Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Conner Habib, Isabel Kaplan, Gabrielle Zevin, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Hawk Mountain by Conner Habib
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hawk Mountain: “Unresolved emotional conflict from adolescence haunts a man in Habib’s intensely unsettling debut. While at the beach, Todd Nasca, a high school English teacher estranged from his wife and raising his six-year-old son Anthony in a quaint New England town, crosses paths with Jack Gates, a former schoolmate who used to bully Todd. All smiles now, Jack insinuates himself into Todd’s life with disturbing ease, overstaying his welcome to sleep a few nights on Todd’s couch and gradually working his way into Todd and Anthony’s domestic routines. Then Todd finds out Jack answered a call from Todd’s wife without telling him, setting up a confrontation that is spectacularly hideous in its brutality. Habib laces his narrative with references to the books Todd assigns his students about ‘male bonding and camaraderie,’ suggesting unspoken nuances of his relationship with Jack. The narrative also toggles between past and present, building tension en route to the revelation of an unexpected encounter between the two as teenagers that had major consequences on the course of their lives. Habib brings rich psychological insight to his characters, expertly observing how the conflicts of youth persist into Todd and Jack’s present. Though not for the squeamish, this dramatic tale soars.”
NSFW by Isabel Kaplan
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about NSFW: “The daughter of a prominent victim’s rights attorney navigates the treacherous pre-#MeToo television industry in Kaplan’s well-crafted but unilluminating adult debut (after the YA novel Hancock Park). The unnamed narrator returns to her hometown of Los Angeles after graduating from Harvard and, after using her mother’s connections, begins climbing the ladder at XBC, an upstart broadcasting network. As the narrator internalizes fatphobia and unrealistic beauty standards, and capitulates to and chafes against the casual misogyny at XBC, she tries to stay afloat in an environment teeming with sexual misconduct. Most intriguing, though, is the narrator’s Sisyphean relationship with her famously feminist mother, who simultaneously longs for her daughter’s success and resents it. Kaplan takes on heavy topics with an appealing frankness and snappy prose but doesn’t offer anything new regarding the no-win scenarios faced by survivors of sexual violence when deciding whether to go public (‘Come forward and your career is probably tanked. Stay silent and he won’t have to answer for any of it,’ the narrator says to a colleague), and as a result her depiction of the double bind comes off as rather mundane. As a Hollywood coming-of-age story, this does the job, but those in search of a new take on the larger issues at play will be left unsatisfied.”
Kaleidoscope by Cecily Wong
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kaleidoscope: “Wong (Diamond Head) captures the fierce bond and stark differences between two mixed-race Chinese American sisters, one of whom dies in a freak accident, in her penetrating latest. After a family vacation in India, Hank and Karen Liu Brighton open an import and textiles boutique called Kaleidoscope in Eugene, Ore., to cash in on Americans’ interest in Eastern aesthetics. Soon, they move to New York City to open a new Kaleidoscope branch, just as their older daughter, Morgan, begins studying at the Parsons School of Design in the city. Morgan becomes the company’s main designer, shaping vibrant Indian-inspired textiles into a panoply of culturally appropriated styles such as kimonos and Mexican embroidery, while her sister Riley, ever the observer, studies anthropology at Barnard. Then, Morgan is killed by a collapsed construction crane. Hank and Karen find refuge in sleeping pills and alcohol while Kaleidoscope wanes; Riley blindly wanders Manhattan collecting newspaper articles detailing Morgan’s death; and Morgan’s boyfriend, James, quits his job and plans a whirlwind monthslong trip abroad accompanied by Riley. After Karen reveals secrets that undermine Riley’s impression of her seemingly perfect sister, she wishes she’d been more help to Morgan. The author balances her characters’ palpable emotions with whip-smart commentary on cultural commodification, as the sisters joke about their parents’ ‘Doors of the World’ fundraiser, in which doors procured from various countries are auctioned off to wealthy donors. It’s a smash.”
Self-Portrait with Ghost by Meng Jin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Self-Portrait with Ghost: “Jin (Little Gods) returns with a provocative magical realist collection in which women fall in love, grieve, and figure out what to make of their lives amid constant changes. Many of these engrossing entries take inspiration from contemporary events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency. The protagonists of ‘The Odd Women’ deal with a mysterious virus on top of the onset of puzzling superpowers, such as the ability to make themselves immaterial, change identity to match others’ expectations, and divide parts of themselves into ‘distinct entities, one to confront each aspect of the divided, complicated world.’ Meanwhile, ‘In The Event’ features a woman reflecting on the ‘obscenities of the new president,’ which make her feel like she’s living in a badly written novel. Even the stories that focus on timeless themes—such as formative relationships in ‘Phillip Is Dead’ and ‘First Love,’ and the aftermaths of loss in ‘Suffering’ and ‘Self-Portrait with Ghost’—take on a strangely elusive tone. Throughout, Jin toys with the concept of reality, which in the title story is malleable for its writer protagonist (‘My novel was all about subjectivity, I said. Each character tells their version of reality and the various realities add up to something that looks more like unknowing than a solution,’ the writer recounts of a conversation with the ghost of a Chinese aunt, who speaks in English despite never having learned the language). Throughout, there is beauty, wit, and pathos. This mystifying collection is a testament to Jin’s talent and versatility.”
The Displacements by Bruce Holsinger
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Displacements: “In Holsinger’s harrowing novel of environmental disaster (after The Gifted School), an unprecedented category 6 hurricane obliterates Miami and disrupts a once-charmed family. Before the storm hits, Daphne Larsen-Hall has a great life—pampered wife of a wealthy surgeon, with a two-million-dollar home in Coral Gables and two bright children, Oliver and Mia. But after Hurricane Luna, Daphne’s life is upended. Homeless and penniless due to a cascading series of setbacks, she and the children end up evacuated to a megashelter in Oklahoma run by no-nonsense FEMA official Rain Holton. There, among 10,000 other evacuees, her sullen stepson Gavin falls under the spell of two drug dealers and Mia becomes obsessed with playing a kids’ game called Range. Then, after the final indignity of losing her wedding and engagement rings, Daphne decides to become an art teacher in the camp. Two months in, many evacuees have formed ‘ethnic enclaves,’ including one called Crackertown, which Holsinger describes as a ‘dark edge of pride in [the whites’] self-designation.’ Then Rain contends with a new weather emergency threatening the shelter. Holsinger does a good job exploring the country’s cultural and economic divisions and the effects of climate change, and is even better with the characters and their ever-mounting problems. This story of displacement and desperation packs a wallop.”
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: “Zevin (Young Jane Young) returns with an exhilarating epic of friendship, grief, and computer game development. In 1986, Sadie Green, 11, visits a children’s hospital where her sister is recovering from cancer. There, she befriends another patient, a 12-year-old Korean Jewish boy named Sam Masur, who has a badly injured foot, and the two bond over their love for video games. Their friendship ruptures, however, after Sam discovers Sadie’s been tallying the visits to fulfill her bat mitzvah service. Years later, they reconnect while attending college in Boston. Sam is wowed by a game Sadie developed, called Solution. In it, a player who doesn’t ask questions will unknowingly build a widget for the Third Reich, thus forcing the player to reflect on the impact of their moral choices. He proposes they design a game together, and relying on help from his charming, wealthy Japanese Korean roommate, Marx, and Sadie’s instructor cum abusive lover, Dov, they score a massive hit with Ichigo, inspired by The Tempest. In 2004, their virtual world-builder Mapletown allows for same-sex marriages, drawing ire from conservatives, and a violent turn upends everything for Sam and Sadie. Zevin layers the narrative with her characters’ wrenching emotional wounds as their relationships wax and wane, including Sadie’s resentment about sexism in gaming, Sam’s loss of his mother, and his foot amputation. Even more impressive are the visionary and transgressive games (another, a shooter, is based on the poems of Emily Dickinson). This is a one-of-a-kind achievement.”