Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Walter, Bazawule, Bourne, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jess Walter, Blitz Bazawule, our own Michael Bourne, 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 Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Angel of Rome: “Reading Walter’s perceptive collection (after The Cold Millions) is like sitting next to the guy at a dinner party who has something hilarious to say about everyone and knows all their secrets. In the title story, written with actor Edoardo Ballerini, a starry-eyed Nebraska kid spends a year studying in Italy after high school. There, he stumbles onto the set of a film starring a fading Italian bombshell, and the encounter sets off an antic shaggy-dog tale culminating in the students in his Latin class writing a new ending for the movie. Walter is even better in quieter stories like ‘Drafting,’ in which a woman battling cancer seeks out an old flame, a 36-year-old perpetually stoned skater dude who, despite his utter fecklessness, is the only person able to quiet her existential dread. Occasionally, Walter’s shrewdness about the nature of his characters can feel a little schematic, as in the otherwise entertaining and witty ‘Famous Actor,’ involving a hookup between a coffee shop barista and a slumming movie star with a drug problem. The dialogue and setup are great (‘It’s so great to just be in, like, a fucking apartment,’ the actor says about the narrator’s place), though it ends predictably. Compared to the novels, this is minor Jess Walter, but minor Jess Walter is better than most.”

The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Scent of Burnt Flowers: “In a transportive debut set in the mid-1960s, Ghanaian artist Bazawule charts the fallout of the violent confrontation of an African American couple by a racist gang. Fearing for their lives afterward, Bernadette Broussard and Melvin Johnson flee to Ghana in disguise as a pastor and his wife. Melvin’s college friend Kwame Nkrumah happens to be the president of the country, and Melvin is certain Nkrumah will grant them asylum and a chance at a new life. When they arrive in Cape Coast, famed Ghanaian musician Kwesi Kwayson is about to perform in a courtyard outside their hotel. Bernadette catches his eye, and after she shares that her mother disappeared during a flood in her native Louisiana, the two forge a bond. Kwesi, who is on the way to perform for Nkrumah, aids Bernadette and Melvin on the road, and a rivalry brews between the two men. Meanwhile, a rogue FBI agent tracks the couple on suspicion of their involvement in the incident that caused them to flee, defying orders not to pursue them in Ghana. The fugitives-fleeing-authorities plot takes many of the expected twists on its way to a tragic conclusion, but Bazawule nails the atmosphere, loading it with cultural details on everything from palm wine to Highlife music. It’s an engaging if not riveting period piece.”

Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Patricia Wants to Cuddle: “Allen (Real Queer America) debuts with an amusing and jolting look at a dating show gone horribly wrong. Four contestants on the reality show The Catch—think Naked and Afraid meets The Bachelor—converge on an eerie island in the Pacific Northwest. There’s the reserved Renee Irons, Christian influencer Lilah-Mae Adams, shrewd model Vanessa Voorhees, and cheerful vlogger Amanda Parker. All face harrowing events as they vie for a spot in the show’s finale (and a proposal from entrepreneur Jeremy Blackstone). With only two weeks to go, the women try to advance their goals, which vary from finding true love to boosting their social media brands—but they soon begin to glimpse a mysterious ‘creature’ named Patricia lurking in the shadows. When Patricia finally strikes, the results are grotesque and shocking, laying bare the island’s dark history. The characters, however, often feel flat, with insufficient details about the women’s lives, and Allen leaves several loose ends dangling. Still, she cleverly explores themes of human connection, social acceptance, and the harms of social media as the contestants vie for what they want and the show’s producer takes staggering measures to boost ratings. Despite the flaws, there’s enough invention here to keep readers on board.”

Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies: “A British woman’s breast cancer returns in Mortimer’s poignant and inventive debut, told in part by the disease. Lia, 43 and a children’s author, is devastated to learn her cancer is back after a two-year absence. Her professor husband, Harry, assures her they’ll fight it, while Lia’s unsure of how to tell their 12-year-old daughter, Iris. Meanwhile, in flashbacks, Lia reveals how as a teenager she and a boy named Matthew, a student of Lia’s vicar father, become secret lovers. When her parents find out, they make other arrangements for Matthew, and Lia leaves for university in London. Later she receives a postcard from Matthew telling her to join him in Italy. Their paths converge and diverge a couple more times, while in the present Lia and her family struggle to manage her worsening illness. The cancer intrudes with bursts of modernist lyricism (‘If I could rub my hands together, gnarl out a poisonous twat-cackle, pick open their dreams or leave my own little marks in their diaries, I would’), which can feel excessive, but the author does a good job tying everything together. Though this first outing is a bit baggy, Mortimer shows promise.”

Blithedale Canyon by Michael Bourne

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Blithedale Canyon: “Bourne, a reviewer for PW, debuts with an acute and vulnerable expression of male angst set in Mill Valley, Calif. Trent Wolfer, a man in his late 20s, is haunted by a history of poor, debauched decision making. After spending time in prison for embezzling funds from a liquor store, he returns home, picks up a fast food job, and moves back in with his groovy Marin County mother and her wealthy second husband. Meanwhile, Trent struggles with regret, habitual lying, and alcoholism. However, after an encounter with an old flame, he begins to take his life more seriously and shifts over to a job at a wholesome grocery store. Reform and temptation tug at him with equal force, which Bourne conveys with a searing, confessional sincerity. Readers might think of Trent as an older version of Holden Caulfield (according to Trent, everyone in town is ‘full of shit’), and despite his deeply flawed nature, the more he wobbles and struggles, the more endearing he becomes. This will resonate with readers.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Moshfegh, Hogeland, Gallagher, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ottessa Moshfegh, Anna Hogeland, Leigh N. Gallagher, 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.
Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lapvona: “Moshfegh’s deliriously quirky medieval tale (after Death in Her Hands) revolves around a disabled shepherd boy’s test of faith. Marek, 13, is abused by his father and raised by Ina, a midwife and witch who once nursed him as an infant. Still, Marek possesses a childlike faith in God. He’ll need it. All is not well in the fiefdom of Lapvona: a plague ravages the people, a drought sours the earth, starvation spreads, and high atop a hill overlooking the village sits greedy Lord Villiam, a man who ‘believe[s] that his appetite [is] nothing but a physical symptom of his greatness’ and consequently hoards all the food. Down below, Ina trades villagers psychedelic mushrooms for bread and eggs, and the mushrooms give people alternately visions of heaven and hell, either a respite from or an enhancement of the daily nightmare wrought on them by Villiam. Moshfegh’s picture of medieval cruelty includes unsparing accounts of torture, rape, cannibalism, and witchcraft, and as Marek grapples with the pervasive brutality and whether remaining pure of heart is worth the trouble—or is even possible—the narrative tosses readers through a series of dizzying reversals. Throughout, Moshfegh brings her trademark fascination with the grotesque to depictions of the pandemic, inequality, and governmental corruption, making them feel both uncanny and all too familiar. It’s a triumph.”

The Long Answer by Anna Hogeland

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Long Answer: “Hogeland’s lackluster debut follows a group of women and charts their feelings about their pregnancies. First, pregnant narrator Anna gets a call from her older sister, Margot, with the news that Margot had a miscarriage. Some weeks later, Margot calls Anna to talk about her friend Elizabeth, and Anna thinks about how she’s jealous of Elizabeth’s friendship with Margot, which deepened after Elizabeth, who is also pregnant, confided a secret to Margot. At a prenatal yoga class, Anna meets a young woman, Corrie, who shares a story about an earlier pregnancy followed by abortion. Then Hogeland delves into a problem with Anna’s pregnancy, and her writer husband’s attempts to write a story about it. Later, Anna travels to Joshua Tree, Calif., where she meets an older woman named Marisol, who tells her a story about her own pregnancy and approaching menopause, which Anna uses in her own attempt at writing fiction. The gestures at metafiction feel undercooked (‘This was never supposed to be part of this novel,’ Anna narrates in the middle of the Marisol episode), though Hogeland does a nice job showing the degree to which the women’s lives are shaped by reproduction. Still, this doesn’t quite cohere.”

The Catch by Alison Fairbrother

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Catch: “In Fairbrother’s perceptive debut, a young journalist is left reeling and looking for answers after her father’s sudden death. Ellie Adler, 24, a reporter at a D.C. news website, heads home to Maryland to visit her poet father, James, and her stepfamily. Ellie, the oldest, is happy believing she’s her father’s closest confidante and shares his writerly interests. Days later, he dies of a heart attack, and a bereft Ellie reads his most famous poem, ‘The Catch,’ at his funeral service, where an unknown woman attends. Later, Ellie begins looking into the woman’s relationship with James, and tries to piece together why he bequeathed Ellie an unfamiliar tie rack and gave the lucky baseball she’d always wanted to a stranger named L.M. Taylor. Meanwhile, Ellie begins questioning her relationship with her boyfriend, an older, married man, after her roommate learns of the affair. She also parlays a work assignment into an investigation of Taylor’s osprey conservation on the Chesapeake Bay to learn more about him. The minutiae of James’s estate eventually wears thin, but Fairbrother ably captures Ellie’s fractured world as a child of divorce, which fuels her motivation. This is a promising start.”

Girls They Write Songs About by Carlene Bauer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Girls They Write Songs About: “Bauer’s appealing if aimless latest (after Frances and Bernard) follows the friendship of two women in New York City from the late 1990s through the aughts. Charlotte Snowe and Rose Pellegrino apply for a staff editor job at a music magazine, and that’s where they meet; Rose gets the job and Charlotte eventually gets hired as an editor. The two quickly develop a close bond, but jealousies both romantic and professional eventually rear their heads. When Rose sets aside her writing commitments to marry Peter, Charlotte takes it as a personal affront and it eventually becomes a wedge between them, and as one ascends in her career, the other’s decline is put into greater relief. There’s not much of a plot, just a bunch of time in bars, clubs, and restaurants and conversations that don’t quite pass the Bechdel test (lots of talk about men, their bosses, relationships, and sex), and by the end it just sort of fizzles out. Still, Bauer has a talent for exacting language, particularly when describing the characters’ attempts at navigating an era in which it feels like feminism is over (‘We were neither selfish enough nor selfless enough to become heroines’). There are better stories of moving to the city, but this makes for a charming enough time capsule.”

Who You Might Be by Leigh N. Gallagher

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Who You Might Be: “Gallagher harnesses the turbulence and cadence of adolescence in this ambitious if uneven debut. Two of the novel’s three sections are set in the 1990s, starting with the account of best friends Meghan and Judy, both 14, as they slip away for the weekend to attend a house party thrown by a girl Meghan met online. When they get to the address, they’re greeted by a disturbed elderly woman and follow her upstairs. What they find is shocking and traumatic. Gallagher then introduces Caleb and Miles, who were uprooted from their privileged San Francisco enclave for Ann Arbor, Mich., after their mother accepted a prestigious academic position. Caleb seeks thrills among the industrial ruins of Detroit and falls in with Tez, a graffiti artist, but old ‘beefs’ between Tez and another artist culminate in a shocking assault whose consequences will reverberate across decades. Gallagher is at her best when conveying the vulnerable, yearning space between childhood and maturity, such as when Miles scurries through the dark with his companions in a former department store marked for demolition and suddenly becomes scared (‘not of getting in trouble… but of finding himself unable to rise to whatever unknown challenges came’). Gallagher falters in the third section, speeding toward a conclusion where the disparate characters collide in 2016 Brooklyn. Despite some missteps, Gallagher perfectly captures a generation’s dislocated vibe.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Brooks, Newman, Taddeo, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Geraldine Brooks, Sandra Newman, Lisa Taddeo, 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.
Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Horse: “Pulitzer winner Brooks returns after The Secret Chord with a fascinating saga based on the true story of a famous 19th-century racehorse. In 2019, Theo Northam, a Black graduate student in Washington, D.C., finds a discarded equestrian painting that he decides to research for a Smithsonian magazine article. Meanwhile, Jess, a bone specialist at the Smithsonian, gets a call about an old horse skeleton that’s been stored in the museum’s attic. Jess and Theo end up meeting, but first Brooks takes the story to 1850s Lexington, Ky., where Jarret Lewis, an enslaved boy, is the groom for a promising colt that his father, Harry, a freedman, has trained. But then the horse, Lexington, is sold and the new buyer sends him along with Jarret to a Mississippi plantation with ruinous consequences. In 1853, Lexington and Jarret end up in New Orleans, where the horse thrills the racing world, and Jarret hopes to buy his freedom, while back in contemporary D.C., a romance blossoms between Jess and Theo. While Brooks’s multiple narratives and strong character development captivate, and she soars with the story of Jarret, a late plot twist in the D.C. thread dampens the ending a bit. Despite a bit of flagging in the home stretch, this wins by a nose.”

The Men by Sandra Newman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Men: “Newman (The Heavens) delivers a smashing feminist utopia (or dystopia) about a young woman whose husband and son go missing along with all the other people in the world who were born with a Y chromosome. While camping, Jane Pearson begins imagining what her life would be like without the burden of a family. Then, in a strange dreamlike flicker, they vanish from their tent. Jane’s first reaction, like the other women portrayed, is one of abject grief. There’s Ji-Won Park, an artist who mourns the loss of her platonic best friend; Blanca Suarez, 14, whose aunt moves her into a house share situation with Alma McCormick, a 40-year-old woman who takes over the Los Angeles mansion where her brother worked as a caretaker; and Ruth Goldstein, a New Yorker who takes a $10,000 flight to be with her daughter on the West Coast. After Jane emerges from the woods, she discovers women adjusting to the new normal with a festive air, Ruth witnesses a harrowing attack on a trans man, and ComPA, a fringe movement Jane founded in her college years with fellow student and lover Evangelyne Moreau, attempts to fill the power vacuum. Evangelyne, a Black woman who, at 14, was convicted of murder after shooting two police officers during a raid on her peaceful cult in Vermont, once shared a special bond with Jane, and now they reconnect. Their backstory enriches the reader’s understanding of Jane’s ambivalence about having a family, and Newman provides powerful insights on the limits of sacrifice. As all the characters converge, the author introduces startling explanations for the mass disappearance. This is a stunner.”

One’s Company by Ashley Hutson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about One’s Company: “Hutson’s affecting and ingenious debut follows a woman’s attempt to find refuge from her tragic reality. Bonnie is known in her small town as the convenience store clerk who survived a vicious robbery in which she was sexually assaulted and the store’s owners murdered. Alone in her trailer, she develops an obsession with the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, in which she finds a ‘surrogate family, impervious to death or harm.’ After she wins a massive lottery payout, she buys a mountaintop property and recreates the show’s apartment complex. Hutson succeeds in describing Bonnie’s quasi-religious devotion to the pop culture artifact without resorting to pompousness. Rather, Hutson instills the enterprise with Bonnie’s sense of impending doom, which she expresses in self-aware narration: ‘Farce punishes everyone eventually.’ The project unfolds in complete secrecy, the actors and crew required to sign NDAs, read Bonnie’s dry synopsis of the show, and watch an episode. (Readers will likely be put in mind of Tom McCarthy’s Remainder more than once.) Once the giant replica set is built, Bonnie plays the sitcom’s various characters in turn, though her isolated splendor is threatened when outsiders intrude onto the compound. This darkly clever work dramatizes the necessity and fragility of illusions, showing how they can crumble when broadcast to the world. Hutson is off to a brilliant start.”

The Girls in Queens by Christine Kandic Torres

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Girls in Queens: “Torres debuts with an incisive and keenly observed story of girls and women navigating life in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens. In 2006, narrator Brisma, a shy aspiring screenwriter raised by a single Puerto Rican mother and about to graduate from college, runs into her high school boyfriend Brian, now a college baseball player, at a Mets game. Later, as Brisma starts thinking of rekindling their romance, she learns he has been accused of sexual assault, which leads her to reconsider her relationship with him back in the ’90s, which began when she was 15, and to reflect on other sexual predators she knew of in her youth. Her past and present are both tangled not only with Brian but with her best friend, Kelly, an outgoing woman whose Colombian father has returned to his native country and whose Irish mother is in prison. Their resilient but volatile friendship forms the heart of the story and is tested after Kelly takes a different view of Brian’s accusers by offering him support, which makes Brisma feel betrayed. Even more impressive is the vibrant portrait of Queens, where gender, skin color, and ethnicity are prime factors in shaping the characters’ social positions. Torres hits every note perfectly. ”

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Flying Solo: “Holmes (Evvie Drake Starts Over) serves up a sweet romance with a side of mystery in this fun page-turner. Laurie Sassalyn, having recently called off her wedding and on the cusp of her 40th birthday, returns to her Maine hometown to clean out the house of her recently deceased great-aunt Dot. Sorting through Dot’s belongings, Laurie finds a wooden duck decoy and an old letter with an inscrutable reference to ducks. She investigates the story behind the decoy with the help of a few friends, including her high school sweetheart Nick. Laurie and Nick renew their romance, but to his disappointment, Laurie has no plans to stay in town or settle down. Meanwhile, Laurie hires a man to help clean out the house, but when he finds out the duck might have a connection to a famous artist, he swindles Laurie and buys it for much less than it’s worth. After she realizes her mistake, she and her friends hatch a harebrained scheme to recover the decoy. Holmes’s colorful cast of characters pop off the page, and the sure-footed plot entertains. Readers will be eager to see what Holmes does next.”

Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ghost Lover: “Taddeo (Animal) critiques late-stage capitalism in her smart if sometimes cryptic debut collection. In the title story, a woman spurned by her lover becomes famous after she creates an app that allows female clients to woo potential lovers through beautiful online Cyranos. An older woman in ‘Forty-two’ discovers that life is a numbers game when she learns her ex-lover is about to marry a younger woman. At a Malibu fund-raiser in ‘American Girl,’ three women—a busty waitress, a once famous actor, and a talk show host named Cremora (after the cream substitute)—all vie for the attention of an up-and-coming California politician. In ‘Air Supply,’ a hedonistic 18-year-old high school student and her best friend have their relationship tested during a portentous vacation in Puerto Rico. The stories are parts Didionesque anomie, American Psycho-ish brand invocation (Journelle, Dunhill, Barbuto), and a nonstop barrage of head-scratching non sequiturs masquerading as hip observations (‘Pastrami is the polar opposite of Los Angeles,’ according to the narrator of ‘Ghost Lover’). Though the affectless characters can start to wear a bit and begin to feel familiar, they reflect the author’s well-earned reputation for harnessing a vision of America populated by unfulfilled happiness seekers. This isn’t Taddeo’s best, but her fans will dig it.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Crosley, Gayle, Fajardo-Anstine, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Sloane Crosley, Caleb Gayle, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, 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.
Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cult Classic: “Crosley (The Clasp) offers a witty and fantastical story of dating and experimental psychology in New York City. After Lola, 37, bumps into two exes in two days, she suspects it’s more than coincidence. Then her friend Vadis, with whom she used to work at a prestigious psychology journal, drags her to a meeting held by a secretive startup named Golconda run by their charming former boss, Clive Glenn. Clive is putting an obscure theory to the test involving meditation and technological manipulation, in which participants can lure people from their past for a final interaction and closure. Lola balks at the cultlike reverence the others show for Clive, as well as their New Agey vibe, but also hopes to clarify whether she really wants to marry her glassmaker fiancé, Boots. With Boots away for two weeks in San Francisco, she signs up and spends every evening having brief interactions with exes, then returning to Golconda for debriefing. When a stressed-out Clive says they only have funding for one final encounter, Lola discovers something unsettling about the experiment. The accounts of Lola’s reckoning with her romantic history are thoroughly hilarious (describing the rush of boyfriends past, she narrates, ‘I experienced these men as no one is supposed to experience them, as if being propelled from a T-shirt gun’), and the details of online dating, which made her ‘the victim of a metric ton of rejection,’ are also sharply perceptive, rooting this very much in the real world. Crosley has found the perfect fictional subject for her gimlet eye.”

We Refuse to Forget by Caleb Gayle

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Refuse to Forget: “Gayle, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, debuts with an illuminating look at racial dynamics within Creek Nation. In the decades before the Creeks were forcibly relocated from the southeastern U.S. to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears, ‘Blacks could become formally adopted and identified as fully Creeks… when they put down roots in the Creek Nation.’ In 1866, a Black Creek leader named Cow Tom negotiated a treaty with the U.S. government that ‘gave certain Black people citizenship rights within the Nation.’ But the 1887 Dawes Act, which instituted a policy of determining Native American identity based on ‘a highly dubious measurement of how much ‘Indian blood’ one has,’ posed a significant challenge to Black Creeks, and the Nation’s 1979 constitution disenfranchised them. Gayle brilliantly untangles the interwoven threads of colonialism, racism, and capitalism by documenting the lives of Cow Tom’s descendants, including businessman and civil rights activist Jake Simmons Jr. and attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, who is currently waging a legal battle to reinstate tribal citizenship for Black Creeks. Sharp character sketches, incisive history lessons, and Gayle’s autobiographical reflections as a Jamaican American transplant to Oklahoma make this a powerful portrait of how ‘white supremacy divides marginalized groups and pits them against each other.’”

God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about God’s Children Are Little Broken Things: “Ifeakandu debuts with nine heartbreaking stories of gay men grappling with secret relationships in Nigeria. In ‘The Dreamer’s Litany,’ Auwal seeks help with his daughter’s medical bills from wealthy ‘Chief’ Emeka, with whom he’s having an affair; painful revelations follow. After Nonye’s father, Dubem, dies, she returns to Nigeria from the U.S., and uncomfortably accepts Dubem’s partner’s hospitality in ‘Where the Heart Sleeps.’ In the title story, Lotanna, a university student, has an up-and-down relationship with a music student, complicated by Lotanna’s visits with his volatile family and girlfriend. ‘What the Singers Say About Love’ includes a rare glimpse of a happy queer community amid a fraught story of two men whose relationship is tested after one, an aspiring pop singer, gets his big break. In ‘Mother’s Love,’ 34-year-old Chikelu’s mother misreads his grief over his ‘roommate’ Uchenna’s departure just before her visit, but the truth comes out in a surprisingly hopeful if uncertain ending. An understated style reflects the characters’ tendency to avoid speaking directly about their relationships, which encourages close reading and elicits a strong sense of what it is like for the characters to endure the perils of being gay in Nigeria. The author leaves readers with a painful and powerful group portrait.”

Exalted by Anna Dorn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Exalted: “Dorn (Vagablonde) returns with a hilarious and surprising chronicle of astrology packed with sharp cultural commentary. Dawn, a recently dumped Leo with a drinking problem and a penchant for arson, alternates between quoting her court-appointed therapist and astrology memes from @Exalted, her favorite Instagram account. The page is run by Emily, a Scorpio and failed actor who spends her afternoons at a burlesque club and tries to do enough online chart readings to scrape together the rent. When Emily receives a request for a reading from a man named Beau Rubidoux, she is shocked to find that his astrological placements are ‘exalted,’ astrology-speak for ideal. Despite the fact that Emily believes astrology is a ‘scam’ yet still ‘divine’ (blame it on her Gemini moon—’so ideologically chaotic’), she becomes convinced Beau is the love of her life. Meanwhile, Dawn drinks too much, overstays her welcome at various gay bars and friends’ houses, and keeps tabs on @Exalted. Told from the alternating perspectives of Dawn and Emily, this salacious trip barrels through Southern California as the two women’s startling connection is finally revealed. The narrative conveys a deep knowledge of astrology, which the characters skewer with sharp-witted observations (‘Freud,’ Emily claims, ‘is just Astrology for men’). Compulsively readable, this consistently shocks and delights.”

Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Just by Looking at Him: “O’Connell navigates internalized homophobia and ableism in his hysterical debut novel (after the memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves), a ripsnorter set in Los Angeles. Elliott, the protagonist, introduces readers to his ‘perfect’ boyfriend, Gus, whom he increasingly resents. After almost six years together, the two are in a rut of ordering takeout, drinking natural wine, and having dissociative sex. Elliott is living with cerebral palsy, and despite having a flashy job writing for television, he can’t help but think ‘modern life is hell.’ After an eyebrow-raising story from his boss involving hiring a sex worker, Elliott sets off on a trip of self-sabotage turned self-discovery, as he probes his relationships with sex and his body, alcohol, disability (‘I work very hard to appear palatable, easy to digest, the crostini of disability’), and his father. (Some of this may sound familiar to fans of O’Connell’s Netflix series, Special.) Here, O’Connell’s revelatory and charming humor adds dimension to a character who is unapologetic about his spiraling behavior despite claiming to know better. O’Connell leaves nothing on the table, and the result reads like a zippy, traffic-dodging trip up the 101 on a blinding afternoon.”

Fruiting Bodies by Kathryn Harlan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fruiting Bodies: “In Harlan’s enticing debut collection, primarily queer, female characters encounter surreal and fantastical situations. In the title story, the protagonist’s lover becomes mysteriously mycological, sprouting various types of mushrooms the partners can cook and enjoy—or use to poison an unwitting, uninvited guest. In the tense ‘The Changeling,’ two cousins kidnap the main character’s aunt’s hard-won ‘miracle baby,’ fearing he is a demonic doppelgänger. ‘Endangered Animals’ involves a road trip with two young women who share ambiguous and unpredictable feelings for each other. The story is set against a backdrop of the effects of climate change, and it offers a surprising twist. In another standout, ‘Is This You?,’ Maura is visited by versions of her former selves at various ages as her mother writes about Maura’s life, including a period of self-harm during Maura’s adolescence. Harlan’s prose is beautiful and vivid, and each story has elements of beauty and horror, evocative of, as the narrator of ‘Algal Bloom’ puts it, ‘nothing I had words for, like the end of the world.’ As that story’s protagonist defies the warnings against swimming in a potentially lethal pond, Harlan captures the essence of the collection: much splendor and quite a bit of squirm. This is well worth diving into.”

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Woman of Light: “Fajardo-Anstine’s impressive if underdeveloped debut novel (after the collection Sabrina & Corina) recounts the harrowing multigenerational adventures of a family originating in the ‘Lost Territory’ of late 19th-century New Mexico and arriving in Denver by the 1930s. Depictions of the Lost Territory are vivid and well-informed. Pidre Lopez, the family’s anchor and a Puebloan Indigenous person, settles in Animas, Co., where he runs a Wild West show. The author describes it wonderfully: ‘a pistol crack, a long rifle’s pinging bullet, the exasperated neigh of a horse.’ The narrative centers for the most part on seer Luz ‘Little Light’ Lopez, who leads a hardscrabble life in 1930s Denver with her aunt Maria Josie and her brother, Diego, a snake charmer and womanizer. Luz entrances with visions dredged from reading tea leaves, but her gift of seeing often portends ominous circumstances such as racist violence from the KKK. Luz uses her family connections to become a secretary in a law office where she finds herself in a love triangle with her attorney boss and a young mariachi musician. Unfortunately, Fajardo-Anstine’s Denver lacks the same historical precision she gives to the Lost Territory portions, and is limited to a few plugged-in period details. Despite the uneven effort, it’s clear this author has talent to spare.”

Also out this week: Papers by Violaine Schwartz (translated by Christine Gutman).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Sedaris, Adelmann, Cross-Smith, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from David Sedaris, Maria Adelmann, Leesa Cross-Smith, 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.
Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Happy-Go-Lucky: “Unrest, plague, and death give rise to mordant comedy in this intimate collection from Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day). The author covers rude service workers, difficulties in his own life, and goings-on in ‘Eastern Europe countries no one wants to immigrate to’ where ‘[T]hugs guard parked BMWs and stray dogs roam the streets…. There are cats too, grease-covered from skulking beneath cars, one eye or sometimes both glued shut with pus.’ He faces mask sticklers in a Target checkout line, sees a drunken mask scofflaw on a flight, and communes with BLM protesters while deploring their ‘lazy’ slogans. Much of the book has a dark edge, as it recounts the decline and death of his 98-year-old father; Sedaris voices still rankling resentments—'[a]s long as my father had power, he used it to hurt me’—and recounts his sister’s accusations that their father sexually abused her. As always, Sedaris has a knack for finding where the blithe and innocent intersect with the tawdry and lurid: ‘His voice had an old-fashioned quality… like a boy’s in a radio serial,’ he writes of a Nintendo-obsessed 11-year-old; ‘ ‘Gee willikers!’ you could imagine him saying, if that were the name of a video game in which things blew up and women got shot in the back of the head.’ Sedaris’s tragicomedy is gloomier than usual, but it’s as rich and rewarding as ever.”

How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How to Be Eaten: “Adelmann’s funny and poignant debut novel (after the collection Girls of a Certain Age) invokes classic and modern fairy tales to portray a group of traumatized women. Six women, all public figures, join a mysterious group therapy experiment facilitated by the handsome if preternaturally bland Will. Every Friday evening, they meet in a YMCA rec room to drink coffee and share their experiences. First up is Bernice, who was whisked into a whirlwind romance with a tech billionaire nicknamed ‘Bluebeard’ for his blue-dyed beard. Everything was great until Bernice discovered his secret habit of imprisoning and murdering women in his mansion. Then there’s Ashlee, a ‘survivor’ of a Bachelor-esque dating show; and Ruby, who as a child was swallowed by a wolf. Adelmann’s retelling of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ is particularly good; it involves Raina, the oldest of the group, and includes a stunning revelation during one of Will’s sessions of an imp-human sex scene. In the background is a running commentary about the power structure of narratives (‘Morals create a labyrinth of rules geared toward blaming the victim,’ says Bernice, quoting a woman who later became one of Bluebeard’s victims). Revisionist fairy tales are nothing new, but Adelmann’s are elevated by accomplished prose and wry humor. It’s a fresh and inventive gem.”

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Yerba Buena: “In LaCour’s solid adult debut (after the YA novel Watch Over Me), two Los Angeles women navigate the uncertainties of their 20s and their complicated pasts. Sara Foster ran away from home at 16 after her girlfriend died under mysterious circumstances that may have involved Sara’s family. Now she’s a bartender whose signature cocktails are in high demand at the popular restaurant Yerba Buena. Emilie Dubois, who is part Creole, spent her early life as the ‘steady daughter’ and ‘good girl,’ but with a sister in and out of rehab, her parents getting divorced, and her grandmother dying, she begins to search for her authentic self rather than continue passing as white and straight. After Emilie takes a job designing flowers at Yerba Buena, she embarks on an affair with the married owner, Jacob Lowell, while Sara occasionally takes home women from the bar. Though the chemistry is palpable between Emilie and Sara, the story turns out to be less about a love affair than what the women each need for themselves. Sometimes the alternating points of view between Sara and Emilie feel interchangeable, but LaCour writes with beauty and clarity about how a relationship is not a substitute for the characters’ mutual need to love themselves. This doesn’t break new ground, but it gets the job done.”

Walk the Vanished Earth by Erin Swan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Walk the Vanished Earth: “Swan’s ambitious but flawed debut follows a family through many generations from the plains of Kansas to the sands of Mars. In 1873, Samson, an Irish immigrant, hunts buffalo on the prairie. In 1975, his descendant, a mute, 11-year-old girl named Bea, gives birth to a son named Paul, who becomes an engineer. In 2018, Paul devises a plan to rebuild New Orleans after it’s submerged in a worldwide cataclysm. In 2027, in the Floating City Paul helped design, Paul and his poet daughter, Kay, entertain David, who dreams of mankind finding a new home on Mars. In 2073, a nomadic Martian named Moon contacts survivors on Earth and considers becoming a mother, and a section set in 2046 delves into the lineage that connects Moon to Paul’s family. Swan has limited success with the sci-fi elements; the futuristic backgrounds fail to persuade, the technology involved in the characters’ journey from Earth to Mars is glossed over, and the choppy, nonchronological narrative muddies the water. On the other hand, Moon and the other characters are created with true depth of feeling, and the consideration of motherhood as its meaning changes over time lands as just short of epic. There’s a lot to admire, but it bites off a bit too much.”

Planes by Peter C. Baker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Planes: “Inspired by the North Carolina Stop Torture Now coalition, Baker’s arresting debut charts the effects of rendition on an Italian Muslim convert and an American former anti-war activist. Amira, 32, feels like an outcast living in the small Rome apartment she once shared with her Moroccan husband, Ayoub, who was detained in Pakistan, then extradited and tortured for suspicion of unspecified crimes. When Ayoub returns after years of silence except for the redacted letters he sent to Amira, he is not the man Amira once knew, and though an American lawyer is working on his case, the future seems dubious for them both. Running alongside this narrative is the story of Melanie, a real estate agent in North Carolina who is cheating on her husband with Bradley, a member of the local school board. Bradley also happens to be the president of Atlantic Industries, a small Air America–style operation that stands accused of providing rendition flights. Now, Melanie becomes consumed with guilt over her hesitancy to help her old activist friends dig into Bradley’s shadowy activities. Baker masterly juggles the two concurrent story lines, never losing the urgency of either as Amira and Melanie grapple with hard truths and seek justice and indemnification. Along the way, the author digs deep into the nuances of love, pain, betrayal, and the promise of deliverance. This moving debut buzzes with relevance.”

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Half-Blown Rose: “A woman grapples with love and the emotional turmoil that comes with it in the long-winded latest from Cross-Smith (This Close to Okay). In Paris, 44-year-old Vincent works as an art teacher. She also makes jewelry, entertains friends in a posh apartment, and is embroiled in a love affair with Loup, one of her students. Though her life may seem like an expat’s dream, she’s there because her estranged husband, Cillian, published a bombshell of an autofictional novel revealing his past relationship with another woman, which involved a secret pregnancy. Now, Vincent emails with Cillian’s ex, Siobhan, and Cillian and Siobhan’s son, Tully, with whom she unexpectedly becomes fast friends. After Vincent’s work visa expires, she is forced to choose between her former life with Cillian and the new one she’s built in Paris. Cross-Smith offers a refreshing take on a woman’s story of midlife upheaval, but there isn’t much in the way of narrative momentum, and Vincent’s vacillation between Cillian and Loup ends up feeling like the author is merely spinning her wheels. This has its moments, but it’s not Cross-Smith’s best.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Batuman, Lee, Chaon, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Elif Batuman, our own Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Dan Chaon, 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.
Either/Or by Elif Batuman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Either/Or: “In this effervescent sequel to The Idiot, Batuman continues charting the sentimental education of Selin, a student of Russian literature at Harvard. As Selin begins her sophomore year in 1996, she’s still nursing an unrequited crush on Ivan, a Hungarian graduate student. Meanwhile, her friends Svetlana and Riley begin dating boys on campus, causing Selin to lament their perceived loss of independence (after Svetlana hooks up with the guy she’ll end up with, Selin predicts, ‘She would never again be what she had been, not in my life, and not in her own’). Observant, defiant, and newly on antidepressants, Selin approaches the mystery of human relations with a beginner’s naivete and sharp intelligence. At parties, in dorm rooms, and through reading French, Russian, and German literature and philosophy, she reflects on the tragic asymmetry of connections between men and women, and wonders how, exactly, ‘a person could live an aesthetic life.’ Meanwhile, she recounts her frustrations with Proust and reverence for Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill, and embarks on a messy series of email threads with Ivan and his ex-girlfriend. Batuman’s light touch and humor are brought to bear on serious questions, enabling the novel to move quickly between set pieces like an S&M-themed student party, poignant recollections of Selin’s parents’ divorce, and a harrowing travelogue as Selin begins a summer job in Turkey. As accomplished as The Idiot was, this improves upon it, and Batuman’s already sharp chops as a novelist come across as even more refined in these pages. Readers will be enraptured.”

Avalon by Nell Zink

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Avalon: “Zink (Doxology) delves into class, art, and American culture in a characteristically witty bildungsroman. The narrator, Brandy, is raised on a topiary nursery in semirural California, where she provides unpaid labor from a young age in exchange for necessities; her late mother’s partner, Doug, also works there. Life improves when Brandy befriends Jay, an upper-class kid in love with flamenco, who enrolls at UCLA and crushes on classmate Peter, an East Coast intellectual-in-waiting. When Brandy meets Peter while visiting Jay, the two almost immediately fall in love, and the rest of the novel sets Brandy’s rough-cut brilliance in tension with Peter’s academic ambitions. She spends less time working for Doug and more time with Jay, sleeping on his floor and helping with film projects. Meanwhile, Peter gets engaged to a well-off woman who promises to make life ‘uncomplicated.’ The characters let forth some hilariously caustic barbs against the film program’s bland progressive politics, such as when Peter encourages Brandy and Jay to upend a ‘social change’ assignment: ‘You want to find out how you can tweak speculative utopias to make them palatable to your social-justice-warrior film school, and I think with libertarianism you’re on the right track.’ Even more impactful than the intellectual ballistics is the tortured romance story. The style is all Zink’s own, and she’s as brilliant as ever here.”

The Evening Hero by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Evening Hero: “Lee (Somebody’s Daughter) returns with an ambitious story charting the travails of an elderly immigrant doctor in Minnesota after the hospital he works at closes down. Thirsty for a new purpose to life, Yungman Kwak takes a job with his son’s employer, SANUS, a healthcare company with several retail outlets in the Mall of America. Yungman isn’t much of a match for SANUS’s startup jargon (‘medical professionals are divided into service providers—the DRones—and the MDieties,’ his son, Einstein, explains about their boss’s philosophy, which also involves classifying Einstein as a ‘Doctorpreneur’). Eventually, Yungman enlists in Doctors Without Borders, an endeavor that brings him back to what is now North Korea, where he was born in 1940. Peppered throughout are stories from Yungman’s early life there: his experiences of poverty, war, striving for education, and courtship of his wife, who was raised in an elite circle within his village. Sometimes the prose is a bit awkward (a pie has a ‘seductively glistening surface’), and the minutia of Yungman’s work routines can drag a bit, but Lee offers touching details of Yungman’s nostalgia for the Korea of his youth, where ‘small dandelions… carpeted the grass like stars.’ It’s a little bumpy, but fans of immigrant stories will appreciate Lee’s labor of love.”

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty: “Bestseller Emezi (Freshwater) unpacks the ever-present weight of grief in this deeply emotional love story. It’s been five years since artist Feyi Adekola lost the love of her life, Jonah, in a car crash that still haunts her dreams. Now the 29-year-old hopes to create a new life in New York City, refocusing on her art and living comfortably with her best friend, Joy. A flirtatious-turned-sexual encounter with a stranger even convinces her to reconsider the possibility of companionship. Enter perfect gentleman Nasir Blake, who’s attentive, supportive of Feyi’s art, and understanding of her reluctance to get serious. When Nasir offers Feyi the opportunity to show her work at a gallery with a famous curator while on a luxury vacation with his family, her life finally starts to feel like her own again. But after Feyi meets Nasir’s famous chef father, Alim, she’s smitten with him, and no matter how inappropriate the infatuation may be, she can’t get him out of her mind. Emezi does a great job capturing the unavoidable mess as the complicated characters collide. Though the middle gets a bit winded and repetitive, there are some powerful revelations about loss and love along the way. This is sure to tug at readers’ heartstrings.”

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Had to Remove This Post: “Bervoet’s fleeting yet magnetic English-language debut offers a glimpse into the world of social media content moderators. Kayleigh, in need of cash to pay off credit card debt, takes a job at Hexa, a subcontractor for an unnamed video platform. Along with a ragtag team, she spends her days watching disturbing videos and flagging those that break the platform’s guidelines. While adjusting to the job, she meets Sigrid, a fellow moderator, and the pair start dating, but as weeks pass, exposure to thousands of horrifying videos—among them graphically described clips of self-harm, animal abuse, and praise of the Holocaust—takes its toll, pushing some moderators to their mental edges and inspiring others to subscribe to ‘flat Earther’ conspiracy theories. After Kayleigh quits, a lawyer hounds her to join a lawsuit against the platform along with other former employees, and Bervoets frames the story like a mystery, slowly revealing the fractured relationships and circumstances that drove Kayleigh away from her job. Whether carefully dissecting ever-evolving corporate rules or chronicling a night at the bar with her workmates (‘we pour our leftovers into each other’s half-empty glasses’), Kayleigh is an engaging narrator. The story is brief, but it packs a wallop.”

Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sleepwalk: “In Chaon’s thrilling and funny latest (after Ill Will), Will Bear is a man of many names, many burner phones, and a 60-pound pit bull named Flip, a former fighting dog. In an America of the not-so-distant future, Will treats the traumas of his past with a daily microdose of LSD. He needs it: a 50-year-old ‘traveling agent on retainer’ who works for a shadowy organization called Value Standard Enterprises, Will finds people. Sometimes, he’s required to deliver them to their creditors. Other times, he kills them. Due to a worsening climate, the world through which Will travels has begun to resemble hell, a fact which doesn’t concern him too much given his childhood was its own private inferno. But when a woman named Cammie starts calling Will’s burners to tell him he might be her biological father, Will is shaken. He wonders if the woman might be an ‘Actress? CIA or Corporate Intelligence?’ His boss, Tim Ribbons, wants him to believe she’s an artificial intelligence. The moving (and often hilarious) quest to find out who Cammie is and what she means to Will gives this a big beating heart, as does Flip, whose own post-traumatic stress is aggravated by thunder, fireworks, and tequila. As ever, Chaon expertly fuses the dystopian nightmares of technology and crime with fascinating characters who cross a hellscape to find each other. This is his best one yet.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Shipstead, Ryan, Walker, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Maggie Shipstead, Eimer Ryan, Sarai Walker, 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.
You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Have a Friend in 10A: “The 10 stories in this daring, wide-ranging debut collection from Shipstead (after the novel Great Circle) resonate as they leap across time and space. ‘The Cowboy Tango,’ set at a Montana dude ranch, cruises through several decades as the complicated relationship between the ranch’s owner and a woman who works for him remains uncomfortably static, then changes radically upon the arrival of the owner’s nephew. ‘Lambs,’ on one level a casual piece about the interactions of those at an artist’s colony in Ireland, is haunted by an eerie foreshadowing as each character is introduced with parenthetical summaries of their birth and death dates, which makes its ending both surprising and believable. The masterwork is the deeply unsettling ‘La Moretta.’ Interspersed with segments from an enigmatic inquisition, it documents a honeymoon excursion gone horribly wrong. Here and throughout, Shipstead demonstrates a remarkable ability to interlace the events of ordinary life with a mythological sense of preordained destruction. Both formally inventive and emotionally complex, this pays off with dividends.”

Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Holding Her Breath: “An Irish collegiate swimmer unearths the truth about her grandfather, a famous poet, in Ryan’s penetrating debut. Beth Crowe, 20, is just starting university away from home on a sports scholarship, and is slowly acclimating after an undisclosed crisis. She meets Justin Kelleher, an older postdoc lecturer who is curious about the archives of famed poet Benjamin Crowe, Beth’s grandfather who died by suicide at age 43 after completing his collection Roslyn, later declared his masterwork. As Beth settles into swimming and schoolwork, she begins a secret affair with Justin while trying to find out more about her grandparents. She’s close to her grandmother, Lydia, who previously barred Justin from viewing Benjamin’s archives. Eventually, she makes an allowance for Beth, and Beth discovers the unpublished biography of Benjamin by Julie Conlon-Hayes, a friend of her grandparents who was rumored to have had an affair with Benjamin. As tensions from her personal life come to a head, Beth begins to wonder if she’s inherited her grandfather’s self-destructive tendencies. Despite some underdeveloped plot points, Ryan’s strong character-building and intriguing narrative parallels keep this afloat. Readers will want to see what Ryan does next.”

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance: “A young woman addresses her older sister, who died when they were teens, in Espach’s inventive and powerful latest (after The Adults). Sally Holt, now 28, continues to find her life shaped by sister Kathy’s absence, prompting her to recount her life story, here unfolded in second-person narration. As a child, Sally is the subject of family concern because of her shyness, while Kathy, three years older, is comfortable in the spotlight and praised for her beauty. Despite the sisters’ contrasting temperaments, they are each other’s closest confidantes as they grow up in 1990s small-town Connecticut. Of particular interest to them both is high school senior Billy Barnes—a dreamy basketball player and the son of the town florist—who is in the grade above Kathy. After Billy saves 13-year-old Sally from drowning at the public pool, he begins dating Kathy, to Sally’s fascination and envy. A car accident involving all three teenagers permanently shifts the Holt family dynamic (‘To sue for reckless driving or not to sue? That was the question,’ Sally narrates, describing the tension between her parents over what to do about Billy, who was behind the wheel). In the aftermath, Billy and Sally unite in their shared grief and guilt. Espach captures the minutiae of love and loss with unflinching clarity and profound compassion, and pulls off the second-person point of view unusually well. Readers will be deeply moved.”

Family Album by Gabriela Alemán (translated by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Family Album: “Ecuadorian writer Alemán’s sparkling collection (after the novel Poso Wells) brims with humor and adventure. In the poignant ‘Baptism,’ an unnamed bartender and expert on Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the Robinson Crusoe character, befriends Max, an 81-year-old customer who convinces the narrator to take him on an underwater voyage in the Galápagos in search of Selkirk’s long-lost treasure. The shadowy narrator in ‘Family Outing’ finds work in Ecuador escorting young, overzealous missionaries attempting to convert the native Huao people, with whom the missionaries unexpectedly end up in a violent confrontation. A widow in ‘Marriage’ discovers her recently deceased husband isn’t the failure she always thought he was after stumbling across large bank accounts, cash, and references to children that aren’t hers, leading her on an investigation involving a nefarious notary. ‘Honeymoon’ finds an overweight, balding real-life John Wayne Bobbitt in Buenos Aires, where he goes home with a woman he meets at a film screening and weeps while listening to her Ecuadorian records, which remind him of his ex-wife, Lorena. Alemán’s sly wit and descriptive power—Max, underwater, looks to the bartender ‘like a moss-covered statue from an ancient civilization’—portray the beauty and ravages of South America. This dynamic collection has a lot to offer.”

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies: “Lama debuts with the heartfelt and magical saga of a Tibetan family’s love, sacrifice, and heritage. Starting in 1960, Lama interweaves the lives of four characters: Lhamo and her younger sister Tenkyi, whose parents don’t survive the rigors of the Himalayas during their flight from Tibet to Nepal, where they resettle in a village for refugees; Lhamo’s daughter Dolma; and Samphel, Lhamo’s childhood love, whom she meets in Nepal. Lama also explores the influence of a ku—an ancient statue that Samphel’s uncle brings into Lhamo’s village—on each of their lives. Lhamo, despite heartache, encourages her younger sister to leave their village to study in India and improve her future prospects. Decades later, in another act of selflessness, Lhamo suggests her daughter join Tenkyi, now in Toronto, to complete her studies and have a better life. When Dolma discovers the ku of Lhamo’s childhood in the possession of a private collector in Canada, she sets in motion a series of events that illustrate the power of the ancient relic and its hold on Lhamo’s family. Lama imbues this mesmerizing tale—informed by her own family fleeing Tibet for Nepal in the early 1960s— with a rich sense of history, mysticism, and ritual. This brings great revelations and significance to a family’s courage and acts of cultural preservation.”

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cherry Robbers: “The delightfully eerie latest from Walker (Dietland) follows a woman who reinvents herself after a painful childhood. The story begins with Sylvia Wren, a famous artist in her 80s, living in present-day Abiquiu, N.Mex., while her partner, Lola, is away in Brazil. Sylvia receives a letter from a journalist with questions about her past that threaten to reveal her true identity as Iris Chapel. Walker then flashes back to 1950s Connecticut, where Iris grows up with her five older sisters and a mother who has a habit of staring off into the woods and dropping her china before declaring she feels ‘something terrible’ will happen. Their father, who isn’t around much, runs Chapel Firearms, and the women believe their house is haunted by those who were killed by the guns manufactured by the company. Walker does a great job weaving this thread of gothic mystery with revelations about the woman Iris becomes, a ‘haunted mother, haunted daughter.’ A mix of bildungsroman and ghost story, the narrative gains strength as it illuminates its characters’ power of intuition, especially when they’re not afraid to use it. This uncanny tale of dark origins shines brightly.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Smith, Harpman, Haber, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Bud Smith, Jacqueline Harpman, Mark Haber, 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.
Teenager by Bud Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Teenager: “Smith’s vibrant and violent debut novel (after the collection Double Bird) captures the pain, ebullience, and illusions of a troubled young man’s adolescence. Kody Green, 17, raised in New Jersey foster care, has a wild imagination and dreams of becoming a cowboy. He also has seizures and delusions from a skull injury caused by one of his foster mom’s boyfriends. The best part of his life is his girlfriend Tella Carticelli, though her sexually abusive father has recently forced her to have an abortion after Kody got her pregnant. After learning Tella’s parents are sending her to Rome to break up their relationship, Kody murders them and the couple flees. Driving west in a series of stolen cars, they try to get pregnant again, visit Graceland (it’s disappointingly small), descend into the Grand Canyon, and dodge a series of dim-witted cops. After Kody invents false identities to land them jobs at a Montana ranch, their experience doesn’t quite match his visions of the West. Meanwhile, Tella’s older brother Neil goes AWOL from the Navy to search for her. Though a muddled resolution disappoints, there are plenty of mythic motifs and pithy insights (‘Kody thought they looked like any average family did, absolutely unhinged’), and the author evokes the surreal contrasts of the American landscape in smart, jittery prose. Smith makes this a trip worth taking.”

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (translated by Angela Rodel)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Time Shelter: “A radical new therapy tests the power of nostalgia in the electric and fantastical latest from Gospodinov (The Physics of Sorrow). In present-day Vienna, geriatric psychiatrist Gaustine redecorates his clinic in the style of the 1960s, replete with miniature pink Cadillacs and Beatles memorabilia. Patients with memory issues appear invigorated by the decor and share more during therapy. The narrator, an unnamed amateur novelist who had the same idea as Gaustine years earlier, comes across an article about the psychiatrist and seeks him out. They strike up an unusual collaboration: Gaustine establishes clinics that painstakingly recreate bygone eras with artifacts tracked down by the novelist. The clinics rapidly expand and start offering services to healthy people, and eventually entire countries opt to simulate returns to supposedly happier eras (France, Germany, and Spain all choose the 1980s). The clever prose sells the zany premise and imbues it with poignant longing: ‘Everything happens years after it has happened…. Most likely 1939 did not exist in 1939, there were just mornings when you woke up with a headache, uncertain and afraid.’ Thought-provoking and laced with potent satire, this deserves a spot next to Kafka.”

I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman (translated by Ros Schwartz)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Who Have Never Known Men: “An account of a near future on an unknown planet where 40 women are imprisoned in underground barracks guarded by mysterious uniformed men, this novel marks the American debut of a writer the publisher proclaims as a new ‘womanist’ voice but who is in fact a veteran French novelist (Orlanda, winner of the 1996 Prix Medicis, etc.). The story is divided in two. It first describes the countless years of the women’s imprisonment; then is recounts their fortunate escape and slow realization that they are still prisoners, the only survivors on a barren planet they can’t flee. Nonetheless, their new freedom inspires an emotional and intellectual reawakening. The women search for answers to explain how and why they came to be imprisoned; they remember, painfully but fondly, their past lives. The most enthusiastic of them is the nameless narrator, the youngest member of the group. She explores the land, demands that the other women educate her and maintains her curiosity long after her companions have given up. But her insights are neither provocative nor profound, and the authority she assumes rings false. More interesting is her emotional development. As prisoners in the barracks, the women were forbidden to touch each other. The narrator never learns to appreciate fully the new possibilities of physical closeness and remains emotionally unattached to all but one of her companions, who serves as her mentor. But such telling details are rare here. While offering hints and glints of Harpman’s talent, this novel proves a disappointing Stateside debut.”

Saint Sebastian’s Abyss by Mark Haber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Saint Sebastian’s Abyss: “Haber (Reinhardt’s Garden) returns with a sharp-witted exploration of friendship, art, and criticism. The unnamed narrator receives an email from his former best friend, Schmidt, after 13 years of estrangement, with the news that Schmidt is on his deathbed in Berlin. The narrator flies to Germany, and what ensues is an examination of their decades-long friendship, initially forged over a mutual fascination with Saint Sebastian’s Abyss, a painting of the apocalypse that the two first discovered while students at Oxford. Schmidt and the narrator have since made their careers as art critics based on their insights on the painting and its creator, Count Hugo Beckenbauer. The pair had a devastating falling out after the narrator said something unforgivable, which Schmidt now refers to as ‘that horrible thing,’ and in the years since, the two have resorted to petty vendettas as their work turned away from the painting that they both revere and toward disproving each other’s theories. Schmidt—heavily mustached, chronically ill, and a staunch holder of harsh beliefs—is a difficult friend but memorable character. Haber intelligently explores how his leads’ small-mindedness gets in the way of their higher pursuits, as the narrative zeroes in on an inevitable and surprising conclusion. With this dark comedy of obsession, Haber keeps the Bernhard flame burning.”

Also out this week: Ill Feelings by Alice Hattrick and Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Diaz, Cañas, Hart, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Hernan Diaz, Isabel Cañas, Michelle Hart, 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.
Trust by Hernan Diaz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Trust: “Diaz returns after his Pulitzer finalist In the Distance with a wondrous portrait in four texts of devious financier Andrew Bevel, who survives the Wall Street crash of 1929 and becomes one of New York City’s chief financial barons before dying a decade later at age 62. First there is Bonds, a novel by controversial writer Harold Vanner, which tells the story of Benjamin Rask, a character clearly based on Bevel. The novel, published shortly before Bevel’s death, infuriates the magnate, particularly for its depiction of Bevel’s deceased wife, Mildred, as a fragile madwoman. Bevel responds by undertaking a memoir, which only serves to highlight his own touchiness and lack of imagination. The third story-within-the-story is the most significant; in it, the reader meets Ida Partenza, daughter of an Italian anarchist in exile, who, in pursuit of her own writerly ambitions, suppresses both her own conscience and the suspicions of her suitor, Jack, to become Bevel’s secretary and coconspirator in ruining Harold Vanner, as Ida concocts a counternarrative of a saintly Mildred. The reader eventually hears from Mildred directly via her journal, discovered by Ida during her research and included as a coda. The result is a kaleidoscope of capitalism run amok in the early 20th century, which also manages to deliver a biography of its irascible antihero and the many lives he disfigures during his rise to the cream of the city’s crop. Grounded in history and formally ambitious, this succeeds on all fronts. Once again, Diaz makes the most of his formidable gifts.”

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hacienda: “Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in Cañas’s stunning debut. After Beatriz’s mestizo father, General Hernandez, is betrayed and murdered in Mexico’s War of Independence, Beatriz marries mysterious widower Don Rodolfo Solórzano, as his estate, the Hacienda San Isidro, seems the perfect escape for Beatriz and her mother. Beatriz’s first sign that something’s off is the housekeeper, who refuses to work without burning copal incense and chalking glyphs on the kitchen door. Then Beatriz is plagued by bad dreams and mysterious, bloody visions. Her sister-in-law, Juana, who shares the estate, insists these are signs that Beatriz is going mad. Beatriz, however, comes to believe that her husband’s first wife was murdered and is haunting the house, and she finds an ally in Mestizo priest Padre Andrés, who’s torn between the folk beliefs of his childhood and his Catholic teachings. To exorcise the house, the pair digs into a past deliberately obscured by those who would kill them if the truth comes out. Cañas clearly knows the genre, alternately deploying and subverting haunted house tropes. The result is a brilliant contribution to the new wave of postcolonial Gothics. Readers won’t want to miss this.”

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Remarkably Bright Creatures: “A cross-species friendship helps solve a pair of decades-old mysteries in Pelt’s whimsical if far-fetched debut. After Tova Sullivan’s husband dies, she takes a night job as janitor at an aquarium, where she enjoys talking to the sea creatures. She’s particularly fond of Marcellus, a giant octopus who shies away from most human attention. But when Tova finds Marcellus out of his tank and helps him back to safety, he becomes fond of her. Meanwhile, Cameron Cassmore comes to town looking for his long-lost father and joins Tova on the night shift, disrupting her routine. However, the two soon realize that Cameron’s mother, who disappeared after leaving him with an aunt when he was nine, and Tova’s son, who died after falling off a boat decades earlier, might have known each other. Marcellus, who lived in the sea before his capture, is the only creature who knows for sure. Pelt imbues Tova, Cameron, and Marcellus with pathos, but her abrupt cycling between their perspectives can be disorienting, and her no-frills prose is ill-suited for the anthropomorphic conceit at the story’s core. While the premise intrigues, this fantastical take on human-animal connection requires a bit too much suspended disbelief.”

The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Premonitions Bureau: “A British psychiatrist’s inquiries into ‘the problem of precognition’ are recounted in New Yorker contributor Knight’s mesmerizing debut. In October 1966, one week after the collapse of an enormous coal waste pile killed 116 schoolchildren in Aberfan, Wales, John Barker, a psychiatrist with ‘a keen interest in unusual mental conditions,’ and Evening Standard science reporter Peter Fairley issued a call for people to report their premonitions of the disaster. The responses they received—including a letter from Kathleen Middleton, a London dance teacher who awoke the morning of the accident ‘choking and gasping and with the sense of the walls caving in’—led Barker to speculate that precognition ‘might be as common as left-handedness.’ To test the theory, he and Fairley established a ‘premonitions bureau’ to ‘log premonitions as they occurred and see how many were borne out in reality.’ Within 15 months, they received more than 700 premonitions, 3% of which proved to be correct. One of the most accurate correspondents was Middleton, who also envisaged a train derailment, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and Barker’s untimely death from a burst vessel in his brain. Amid the vivid profiles of Barker, Middleton, and others, Knight interweaves intriguing episodes of precognition from history and literature. The result is a captivating study of the uncanny. Photos.”

Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Six Days in Rome: “In Giacco’s sensual and deliberately paced debut, an American artist in her early 30s takes a transformative trip to Rome. After getting out of a relationship with a married man, Emilia turns the Roman vacation they had planned together into a solo trip, wandering the city and reflecting on the breakup and her memories of growing up as the daughter of a famous rock singer. Emilia begins an affair with a charming American ex-pat, whose thoughtful conversation helps her to see the toll that her father’s passions and celebrity exacted on her family throughout her childhood. Giacco revels in her setting, providing rich descriptions of the streets, food, and people Emilia encounters (‘Butter-yellow buildings, with their faded blue windows…. Around a nondescript corner, a gorgeous slap in the face’), but much of the narrative takes place inside Emilia’s head as she forges an identity independent of her father and her ex. Indeed, the author’s discursive style and the inconclusive ending will frustrate readers looking for an immersive narrative. Though slow moving, this is sumptuously written.”

We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Do What We Do in the Dark: “Hart debuts with a transfixing queer coming-of-age novel about a woman’s affair with a much older professor. Mallory Green is in her first year at a college on Long Island shortly after her mother’s death from cancer in 2008. There, she becomes fixated on a never-named woman who teaches children’s literature. The professor, who is brusque but encouraging in their conversations, invites Mallory over for dinner. Her husband is away, and she makes plain her own attraction to Mallory. Despite feeling ’embarrassed, as if she’d written an intense journal entry that she now had to read aloud,’ Mallory plunges into an affair with her. The woman ends it when her professor husband returns at the end of the semester, leaving Mallory floundering as she attempts to date a male student and later drifts through postgraduation life in New York City. A flashback to Mallory’s youth traces her close friendship with a neighbor girl, saturated with frustrated desire. The professor’s reappearance four years after graduation, just as Mallory is settling into a new relationship, opens old wounds. Mallory’s intense interiority and self-consciousness will remind readers of Sally Rooney’s work, and Hart’s prose is delicate and piercing. This is auspicious and breathtaking.”

Also out this week: Patience is a Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Patel, Brown, Williams, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Vaishnavi Patel, Janelle Brown, Lara Williams, and more—that are publishing this week.
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.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kaikeyi: “Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana. As the only girl of eight royal siblings, Kaikeyi grows up knowing her value as a person is determined by her eventual marriage. When her mother is banished, Kaikeyi is forced to take up her duties in the royal court. In between all her new work, she turns to the palace’s scrolls on magic and learns how to enter the Binding Plane, where she can exert a magical influence over others using the invisible strings that connect her to them. Then Kaikeyi is unwillingly married off to the Raja of Kosala, where her lack of friends and allies means the bonds of the Binding Plane operate differently. Still, Kaikeyi earns her place at her husband’s side, wins the love of her subjects, and raises a son, Rama. Throughout her life, Kaikeyi often recalls a story her mother told of a woman who could not avoid the punishment of man, even when the fault of her actions fell upon a god himself—but the tale’s true message is lost on her until it’s too late. Readers familiar with the source text will be wowed by Patel’s reimagining, while those new to the story will be won over by its powerful, multilayered heroine and epic scope. This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.”

I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I’ll Be You: “Bestseller Brown (Pretty Things) infuses this twist-packed mystery with an intense story of creating one’s identity, rife with deep family trauma and a low-key, creepy depiction of the dark side of twin intimacy. Samantha Logan’s dream-worthy stint as a child TV star depended highly on her identical twin Elli’s initially grudging participation, which eventually created deep bonds between them. In adulthood, Sam’s alcohol addiction and Elli’s traditional lifestyle in Santa Barbara, Calif., has left the two women estranged. So when Elli disappears after going to a mysterious spa in Ojai, with her husband having left her and their parents calling Sam in to help with the toddler Elli has recently adopted without informing her family, Sam feels sure that something is profoundly wrong in her sister’s life. Brown seamlessly uses Sam’s retrospection into the twins’ childhood experiences impersonating and protecting each other both as character development and plot device, letting the latter flow naturally while never feeling cheesy. The perfectly paced emotional reveals of the twins’ shared history pull the reader toward fierce investment in Elli’s safety and the sisters’ reconnection. Brown has upped her game with this one.”

Search by Michelle Huneven

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Search: “Huneven frames her bloated latest (following Off Course) as the second edition of restaurant critic and food writer Dana Potowski’s latest book, also titled Search, which documents a Southern California Unitarian Universalist church’s search for a new minister. The search committee is a motley crew of eight, ranging in age from 20-something Jennie Kanematsu-Ross, a feisty former goth girl; to long time member and former church president Belinda Bauer, 82. There’s also 50-something Dana, who joins in order to write the book, sensing an opportunity to describe the meals that take place during the meetings. Along the way, she chronicles her own spiritual development, which involved her enrollment in a seminary two decades earlier. Huneven’s descriptions of the committee’s machinations are engaging, as are the group’s internecine struggles—the younger members favoring showmanship and originality in a minister, while the older set values more traditional qualities. Huneven injects humor and tension, but the endless cataloging of minutiae (meetings, ‘packets,’ surveys, more meetings called ‘cottage groups’) wears thin, and the denouement may leave some cold. Readers will need to be patient and generous to get the most out of the insights buried in this slow-going affair.”

The Odyssey by Lara Williams

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Odyssey: “A young British woman employed on a surreal cruise ship is at the center of Williams’s stylish if cold latest (after Supper Club). The protagonist, Ingrid, is devoted to her work aboard the WA, a gargantuan vessel with a ‘surf simulator, ice-skating rink, outdoor zip line,’ and floating restaurant, helmed by the mysterious Keith, a guru-like figure preoccupied by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Ingrid shuffles through many onboard jobs, from working in a gift shop to the ship’s nail salon, and, in the book’s final third, to lifeguarding (ironic, since she can’t swim). Early on she is inducted into a shadowy inner circle called ‘the program’ in which she meets periodically with Keith to discuss wabi-sabi and recall traumatic memories from her past. Soon, she is promoted to a managerial role, a development that alienates her two closest friends. The prose is generally excellent and occasionally razor-sharp (describing Ingrid’s pre-WA void, ‘The getting never really felt as good as the wanting, but the not-getting felt fucking catastrophic’); unfortunately, the plot is meagre and overly self-conscious. Ingrid belongs to a particular breed of disaffected, Moshfeghian narrator, but here there’s more affect than substance. In the end, this feels eccentric for eccentricity’s sake.”

Also on shelves this week: Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller and When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley.