Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Joukhadar, Celan, and van Heemstra

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Zeyn Joukhadar, Paul Celan, and Marjolijn van Heemstra—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 Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Thirty Names of Night: “Joukhadar’s evocative follow-up to The Map of Salt and Stars explores a 20-something Syrian-American trans man’s journey of self-discovery. The unnamed protagonist—he later goes by the name he gives himself, Nadir—is an aspiring artist in Brooklyn who likes to go out dancing with friends and enjoys listening to his friend Sami play the oud. Nadir lives with his grandmother, Teta, and is haunted by the death of his mother years ago in a fire. After Nadir finds a diary belonging to a Syrian artist named Laila, in an old tenement inhabited by Syrian-Americans, he becomes obsessed with finding the print of a rare bird by Laila. As the story unfolds, Nadir’s narration and direct addresses to his mother (‘your presence is still here, everywhere, your hand on everything’) expands to include Laila’s voice (‘The day I began to bleed was the day I met the woman who built the flying machine’) as Nadir blossoms into his trans identity. Scenes with Sami, with whom Nadir falls in love, are particularly affecting. Quietly lyrical and richly imaginative, Joukhadar’s tale shows how Laila and Nadir live and love and work past the shame in their lives through their art. This is a stirring portrait of an artist as a young man.”

A Memory Rose Into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry by Paul Celan (translated by Pierre Joris)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Memory Rose Into Threshold Speech: “This ambitious bilingual edition completes Joris’s herculean effort to translate all of Celan’s poetry into English. Celan’s experiences of trauma as a Holocaust survivor permeate poems such as ‘Todesfuge’ (‘Deathfugue’): ‘Black milk of dawn we drink you at night/ we drink you at noon death is a master from Deutschland/ we drink you evenings and mornings we drink and drink.’ Celan expresses the propulsive, hypnotic unraveling of the world through his fragmented refrain. Elsewhere, he paints himself as a perpetual outsider: ‘Blacker in black, I am more naked./ Only as a renegade am I faithful./ I am you when I am I.’ The importance of seeing and witnessing comes up again and again throughout: ‘Gaze-trade, finally, at untime:/ imagefast,/ lignified,/ the retina—:/ the eternity-sign.’ Joris’s introduction and commentary provide useful historical and literary context. This admirable translation presents the early work of an eminent German language postwar poet to a new audience.”

In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra (translated by Jonathan Reeder)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In Search of a Name: “Van Heemstra’s perceptive if tepid English-language debut confronts the transformation of family myth and the hazards of historical memory. When writer and narrator Marjolijn van Heemstra was 18, she was bequeathed a ring that once belonged to her late distant uncle Bommenneef, upheld by her family as a hero of the Dutch resistance during WWII. Fifteen years later, a pregnant Marjolijn, who had promised to name her first-born son after her uncle, sets out to better understand the man who was to be ‘the blueprint for my son.’ As her quest for more information leads her to the national archives and reconnections with far-flung relatives, Marjolijn begins to realize Bommenneef might not have been as heroic as her family insists. In a plot punctuated by the travails of a complicated pregnancy, Marjolijn’s investigation touches critical questions about the past and its relation to the present. How do the stories one tells come to supplant the truth? Is it better to preserve an idealized family history than mess it up with facts? Unfortunately, the monotonous and observational narrative, mired in mundane particulars, fails to provide insight on these deeper mysteries. Readers expecting an immersive family drama will be disappointed.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Baxter, Reyes, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Charles Baxter, Dolores Reyes, 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 Sun Collective by Charles Baxter

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sun Collective: “Baxter’s first novel in over a decade (after The Soul Thief) juggles satirical social critique and family drama, resulting in a messy yet engrossing tale of activism and aging. Retired Minneapolis engineer Harry Brettigan spends his days searching for his adult son, Tim, who fell out of touch months earlier, and sweetly bickering with his wife, Alma. After Alma faints one day, she starts talking with their pets and is drawn to the Sun Collective, a community group that offers resources to homeless people. There, she befriends a younger couple, Ludlow and Christina, and Harry balks when Ludlow details his homicidal vision for ‘effective microviolence’ against suburbanites to achieve the Sun Collective’s full potential. As Harry reckons with his relationships to Alma and Tim, he also travels down the rabbit hole of the Sun Collective to parse its true intentions; along the way, Tim reappears as a saved Collective member; the Sandmen, an extremist group that allegedly murders vagrants, emerge; and there’s a series of mysterious deaths. Throughout, Baxter smartly lampoons America’s political state and adds enough odd details to offset the occasionally murky plot threads. Readers willing to wade through the diversions will find a thoughtful study of anger, grief, and hope.”

Eartheater by Dolores Reyes (translated by Julia Sanches)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Eartheater: “A high school dropout reluctantly uses her clairvoyant power to find missing women and children in Argentinian writer Reyes’s lurid debut. The unnamed narrator develops a habit of eating dirt in the wake of her mother’s violent death, earning her the name Eartheater and shame for her family, especially the aunt now raising her and her older brother, Walter. When a beloved teacher goes missing, the young teenage narrator eats the dirt from the school’s courtyard and draws an explicit picture of the teacher’s body outside of a nightclub, which gets her sent to the principal. After the teacher’s body is discovered where the narrator drew her, the aunt leaves the siblings to fend for themselves, and the narrator drops out of school while Walter supports them both by working as a mechanic. The narrator prefers to drink beer and play video games with Walter and his friends from their unnamed barrio, and occasionally accepts cash for her visions from family members of missing people. Reyes crafts an alluring, unsettling edge to the plot developments, including the narrator’s first sexual experiences and the city’s pervasive violence, by collapsing the narrator’s age and the passage of time, preserving aspects of her young girlhood and her angst-ridden teenage years as she grows older. Reyes’s coming-of-age portrait stands out for her unflinching look at a teen’s exploration of sex and death.”

Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Here Is the Beehive: “In Irish writer Crossan’s beautifully written first adult novel (after the YA book Being Toffee), a married London lawyer and mother of two has an affair with her client, Connor Mooney, a married father of three. Ana finds her husband, Paul, to be ‘homely’ and ‘compassionate,’ and feels unsatisfied in their marriage, which mostly consists of communicating by ‘grunts and nods.’ Ana and Connor meet up in hotel rooms when they can, but Ana wants more from the relationship; while she is willing to give up her family for Connor, he’s hesitant to leave his wife. The three-year affair ends with Connor’s death, the cause of which is initially kept from the reader. Ana hears the news from the unsuspecting Rebecca, who calls to inform Ana in her capacity as the lawyer of Connor’s estate. Ana is devastated and unable to mourn her lover openly, and is left with nothing but a password-protected photograph of him on her computer. Then she secretly changes Connor’s will and declares herself the executor, ‘so I could know your life and befriend your wife and keep you for a while.’ The book, structured in five parts, explores Ana’s grief, guilt, and loss in stunning, spare lyrical prose, which appears like verse on the page as dialogue breaks into snippets of Ana’s consciousness. Told from the point of view of a highly flawed Ana, this mesmerizing story will have readers hooked.”

Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nights When Nothing Happened: “Han’s ambitious if mixed debut follows the travails of a Chinese immigrant family living in the wealthy Dallas suburb of Plano. Patty Cheng is the breadwinner, whose long hours designing microchips pulls her away from her photographer husband, Liang, and their two children, Jack and Annabel, 11 and five. On Thanksgiving Day in 2003, a misunderstanding leads to an accusation by Annabel’s best friend of a ‘bad touch’ by Liang, which snowballs into more trouble for Liang involving the police after Liang and Jack neglect to set the record straight. The family’s survival is dependent on a slippery sense of identity and difficulty in belonging in the Texas suburb, which permeate the narrative amid other unfortunately underdeveloped themes (duty vs. love, genteel racism). Most of the characterizations are convincing, though Annabel, even in close third-person narration, comes across as overly precocious (‘If Annabel could understand what an overreaction was, she could understand what an overreaction wasn’t’). Still, as Liang struggles through the consequences of the accusation, Han succeeds in drawing the portrait of a new American family while demonstrating a talent for creating a sense of place through the eyes of immigrants. The premise is intriguing, but Han doesn’t quite stick the landing.”

Lord the One You Love Is Sick by Kasey Thornton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lord the One You Love Is Sick: “Thornton’s brutal, moody debut collection crafts a tapestry of hidden secrets and cruel undercurrents in rural Bethany, N.C., revolving around the heroin overdose of troubled 23-year-old Gentry. ‘I Shall Not Wait’ picks up with Gentry’s lifelong best friend, Dale, a cop who abandoned his drug-dependent buddy, whose decline seemed unstoppable, ‘like a train barreling toward the weak spot in the tracks.’ Dale becomes psychologically unmoored by the guilt, while his wife wonders if their marriage will survive. ‘Valley of the Shadow’ follows Gentry’s mother, Nettie, following Gentry’s death. She’s angry and in mourning, left alone with her agoraphobic younger son, Ethan, who’d bonded over video games with Gentry. In ‘Trespasses,’ Ethan finds a new friend in Abigail, a neighbor who’s been sexually abused by her father. More characters unravel with each successive story, which chronicle the deep and sprawling impact made by Gentry’s death as inner lives are exposed, unlikely friendships are forged, and gossipy whispers persist at the local diner. Thornton taps the vernacular, attitudes, and prejudices of small Southern townsfolk with eerie precision. These stories collectively coalesce into a resonant, emotionally searing nexus of hard truths, buried secrets, and emotional pain that readers won’t soon forget. Thornton’s accomplished stories are full of insights on their rural American setting and inhabitants’ psychology.”

The Orchard by David Hopen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Orchard: “Hopen commingles religious philosophy and dangerous behavior in his ambitious debut. Aryeh, 17, has always felt somewhat alienated from his deeply devout orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, so when his father’s job loss prompts a family move to southern Florida, Aryeh welcomes the opportunity to start over for senior year. He lands a coveted spot at elite Kol Neshama Academy, a modern Orthodox school whose students will undoubtedly drive their luxury cars all the way to the Ivy League. Despite his unfashionable attire and lack of social and academic sophistication, Aryeh is taken under the wing of the school’s golden boy, Noah. Noah’s risk-taking circle of friends in turn introduce Aryeh (soon redubbed Andrew) to the pleasures of secular life. Aryeh is especially fascinated by charismatic, emotionally complicated Evan, who has an emotional hold over Aryeh’s love interest, Sophia, and the group test their faith with daring escapades such as midnight speedboat rides (‘if you’re the worthy one, you survive,’ Evan says, fast approaching a jetty). Later, experiments with LSD bring on visions of God. Aryeh’s insecurities and longings are on full display in his insightful—if at times overwrought—narration. Though the students’ lengthy philosophical and scriptural debates initially seem ponderous, their thematic connections become increasingly apparent as the novel nears its moving climax. This isn’t your average campus novel, and despite its lumps, is all the better for it.”

The Best of Brevity, edited by Zoe Bossiere and Dinty W. Moore

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Best of Brevity: “In this marvelous, diverse anthology, Brevity editors Moore and Bossiere collect the literary journal’s best nonfiction pieces, none longer than 750 words. Readers will find some familiar names, including Roxane Gay and Jia Tolentino, but also gems from lesser-known writers. They include poets such as Diane Seuss, whose entry comprises a single run-on sentence capturing a parent’s fury and fatigue while dealing with a child’s drug addiction, and Lori Jakiela, who recalls a conversation in which her terminally ill mother argued with her about the fate of Lori’s soul while teaching her to make a nut-roll. Elsewhere, book reviewer Julie Hakim Azzam writes poignantly of Palestine as ‘a phantom limb that continues to send pain signals through the nerves.’ Among the fiction writers, Patricia Park reflects on Americans’ and North and South Koreans’ differing beauty standards, and Torrey Peters crafts a powerful found essay out of violent details from a 2014 report on transgender murder victims. Closing out the book, Bossiere and Moore include a list of additional recommended reading. This collection will be an asset to writing teachers and students, and a joy to essay fans.”

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated by Geoffrey Trousselot)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Before the Coffee Gets Cold: “Japanese playwright Kawaguchi’s evocative English-language debut is set in a tiny Tokyo café where time travel is possible. In four connected tales, lovers and family members take turns sitting in the chair that allows a person to travel back in time for only as long as it takes a single cup of coffee to cool. In ‘Husband and Wife,’ a nurse goes back in time to visit her husband before his Alzheimer’s erased her from his memory; in ‘The Sisters,’ a woman visits her younger sister, who died in an accident while trying to visit her, to apologize for not seeing her. Kawaguchi’s characters embark on lo-fi, emotional journeys unburdened by the technicalities often found in time travel fiction—notably, they are unable to change the present. The characters learn, though, that even though people don’t return to a changed present, they return ‘with a changed heart.’ Kawaguchi’s tender look at the beauty of passing things, adapted from one of his plays, makes for an affecting, deeply immersive journey into the desire to hold onto the past. This wondrous tale will move readers.”

Also on shelves this week: The Age of Skin by Dubravka Ugrešić (translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac) and Together in a Sudden Strangeness, edited by Alice Quinn.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Evans, Lethem, Atwood, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Danielle Evans, Jonathan Lethem, Margaret Atwood, 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 Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Office of Historical Corrections: “Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self) brings her usual wit and keen eye to her latest collection, which offers seven stories that explore the complexity of human emotions and relationships. While every story offers a discrete narrative, recurring themes of pain, loss, fear, and failed relationships give the collection a sense of unity. The title novella is the crowning jewel, a historical mystery centered around a Black historian whose job in Washington, D.C., is complicated when she is sent on a dangerous assignment to the site of a 1937 lynching in Wisconsin. The rest of the stories, however, are hit-or-miss. ‘Why Won’t Women Just Say What They Want’ is a witty exploration of a male artist’s love life and his bizarre project of apologizing to the women he hurt. ‘Alcatraz;’ is a sad, touching story that explores how an unjust incarceration destroys a family. However, ‘Boys Go to Jupiter,’ in which a white college student deals with ‘collective anger’ after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral, fails to say anything of note about race or racism. Despite its shortcomings, this is a timely, entertaining collection from a talented writer who isn’t afraid to take chances.”
One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about One Night Two Souls Went Walking: “A hospital chaplain working the night shift recalls encounters with patients, coworkers, and a therapy dog named Bobo Boy in Cooney’s illuminating latest (after The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances). The unnamed 30-something chaplain, who wears her white collar with bright-colored blouses rather than clerical black, first became curious about the nature of souls in her childhood. She mentions her large family and two ex-lovers, but her focus is on the ill, injured, and dying strangers she’s assigned to help—such as the bus driver involved in a crash where four people died, the bank teller who wants to be sure the angel carrying her into the afterlife is strong enough not to drop her, and the 91-year-old stroke victim nurses believe suffers from dementia. When a therapy dog escapes his handler, the chaplain remembers Bobo Boy, the beloved deceased mixed-breed therapy dog with a gift for providing comfort and a tendency to break loose. Brief, vivid portraits of Bobo Boy, doctors, nurses, patients and the chaplain herself form a memorable collage of souls in need. Cooney’s uplifting novel captures extraordinary moments of sadness, pain, and grace, as one woman brings light to life’s darkest moments.”
Somewhere in the Unknown World by Kao Kalia Yang
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Somewhere in the Unknown World: “Hmong-American memoirist Yang (The Latehomecomer) tells the stories of fellow refugees who have ended up in Minnesota in this lyrical and frequently harrowing account. Her profile subjects include her uncle, who fought for the CIA in Laos only to be left behind when the U.S. pulled out of the country; a Bosnian war survivor who worked for an American aid organization at a refugee camp in Sudan; a young Karen man who fled Burma as his people were systematically murdered by the government; and an Iraqi woman whose grandfather was killed by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers. Through the story of a Vietnamese-American chef restoring his family’s restaurant, Yang also offers a moving portrait of University Ave. in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Once anchored by Henry Ford’s manufacturing plants, by the 1970s University Ave. had been left behind to drug dealers, gangs, and ‘immigrants and refugees.’ Yang details how a wave of ‘small mom and pop businesses’ began opening along the avenue, transforming it ‘from an abandoned, dying street into a vibrant enclave of diverse businesses.’ This heartfelt and exquisitely written account shines a poignant light on the immigration debate.”
The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Arrest: “Lethem (The Feral Detective) returns with a lukewarm tale of an apocalypse set in the very near future. Sandy Duplessis worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles with his friend Peter Todbaum. Then came the Arrest, an unexplained event that caused computers and other technology to stop working and reduced everyone to locavores. In the aftermath, Sandy, who calls himself Journeyman, ends up in rural Maine working as a butcher and delivering food grown by his sister, Maddy. When Todbaum shows up and starts pursuing Mandy, their simple life gets complicated. The locals feel threatened by Todbaum’s presence, and Sandy, who is unnerved by Todbaum’s claim that he predicted the Arrest, wonders if his old friend can be trusted, while Maddy, who begins sleeping with Todbaum, becomes his sole defender. Lethem’s prose is as great as ever (‘Journeyman was a middle person, a middleman. Always locatable between things, and therefore special witness in both directions, to extremes remote to one another, an empathic broker between irreconcilable poles—or so he flattered himself’), but despite the fine writing, the plot fails to coalesce into something engaging, the Arrest remains murky, and many scenes feel disjointed. Still, the project crackles and hums with witty dialogue and engaging ideas. While it’s not entirely satisfying, Lethem’s fans won’t mind.”
Also on shelves this week: Dearly by Margaret Atwood and an expanded reissue of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Krauss, Cárdenas, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nicole Krauss, Mauro Javier Cárdenas, 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.

To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss 

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about To Be a Man: “This triumphant first collection from Krauss (Forest Dark) crisscrosses the globe in 10 ambitious stories written over two decades that wrestle with sexuality, desire, and human connection. In one of the greatest stories, ‘Seeing Ershadi,’ a dancer believes she spies the star of the Iranian film Taste of Cherry while in Japan for a performance, and believes she must save the actor from the suicide he commits in the film. After a friend tells her of her own unique encounter with the actor years earlier, the dancer faces the depth of her fanatic and obsessive state. Another highlight, ‘Future Emergencies,’ is set shortly after 9/11 and remains timely as its female protagonist navigates a New York City where gas masks are distributed for free and local governments warn of vague threats. ‘I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake,’ another standout, concerns a woman visiting her dead father’s apartment in Tel Aviv, only to find a stranger living in a back room, and the collection’s title story breaks a woman’s interactions with several men into four parts to ruminate on gender norms and expectations. Krauss’s style is marked by a willingness to digress into seemingly superfluous details, yet the minutiae helps the author conjure a series of realistic environments, allowing each story feel lived in. This is a spectacular book.”

Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino by Julián Herbert (translated by Christina MacSweeney)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bring me the Head of Quentin Tarantino: “The playful, surreal collection from Mexican writer Herbert (Tomb Song) evokes a version of contemporary Mexico where pretentious critics and conceptual artists rub up against ultra-violent drug cartel leaders. In the title story, a cheerfully verbose film scholar and Tarantino fan is kidnapped by a drug lord who looks exactly like the director and wants Tarantino dead, but not before learning as much as he can about Tarantino from the narrator. Those who know how to manipulate words and ideas tend to come out on top, such as the ghostwriter in the wry and scatological ‘The Ballad of Mother Teresa of Calcutta’ who conceives a fiendish plan to punish the clients who neglect to pay him. Herbert ventures into fantasy in several of the stories, including the dark ‘Z,’ in which most of the population of Mexico City—apart from the narrator and a few others—is in one stage or another of turning into ‘nascent vegetal man-eaters in a perpetual and pestilential state of putrefaction.’ While not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, Herbert’s stories use a light touch to explore the dilemma of the intellectual enmeshed in a crudely vicious world. This provocatively cerebral volume should amuse those with a taste for literary horror.”

The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Harpy: “An unquenchable thirst for revenge drives Lucy, a wife and mother, to the brink of madness in Hunter’s sleek, supernatural thriller (after The End We Start From). Things begin as Lucy makes a consensual razor cut on husband Jake’s thigh. The story then flashes back to a phone call from Lucy’s acquaintance David Holmes, who says Jake is having an affair with his wife, Vanessa, who works with Jake. Short italicized sections charting Lucy’s obsession with, and evolution into, the mythical half-bird harpy creature alternate with a tightly controlled chronological narrative. Jake tearfully declares he will end the affair, but he doesn’t, while Lucy grows passive, observing how their relationship has become ‘a series of non-communications’ and fights. A détente is reached by Lucy and Jake in a mutual desire to protect their sons, and eventually Jake reignites the couple’s sexual relationship. When David asks Lucy to persuade Jake to seek another job, she cuts David off abruptly, unable to share that she’s designed her own course of punishment for Jake. Shortly after, Lucy catches Jake in a lie, which propels the novel to its dark conclusion. Lucy’s narration is irresistible, though the harpy sections, which suggest Lucy is physically transforming, are underdeveloped by comparison. Hunter maintains suspense until the final act of her satisfactory tale.”

Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Collected Stories: “The early work of late Australian writer Hazzard (1931–2016), winner of the National Book Award for The Great Fire, makes for an outmoded collection, propelled by themes of mid-century bourgeois disillusionment—affairs, arguments, disappointing relationships, time spent at country houses, and trips to Europe. Despite the heavy emotional atmosphere, Hazzard’s prose has the restraint and polish of glossy magazine writing, offering crisp, easy descriptions of her desperate characters. Unfortunately, the stories never quite achieve the depth they seemingly aim for, especially in those about the staff of an international peacekeeping organization from People in Glass Houses (1967). Mildly irreverent depictions of petty pensioned bureaucrats—like Achilles Pylos, who seeks to replace his plain-looking secretary for a more charming one in ‘The Story of Miss Sadie Graine’—may have caused a stir when originally published, but they aren’t sharp enough to resonate in an era where unsatisfactory working conditions are standard fare. Meanwhile, ‘Vittorio,’ about a wizened Italian professor who discovers his female tenant might return his romantic interest, ends with a thudding banality: ‘He could scarcely breathe, from the stairs and from astonishment. He had never been so astonished in his life.’ These stories feel like quaint antiques from a bygone time.”

Aphasia by Mauro Javier Cárdenas

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Aphasia: “Cárdenas follows up his wild and intelligent The Revolutionaries Try Again with an exercise in extreme navel-gazing narrated by Antonio Jose Jiménez, a Colombian immigrant to the U.S. who is described by his sister as ‘a moron who allowed himself to be conned by my mother.”’Antonio’s ex-wife has left for the Czech Republic with their two young daughters, spurring Antonio into a long reconsideration of his circumstances. He’s an analyst at an investment company, and lately he’s been using a dating website for would-be sugar daddies as a way to meet women. He also has to deal with his mentally ill sister, who is convinced her family is conspiring against her with Barack Obama. But mostly, Antonio reads to keep his mind off of things: Bruno Schulz, László Krasznahorkai, and Thomas Bernhard, a cavalcade of writers’ writers that leads Antonio to transcribe their sentences and even attempt a style parody here and there. Finally, he hopes to unravel the story of his parents and childhood in Bogotá, but new memories complicate what he thinks he knows of his past. Few if any of these potentially intriguing plotlines are resolved, leaving the reader with what feels like notes toward a novel. Cárdenas’s literary experiment never quite coheres.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Washington, Amis, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Bryan Washington, Martin Amis, 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.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Memorial: “In Washington’s debut novel (after the collection Lot), the fractures in a couple’s relationship span from Houston, Tex., to Osaka, Japan. Ben, a day care teacher, lives with his cook boyfriend, Mike, in Houston’s slowly gentrifying Third Ward. When Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Houston from Japan with plans to stay at Ben and Mike’s place, awkwardness ensues. Mike has just left for Osaka, to reconnect with his absent and now terminally ill father, and put Ben in charge of entertaining Mitsuko until he gets back. Ben eventually adjusts to having her around, just as he must navigate his changing relationship with his black middle-class family, who have always shied away from Ben’s HIV-positive status and talked around his father’s drinking. Meanwhile, in Osaka, Mike has found his father, Eiju, at the bar he owns, where Eiju has a dedicated assistant and crowd of regulars who have no idea Eiju’s dying or that he has a son. Mike starts working at the bar so he can spend Eiju’s final days with him. Though Mike still grapples with how to feel about Eiju, who made his biggest impact on Mike’s life by abandoning the family, father and son are able to build a tentative relationship. Tender, funny, and heartbreaking, this tale of family, food (Mike cooks for their Venezuelan neighbors; Mitsuko makes Ben congee), and growing apart feels intimate and expansive at the same time. Washington shows readers more of the unforgettable Houston he introduced in his stories, and comfortably expands his range into the setting of Osaka, applying nuance in equal measure to his characters and the places they’re tied to.”

Bonus Links:
Bryan Washington’s Houston Is a City of Multitudes
A Year in Reading: Bryan Washington

Inside Story by Martin Amis

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inside Story: “Amis (The Zone of Interest) frames his consistently intelligent and compulsively readable ‘novelized autobiography,’ as he calls it, as a guide to writers. Along the way, the author crafts a dynamic series of paeans to three of his heroes—Saul Bellow, who became a kind of father figure; Christopher Hitchens, one of his best friends; and Philip Larkin, his father, Kingsley’s, lifelong friend—amid a wide-ranging survey of his own life. The book opens in 2016 with Amis living in Brooklyn with his wife, writer Isabel Fonseca, contemplating his own mortality, with a meta introduction to his reader (whom he imagines as an aspiring writer), but quickly turns to the lives of Bellow, Hitchens, and Larkin, and, eventually, their deaths: Bellow slips into dementia. Hitchens fights a losing battle with cancer. Larkin dies of cancer as well. Amis also relates the fascinating story of an early love of his, Phoebe Phelps, an enigmatic figure whom he admits was the inspiration for his first novel, The Rachel Papers, and whom he remained obsessed with for decades. There is much else on offer: critical aperçus and insightful digressions on Austen, Conrad, Nabokov, and other writers; an elegant gloss on the history of the modern novel; and opinions on Hitler, the Soviet Union, 9/11, the refugee crisis, and President Trump (‘the high-end bingo caller who occupies pole position in the GOP’). Amis again proves himself to be as savvy a thinker as he is a writer as he applies his insight and curiosity as a novelist to this stylish and genuine account of his development as a writer. The result reaches the heights of his finest work.”

Bonus Links:
Fiction Is Freedom: On Martin Amis
The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’s Guide to Classic Video Games

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cold Millions: “Walter (Beautiful Ruins) reconstructs the free speech riots of 1909–1910 in Spokane, Wash., in this superb tale of orphaned, train-hopping brothers Gig and Rye Dolan. After their mother dies from tuberculosis, Rye, 16, leaves their childhood home in Montana to join Gig. The brothers spend a year looking for seasonal work, then settle in Spokane, the ‘old Klondike town [that] had grown into a proper city,’ where ‘money flowed straight uphill’ and a $10 pair of gloves is a class-defining luxury. Rye is arrested during a riot and charged with disorderly conduct, and his lawyer introduces him to the sympathetic Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a New Yorker and union organizer who has come to Spokane to advocate for ‘the cold millions with no chance in this world.’ Gig and Rye also meet Ursula the Great, a bawdy vaudevillian who cavorts in corset and stockings with a caged cougar and wins Gig’s heart despite her romantic involvement with a mining boss. The novel’s cast mixes fictional characters and historical figures such as labor lawyer Fred Moore, police chief John Sullivan, and organizers John Walsh and Frank Little, and adds a literary layer to Gig’s self-determination (he travels with a library including White Fang and two volumes of War and Peace, ‘always on the lookout for the rest’). The sum is a splendid postmodern rendition of the social realist novels of the 1930s by Henry Roth, John Steinbeck, and John Dos Passos, updated with strong female characters and executed with pristine prose. This could well be Walter’s best work yet.”

Bonus Links:
Politics Is in Its DNA: On Jess Walter’s ‘The Cold Millions’
A Year in Reading: Jess Walter

The Collected Breece D’J Pancake by Breece D’J Pancake

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Collected Breece D’J Pancake: “In this vibrant collection, Pancake’s quirky, indelible prose is shadowed by the poignancy of his personal history. An intense, artistic misfit from rural West Virginia, Pancake died by suicide in 1979 at age 26, four years before The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake was published. In the front matter, Jayne Ann Phillips claims Pancake produced ‘some of the best short stories written anywhere, at any time,’ and James Alan McPherson notes how Pancake synthesized a Hemingway style with themes and characters inspired by his home state. And, indeed, the stories live up to the hype. Pancake balances muscular precision and economy with rich, evocative detail. In ‘The Mark,’ a struggling couple brushes aside the difficulties of the wife’s pregnancy to take their prize bull, Pride and Promise, to a fair. ‘Fox Hunters’ offers a bracing slice of West Virginia life, complete with junk cars in various stages of repair and an opossum or two. The successful protagonist of ‘The Salvation of Me’ learns that you can’t go home again. In addition to the stories and five fragments, the book includes a lengthy section of Pancake’s letters, which reads like a memoir. With its impressive quantity of annotation and tribute, this omnibus offers Pancake fans a deeper look at the artist and will go a long way to inviting others to join this legion.”

Bonus Link:
American Myth: The Short, Beautiful Life of Breece D’J Pancake

Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano (translated by Mark Polizzotti)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Invisible Ink: “Nobel laureate Modiano delivers a mesmerizing, enigmatic novel in the vein of many of his best-known works. Like Missing Person, the book is about a private eye—albeit a shabby and halfhearted one—who once briefly worked for the Hutte Detective Agency in Paris, and like Dora Bruder, it centers on the investigation of an unsolved disappearance. But Modiano eschews the political overtones that drove those books, telling instead a story about growing old and the gaps and omissions that make up a life. Jean Eyben looks back on his 20s, when he was assigned to investigate the disappearance of Noëlle Lefebvre. As he searched, he had a series of phantomlike encounters with people whose lives each briefly intersected with Lefebvre’s in the 1960s. Her fate becomes a lifelong obsession, and Eyben recounts the story circuitously, as if remembering it as he writes, which casts an irresistible spell. As Eyben’s search deepens, he wonders whether Lefebvre has some connection to his own life. All of Modiano’s works are variations on a theme, and his newest is no different, but its dreamlike prose and a beguiling structural twist make it a worthy and satisfying addition to his accomplished oeuvre.”

Bonus Links:
Past Imperfect: On Patrick Modiano’s ‘Little Jewel’ and ‘The Black Notebook’
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mutt: On Patrick Modiano

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Delillo, Danforth, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Don DeLillo, Emily M. Danforth, 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 Silence by Don DeLillo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Silence: “DeLillo (Zero K) applies his mastery of dialogue to a spare, contemplative story of a group of New Yorkers and their response to a catastrophic shutdown of the world’s computer systems on the night of the Super Bowl in 2022. While flying back to New York from vacation in Paris, Jim Kripps reads out the plane’s altitude and speed from a screen while his poet wife, Tessa Berens, plumbs her memory for trivial facts and marvels at her ability to recover information without the assistance of a phone. Jim, an everyman whom the author describes as ‘nondescript,’ assumes the worst when the screens suddenly go blank. Their friend Max Stenner, who, with his professor wife, Diane Lucas, and her former student Martin Dekker, anticipate Jim and Tessa’s arrival at their Manhattan apartment to watch the game, is deeply shaken when his own screen goes blank before halftime. Martin entertains Diane by reciting passages from Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity, which lead to alternately profound and tepid discussions of the shutdown, the cause of which remains unexplained even after Tessa and Jim report to the group on surviving their crash landing and a ride through eerie, dark city streets. In the end, readers gain the timely insight that some were born ready for disaster while others remain unequipped. While the work stands out among DeLillo’s short fiction, it feels underpowered when compared to his novels.”
[Bonus Link: Read our own Nick Ripatrazone’s review and Mark O’Connell’s interview with DeLillo.]

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Where the Wild Ladies Are: “Matsuda’s groundbreaking collection (after the novella The Girl Who Is Getting Married) turns traditional Japanese ghost and yōkai stories on their heads by championing wild, complex women. In ‘The Peony Lanterns,’ recently unemployed Shinzaburō gets an eerie visit from two women, Tsuyoko and Yoneko, who try to sell him peony lanterns. Yoneko, the elder of the two, tells Shinzaburō of 30-something Tsuyoko’s tragic life: a motherless daughter with a cruel father, she was forced to leave home before completing high school. Shinzaburō refuses the lanterns, though he gains an epiphany from the women’s unusual sales tactics: ‘nothing terrible would happen if you broke the rules.’ In ‘Quite a Catch,’ a young woman named Shigemi carries on a sexual relationship with the ghost of a woman who was killed by the man she refused to marry. Not all of Matsuda’s stories captivate. ‘Team Sarashina’ is about a group of women who are assigned to various departments in their company and offer their support to flailing coworkers, but it’s too obtuse to get a handle on. Most of Matsuda’s stories, though, hit their mark, particularly her queer, feminist fables, including ‘A Fox’s Life,’ about a woman who passively internalizes sexism in her workplace (‘I’m a girl. I’m just a girl, after all’) until she realizes in middle age that she might be a fox. Matsuda’s subversive revisionist tales are consistently exciting.”

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Plain Bad Heroines: “Danforth’s sumptuous sophomore novel (after The Miseducation of Cameron Post) chronicles the allegedly cursed 1902 memoir The Story of Mary MacLane and its link to the shuttered Brookhants School for Girls in Little Compton, R.I. In the present, Merritt Emmons is reviewing the screenplay adaptation of her book about three students who died at Brookhants in 1902, two of whom were attacked by a swarm of wasps under the watch of principal Libbie Brookhants and her partner Alex Trills, who also met eerie, premature deaths. The dead students had been obsessed with MacLane’s memoir, in which the author invokes the devil to satisfy her desire for women. Merritt has been asked to consult on the film, which features lesbian superstar Harper Harper and subpar but earnest Audrey Wells, who is told by the film’s director that the shoot, on location at Brookhants, will be rigged with spooky events to elicit genuine responses. On set, though, there is very real evidence of haunting. Danforth creates a fantastic sense of dread and champions queer female relationships throughout, delving into Libbie and Alex’s history and how their circumstances doomed them to their fate. Even readers who aren’t fans of horror will appreciate this bighearted story.”

Also on shelves this week: Fugitive Atlas by Khaled Mattawa.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Messud, Boland, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Claire Messud, Eavan Boland, 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.

Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write by Claire Messud

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: “In this moving and evocative essay collection, novelist Messud (The Burning Girl) reflects on family, art, and why she writes. Her essays conjure up an itinerant 1970s childhood—moving from the U.S. to Sydney, Australia; visits with her maternal grandmother in Toronto; and summers with her paternal grandparents in Toulon, France. She illuminates the two women who shaped her—her fiercely traditional French Catholic ‘spinster aunt,’ and her mother, discontented with having given up career for family. Reflecting on family vacation trips to the world’s incipient hot spots—in Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Sri Lanka, among others—she discovers that regardless of differing ideas or ‘strangenesses of culture… always at the heart are the ordinary people, and there is just life, being lived’—good preparation for becoming a novelist, she says. Art, she writes, has the power ‘to alter our interior selves,’ and she offers nuanced appreciations of, among others, Camus, like her father a Frenchman born in colonial Algeria; Valeria Luiselli, who tries to find new ways to ‘document’ the present; and Marlene Dumas, a figurative painter ‘driven by gesture, and serendipity… and by the confluence of diverse inspirations.’ These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud’s rich inner life and generosity of spirit.”

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París (translated by Christina MacSweeney)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ramifications: “In Mexican writer París’s strange and elegant latest (after Among Strange Victims), the unnamed narrator toggles between past and present from the confines of his bed, contemplating his childhood, his father’s death, his relationship with his older sister, and the disappearance of their mother. The despondent narrator claims to never leave his bed and holds onto the self-absorption of his childhood, when he cultivated an ‘egocentric theocracy’ and felt he was god’s ‘favorite human being.’ He was 10 when his mother, Teresa, walked out on the family in 1994, and afterward the narrator grew closer to his sister, Mariana, while obsessively searching for the letter Teresa had left their father. As an adult, the narrator finally discovers the letter, along with another sent from Chiapas, each of which only brings him more angst and confusion, as he remembers the rumors about her activity that circulated when he was a child (did his mother join the Zapatistas in the jungles of Chiapas? Was she a murderer?), causing his social life to crumble as he spent hours in a closet he calls his ‘Zero Luminosity Capsule.’ Along the way, París brilliantly explores memory, masculinity, and familial drama in equal measure. The result is an affecting account of arrested development.”

The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Shtetl: “Gross’s lively and imaginative debut novel (after the memoir The Mensch Handbook) portrays a Jewish village in eastern Poland that’s been isolated throughout the 20th century. The residents of Kreskol survive pogroms and the hateful superstitions of Christian neighbors (‘For generations the priests had said that we poisoned drinking wells…. Or, alternatively, that we used the blood of Christian children in our matzahs, depending on which priest you consulted’), and remain unaware of modern technology and culture. Outside contact is limited to occasional visits from a Roma caravan until a recently divorced Kreskol woman runs away, her ex-husband follows, and baker’s apprentice Yankel Lewinkopf is sent by the rabbi to find them. Traveling with the Roma, Yankel reaches the city of Smolskie, where his confusion and strange behavior land him in a mental ward. Doctors think Yankel may be delusional when he talks about his village, while Yankel has an equally hard time believing the doctors who tell him about the Holocaust. Finally, Yankel is helicoptered back home, accompanied by officials and reporters, and Kreskol must contend with its new fame and all the attendant complications. The narrator, a present-day villager, is well versed in Jewish traditions and human foibles, alternately reminiscent of early Isaac Bashevis Singer and a Catskills comedian. Gross’s entertaining, sometimes disquieting tale delivers laugh-out-loud moments and deep insight on human foolishness, resilience, and faith.”

The Blind Light by Stuart Evers

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Blind Light: “This engrossing tale from Evers (Your Father Sends His Love) revolves around two men, Drum Moore and Jim Carter, who meet in 1959 at a civil defense base known as Doom Town, where they work on nuclear war simulations. The men’s friendship begins during a game of cards and extends over five decades as they each marry and have children. In the 1970s, they arrange to live on adjacent properties and share a bunker in event of nuclear war. Over the course of this long setup in which the families are brought together, Evers explores the lives of Drum’s wife, Gwen, and their children, Nate and Anneka. Gwen’s ache is palpable on the page as she considers an affair with a writer. Anneka, meanwhile, leaves home in her late teens in 1980, following an incident involving James’s son in the bunker, which Drum tries to make her believe was a dream. Later, Nate, now in his 20s, has relationships with men and women. Evers’s narrative strategy often asks readers to recalibrate and fill in the gaps—divorces and other pivotal events happen off-page—but the effort is worthwhile. With its slow burn, Evers’s vivid, perceptive chronicle of secrets and desperation satisfies.”

Also on shelves this week: Fractures by Carlos Andrés Gómez and The Historians by Eavan Boland.

Bonus Links:
A Year in Reading: Claire Messud (2015)
A Year in Reading: Claire Messud (2013)

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Alam, Klay, French, Kafka, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Rumaan Alam, Phil Klay, Tana French, 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.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Leave the World Behind: “In Alam’s spectacular and ominous latest (after That Kind of Mother), a family’s idyllic summer retreat coincides with global catastrophe. Amanda and Clay, married white Brooklynites with two children, rent a secluded house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. Their ‘illusion of ownership’ is shattered when the house’s proprietors, G.H. and Ruth, an African American couple in their 60s, show up unannounced from New York City. Widespread blackouts have hit the East Coast, and G.H. and Ruth are seeking refuge in the beach house they’ve rented out. The returned owners are greeted with polite suspicion and simmering resentment: ‘It was torture, a home invasion without rape or guns,’ thinks Amanda. G.H. and Ruth, in turn, can’t help but wish their renters gone (‘G. H.’s familiar old fridge yielded nothing but surprise. He’d not have filled it with such things’). But over a couple days, they form an uneasy collective as a series of strange and increasingly menacing events herald cataclysmic change, from migrating herds of deer to the thunder of military jets roaring overhead. The omniscient narrator occasionally zooms out to provide snapshots of the wider chaotic world that are effective in their brevity. Though information is scarce, the signs of impending collapse—ecological and geopolitical—have been glaringly visible to the characters all along: ‘No one could plead ignorance that was not willful.’ This illuminating social novel offers piercing commentary on race, class and the luxurious mirage of safety, adding up to an all-too-plausible apocalyptic vision.”
The Lost Writings by Franz Kafka (translated by Michael Hofmann)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Writings: “This delightful collection features dozens of untitled fragments, false starts, and unfinished work by Kafka, found and chosen by biographer Stach. In mostly untitled pieces, ranging from a few lines to a couple of pages, readers will find aphorisms (‘to a real angler no fish is ever really lost’), meditations on the myth of Prometheus and the eighth wonder of the world, fables about a loaf of bread that can’t be cut, a description of a shop without a front door, a mysterious chess game, an egg containing a misbegotten bird, and short works that anticipate some of Kafka’s masterpieces, including The Metamorphosis. Also on view are the kind of bureaucratic fever dreams associated with Kafka, along with mordant statements on mortality (‘You are forever speaking of death, and not dying’). Opening sentences such as ‘I was allowed to set foot in a strange garden’ and ‘The city resembles the sun,’ make the reader’s pulse heighten with the thrill of entering the space of great literature. This offers precisely the kind of fare Kafka enthusiasts would hope for from the legendary writer’s archives.”
Missionaries by Phil Klay

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Missionaries: “Klay’s ambitious debut novel (after the National Book Award–winning collection Redeployment) plunges the reader into war-torn Colombia, where allegiances are uncertain and tremendous violence is an everyday reality. The story follows the four characters: there is Abelito, a Colombian forcibly conscripted into a militia commanded by the infamous terrorist Jefferson, and who hopes to save the woman he loves from his murderous commandants. American journalist Lisette Marigny, meanwhile, is embedded in Afghanistan until she is dispatched to Bógota to report on gang activity, only to be kidnapped by guerrillas. En route from the Middle East is Mason, an Iraq War veteran and Special Forces medic reassigned to fight paramilitary narcos in Colombia, which he naively imagines will be a ‘good war.’ He befriends Juan Pablo, a weary commando who frets at being little more than a common mercenary and reflects on his early ambition to join the priesthood. Through these four protagonists, Klay unravels the complexity of interventionist American operations abroad, from Kabul to Medellín. While the novel suffers from a surfeit of tedious subplots and can feel overwhelmed by Klay’s exhaustive research, the prose is consistently staggering, whether in the characters’ moments of self-reflection or unflinching descriptions of brutality (‘A chainsaw appeared, and suddenly everyone who had watched, confused and amazed… knew what was about to happen’). Even though the whole thing doesn’t quite tie together, it’s quite a ride.”

Bright and Dangerous Objects by Anneliese Mackintosh

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bright and Dangerous Objects: “British writer Mackintosh’s powerful U.S. debut explores a woman’s struggle between her desire to join a Mars resettlement program and stay on Earth to start a family. At the start of the novel, Solvig Dean, 37, is out stargazing with her boyfriend, James, on a scenic cliff in Cornwall. The opening line of dialogue (‘‘It’s incredible,’ I tell James. ‘I’m sitting here with you, but I’m looking light-years away’’) sets the tone for what follows: Solvig is an ambitious dreamer, while the plans of James, a tattoo artist, extend to nurturing a sourdough starter for the rest of his life. Solvig, a deep-sea diver for the oil industry, working 10-hour shifts on the ocean floor and away from home for months at a time, loves James, but she’s restless on land and in their relationship. After James tells Solvig about the Mars Project, Solvig is captivated by the prospect, but conflicted. With graceful prose and elegant metaphors, Mackintosh connects Solvig’s search for herself and desire for balance with her process of coming to terms with the loss of her mother. Solvig’s difficult choice is further informed by Mackintosh’s brilliant weaving in of a history of women in space. When Solvig finally makes her choice, the reader is left breathless, astounded by her courage. This is a deeply moving story about love, loss, and the strength it takes for women to realize their dreams.”

Cuyahoga by Pete Beatty

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cuyahoga: “Beatty’s inspired debut is an American tall tale in the 19th-century oral tradition. Living legend Big Son has wrestled forests and rivers into submission. But in Ohio City in 1837, he meets his greatest challenge to date when his true love, Cloe Inches, refuses to be his bride until he proves himself as a provider. He finds work building a bridge across the Cuyahoga River that will connect Cleveland with its rival, Ohio City. But after the bridge collapses, so, too, do Big Son’s fortunes. It is up to his brother, Medium Son, called Meed, to restore his reputation by creating an almanac of Big Son’s legendary feats. Meed, however, covets Cloe and is secretly jealous of the attention his older brother receives. Throw in a dandyish rival for Cloe’s affection and a gunpowder-toting demonstrator, and the stage is set for the biggest Big Son tale of all time. Narrated by Meed in a colloquial voice (about Big: ‘I do believe I could make a decent merchant for him as a foremost spirit of the times’), Beatty’s novel has echoes of Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown and Hugh Nissenson’s The Tree of Life, employing language that thrusts the reader fully into the tumult of life on the American frontier. Like Big Son himself, this novel is an American original.”

The Searcher by Tana French

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Searcher: “After 25 years as a Chicago cop, Cal Hooper, the protagonist of this superb standalone from Edgar winner French (The Witch Elm), decided he needed a change. So he moved to a village in the West of Ireland, ‘no bigger than the little end of nothing,’ where people leave their doors unlocked. After three months, his prosaic new life ends when he’s sought out by 12-year-old Trey Reddy, who has learned of Hooper’s former profession. Trey fears something bad has happened to his 19-year-old brother, Brendan, who hasn’t been seen in about six months. Because their mother, Sheila, is convinced Brendan took off on his own, Trey hasn’t gone to the police, though the boy’s certain his brother wouldn’t have done that. Despite Hooper’s cynicism (‘Anyone could do anything,’ he thinks), he agrees to look into the matter, starting with questioning Sheila. The more Hooper digs, the more he finds that his new community conceals dark secrets. Insightful characterizations, even of minor figures, and a devastating reveal help make this a standout. Crime fiction fans won’t want to miss this one.”

Also on shelves this week: The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Robinson, Machado, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Marilynne Robinson, Carmen Maria Machado, 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.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Jack: “Robinson’s stellar, revelatory fourth entry in her Gilead cycle (after Lila) focuses on Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of a Gilead, Iowa, minister, and the beginnings of his romance with Della Miles before his 1957 return to Gilead in Home. Jack, who disparagingly styles himself ‘the Prince of Darkness,’ finds his life spiraling out of control in St. Louis, where, after dodging the draft during WWII, he spends several years increasingly prone to bouts of heavy drinking, petty theft, and vagrancy. His tailspin is interrupted when he meets Della Miles, an English teacher from a prominent Black family in Memphis. Despite a disastrous first date, the details of which are hinted at in the beginning, and over the numerous objections of Della’s family and white strangers, Jack and Della fall in love, bound by a natural intimacy and mutual love of poetry. Robinson’s masterly prose and musings on faith are on display as usual, and the dialogue is keen and indelible. (‘Once in a lifetime, maybe, you look at a stranger and you see a soul, a glorious presence out of place in the world. And if you love God, every choice is made for you,’ Della tells Jack.) This is a beautiful, superbly crafted meditation on the redemption and transcendence that love affords.”

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bestiary: “In Chang’s vivid, fabulist debut, three generations of women contend with the mythology of their Taiwanese heritage. Chang opens in 1980, with Mother as a young girl searching for the gold her father brought from mainland China to Taiwan to Arkansas, then flashes forward to present-day California, where Mother raises Daughter on a steady stream of legends, such as that of Hu Gu Po, a tiger spirit who wants to be human but must consume the toes of children to keep her form. (Some of Mother’s toes are missing.) Daughter takes the story of Hu Gu Po as her own when she grows a tiger tail from a wound on her back, the result of a whipping Mother gave her and her brother for digging holes in their front yard. When Daughter befriends a classmate from China, the girls explore their desire for each other, as the holes in her front yard spit up letters that seem to be written by Daughter’s grandmother, leaving it up to Daughter to make sense of her lineage. The narrative arc meanders through the characters’ various relationships, but the prose is full of imagery. Chang’s wild story of a family’s tenuous grasp on belonging in the U.S. stands out with a deep commitment to exploring discomfort with the body and its transformations.”

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Midnight Library: Haig (How to Stop Time) draws on quantum wave theory in this charming if sometimes laborious account of the many possible lives of a depressed woman. Nora, in her mid-30s and living in the small English town of Bedford, suffers from ‘situational depression’—though, as she wryly observes, ‘It’s just that I keep on having new… situations.’ After she gets fired from her job and her cat dies, she attempts suicide, only to wake up in a book-lined liminal zone, where she is guided by a librarian: ‘Between life and death there is a library… Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.’ There, Nora discovers what would have happened had she not abandoned her promising swimming career, called off her engagement, or left the rock band she started with her brother. Each time an alternate life disappoints or doesn’t feel quite right, Nora exits, reappearing in the library to continue browsing for the perfect story. While the formula grows repetitive, the set changes provide novelty, as Haig whisks Nora from Australian beaches to a South American rock concert tour to an Arctic encounter with a polar bear. Haig’s agreeable narrative voice and imagination will reward readers who take this book off the shelf.”

Whale Day by Billy Collins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Whale Day: “The playful 13th collection from Collins (The Rain in Portugal) is packed with his signature quirky humor and small epiphanies grounded in the everyday. Between poems about the correct way to peel a banana and the imagined embarrassment of an English rose expiring ‘by degrees of corruption/ in plain sight of all the neighbors passing by’ are light meditations on mortality. For Collins, ‘death is the magnetic north of poetry,’ giving his work direction and substance while remaining infused with an inventive lightheartedness. In ‘My Funeral,’ he imagines the attendees of his funeral as animals gathering at the pub after the ceremony, and ‘it’s even okay/ that the bartender turns out to be a horse.’ Moments that are simultaneously ordinary and tender appear throughout the collection, as he confesses that he has already sailed ‘some time ago/ into the quiet cardigan harbor’ of his life. Fans of the former poet laureate of the U.S. will be delighted with this latest, but those new to Collins’s work may find the collection does not dig deeply enough into complex emotion or pain.”

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Low, Low Woods: “Machado (In the Dream House) makes her graphic novel debut with a gloriously unnerving tale of monsters, sinkholes, witches, and yearning teenage dreams. Shudder-to-Think is a town where men died ‘hacking up pieces of lung or crushed beneath ten tons of rock’ in the mines and women lost their memories, or just went missing, regularly. That’s what happened to El and Vee, two best friends who at some point in the 1990s wake up in a movie theater with no recollection of the film and decide to investigate the mystery behind that gap in time and the strange happenings around the community. As they dig deeper, they realize Shudder-to-Think’s cruelties and erasures—and the grotesque creatures in its woods—share a nefarious connection. As it happens, in this place where a fire has burned for years underground, humans can be the worst monsters. Within the horror plot lives a touching tale of friendship, choices, grief, and empowering rage, with a female-centered queer and diverse cast of characters. Machado also offers a rare look at magic as karma: ‘Magic is, among other things, a metaphor. It’s a kind of sacrifice. What I do to others I do to myself,’ intones one of the mystical, ageless forest dwellers. The eerie, sketchy art by Dani suits the mood: her brooding figures skirt the edge of disappearance. This will surely call out to fans of Machado’s searing prose, and it will also hit the spot for comics fans who like their horror heartfelt.”

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Just Like You: “Hornby (State of the Union) lives up to his reputation as bard of the everyday in this thoughtful romance that crosses lines of race, age, and class. Lucy, a white, not-quite-divorced schoolteacher, first notices Joseph, a part-time butcher, soccer coach, and aspiring DJ who is black and 20 years her junior, while listening to her friend flirt with him across the counter at the butcher shop. Lucy hires Joseph to babysit her two precocious boys, who adore him, and soon Lucy and Joseph’s relationship becomes romantic. Each takes a turn trying to end the affair (‘you and me are like something between brackets,’ she tells him), but their connection persists as Lucy juggles parenting and teaching and Joseph determines to expand his DJ career. Hornby is good company on the page and offers insights on his characters with aplomb, demonstrating an investment in each of their voices and an interest in the forces that draw people to one another. This is great fun.”

Bonus Links:
Up on the Roof: A Review of Nick Hornby’s ‘A Long Way Down’
Our World Is Straight-Up Surreal: The Millions Interviews Carmen Maria Machado
A Year in Reading: Carmen Maria Machado
On Carmen Maria Machado’s Body Horrors
Thinking Again: Marilynne Robinson’s ‘When I Was a Child I Read Books’
Marilynne Robinson’s Singular Vision

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lalami, Petersen, Chiasson, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Laila Lalami, Anne Helen Petersen, Dan Chiasson, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Conditional Citizens: “In this eloquent and troubling account, novelist and National Book Award–finalist Lalami (The Other Americans) draws on her personal history as ‘an immigrant, a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim’ to argue that becoming a U.S. citizen does not necessarily mean becoming ‘an equal member of the American family.’ Recalling that the first time a U.S. customs agent examined her American passport, he wanted to know how many camels her husband had to trade in for her, Lalami critically assesses political rhetoric from 9/11 through President Trump’s border wall; skillfully unpacks charged words such as ‘allegiance’ and ‘assimilation’; reflects on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the lens of her own experience calling out workplace sexual harassment; and examines the erasure of Muslims from American history. ‘Conditional citizenship,’ she writes, ‘is characterized by the burden of having to educate white Americans about all the ways in which one is different from them.’ Lalami offers essential insights into how racism and sexism function in American society, and makes a persuasive case for preserving the ‘gray zones’ between religious, ethnic, and national identities as a way to push back against tribalism and sectarianism. This profound inquiry into the American immigrant experience deserves to be widely read.”
Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Can’t Even: “BuzzFeed writer Peterson (Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud) explores how low-paying jobs, overstimulation, and unattainable expectations have contributed to millennial malaise in this trenchant and well-researched account. Young people who once received participation trophies now seek ‘cool’ jobs, Petersen writes, only to fall into the ‘trap’ of long hours and inadequate pay. Though older generations mischaracterize America’s largest demographic group as lazy and selfish, millennials are actually working multiple jobs to pay bills in the modern gig economy as they watch the American dream slip away, Petersen contends. She weaves together personal reflections, profiles of other millennials, and a plethora of demographic information to addresses issues such as parenting, social media, college debt, and health care. Though she recommends finding ‘solace’ in hobbies and notes that one family reduced their stress by moving from the East Coast to Idaho, Petersen is more focused on bluntly describing her generation’s many obstacles than offering solutions to burnout. By turns exasperated, indignant, and empathetic, she supports her claims with strong evidence and calls on millennials to be a force for widespread social change. The result is
The Math Campers by Dan Chiasson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Math Campers: “The meditative fifth collection from poet and critic Chiasson (Bicentennial) invites the reader to witness the poet’s processes of creation, retrieval, and revision as a writer and dreamer, father and son. Framed by ekphrastic poems that gloss murals by David Teng Olsen adorning the walls of the poet’s home, the book works by a loose Russian-doll principle: just as the murals reflect and refract details from the lives of the poet and his immediate family, so do these nested poems. As a teenager, the poet prays ‘that art/ would sometime send a ladder from the sky,’ and that he might ‘become the love child/ of Sylvia Plath, Ozzy, and Alex DeLarge.’ Years later, he finds himself ‘almost Ozzy, mansplaining/ to my eleven-year-old son the photo/ of a Louis Quatorze gilt dildo he found in our cloud.’ Intimations of social crisis and environmental disaster glow on the horizon, ‘Caskets line up for the slip-n-slide./ A collarbone surfboards down the alley./ Through the mudslide we humans wade,’ but the book centers on intimate dramas of adolescence, middle age, masculinity, and literary genealogy (poetic allusions from Milton and Eliot to Merrill and Bidart abound). These beautifully crafted poems are a memorable addition to Chiasson’s singular oeuvre.”
Also on shelves this week: Horsepower by Joy Priest.
Bonus Links: —American Inequality: On Laila Lalami’s ‘Conditional Citizens’A Year in Reading: Laila LalamiShip of Fools: On Laila Lalami’s ‘The Moor’s Account’Must-Read Poetry: September 2020