of women with such conditions as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme disease, and other illnesses had also been ignored, mistreated, or belittled by conventional medicine. Ramey was eventually diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, and here she argues for more compassion among doctors and better treatment, and highlights reasons why some research has trouble securing funding (vaginal diseases, for example, are ‘too unpalatable for any awareness campaign, too unsexy to start a blog’). Ramey’s uncanny grit and fortitude will deeply inspire the multitudes facing similar issues.”

Later by Paul Lisicky

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Later: “A writer recalls his search for love and community in Provincetown, Mass., during the AIDS epidemic in this melodramatic memoir. Fiction writer and memoirist Lisicky (The Narrow Door) spent several years in the early 1990s in Provincetown, a Cape Cod resort, artist’s colony, and gay mecca, doing a writing fellowship and trying to sort out his late-20s life. He found the town an exhilarating haven, where he could finally live his homosexuality loud and proud—’Hey, do you want to get high and have sex?’ inquired one random guy on the street shortly after he arrived—but also a death-haunted place where recently healthy acquaintances faded from AIDS before his eyes. Lisicky finds affecting moments of pathos in the declining health and deaths of friends (‘The churches in Town turn their backs on the sick in Town, but that is not why I turned my back on God’). Unfortunately, much of the book’s endlessly complex and neurotic rumination is lavished on trivial matters: casual hookups in the dunes; longer-term relationships, riddled with small insecurities and betrayals, that feel paper-thin; and simple mishaps (‘It feels like the toppling is connected to some secret instinct in myself that is driven to ruin,’ he frets when a fake oversized ice-cream cone he is wearing in a parade falls off his head). The result is a callow and uninvolving coming-of-age narrative.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Solnit, Nguyen, Russell, South, Mantel, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Rebecca Solnit, Kevin Nguyen, Kate Elizabeth Russell, Mary South, Hilary Mantel, 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.

Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Recollections of My Nonexistence: “Author and activist Solnit (Whose Story Is This?) writes in this enlightening, nonlinear memoir of her life as a poor young woman in 1980s San Francisco and her development as a writer and feminist thinker. As a teen, Solnit fled a volatile home life to forge her path. She rented an apartment in a black neighborhood (‘I was the first white person to live in the building in seventeen years’) and acquired a writing desk from a friend who was nearly murdered by an ex (‘Someone tried to silence her. Then she gave me a platform for my voice’). While in graduate school, she worked at a museum—which informed the writing of her first book, Secret Exhibition—and struggled to be heard in a world that favored male writers. In fluid, vivid prose, she recalls the terror she experienced while walking the streets alone, not knowing if she’d be attacked or raped, and considers how negative representations of women in art affect creative output (‘How do you make art when the art that’s all around you keeps telling you to shut up and wash the dishes?’). Along the way, she highlights her publishing achievements, including the viral essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me,’ which inspired the term mansplaining. This is a thinking person’s book about writing, female identity, and freedom by a powerful and motivating voice for change.”

New Waves by Kevin Nguyen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about New Waves: “Nguyen’s stellar debut is a piercing assessment of young adulthood, the tech industry, and racism. Margo, a 20-something black engineer, and Lucas, a 23-year-old Asian customer service rep, bond over the ingrained racism at their tech startup employer, a messaging app called Nimbus, in New York in 2009. When Margo’s strong opinions lead to her dismissal, she drunkenly convinces Lucas to help her steal the usernames and passwords of Nimbus’s users. Margo soon regrets this, but nevertheless apparently leverages the data to land her and Lucas jobs at Phantom, a rival startup with an app that immediately deletes read text messages. Margo dies in a car accident, and Lucas is distraught and afraid, wondering if the accident was really an accident or something more sinister. He steals Margo’s laptop and decides to contact Jill, a struggling writer whose work Margo spent hours providing feedback on. He and Jill stumble into a relationship while Phantom’s popularity among teenagers pushes Lucas into a new role implementing a monitoring process contrary to the lofty ambition of the founders. Lucas’s scramble to meet the growing intensity of his professional and personal lives, as well as his jealous conviction he knew Margo best, leads to a series of missteps with rippling consequences. Nguyen impressively holds together his overlapping plot threads while providing incisive criticism of privilege and a dose of sharp humor. The story is fast-paced and fascinating, but also deeply felt; the effect is a page-turner with some serious bite.”

So We Can Glow by Leesa Cross-Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about So We Can Glow: “Cross-Smith’s rich collection (after Whiskey & Ribbons) follows women exploring desire, desperation, and despair. The brief opener, ‘We, Moons,’ an explosion of slam cadence (‘We’re okay, our hearts, dusted with pink’), serves as a battle hymn of self-determination and sisterhood that thematically unites the subsequent narratives. ‘Teenage Dream Time Machine’ unfolds as a texting conversation between two mothers worried about their young, wild daughters and remembering their own impetuous youth. In ‘Pink Bubblegum and Flowers,’ a young woman crushes on one of the men rebuilding the deck on her parents’ house and navigates a tense scene of toxic masculinity. In ‘California, Keep Us,’ a Kentucky couple, mourning the loss of their baby, retreats once a month for a weekend in California to assume different identities with one another and resolve not to ‘talk about death.’ The delightfully idiosyncratic prose (‘She felt guilty about lusting over Clint. It was lazy, like cold French fries’) distinguishes each of the narrator’s points of view within common themes of love, friendship, sex, and loyalty. These stories showcase the wide range of Cross-Smith’s talent.”

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Dark Vanessa: “Russell offers readers an introspective narrative that fully captures the complexity and necessity of the #MeToo movement in her powerful debut. In the year 2000, Vanessa Wye is a lonely sophomore at Maine’s Browick boarding school. The academically gifted 15-year-old professes not to mind her solitude, especially when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins to pay attention to her, remarking on her red hair and fashion sense, and lending her some of his favorite books—including Nabokov’s Lolita. Almost before Vanessa realizes what’s happening, the two have embarked on a sexual relationship, and Vanessa is convinced she’s been singled out as someone truly special—until, under threat of exposure, their relationship begins to go off the rails. Seventeen years later, Vanessa is still occasionally in contact with Jacob, but their relationship has grown tense, as another former student has gone public about his inappropriate advances. Russell’s novel, alternating between past and present, presents a damning indictment of sexual predation, as she starkly elucidates the ways in which abuse robbed Vanessa not only of her childhood but also of her own once-promising future. It also prompts readers to interrogate their own assumptions about victimhood, consent, and agency. This is a frighteningly sharp debut.”

The Gringa by Andrew Altschul

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Gringa: “Altschul’s rousing and complex third novel (after Deus Ex Machina) follows an impassioned American who spends years in prison in Peru for her involvement with a group of revolutionaries. Inspired by the true story of late-20-century activist Lori Berenson, Altschul recasts Berenson as Leonora ‘Leo’ Gelb, a Stanford student sick of capitalist America who travels to Lima in the 1990s to fight injustice. After witnessing the bulldozing of a shantytown by government forces and the arrests of protesters whom she later realizes have been forcibly disappeared, Leo falls in with the Cuarta Filosofía, Marxist insurgents for whom she leases a house that serves as the group’s headquarters. In 2008, 10 years after Leo’s imprisonment, her story is told by an ex-pat novelist named Andres, who’s been tasked with writing a profile of the ‘Gringa Terrorist’ for a news website. As Andres chronicles Leo’s emotional trajectory into violent collaboration, imagining her angst and self-doubt, he begins to second-guess his efforts and confesses he’s made some things up. Blending historical details with literary allusions, Altschul successfully creates a postmodern, Cervantes-like labyrinth (‘Everything is narrative,’ one of Leo’s professors declares. ‘Thus, history is impossible’). Amid the clever games, Altschul’s stirring portrait of the strident yet earnest Leo poses a salient question about the value of personal sacrifice.”

First, Catch by Thom Eagle

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about First, Catch: “In this gorgeously written debut, London chef Eagle reflects on the foods, customs, and histories that come into play in selecting and serving a multi-dish lunch. Twenty-four essays guide readers in meal preparation while offering curious tidbits, cultural insights, and moral arguments on food (he disdains modern poultry farming). Eagle challenges the notion of recipes as ‘scientific sets of instructions,’ instead proposing ‘they are more like short stories… told in a curious imperative.’ While the chapter titles sound instructive—’On curing with salt,’ ‘On almost frying’—he educates while contemplating such topics as Italy’s tolerance for bitter flavors, as well as meringues made out of sugar and blood (a little-known thickening agent) whipped ‘into a pinkly clouded mass.’ He explains how brining ‘alters the structure of muscle cells’ so they retain moisture, but he also waxes rhapsodically while preparing soup stock: ‘It is easy to believe that bones, lying as they do in the depths of ourselves, are the repository of the soul, or at least of special, vitally animal instincts: we know things, as they say, in our bones.’ The recipes themselves are rewarding, including one featuring a wild-caught rabbit (which Eagle suggests one first blanch to get rid of the ‘grass excrement, of musk’) that becomes the centerpiece of a ragù. This wonderfully indulgent, pleasurable compilation of culinary meditations will thrill food lovers.”

You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Will Never Be Forgotten: “South debuts with a playful, astute collection about modern alienation. In ‘Keith Prime,’ a nurse devastated by her husband’s death works at a ‘Keith Fulfillment Center,’ where she goes against regulations by becoming attached to one of the Keiths, clones born and put into perpetual sleep before being harvested for body parts, ‘scooped out like ice cream from a bucket.’ In ‘The Age of Love,’ elderly men at an assisted living center begin calling phone sex lines, affecting the lives of the staff, including complicating the relationship between the narrator, who works at the center, and his girlfriend. ‘Frequently Asked Questions About Your Craniotomy’ takes the form of a q&a in which a neurosurgeon’s unsettled personal life bleeds into her answers. In the title story, a woman who works at ‘the world’s most popular search engine’ killing offensive and violent content begins to follow—first online, then in the real world—a man who raped her. In ‘Not Setsuko,’ a woman raises her second daughter as an exact replica of her first child, who died at nine years old, down to killing the family’s cat on the day the first daughter lost her cat (‘She loved the cat the second time as much as the first’). South’s stories are both funny and profound, often on the same page, but perhaps her best skill is plumbing the intricacies of loneliness, expertly dissecting what that term means in a technology-driven world. This is an electric jolt from a very talented writer.”

In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Lateness of the World: “In her first collection in 17 years, Forché (Blue Hour) powerfully weaves poems of witness, a travelogue steeped in elegiac contemplation of life in Finland, Italy, Russia, and, most affectingly, Vietnam. These 41 poems vibrantly catalogue human artifacts and those of the natural world. In ‘Hue: From a Notebook,’ she writes: ‘There was then the whir of stork wings, and bicycle chains ringing./ It is still now the way the air is still just before the mine explodes.// Once we fired at each other. Now we pass silence back and forth.’ Throughout, the speakers are meditative but unflinching in the face of war’s aftermath and ecological crisis: ‘From here a dog finds his way through snow with a human bone… Even the clocks have run out of time.’ ‘Museum of Stones’ displays a delightedly crackling verbal texture reminiscent of poems by Seamus Heaney (‘stone of cromlech and cairn, schist and shale, hornblende,/ agate, marble, millstones, ruins of choirs and shipyards’). Such weights anchor Forche’s genuinely moving consideration of ‘ours and the souls of others, who glimmer beside us/ for an instant… radiant with significance,’ communicating an urgent and affecting vision.”

Also on shelves:The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
Telling Stories Keeps Us Alive: Rebecca Solnit’s ‘The Faraway Nearby’
Writers to Watch: Spring 2020
A Year in Reading: Kevin Nguyen
Character Assassin: An Interview with Hilary Mantel

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Erdrich, Enright, McBride, Unferth, Ripatrazone, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Louise Erdrich, Anne Enright, James McBride, Deb Olin Unferth, our own Nick Ripatrazone, 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 Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Night Watchman: “Erdrich (Love Medicine) returns to North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Reservation for this stirring tale of a young Chippewa woman and her uncle’s effort to halt the Termination Act of 1953. Pixie Paranteau takes a leave of absence from her job at the Jewel Bearing Plant to search for her sister, Vera, who was last seen in Minneapolis. Though she fails to find Vera, sparks fly between Pixie and a promising young boxer named Wood Mountain. Pixie then travels with her uncle Thomas, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Advisory Committee, to Washington, D.C., where he testifies at a congressional hearing on a bill abrogating treaties with Indians and abolishing Indian tribes. Also accompanying them are graduate student Millie Cloud and the ghost of Thomas’s boyhood friend Roderick. Erdrich captures the Chippewa community’s durable network of families, friends, and neighbors, alive or dead, including Pixie’s alcoholic father and wise mother, who live in poverty. The heartbreaking conclusion to Vera’s story resonates with the pervasive crisis of missing Native American women, while Thomas, Wood Mountain, and his trainer rally to put together a match to raise funds for Thomas’s efforts to keep their land. Erdrich’s inspired portrait of her own tribe’s resilient heritage masterfully encompasses an array of characters and historical events. Erdrich remains an essential voice.”

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Deacon King Kong: “McBride (The Good Lord Bird) delivers a sharply compassionate shaggy dog tale of a heavy drinking Baptist deacon who shoots a drug dealer and becomes a ‘walking dead man.’ In the autumn of 1969, handyman and occasional baseball coach Deacon Cuffy Lambkin, known to his friends as ‘Sportcoat’ because of his colorful wardrobe or as ‘Deacon King Kong’ on account of his equal affection for a moonshine with that name, inexplicably shoots off the ear of Deems Clemens, Sportcoat’s former baseball protégé. This sets in motion a hunt for Sportcoat by Deems’s employers that draws in Tommy ‘Elephant’ Elefante, a sweetly melancholy Italian mover of ‘hot goods’ whose grip on the neighborhood is slipping, and scrupulous police officer ‘Potts’ Mullen, who is on the brink of retirement. As Deems’s crew ineffectually try to murder Sportcoat, Elephant follows clues left by his dead father to find a hidden treasure, and Potts tries to keep the neighborhood safe while falling for the wife of a preacher, McBride unravels the mystery of Sportcoat’s inexplicable ire against Deems. With a Dickensian wealth of quirky characters, a sardonic but humane sense of humor reminiscent of Mark Twain, and cartoonish action scenes straight out of Pynchon, McBride creates a lived-in world where everybody knows everybody’s business. This generous, achingly funny novel will delight and move readers.”

Longing for an Absent God by Nick Ripatrazone

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Longing for an Absent God: “Ripatrazone (Ember Days), culture editor at Image Journal, argues in this piquant analysis that the interplay between lapsed and practicing Catholic authors sustains ‘a unique and significant literary culture.’ For Ripatrazone, both groups engage in similar forms of storytelling—’corporal, messy, strange, and steeped in the sins of real people’—though he argues they do so to different ends. While the book’s analysis of well-known 20th-century authors who were Catholic, such as Flannery O’Connor and Andre Dubus, feels thin, chapters on Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich are strong, exploring the ways that black and Chippewa cultures and ways of storytelling have differed or responded to Catholic writing. Though Ripatrazone builds his analysis around the differences and shared tensions between lapsed and practicing Catholics—where practicing Catholics used their faith to ground their fiction, lapsed Catholics approached religion through themes of identity and redemption—he leaves uninterrogated another tension that pervades the book: that between Catholics from birth and converts, whose ideas of storytelling were shaped outside of the Catholic tradition. His uneven analysis leaves this and many other tantalizing angles unexplored, but its articulation of a Catholic literature inclusive of—and more importantly defined by—practicing and lapsed Catholics is a valuable one. Scholars of modern American Catholicism will find much food for thought here.”

Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fiebre Tropical: “Lopera’s moving and hilarious debut novel (after the essay collection Quiéreme) switches seamlessly between Spanish and English as it follows a 15-year-old Colombian girl who moves to Miami and becomes swept up in a church and with the pastor’s beautiful daughter. Francisca, whose mother brought them to the U.S. for economic opportunity, is skeptical of religion and would rather be back in Bogotá, smoking cigarettes and reading Sylvia Plath, than join the youth group at church or indulge her mother’s obsession with baptizing her dead infant brother, gone before Francisca was even born. As Francisca’s mother becomes more involved with the local Christian congregation, Carmen, the pastor’s daughter, decides to take on Francisca as her personal salvation project, bringing her along to hand out fliers and evangelize in neighboring communities. The more time the girls spend together, the more Francisca realizes that her feelings for Carmen are not strictly platonic. Along with understanding her burgeoning sexuality, Francisca must also deal with her mother’s increasingly tenuous grip on reality and the process of assimilating into her new home and culture. Lopera convincingly renders Francisca’s adolescent insecurities and awkward obsessions, and the spirited bilingual prose (‘Immigrant criolla here reporting desade Los Mayamis from our ant-infested townhouse’) will engage readers. This feisty coming-of-age tale introduces a funny, fresh, and indelible new voice.”

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sharks in the Time of Saviors: “Washburn’s standout debut provides a vivid portrait of Hawaiian identity, mythology, and diaspora. This family chronicle opens in 1995 Honok’a as the seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls from a ship, only to be rescued and returned to his parents by sharks. This seminal event in the lives of the Filipino-Hawaiian Flores family marks Nainoa for life as the ‘miracle boy,’ even as his parents struggle to turn a profit on their sugarcane plantation. As things become more desperate, Nainoa and his violent older brother, Dean, and adventuresome younger sister, Kaui, leave the island to seek their fortunes on the mainland. Dean embarks on a promising career as a basketball player in Spokane only to wind up in trouble with the law, while Kaui discovers her sexuality in San Diego, and Nainoa becomes an EMT in Portland, Ore. Poised halfway between their cultural upbringing and hopes for the future, the family is riven by a horrific tragedy that will test them to the breaking point. Though perhaps overlong, Washburn’s debut is a unique and spirited depiction of the 50th state and its children.”

Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Barn 8: “Unferth’s fresh heist caper (after her collection Wait Till You See Me Dance) features a most unusual quarry: 900,000 hens. After a disappointing search for her absent father maroons rebellious teenager Janey in rural Iowa, she takes a job as an auditor for the United Egg Producers and finds a kindred spirit in the disillusioned head auditor, Cleveland Smith, who can no longer consent to the grim conditions in which chickens are bred and slaughtered. Conceiving a madcap brand of ecoterrorism, the two women embark on a mission to liberate the birds. They recruit a wide array of conspirators, including the embittered animal inspector, Dill; a vengeful farmer’s daughter, Annabelle; lovelorn egg salesman Jonathan Jarman Jr.; and Cleveland’s faithful pet hen, Bwwaauk. After weeks of preparation, the gang are on the verge of realizing their fowl-focused emancipation when a botched effort causes more damage to the farm than they’d bargained for. In this outrageous piece of rural noir and pitch-perfect characterization, Unferth recalls Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang with a dose of vegan-minded quirk. This entertaining, satisfying genre turn shows off Unferth’s range, and readers will be delighted by the characters’ earnest crusade.”

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Ride Upon Sticks: “Quan (She Weeps Every Time You’re Born) takes a playful, nostalgic run through 1980s suburbia in this tale of witches and field hockey. In 1989, the Danvers Falcons, a high school field hockey team, are on a losing streak. After a depressing defeat, and thinking of the women who were tried for witchcraft three centuries earlier in nearby Salem, Mass., the members pledge allegiance to the devil in exchange for victory. They write their names in a notebook bearing the likeness of Emilio Estevez and wear a raggedy blue tube sock around their arms to mark their pact to an ‘alternative god’ (as termed by team member Heather Houston), which also includes an agreement to follow ‘any urges you might get all the way to the end no matter what.’ As the season proceeds, with the team racking up wins at every game, the 10 girls and one boy begin to act on their desires, leading to several losses of virginity, a book burning, bouts of naked dancing in the woods, delusions of grandeur inspired by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and Heather’s crisis of conscience. Barry handles a large cast of characters nimbly and affectionately, allowing each to take a turn or two in the spotlight. Readers with fond, or even not so fond, memories of the 1980s are bound to be entertained.”

Also on shelves: Actress by Anne Enright, Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita, and Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman.

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
What It Is to Be Alone: The Millions Interviews Anne Enright
Robert Birnbaum in Conversation with Anne Enright
A Year in Reading: Nick Ripatrazone
The Post-Apocalyptic Present: On Quan Barry’s ‘She Weeps Each Time You’re Born’
Unhappy Trails: Deb Olin Unferth’s Revolution
A Year in Reading: Deb Olin Unferth
— Black and Proud: James McBride on James Brown
— The Stories of James McBride

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Hong, Cote, Harris, McCann, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Cathy Park Hong, Rachel Vorona Cote, Malcolm Harris, Colum McCann, 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.
Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Minor Feelings: “In this blistering essay collection, poet Hong (Engine Empire) interrogates America’s racial categories to explore the ‘under-reported’ Asian-American experience. Hong, a child of Korean immigrants, was born in Los Angeles’s Koreatown, but moved from the neighborhood before the 1992 riots upended the area. Her topics include personal experiences, from learning English as a second language and obsessing over her scented Hello Kitty–branded erasers as a child, to mining the repertoire of Richard Pryor as a young woman entering the stand-up scene. She is both angry and wryly funny when examining her struggles with depression, hemifacial spasm disorder, and poetry peers who dismissed her first book as ‘hack identity politics.’ Assessing perceptions of Asian-Americans as ‘next in line to be white,’ as one man tells her, she observes that in fact they have the ‘highest income disparity out of any racial group’ in the country. Her confrontational prose maintains a poet’s lyricism in ‘The End of White Innocence,’ which recalls a childhood ‘spent looking into the menagerie of white children.’ Combining cultural criticism and personal exploration, Hong constructs a trenchant examination of race in America.”
Too Much by Rachel Vorona Cote
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Too Much: “Cote, a former PhD candidate in Victorian literature at the University of Maryland, traces the ‘unspoken rules’ that govern the expression of women’s emotional and physical desires to 19th-century medicine and culture in this vigorous, wide-ranging debut. Noting that ‘hysteria’ was a widespread medical diagnosis given to Victorian women exhibiting all kinds of ‘inappropriate’ behavior, from sighing and sudden laughter to self-mutilation, Cote analyzes how writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, and the Brontë sisters ‘contemplate[d] the circumstances of women in an age when emotion was so viciously policed and pathologized.’ In chapters devoted to mental health, infidelity, body image, ageism, and sexual desire, Cote confesses to her own ‘alluvion of feeling’ and relates personal experiences, including a suicide attempt and the end of her first marriage, to characters and plots in Victorian literature and figures from modern popular culture, including Britney Spears, Lana Del Rey, and ‘Stifler’s Mom’ in the movie American Pie. She conclusively shows that women have been ’emotionally trussed for centuries,’ and empowers her readers to embrace their ‘too muchness’ as an ‘agent of emotional integrity.’ Though Cote’s blend of memoir, criticism, and history sometimes feels unfocused and idiosyncratic, her overarching arguments are apt. Readers whose tastes run from George Eliot to Lorde will embrace the book’s feminist message.”
Apartment by Teddy Wayne
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Apartment: “Wayne’s subtle, fascinating novel (after Loner) is set in the world of an MFA creative writing program at Columbia in 1996. The anxious, unnamed narrator didn’t make any friends at New York University as an undergraduate, and considers it equally unlikely that he will find any among the ambitious, self-assured students in his current classes. He’s delighted when charismatic Midwestern scholarship student Billy defends the first story the narrator presents against the attacks of the class, and invites Billy, who has been living in the basement of the bar where he works, to share the two-bedroom apartment the narrator’s great-aunt has been allowing him to live in rent-free. Billy offers to clean the apartment and cook dinners in exchange for the room. At first, the narrator revels in the arrangement, but the balance of power between the two shifts gradually but irrevocably over the months that follow. The narrator, inclined to ‘airbrush out unpalatable blemishes here and there’ in his past and his emotional life, notices and then immediately represses things like the way ‘the thin ribbed cotton of his white tank top hugged [Billy’s] body like a second skin.’ Wayne keeps his attention firmly on the small details that define the evolving relationship as Billy loses interest in the narrator. Wayne excels at creating a narrator both observant of his surroundings and deluded about his own feelings. Underneath the straightforward story, readers will find a careful meditation on class and power.”
The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Splendid and the Vile: “Larson (Dead Wake) delivers a propulsive, character-driven account of Winston Churchill’s first year as British prime minister (May 1940–May 1941), when the German air force launched ‘a full-on assault against the city of London’ in preparation for an invasion that never came. Larson’s profile subjects include Churchill’s 17-year-old daughter, Mary; his private secretary, John ‘Jock’ Colville, who kept a meticulous (and likely illegal, due to the national security secrets it revealed) diary; Nazi leader Rudolf Hess; and, to a lesser extent, ordinary Britons. Juxtaposing monumental developments, such as the Dunkirk evacuation, with intimate scenes, Larson notes that on the night Churchill learned French leaders wanted to make peace with Hitler, he raised his dinner guests’ spirits by passing out cigars, reading aloud telegrams of support from other countries, and ‘chant[ing] the refrain from a popular song.’ Larson highlights little-known but intriguing figures, including chief science adviser Frederick Lindemann, who made a multifaceted but unsuccessful case for why tea shouldn’t be rationed, and documents the carnage caused by German bombs, including the deaths of 34 people at the Café de Paris shortly before Mary Churchill was set to arrive at the club. While the story of Churchill’s premiership and the Blitz have been told in greater historical depth, they’ve rarely been rendered so vividly. Readers will rejoice.”
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Apeirogon: “National Book Award–winner McCann (Let the Great World Spin) bases this masterful novel on the lives of two real men working together toward Middle Eastern peace. Rami Elhanan, 67 on the single day of 2016 on which the main narrative takes place, is a graphic designer and Israeli military veteran. In September 1997, his 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, was killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing. His need for revenge fades when he joins the Parents’ Circle, whose members, of many nationalities and religions, have all lost a child in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Nineteen years younger than Elhanan, Palestinian Bassam Aramin is jailed in 1985, at 17, for resisting the Israeli occupiers in Hebron, where he’s raised. During his imprisonment, writings by Gandhi, among others, and friendship with one of the Israeli guards convince him of the power of nonviolence. Released after seven years, he helps found Combatants for Peace, which brings Palestinian and Israeli fighters—among them Elhanan’s son, who introduces the two men—together for dialogue. The fatal 2005 shooting of Bassam’s 10-year-old daughter, Abir, by an Israeli border guard doesn’t shake his belief that Israelis and Palestinians share ‘an equity of pain’; he and Elhanan begin meeting daily, using their daughters’ stories to become international advocates for peace. The book’s title is a reference to a polygon with a countable but infinite number of sides, and McCann evokes the experience of its protagonists and their region through 1,001 brief numbered segments that incorporate sequences in the men’s own voices and interconnect topics including bullet manufacturing, Jorge Luis Borges, and birds. Balancing its dazzling intellectual breadth with moments of searing intimacy, this is a transformative vision of a historic conflict and a triumph of the novelist’s art.”
Also on shelves: Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit by Malcolm Harris.
Bonus Links from Our Archive:– Only the Lonely: The Millions Interviews Teddy WayneA Year in Reading: Teddy WayneA Review of ‘The Devil in the White City’ by Erik LarsenGuns and Testosterone Rule the World: An Interview with Colum McCannThe Real and the Imagined: On Colum McCann’s ‘TransAtlantic’A Year in Reading: Colum McCann

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Burns, Adiga, Taylor, Phillips, Vollmann, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Anna Burns, Aravind Adiga, Brandon Taylor, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, William T. Vollmann, 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 sign up to be a member today.
Little Constructions by Anna Burns

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Little Constructions: “Belfast native Burns’s raucous, exacting modernist crime novel (after the Booker Prize–winning Milkman) skewers men’s incomprehension of women. After a young woman named Jetty Doe confounds a gun shop owner in a town known as Tiptoe Floorboard by snatching a Kalashnikov rifle and throwing a pile of money at him in pursuit of a crime of passion, shop owner Tom Spaders, already traumatized from being stabbed by teenagers in a mugging the year before, copes with the shock by blubbering to a friend about the woman’s apparent ignorance over the type of gun she’d wanted. The story then zigs and zags through a wild chronicle of the Doe crime syndicate and its core members’ immediate family, whose similar-sounding names—Jotty, John, Johnjoe, Janet, Janine, etc.—belie their complex, distinct identities (on Julie Doe: ‘This fifteen-year-old was older than her mother’s thirtysomething friend’). Burns’s narrator is a garrulous raconteur who drops in damning characterizations of men (‘Why couldn’t she be quiet and just listen and remain quiet even after she’d listened?,’ one wonders about his wife) while unspooling the freewheeling account of the Doe family’s occult superstitions, their quirky sensitivity to noises, and the bloody brouhaha that follows the arrest of several gang members. While the narrator’s digressive woolgathering will test some readers’ patience, the acerbic gender commentary tightens the slack. Burns’s fans will find much to chew on.”
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Amnesty: “Adiga (The White Tiger) briskly captures an undocumented immigrant’s moral dilemma over whether to help the police solve a murder or remain under the radar in this engrossing tale. After leaving Sri Lanka to attend college in Sydney, Dhananjaya ‘Danny’ Rajaratnam quits school, loses his student visa, and fails to gain refugee status, but he stays in Australia out of fear for his safety back home, where he was misidentified as a Tamil terrorist. He sleeps in a grocery storeroom and earns cash cleaning homes and doing odd jobs. For four years he escapes notice by authorities; even his leftist Vietnamese girlfriend, Sonja, doesn’t know he’s in the country illegally. After one of his clients—Indian-born Radha Thomas—is murdered, Danny deduces that her murderer is her lover, a violent man nicknamed the Doctor. Danny knows Radha and the Doctor frequented the creek where Radha’s body was discovered, and that the Doctor owned a jacket resembling the one wrapped around the body. Adiga recounts Danny’s thoughts, memories, doubts, and hesitation as well as his aborted phone calls with police and ominous contacts with the Doctor, all within a single day. With nuance and vivid faced by a range of Asian Australians while highlighting the dangers faced by the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Adiga’s enthralling depiction of one immigrant’s tough situation humanizes a complex and controversial global dilemma.”
Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Real Life: “Taylor’s intense, introspective debut tackles the complicated desires of a painfully introverted gay black graduate student over the course of a tumultuous weekend. Wallace, a biochemistry student from Alabama at an unnamed contemporary Midwestern university, discovers his experiment involving breeding nematodes ruined by contaminating mold. Though distraught and facing tedious work, he reluctantly meets up with friends from his program to celebrate the last weekend of summer. He discloses to them the recent death of his estranged father, who did not protect him from sexual abuse by a family friend as a child. Wallace is perpetually ill at ease with his white friends and labmates, especially surly Miller, who unexpectedly admits a sexual interest in Wallace. Over the following two days, Wallace and Miller awkwardly begin a secret, volatile sexual relationship with troubling violence between them at its margins. As Wallace begins to doubt his future as an academic and continues to have fraught social interactions, he reveals more about his heartbreaking past to Miller, building toward an unsettling, unresolved conclusion between the two men. Wallace’s inconsistent emotional states when he’s in Miller’s company can be jarring; the novel is at its best and most powerful when Wallace is alone and readers witness his interior solitude in the face of the racism and loneliness he endures. Taylor’s perceptive, challenging exploration of the many kinds of emotional costs will resonate with readers looking for complex characters and rich prose.”
Living Weapon by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Living Weapon: “In his dazzling third collection, Phillips (Heaven) explores social ills while celebrating poetry’s ability to provide solace and sense during times of upheaval. Two prose poems anchor the book: the first, the standout of the collection, is ‘1776,’ in which Phillips imagines himself as a winged angel standing atop the Freedom Tower in New York City, observing the city below: ‘Lit streets run from it, electric arteries and veins. Manhattan’s never seemed so empty, so narrow, a pupil of a cat’s eye.’ Phillips imbues the book with the divisiveness and violence of the present moment: ‘We are all in prison./ This is the brutal lesson of the slouching century,// Swilled like a sour stone/ Through the vein of the beast.’ In ‘Mortality Ode,’ he narrates a scene in which several police officers enter a cellphone store and browse casually. Nothing dramatic occurs, but the simple presence of the officers conveys a tension born from the speaker’s subtle understanding that the police are a threat to his safety. In ‘Thoughts and Prayers,’ Phillips addresses the subject of gun violence directly, declaring that the refusal to take action to stop the epidemic is the real evil: ‘the end of endings; the death/ Of change.’ Phillips’s latest is lyrical, imaginative, and steeped in a keen understanding of current events.”
Home Making by Lee Matalone

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Home Making: “Rumpus columnist Matalone’s heady, lyrical debut overlays an adopted woman’s journey into motherhood with her daughter’s story of making a home for herself as an adult. Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and French father, Cybil is adopted by an American couple in Arizona in the 1950s and eventually has a daughter, Chloe, who, in the present, struggles to make a home out of a sprawling house she buys in Virginia while estranged from her husband, Pat, contrasting their old house with Le Corbusier’s aphorism, ‘A house is a machine for living in’ (‘machines break, become defunct’). In spare chapters, Mantalone moves back and forth in time to trace the shapes of Cybil’s and Chloe’s identities through their relationships to domestic spaces. As Chloe wanders from dining room to kitchen to closet in her new house, she ruminates on the varied meanings of home, reflecting on her childhood and contemplating a future with her best friend, Beau, a gay man who glibly encourages her, ‘As the great sculpture of pirouetting steel, Richard Serra, said, space is material.’ In measured prose, Matalone draws out connections between past and present to illuminate the mother and daughter’s shared sense of ambiguity toward motherhood. Matalone’s cool reflections on art and architecture will appeal to fans of Chris Kraus.”
The Lucky Star by William T. Vollmann

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lucky Star: “Vollmann’s sprawling and provocatively playful novel revisits the sordid setting of his early collection The Rainbow Stories, where sexual desire shapes characters’ self-expression and pursuit of love, power, and human connection. A circle of friends is bonded by their relationship to a character named Neva, often referred to as ‘the lesbian.’ They meet at a San Francisco spot called the Y Bar in 2015, where they find support in their collective company and become a de facto family. Among them are the matriarch, a bartender named Francine; Shantelle, a transgender prostitute; the largely unnoticed hard-drinking barfly Richard, who provides florid narration; and the starry-eyed Frank, who has renamed himself after his icon, Judy Garland. Vollmann elaborately researched the tumultuous life of the real Garland, lending passion and credence to Richard’s extensive knowledge of the late singer. As Neva evolves from an innocent to an icon on par with Marlene Dietrich, at least in the eyes of the Y Bar circle, she guides and mentors their sexual self-discovery, helping define their boundaries and gain confidence. The Y Bar crowd’s otherwise static plotlines are tightened by the interweaving of their common experiences. Vollmann’s challenging novel is full of memorable moments.” 
Also on shelves: Where You’re All Going by Joan Frank.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Offill, Stuart, Sharlet, Sparks, Lavery, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jenny Offill, Douglas Stuart, Jeff Sharlet, Amber Sparks, Daniel M. Lavery, 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 sign up to be a member today.

Weather by Jenny Offill

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Weather: “A librarian becomes increasingly obsessed with doomsday preparations in Offill’s excellently sardonic third novel (following Dept. of Speculation). Lizzie, a university librarian working in Brooklyn, already feels overwhelmed with guiding her son, Eli, through New York City’s crowded elementary school system without the extra strain of dealing with her addict brother’s constant crises. Mostly happily married to a computer game designer, Lizzie introduces anxiety into her marriage when she takes a second job answering emails for a former mentor who is now the host of a popular podcast about futurism. Fielding questions from both apocalypse truthers and preppers for the coming climate-induced ‘scarcity,’ Lizzie becomes convinced that doomsday is approaching. Her scattered, frenzied voice is studded with arresting flourishes, as when she describes releasing a fly: ‘Quiet in the cup. Hard to believe that isn’t joy, the way it flies away when I fling it out the window.’ Set against the backdrop of Lizzie’s trips to meditation classes, debates with a taxi driver, the 2016 presidential election, and constant attempts to avoid a haughty parent at Eli’s school, Lizzie’s apocalyptic worries are bittersweet, but also always wry and wise. Offill offers an acerbic observer with a wide-ranging mind in this marvelous novel.”

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Shuggie Bain: “Stuart’s harrowing debut follows a family ravaged by addiction in Glasgow during the Thatcher era. Agnes Bain yearns to move Shug, her taxi-driving, ‘selfish animal’ of a second husband, and three children out of the tiny apartment they share with her parents in Glasgow in 1981. Shug secures them a council flat, but when they arrive he leaves them in a flurry of violence, blaming Agnes’s drinking. While Agnes’s daughter, Catherine, escapes the misery of Agnes’s alcoholism and the family’s extreme poverty by finding a husband, and her older son, Leek, retreats into making art, Hugh (nicknamed ‘Shuggie’ after his absent father) assumes responsibility for Agnes’s safety and happiness. As the years pass, Shuggie suffers cruelty over his effeminate personality and endures sexual violence. He eventually accepts that he’s gay; meanwhile, Agnes finds some hope by entering A.A., landing a job, and dating another taxi driver named Eugene, but she later backslides. As Shuggie and his mother attempt to improve their lives, they are bound not just by one another but also to the U.K.’s dire economic conditions. While the languid pace could have benefited from condensing, there are flashes of deep feeling that cut through the darkness. This bleak if overlong book will resonate with readers.”

This Brilliant Darkness by Jeff Sharlet

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Brilliant Darkness: “Lives lived in shadows and corners are lit up in these offbeat photo-journalistic essays. Journalist and Dartmouth writing professor Sharlet (The Family) roams several continents, snapping smartphone photos he posts on Instagram and talking to people: night-shift workers at a Dunkin Donuts in Vermont; a far-right gun fanatic in Schenectady, N.Y.; a Ugandan clergyman who’s terrified of a witch’s curse; brother-sister street-junkies in Dublin, Ireland. Most of the pieces are short, evanescent essays, but Sharlet includes longer pieces, including a profile of a homeless African immigrant on L.A.’s Skid Row who was shot to death, unarmed, by police, and a sketch of a mentally fragile New England woman struggling to control her life, her only friend a potted plant named Bandit. Sharlet’s haunting photos accompany clipped, pointilist, but expressive prose that evokes character and tragedy: a New Hampshire arsonist ‘told the police (there were things he wanted them to know) that he used the flag to burn the church, that he tried to burn the children, that he did what he did—and, if they let him go, would do more—because he was angry with God.’ The result is a triumph of visual and written storytelling, both evocative and moving.”

And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about And I Do Not Forgive You: “Sparks (The Unfinished World) impresses with her exceptional collection of wry, feminist stories. ‘A Place for Hiding Precious Things’ is an incendiary retelling of the fairy tale ‘Donkeyskin’ that features a young princess’s escape into contemporary Manhattan from her father’s incestuous desires. A high school girl with a pitch-perfect teen voice lives with her dysfunctional family in a trailer park in ‘Everyone’s a Winner in Meadow Park’ and is bored with the ‘weird pioneer girl’ that haunts her until the ghost proves herself useful with homework and warding off sexual advances. Climate change and societal collapse set the stage for a woman’s ex-husband’s transformation into a religious despot who builds a giant tower in ‘We Destroy the Moon.’ Some stories smuggle incredible emotional impact into surprisingly few pages, including the haunting, unexplained severing of a friendship in ‘Mildly Unhappy with Moments of Joy’ and a queen who attempts to outrace a rapidly approaching future through a strange form of time-travel in ‘Is the Future a Nice Place for Girls.’ The time management–obsessed father in ‘The Eyes of Saint Lucy’ foists his mistress’s baby on his wife and daughter, leading to a chilling, macabre twist. Sparks’s sardonic wit never distracts from her polished dismantling of everyday and extraordinary abuses. Readers will love this remarkable, deliciously caustic collection.”

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Untamed Shore: “Fantasy author Moreno-Garcia (Gods of Jade and Shadow) ventures into thriller territory with mixed success in this noir set in 1979 Baja California. Life for 18-year-old Viridiana in the ‘nothing at all’ town of Desengaño has been full of dull, senseless duty that she yearns to escape. When wealthy American Ambrose Allerton—an older man who’s renting a house with his trophy wife, Daisy, and her handsome brother, Gregory—offers Viridiana a summer job to be his secretary, she gladly accepts. But her good fortune doesn’t last. After a drunken Ambrose takes a fatal fall down some stairs, suspicion falls on Daisy and Gregory. After agreeing to lie on their behalf, Viridiana becomes a suspect in Ambrose’s murder. Fueled by her thirst for exotic adventure, she begins a highly charged affair with Gregory, but sordid reality soon catches up with her. Moreno-Garcia’s unsparing delineation of a ferocious land compensates in part for Viridiana’s somewhat unconvincing dreams of Hollywood romance. Fans of the author’s fantasy novels may want to take a pass.”

Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Lavery

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Something That May Shock and Discredit You: “Slate advice columnist Lavery (Texts from Jane Eyre) brings the full force of his wit and literary depth to this genre-bending essay collection. Describing it as ‘memoir-adjacent,’ Lavery intersperses searingly honest passages about his journey as a transgender man with laugh-out-loud funny literary pastiche. In ‘Lord Byron Has a Birthday and Takes His Leave,’ the poet histrionically threatens to die gloriously in Greece to avoid reaching the mortifying age of 40. Sir Gawain tries to escape the sexual hijinks cooked up by Lady Bertilak and the Green Knight in ‘Sir Gawain Just Wants to Leave Castle Make-Out.’ Amid the literary fun, Lavery reflects upon gender identity. Finding the national conversation about transgender people too child-centric—he only realized he was one at age 30—Lavery instead returned to the scriptures of his youth to find himself in ‘stories of transformation… already familiar’ to him. In the most moving chapter, he drops the artifice of humor and lays bare his anguish at severing his relationship with his mother as her daughter, with the two finding solace in the story of Jacob and Esau—two brothers who make peace but not before Jacob changes his name, and thus identity, to Israel. Lavery provides an often hilarious, sometimes discomfiting, but invariably honest account of one man’s becoming.”

Also on shelves this week: The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Jen, Yuknavitch, Missaghi, Nemens, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Gish Jen, Lidia Yuknavitch, Poupeh Missaghi, Emily Nemens, 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 sign up to be a member today.

The Resisters by Gish Jen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Resisters: ” A prodigious young athlete fights the oppression and poverty of her social class in this shrewd and provocative near-future novel from Jen (World and Town). In AutoAmerica, the Netted rule over an underclass called the Surplus, who receive Basic Income but aren’t allowed to work and are denied basic human rights. Seventeen-year-old Gwen, a member of the Surplus and a star player in the Underground Baseball League, is tired of her oppressive life and wants to rise to the Netted class. She gets her chance when the Netted recruit her to help beat ChinRussia. Gwen faces a crisis of conscience as she looks back on those she would leave behind, including her friend Ondi, once banished for a month for sharing forbidden content on the internet, and her father, Grant (also the narrator), who intersperses anecdotes of brutal punishments faced by fellow members of their rank throughout. By placing the narration in Grant’s measured, ironic voice, Jen shows how the Netted accomplished their subtle, Huxleyian takeover through bigotry and technology. While some of Jen’s fans might miss the overt humor of her previous work, her intelligence and control shine through in a chilling portrait of the casual acceptance of totalitarianism.”

Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Verge: “In this brilliant collection, Yuknavitch (The Book of Joan) chronicles people outside society’s margins. In ‘Cusp,’ a teenager in rural Texas comes of age while acting as a drug mule at a prison. ‘The Organ Runner’ follows a young girl as she works to ferry kidneys for illegal backroom transplants, while ‘Second Language’ deals with sex trafficking in Portland, Ore. In ‘A Woman Refusing,’ a frustrated ex-husband refuses to aid his former spouse, who stands nude atop a high-rise, threatening to jump. The incest-tinged ‘Second Coming’ describes an at-home artificial insemination involving a sexually naive woman and her married sister. In ‘Mechanics,’ a woman flirts with a potential new lover while working under the hood of her car. The stories are consistently incisive, with sharp sentences and a barreling pace. The subject matter is pretty dark stuff, but Yuknavitch does offer an occasional ray of hope or rallying cry of resilience for her characters trapped by addiction, forced sex work, or bad marriages. This riveting collection invites readers to see women whose points of view are typically ignored.”

trans(re)lating house 1 by Poupeh Missaghi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about trans(re)lating house 1: “Missaghi’s lyrical, meditative debut merges fiction, poetry, and critical study to explore Iran’s history and volatile present. An unnamed woman catalogues the statues of figures from the Persian Constitutional Revolution that are steadily disappearing from Tehran, reflecting on what their absence says about the enduring value of sacrifice for the greater good. After encountering a mysterious woman who slips her a note reading ‘Keep looking for the bodies,’ the protagonist begins writing annotations of the protesters who died in the aftermath of the 2009 election. As her archive grows, the narrator’s project hinges on two questions: ‘How does death define the experience of life?’ and ‘How to translate loss into language?’ Between entries, readers glimpse the public lives of women in teahouses, art galleries, and city buses, and enter into a rich dream world that ‘gains materiality’ through the protagonist’s methodical documentation. Missaghi mines a range of literary sources, quoting from Claire Lispector and Sigmund Freud, and notes formal inspiration from Roberto Bolaño’s harrowing description of missing and murdered women in 2666, though the result is less a novel than a bravura exhibition of writing as performance art. This will appeal to fans of mixed-genre experiments, such as works by Lyn Hejinian and Anne Carson.”

Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Everywhere You Don’t Belong: “Bump’s astute and touching debut follows young Claude McKay Love, a black child learning to navigate contemporary Chicago’s South Side after his parents’ acrimonious split. Raised by his strong-willed, foul-mouthed Grandma and her best friend, a gay man named Paul, the duo are honest with Claude about his absent parents and needing to make his own way in life. As a teenager, Claude is advised by his grandma to stay far away from the Redbelters, a gang, telling him the members will never get further than the corner they’re standing on. As the Redbelters gain notoriety, Grandma attempts to organize their neighbors to stand up to them, but to no avail: the neighborhood erupts in a standoff between gangs and police, forever transformed by shootings, destruction, and terror. Along with Grandma and Paul, Claude and his close friend Janice try to rebuild their lives after the violence without falling victim to despair. Hoping to leave his broken hometown behind, Claude heads to Missouri for college, where he discovers there’s no way to outrun the past. Bump balances his heavy subject matter with a healthy dose of humor, but the highlight is Claude, a complex, fully developed protagonist who anchors everything. Readers will be moved in following his path to young adulthood.”

The Cactus League by Emily Nemens

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cactus League: “In Nemens’s insightful debut, it’s 2011 and players of the L.A. Lions professional baseball team are reporting for spring training at their new facility, Salt River Fields, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Under a hot Southwestern sun, a sportswriter waits to interview the team’s golden boy, left fielder Jason Goodyear, whose handsome façade belies some unsavory secrets. Readers see Jason glancingly from eight different points of view: a put-upon batting coach whose mantra is ‘what would Joe DiMaggio do?’; a baseball groupie who sets her sights on him; a sports agent forced to cover up his client’s misdeeds to protect a Nike contract; the team owner with his own façade to maintain; a pitcher desperately trying to hide a painful elbow injury; the organist at the field where the Lions play; the seven-year-old son of a drug-addicted single mother who runs one of the concessions at the field; and Jason’s ex-wife, who finds herself reduced in the pecking order with the other players’ wives. Largely plotless, the book is a vivid collection of stories, as each character is brought to life in convincing detail, though the sportswriter’s interstitial musings can be intrusive. Still, this debut entertainingly illuminates people and problems usually overlooked in the sports pages.”

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Book of Adana Moreau: “In Zapata’s stirring debut, a man’s efforts to fulfill his grandfather’s last wishes leads him into the horror of post-Katrina New Orleans. On the eve of the Great Depression, Dominican expat novelist Adana Moreau finishes then destroys the sequel to her masterwork, Lost City. After her death, Adana’s 10 year-old, mixed-race son, Maxwell, is alone and adrift in New Orleans. A generation later in Chicago, Saul Drower discovers an unpublished manuscript in a box that his late grandfather requested be sent to now-renowned physicist Maxwell Moreau. Saul’s efforts to locate the elusive academic lead him to New Orleans just as Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Joined by his childhood friend, Saul dives deep into the flooded city. Zapata expertly jumps between the story of Maxwell ’s youth and Saul’s attempt to return his manuscript. Histories collide as Saul navigates the storm-battered city in search of Maxwell and the prophetic words of Adana become realized. Zapata expertly blends the drama of the lost manuscript with the on-the-ground chaos and tumult caused by the storm. Digging into themes of regeneration and rejuvenation, Zapata’s marriage of speculative and realist styles makes for a harrowing, immersive tale that will appeal to fans of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Yoon, Flattery, Saavedra, Yu, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Paul Yoon, Nicole Flattery, Carole Saavedra, Charles Yu, 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 sign up to be a member today.

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Run Me to Earth: “Yoon (The Mountain) asks whether anyone can truly survive the ruins of war in this sparely written gem. In 1969, inhabitants of war-ravaged Laos struggle with political conflicts and a landscape in which civilians regularly cope with the ugly consequences of accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance. Three homeless teenagers—Alisak and brother and sister Prany and Noi, all friends since childhood—are recruited to work for a makeshift hospital set up in an abandoned mansion. The three navigate dangerous terrain on motorbikes to deliver supplies, and bond with Vang, the French doctor in charge. When the day comes to evacuate, the four are separated. Yoon masterfully weaves their divergent story lines, unveiling the different trajectories of their lives. While Alisak manages a bicycle and moped shop in the Spanish countryside, Vang and Prany are imprisoned and tortured for seven years and later plot revenge on their tormentors. Yoon’s eloquent, sensitive character study of Alisak, who deeply misses his friends well into his 60s, illustrates how the horrors of the past can linger, no matter how far one travels from the source. This is a finely wrought tale about courage and endurance.”

Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Show Them a Good Time: “Disenchanted characters maneuver through difficult settings in Flattery’s surreal and offbeat debut collection. Though diverse in content, the stories come together through their dystopian elements and comparably cynical protagonists. In ‘Sweet Talk,’ a young teen falls for her father’s employee against the backdrop of a series of mysterious disappearances of multiple women in her hometown. In ‘Track,’ the girlfriend of a has-been comedian withstands neglect and abuse from him while secretly contributing to his downfall through an internet forum. The title story tells of a former adult film actress who confronts workplace politics at her new job as a gas station attendant. A woman navigates dating during the apocalypse and finds it to be equally as disappointing in ‘Not the End Yet.’ In ‘Abortion, a Love Story,’ two college misfits unite to produce a stage play that questions the expectations forced upon them as adults. A seamless blend of reality and the surreal, Flattery’s stories defy genre in an affecting yet unobtrusive manner. Readers should expect to be equal parts intrigued and unsettled.”

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Children of the Land: “Poet Castillo (Cenzontle) opens this impressionistic memoir of growing up as an undocumented immigrant with a gripping flashback to when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the then-teen’s family home in Marysville, Calif. ‘We never opened our door or windows again,’ he writes, even though it was Castillo’s father, long-since deported, the agents sought. Moving forward to 2014, a provision of the ‘Dreamers’ program allowed the 25-year-old Castillo and his wife, Rubi, to return to Tepechitlán, Mexico, for a bittersweet visit with his father, who was still hoping to return to the U.S. During the roller-coaster ride of the next two years, Castillo received his American visa, but his father failed to return north (‘We were still trying to cross, still moving in maddening helplessness, a revolving door without an exit’), and his mother moved back to Tepechitlán to be with her husband. Throughout, Castillo examines other borders and boundaries in his life, including being bisexual and bilingual. Additionally, he writes of the difficulties reconciling his professional achievements as a creative writing teacher with his family’s struggles (‘That was my new job, to read and write… and I didn’t think I deserved that kind of comfort’). Castillo writes with disturbing candor, depicting the all-too-common plight of undocumented immigrants to the U.S.”

Blue Flowers by Carola Saavedra (translated by Daniel Hahn)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Blue Flowers: “Saavedra’s captivating novel tells the stories of Marcos, a recently divorced man settling into a new apartment, and A., a mysterious woman recollecting a failed affair. Their narratives cross paths when Marcos receives a letter written by A. that is meant for his apartment’s previous tenant, who was also A.’s former lover. For nine straight days, additional envelopes from A. appear in Marcos’s mailbox, and each letter digs deeper into A.’s troubled romance. Marcos, himself feeling distant from his ex-wife, his young daughter, his work, and his social circle, reads each letter with a growing fascination. After considering hunting for A.’s intended recipient, he instead frequents shops mentioned by A., and as his obsession with her blooms, he shuts out all responsibilities and takes to searching for the anonymous writer. In chapters alternating between letters and Marcos’s reactions, Saavedra steadily unveils the darkness permeating the lives of her protagonists, and in doing so creates a literary psychological thriller that questions what is real and what is imagined. This tale of desire and yearning is impossible to put down.”

Also on shelves: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu and An Apartment on Uranus by Paul B. Preciado.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Allende, Smith, Eisenberg, Cummins, Chayka, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Isabel Allende, Danez Smith, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Jeanine Cummins, Kyle Chayka, 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 sign up to be a member today.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Long Petal of the Sea: “Spanning from 1938 to 1994, this majestic novel from Allende (In the Midst of Winter) focuses on Victor Dalmau, a 23-year-old medical student fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side when the novel opens. After Nationalist forces prevail, Victor and thousands of other Republican sympathizers flee Spain to avoid brutal reprisals. In France, he searches the packed refugee camps for Roser Bruguera, who is pregnant with his brother Guillem’s child. Once he finds Roser, he breaks the news that Guillem has died in battle and that he has won a place on the Winnipeg, a ship that the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda has organized to transport Spanish refugees from Europe, where WWII is breaking out, to safety in Chile. Allowed to bring only family with him, Victor persuades Roser to marry him in name only. Though Victor has a brief, secret affair with well-off Ofelia del Solar, he begins to fall in love with Roser; they raise Roser’s son, Marcel, together and build stable lives, he as a cardiologist and she as a widely respected musician. But when the Pinochet dictatorship unseats Chile’s Marxist president in 1973, they find themselves once more endangered by their political views. Allende’s assured prose vividly evokes her fictional characters, historical figures like Neruda, and decades of complex international history; her imagery makes the suffering of war and displacement palpable yet also does justice to human strength, hope and rebirth. Seamlessly juxtaposing exile with homecoming, otherness with belonging, and tyranny with freedom, the novel feels both timeless and perfectly timed for today.”

Homie by Danez Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Homie: “Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead) presents an electrifying, unabashedly queer ode to friendship and community in their exuberant and mournful second collection. Smith alternates colloquial and lofty language, often within the same poem, and eschews most punctuation and grammatical strictures. In ‘ode to gold teeth,’ the poet writes of their grandfather, ‘gold gate of grandpa’s holler/ midas touch his blue hum/ honeymetal perfuming prayers,’ later referring to him as the ‘OG of the gin sermon & front-porch pulpit.’ These poems are a celebration of black culture and experience, and a condemnation of white supremacy and its effect; in ‘dogs!,’ Smith excoriates racist dehumanization: ‘i too been called boy & expected/ to come, heel.’ In ‘sometimes i wish i felt the side effects,’ Smith explores conflicting feelings related to an HIV diagnosis—simultaneous devastation and relief (‘it felt like i got it out the way, to finally know it’), acceptance, and shame (‘i braved the stupidest ocean. a man. i waded in his stupid waters’). The collection’s final poem, ‘acknowledgments,’ is a beautiful love poem to a best friend, one that is as heartfelt as it is quotable: ‘if luck calls your name, we split the pot/ & if you wither, surely i rot.’ Smith is a visionary polyglot with a fearless voice.”

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Third Rainbow Girl: “In June 1980, 26-year-old Vicki Durian and 19-year-old Nancy Santomero were hitchhiking through rural West Virginia, heading to a festival called the Rainbow Gathering. They never made it. The story of their shooting murders, and the hunt for the killer, consumed the citizens of Pocahontas County for decades, as journalist Eisenberg reveals in this gripping account, her first book. She spent five years researching the crime and blends the case facts with a memoir of her time living in the area, playing bluegrass and drinking bourbon with men who were connected to the Rainbow Gathering. Part self-discovery and part crime and courtroom drama, the narrative follows two possible theories. Jacob Beard, a local farmer, was arrested 13 years after Durian and Santomero’s deaths and was convicted of their murders, though witness statements were shaky and there was no physical evidence. But as Eisenberg notes, white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin, a convicted serial killer, made a jailhouse confession before Beard’s 1993 trial that he killed the young women, but the prosecutors dismissed it. The author herself thinks it was bogus. Not until 2000 did Beard get a second trial, at which he was acquitted, yet the community may never know the truth. This is essential reading for true crime fans.”

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about American Dirt: “With this devastating yet hopeful work, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) breathes life into the statistics of the thousands fleeing their homelands and seeking to cross the southern border of the United States. By mere chance, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece’s quinceañera by sicarios of the Los Jardineros cartel in Acapulco. Compounding the horror of the violence and loss is the fact that the cartel’s leader is a man that Lydia unwittingly befriended in her bookstore. Lydia and Luca flee north to the only refuge that she can imagine: her uncle’s family in Denver. North of Mexico City, all other sources of transportation become impossible, so mother and son must risk traveling atop La Bestia, the freight trains that are the only way to reach the border without being seen. They befriend two beautiful sisters—Soledad, 15, who is ‘a living miracle of splendor,’ and Rebeca, 14—who have fled life-threatening circumstances in Honduras. As the quartet travel, they face terror on a constant basis, with danger possible from any encounter, but also compassion and occasionally even wonder. This extraordinary novel about unbreakable determination will move the reader to the core.”

Heart of Junk by Luke Geddes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heart of Junk: “Geddes’s rambunctious, oddly touching debut homes in on the denizens of a massive Kansas antique mall. The small-scale purveyors of what the less sensitive would call junk are pinning their hopes on the arrival of the production crew for the TV show Pickin’ Fortunes. Unfortunately, the hosts of the show are leery to come to a town where a little girl, beauty pageant star Lindy Bobo, has disappeared, possibly kidnapped. So mall owner Keith, on the brink of bankruptcy, enlists the rest of the troupe to find her, unaware that one of his sellers knows more than he’s saying about Lindy’s whereabouts. Geddes assembles an irresistible cast of self-deluded characters. This includes uptight Margaret, a stickler for the rules and desperate to repress her attraction to a fellow seller; hapless Ronald, too friendly for his own good; high-strung Delores, ‘dizzied by all the voices’ of the Barbies who keep her company; and Seymour, a big-city vinyl album aficionado hauled to the sticks by his partner Lee. Geddes walks an edgy tightrope with some of the material, particularly the Lindy story, but his antic comic touch saves the novel from sinking into darkness, and he offers even his most misguided characters the opportunity to bumble towards redemption. This one’s a quirky treat for fans of flyover state humor.”

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Majesties: “Tsao (The Oddfits) cannily pulls back the gilded surface from a wealthy Indonesian family, revealing a rotten core. The novel opens in the aftermath of an extravagant birthday party for the Sulinado family patriarch, during which a young woman, Estella, has poisoned her entire extended family. The only survivor, Estella’s sister Gwendolyn, narrates the events leading up to the mass murder from her hospital bed, where she lies in a comatose state. These include the disastrous devolution of Estella’s brief marriage, as well as the sisters’ recent attempts to reconnect in the U.S. with a fun-loving aunt whom they had believed, until recently, to be dead. The sisters share a close bond, though each successive revelation about how their morally corrupt family intervened in these personal affairs drives a wedge further between them. The plot takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, the narrative unfolds in a manner that’s both suspenseful and creepily claustrophobic. The novel also prompts readers to consider the cultural relativism of stereotypes, contrasting outsider perceptions of those with Chinese heritage in both Indonesia and the U.S. Tsao depicts a family whose fabulous wealth and privilege not only blind them to the needs of others but also engender cruelty and self-destruction. This is a bold and dramatic portrayal of characters on the cusp of an impossible choice between complicit self-preservation and total annihilation.”

Also on shelves: Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi and The Longing for Less by Kyle Chayka.