Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lee, Henkin, Fung, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jonathan Lee, Joshua Henkin, Keenan Norris, 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 Great Mistake by Jonathan Lee

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Great Mistake: “Lee (High Dive) dissects the life and murder of Andrew Haswell Green, one of New York City’s preeminent city fathers and adversary of the corrupt Boss Tweed, in this ambitious outing. In November 1903, at the age of 83, Green—a onetime comptroller and architect of Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Bridge—steps outside his Park Avenue home and is shot dead by a man in a bowler hat in broad daylight. To uncover the motive, Lee moves backward and forward in time. The detective assigned to the case probes the entanglements of wicked and wealthy bawd Bessie Davis and unstable gunman Cornelius Williams, who seems to have acted on private struggles. In chapters devoted to Green’s past, the reader learns of his father’s failing Massachusetts farm, his apprenticeship in Trinidad, and close friendship with New York governor and future presidential candidate Samuel Tilden, whose rise prefigures Green’s own pursuit to become ‘an elegant man.’ Lee’s two-tiered structure falters slightly under the weight of Green’s copious resume, but he sustains a captivating strangeness in his depiction of the period, such as the practice of hunting stray dogs on city streets for a bounty. By and by, a dynamic all-American character emerges, making for an audacious historical.”

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Morningside Heights: “Henkin (The World Without You) brilliantly conveys the complexities of a New York City family in this humane, compulsively readable tale. In 2006, Shakespeare scholar Spence Robin, 57, is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and his wife, Pru Steiner, is forced to return his book advance. Their daughter, Sarah, a med student, arrives from Los Angeles on a delayed flight, and Pru wryly reassures Sarah not to worry (‘It’ll be good practice for when you’re a doctor. You’ll be keeping people waiting for the rest of your life’). The focus then turns to Arlo Zackheim, Spence’s son from his first marriage, whose vagabond, self-centered mother left him with an emptiness he finds hard to fill. At 15, Arlo came to live with Spence for two years, and the marked contrast between his past and living with an erudite, structured father; a kind stepmother; and a bright younger sister is drawn with humor and insight. Henkin reaches further back to describe how Pru escaped her Orthodox Jewish family in Ohio and landed in grad school at Columbia University in 1976, and shows how Spence was a wunderkind in Columbia’s English department, making the tragedy of his illness particularly poignant. Equally well handled is Pru’s transformation from wife and lover to caretaker—wrenching changes that Henkin conveys without dissolving into sentimentality or cliché, but rather leaving readers with a kernel of hope. This is a stunning achievement.”

The Confession of Copeland Cane by Keenan Norris

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Confession of Copeland Cane: “Norris (Brother and the Dancer) delivers a powerful treatise on the double consciousness of a young Black man in this dystopian look at police oppression and surveillance in the 2030s. Coming of age in East Oakland amid racial terror in the form of televised police brutality and the ‘Ghetto Flu’ (alternately defined as a deadly flu similar to Covid-19 and the myriad challenges faced ‘due to living in the hood’) 18-year-old Cope Cane becomes a fugitive after his role in a protest that turned violent. Beloved by his swap meet queen mother and unemployed father, Cope, who previously landed a private school scholarship, now chronicles his transformation into a societal threat to freshman journalism student Jacqueline. In alternate chapters, Cope and Jacqueline unpack the complexities of miseducation, poverty, and policing, and give a nightmarish view of media-security empire Soclear Broadcasting. Cope’s persuasive and irresistible ‘confession’ to Jacqueline emerges in nonsequential strands, circling around the crime he’s suspected of having committed while outlining the economic, legal, and social disparities faced by a dark-complected person in a politically divided country ravaged by a global pandemic. In Cope, Norris has created a voice that cannot be ignored.”

Also on shelves this week: Last Comes the Raven by Italo Calvino (translated by Ann Goldstein).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Galchen, Zambreno, Emezi, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Rivka Galchen, Kate Zambreno, Akwaeke Emezi, 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.
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: “Galchen’s captivating latest (after the children’s adventure Rat Rule 79) follows an illiterate widow as she confronts accusations of being a witch in 1618 Germany. As soldiers and plague spread across the Holy Roman Empire at the start of the Thirty Years’ War, 74-year-old Katharina Kepler’s own troubles play out on a grand scale after her neighbor (whom Katharina calls ‘the Werewolf’) accuses Katharina of poisoning her and manages to convince others that they, too, have been afflicted or targeted by Katharina’s witchcraft. Katharina must fight to clear her name with the help of her three children—her youngest son, a bullheaded pewter guildsman; her daughter, a kindly pastor’s wife; and her eldest son, an expert in horoscopes who works as the Imperial Mathematician—and her kindly, quiet neighbor Simon, who documents Katharina’s case for posterity and risks his own reputation by serving as Katharina’s guardian in court. Mesmerizing details abound, such as the torture inflicted on those accused of witchcraft, and the herbal remedies Katharina relies upon. Galchen portrays her characters as complicated and full of wit as they face down the cruelties dealt to them (a man called ‘the Cabbage,’ demanding Katharina release a curse on his sister, threatens her with a ‘vain sword… something a nobleman might commission and then reject at the last moment, leaving the sword maker in a bind’). This is a resounding delight.”

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Animal: “In Taddeo’s underwhelming debut novel (after the nonfiction narrative Three Women), a re-traumatized woman faces her painful past. Joan, 37, leaves New York City for Los Angeles after her boss, Vic, with whom she had been having an affair, shoots himself in front of her at a restaurant. Witnessing Vic’s death brings back memories for Joan, who lost her parents to a gruesome act of violence when she was 10, which left her orphaned and with a sizable inheritance. Joan believes a young woman named Alice, a yoga teacher in L.A., whom she’d never met, holds the key to understanding the night of her parents’ death, and the reason is initially withheld from the reader as well as Alice, after the two women form a superficial intimacy revolving around men and how terrible they are. Unfortunately, Alice suffers from thin characterization that renders her little more than a device for Joan’s development. And though the men are certainly horrible, especially the ones in Joan’s life—including her dead father—Taddeo misses an opportunity for a more critical exploration of female rage, relying instead on the shock value of the third act’s violent scenes. Recent novels such as A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers have treated similar themes with more imagination and depth.”

We Two Alone by Jack Wang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Two Alone: “Wang’s elegant debut delves into the heterogeneity of the Chinese diaspora in stories that take the reader to settings as disparate as 1920s Canada and Nazi-occupied Vienna. Wang is equally convincing with the voice of the insecure Oxford undergraduate whose parents run a Chinese takeaway in ‘Belsize Park,’ as he is with a washed-up Chinese American hockey player and deadbeat dad living in modern-day Florida in ‘Allhallows.’ In ‘The Nature of Things,’ a pregnant wife from Vancouver’s Chinatown is living in Shanghai on the eve of the 1937 Japanese attack. The title story is the longest, and the standout; its protagonist is Leonard Xiao, a Chinese-American actor in his late 40s whose career never quite got off the ground. Having so long wanted to prove his Harvard physicist father wrong about the viability of his career choice, Leonard poignantly grapples with the reality that this may never happen. Occasionally the stories feel as if they end prematurely and avoid narrative conflict, but Wang’s prose is subtle and economical, well suited to his themes of disappointment, alienation, and departure. As the stories build on one another, they create a portrait full of both nuance and grace.”

To Write as if Already Dead by Kate Zambreno

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about To Write as if Already Dead: “In this clever hybrid work, Zambreno (Drifts) interrogates her fascination with French writer and photographer Hervé Guibert, whose novel To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life (1990) controversially outed friend Michel Foucault of having died of AIDS. In the first of two parts, Zambreno sets out to explore ‘the problem of a friendship,’ first between herself and a famous author she met under a pseudonym online, then between Foucault and Guibert, before the novel—which traces Guibert’s own suffering with AIDS and featured a character named Muzil, based on Foucault—was written. ‘At what point,’ she wonders, ‘does the writing become an act of betrayal?’ Part two takes a diaristic turn, covering Zambreno’s pregnancy-related ailments and the daily demands on her as a working mother, as the act of writing becomes more difficult: ‘I need to push it out as if through my body… even if the thinking is fickle, even if it changes over time.’ As her investigation turns to the financial and material needs motivating her to write in the first place, it morphs into a feverish quarantine journal wherein she questions the meaning of language during crisis, especially the use of first-person writing. The author’s fans will savor this cascading meditation on what makes writing possible and necessary.”

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dear Senthuran: “Emezi (The Death of Vivek Oji) reflects on their spiritual and creative evolution in this gorgeous epistolary memoir. Among the cast of recipients they address are friends, family, an ex-lover, Toni Morrison, and Senthuran Varatharajah, their German translator, who inspired the work’s form. Originally from Aba, Nigeria, Emezi identifies as ogbanje, an Igbo spirit that’s also a god. They are ’embodied but not human,’ an existential tension that governed their life as they traveled the globe in their 20s in search of home and themselves. Emezi eventually settled down in New Orleans in 2019, but their search for self continues in each letter as they shed old ‘masks,’ outgrow relationships, and undergo a hysterectomy to align their human body with their ‘spiritself.’ Emezi details the loneliness that comes with being ‘estranged from the indigenous Black realities’ and is unwavering in their demand that readers meet them on their terms, even if they might be considered ‘too strange, too arrogant.’ Yet in consistently captivating prose, Emezi demonstrates that it is precisely this unyielding belief in themself that catapulted their career, clinching literary awards and six-figure book deals. Those interested in broadening their metaphysical understanding of the world would do well to pick up this spellbinding work.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ford, Arnett, St. Aubyn, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ashley C. Ford, Kristin Arnett, Edward St. Aubyn, 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.
Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Somebody’s Daughter: “Journalist Ford debuts with a blistering yet tender account of growing up with an incarcerated father. She retraces her childhood in 1990s Fort Wayne, Ind., where she lived in a family anchored by her weary mother, whose anger bubbled over frequently, and a judgmental but loving grandmother. Felt throughout is the shadowy presence of her father, who was serving a 24-year sentence for rape. The moving narrative unfolds with tales of childhood misadventures with her younger brother, frequent library visits, and days spent anywhere but home: ‘I told myself being away was the only way we were going to make it out.’ Ford writes vividly of having to weather her mother’s rage (which ‘drained the light from her eyes’) and rotating cast of boyfriends, while navigating her own sense of shame and abandonment as a teenager fighting to be ‘loved ferociously and completely’ in a series of painful relationships. Though she rarely visited her father in prison, he wrote to her often, and ‘his letters were clues to where I’d come from.’ When they finally reconnected before his release, Ford describes their tearful reunion and reconciliation with devastating clarity. ‘Somewhere, in the center of it all, was my father’s favorite girl.’ This remarkable, heart-wrenching story of loss, hardship, and self-acceptance astounds.”

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about With Teeth: “Arnett (Mostly Dead Things) paints a complex picture of a queer family in this well-sculpted drama. Protagonist Sammie and her wife, Monika, have a son, Samson, who proves to be an ornery and enigmatic child. (Among other things, he willfully lets a strange man attempt to abduct him at the age of four and later carries a school project doll of himself everywhere.) Sammie is the more anxious and hands-on of the parents; she works part-time as a copy editor, while laid-back Monika excels as a lawyer. In addition to doubting her fitness as a parent, Sammie misses the social life she had pre-Samson and ‘didn’t like the way other women looked at her wife, didn’t like the fact that no one looked at her that way anymore.’ By the time Samson’s 16, he has become a skilled swimmer and retains much of his inscrutable personality, Sammie and Monika have separated, and Sammie struggles with dating. Arnett’s prismlike prose is supplemented by vignettes focused on peripheral characters, such as Samson’s teachers, which add some maximalist flair to the domestic story. With its vividly rendered characters, this offers an intense rendition of a modern family.”

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Other Black Girl: “Harris debuts with a dazzling, darkly humorous story about the publishing industry and the challenges faced by a Black employee. Nella Rogers, an overworked editorial assistant, navigates white privilege and microaggressions as the only Black person in her department at New York City trade publisher Wagner Books. That is until the arrival of chic Hazel-May McCall. Nella withstands being mistaken for Hazel, ‘the Other Black Girl,’ and reviewing a problematic manuscript written by a bestselling white author with horribly one-dimensional depictions of a Black single mom. Many of the company’s higher-ups have the trappings of material success (Ivy League pedigrees, renovated summer homes), and their attempts to cultivate diversity fall flat, notably with the publisher’s ‘Diversity Town Halls’ and its sheepish attempts to deal with racism (‘the elephant in the room,’ Harris writes, ‘No one really knew what the elephant was. Or where the elephant was’). When Nella receives an anonymous note reading ‘Leave Wagner. Now,’ her hopes for a career at the company begin to crumble. Meanwhile, Hazel, seemingly undeterred by office politics, is not the ally she appears to be. While the novel overflows with witty dialogue and skillfully drawn characters, its biggest strength lies in its penetrating critique of gatekeeping in the publishing industry and the deleterious effects it can have on Black editors. This insightful, spellbinding book packs a heavy punch.”

Bewilderness by Karen Tucker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bewilderness: “Tucker astonishes in her devastating debut, a harrowing account of addiction, friendship, and loss. Irene, an isolated 19-year-old in rural North Carolina, meets Luce, a fellow server at a grimy pool hall. They form an intimate friendship that becomes nearly addictive: within hours of their meeting, Irene believes Luce ‘understood me better than anyone, maybe even my own mother.’ Both also battle an opiate addiction. They look at the moon and see an OxyContin pill, ‘a giant 30 just waiting for someone to reach up and snatch it.’ Throughout, they find themselves in scenarios that are equal parts devastating and funny, as they scam and grift to fund their pill habit by committing return fraud at Walmart and selling placebos from their birth control packs to college kids. But their bond begins to break after Luce meets Wilky, a sergeant at the nearby military base who is set on getting clean from a pill addiction of his own and moving with Luce to Florida for a fresh start. Tucker does a wonderful job locating Irene’s and Luce’s desire to live a better life beneath their tough exteriors, as when, while buying pills from an old woman, Irene offhandedly remarks, ‘Bodies are such fragile things.’ This keen awareness consistently adds depth and devastation. No matter the characters’ genuine longing to change, they are bound to their cyclical, unrelenting patterns. This is a stunning accomplishment.

Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Walking on Cowrie Shells: “Nkweti’s beautiful and immersive debut collection challenges hackneyed depictions of a monolithic Africa through an array of dynamic stories that reflect the heterogeneity of Africans and the Cameroonian diaspora. The satirical ‘It Just Kills You Inside’ features a PR man who capitalizes on a fast-spreading zombie virus in Cameroon, which turns into a cash cow after refugee camps and the adoption of African zombie babies become Hollywood’s latest cause célèbre. In ‘The Statistician’s Wife,’ 40-year-old economist Elliot Coffin Jr.’s interview with two homicide detectives in the aftermath of Elliot’s wife’s murder is punctuated by disturbing statistics on the number of women in Nigeria who are murdered by their husbands. Other stories switch between diary entries and narrative, as in the heartrending ‘Dance the Fiya Dance,’ in which linguistic anthropologist Chambu evades her cousin’s attempts at matchmaking while grappling with her own ambivalence toward motherhood. Whether Nkweti is writing about water goddesses, zombies, or aspiring graphic novelists, she reveals and celebrates the rich inner lives of those who do not fit neatly into social and cultural categories. But the author’s prose shines the brightest; Nkweti’s sentences soar, enthralling the reader through their every twist and turn, and often ending with a wry punch (a fledgling church headquartered in a Brooklyn apartment is ‘still undergoing a slow renovation that has spanned from Easter Sunday the year prior into an unknown future—unto the end of days, perhaps’). This is a groundbreaking and vital work.”

How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How the Word Is Passed: “Poet and Atlantic staff writer Smith debuts with a moving and perceptive survey of landmarks that reckon, or fail to reckon, with the legacy of slavery in America. Visiting Monticello plantation, Smith describes how Thomas Jefferson’s self-perception as a ‘benevolent slave owner’ often conflicted with his actions. On a tour of Angola prison, Smith discusses how nonunanimous jury verdicts fueled the “convict leasing system” that replaced slave labor in post-Reconstruction Louisiana, and notes that when the state switched from the electric chair to lethal injection in 1991, Angola inmates refused to build the prison death bed. At the Blandford Cemetery for Confederate soldiers in Petersburg, Va., Smith questions on-site historians about the ethical implications of preserving a place of honor for the defenders of slavery. He also checks in at the annual Juneteenth festival in Galveston, Tex., and takes an illuminating walking tour of underground railroad sites in New York City. Suffused with lyrical descriptions and incisive historical details, including Robert E. Lee’s ruthlessness as a slave owner and early resistance by Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to the Confederate general’s ‘deification,’ this is an essential consideration of how America’s past informs its present.”

The Portrait of a Mirror by A. Natasha Joukovsky

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Portrait of a Mirror: “Set in the upper echelons of New York City and Philadelphia, Joukovsky’s droll if uneven debut reads like Gossip Girl all grown up. Young tech CEO and certified ‘golden boy’ Charles Wesley Range IV shares a sprawling Manhattan loft with his stunning, quick-witted enterprise architect wife, Diana Whalen, where the almost-happy newlyweds mount a series of passive-aggressive maneuvers against one another. Meanwhile, 30-something Vivien Floris, a poised visiting curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, prepares to marry Dale McBride, a dashing consultant and aspiring novelist who lives in Philadelphia. While Diana and Dale are assigned to work on the same project, grade school crushes Vivien and Wes reunite for a fateful night. As the drama unfolds, the characters’ affairs get predictably tangled. The author uses the backdrop of Vivien’s exhibition on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the figure of Narcissus for astute observations on the core characters’ self-involvement, though the story feels weighed down by too many less-rewarding tangents about professional mishaps and exchanges between the peripheral players, who find their incestuous social world alternately beneficial and stultifying. In the words of a mutual friend of the couples, ‘The one percent is such a small place.’ While readers will enjoy the view of an insular, rarified world, they’ll also wonder what the fuss is about.”

Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Double Blind: “St. Aubyn (the Patrick Melrose novels) expounds on epigenetics, rewilding, art, neuroscience, and philosophy in this sublime character-driven novel. With his usual elegant prose, St. Aubyn follows three friends—Francis, Olivia, and Lucy—through a transformative year. Naturalist Francis meets biologist Olivia at a ‘megafauna’ conference in Oxford and feels an instant ‘subterranean attraction.’ He later anxiously awaits her visit to the Sussex estate he has vowed to reclaim with its deer, pigs, cattle, and ponies, envisioning an ‘English savannah.’ Meanwhile, Olivia anticipates Lucy’s arrival from New York to London, where she’s taken a job with a venture capital firm headed by the scheming Hunter Sterling. Lucy’s also blindsided by unexplainable muscle spasms that lead to the ‘high tech phrenology’ of a graphically detailed brain biopsy. While she is recovering with Francis and Olivia in Sussex, Hunter helicopters in with caviar, blinis, and vodka. Add the sudden, unexpected appearance of 34-year-old schizophrenic Sebastian Tanner, whose true identity threatens to square the friends’ already fraught triangle and lends an element of mystery. The four embark on a pharmacologically fueled journey from England to Cap d’Antibes to Big Sur, leading to a surprising and enthralling moral and ethical dilemma. St. Aubyn brings off a seemingly effortless and provocative examination of the mind and its refractions. This one’s not to be missed.”

Also on shelves this week: What Makes You Think You’re Awake? by Maegan Poland.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Flanagan, Kawakami, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Richard Flanagan, Mieko Kawakami, 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 Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Living Sea of Waking Dreams: “Man Booker winner Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) shines in his fierce, surrealistic look at a family’s dissolution in a recognizable if dystopian Australia that’s ravaged by wildfires. Amid the fires, 56-year-old Anna, an award-winning Sydney architect, makes reluctant trips to Hobart, Tasmania, to check on her mother, Francie. After Francie suffers a catastrophic brain hemorrhage, Anna’s older brother Tommy, an unsuccessful artist who has been shouldering Francie’s care, hopes to let her die in peace. Guilt-ridden over her earlier neglect of her family and unprepared to face her mother’s mortality, Anna instead sides with their younger brother, Terzo, and orders aggressive treatment. Francie begins hallucinating as the increasingly invasive interventions fail, and despite Francie’s delusions, which come through when Francie musters the energy to speak, Anna finds new tenderness in her time with her mother. Meanwhile, Anna’s left ring finger painlessly but inexplicably vanishes, soon followed by a kneecap and a nipple. Though she sees the body parts of others disappearing, too (her 22-year-old son gradually fades away to a few fingers), no one comments or reports on the eerie phenomenon. Amid all of these losses, her complacency about her once rewarding life vanishes. Juxtaposing measured prose with passages that jolt and tumble, and realistic depictions of medical issues with Francie’s phantasmagoric visions (‘the mountain plains outside her window full of fires and sandstorms where, nightly, women queued in one area for abortions and in another for orgies, where fleeing people turned into plants only to perish in flames’), Flanagan’s novel illuminates the dangers of taking the world and one another for granted. Its intensity, urgency, and insights are unforgettable.”

Revival Season by Monica West

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Revival Season: “West’s explosive debut charts the spiritual reckoning of a Baptist faith healer’s daughter. Fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton accompanies her family on an annual summer revival tour centered on evangelical conversion and healing throughout the present-day Midwest and South. As in years past, her father, Rev. Samuel Horton yearns to break the ‘two-thousand soul mark,’ his ever-elusive goal for a successful revival season. Her father’s tour of perfunctory healing ends in Bethel, N.C., where a drunken man confronts the reverend, accusing him of fraud. Horton rebukes the man, then beats him in an uncontrollable fit of rage. Miriam surreptitiously watches the confrontation and its aftermath, and as a result her relationship with her father and her own views about spiritual healing are irrevocably altered. After returning home to East Mansfield, Tex., Miriam makes her first attempt at healing prayer with her best friend, Micah, who has become seriously ill with diabetes. More secret healings ensue, as Miriam’s personal spiritual awakening runs counter to the biblical injunctions stressed by her father and the Church. West does a fantastic job illuminating the struggles faced by women and girls in the Southern Baptist evangelical movement, and the change in Miriam is palpable and moving. West’s deep understanding of her characters and community makes for essential reading.”

Cheat Day by Liv Stratman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cheat Day: “Stratman debuts with a sweet, smart account of one woman’s attempt to add some spark and direction to her humdrum everyday. Kit, 34, is stuck in a rut: she can’t muster the nerve to quit a job managing her sister’s bakery in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up; she’s ambivalent about having kids; restless in a marriage to her well-intentioned, workaholic husband; and still mourning the death of the grandmother who raised her. To snap out of it, she reaches for a solution she’s tried many times before: a diet. This time she embarks on the 75-day Radiant Regimen, her most ambitious wellness overhaul yet. But as she starts to master her food cravings, she begins to indulge in her attraction to a carpenter, leading to an intense affair, and the derailment of her self-makeover. Soon, Kit, realizing the ‘lucky’ life she leads, must acknowledge her failures and open up about impulses if she want to save her marriage: ‘What I know now is there is no recipe for a clean marriage.’ The uneasy relationship Kit has with her various appetites is at the heart of things, and the narrative’s success rests on her wry, insightful narration, which expounds on the inanities of the daily calculus of diet planning with hilariously cringy detail. This is a treat.”

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heaven: “Kawakami (Breasts and Eggs) returns with a searing account of bullying and adolescent angst. In the vast, violent wasteland of middle school, the 14-year-old unnamed narrator endures horrific physical abuse from a group of sadistic classmates, assuming it’s due to his lazy eye. In graphic detail, Kawakami describes the escalating harm brought to him, from his being made to ingest toilet water, a goldfish, and scraps of food from a pet rabbit’s cage, to having chalk stuffed up his nose, being shoved into a locker, and an excruciatingly brutal confrontation in a gym, leaving him with the heartbreaking ‘desire to disappear.’ When he receives an anonymous note in his desk seeking friendship, he suspects it’s a prank, but discovers it’s from a female schoolmate who is also being humiliated. They meet in the school stairwell to share stories and later take summer excursions out of town, and suffer a stunning final encounter with their adversaries, during which one of the culprits explains the unexpected and startling reasons behind the attacks. This incident is particularly harrowing, and Kawakami unflinchingly takes the reader through the abyss of depraved, dehumanizing behavior with keen psychological insight, brilliant sensitivity, and compassionate understanding. With this, the author’s star continues to rise.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring McElroy, Ripatrazone, Shepard, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Alex McElroy, our own Nick Ripatrazone, Jim Shepard, 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 Atmospherians by Alex McElroy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Atmospherians: “McElroy’s impressive debut novel (after the chapbook Daddy Issues) lands a well-crafted jab at toxic masculinity and attempts to control it. Sasha Marcus, creator of a popular wellness brand for women, is a social media sensation until her foul response to an internet troll gets her cancelled. Suddenly unemployed, at home, and with men’s rights activists demonstrating outside her apartment, Sasha is desperate. So when her visionary if misguided childhood friend, Dyson, reaches out with a proposal to start a cult, Sasha agrees. Housed at an abandoned property, the cult—named The Atmosphere—has one mission: to save white men from themselves. Dyson, a failed actor with an eating disorder, recruits the men under the false pretense of job training. Operations begin with men being forced to purge their food after meals, followed by hard labor around the property and therapy sessions with Sasha. As the pressure builds and a job offer lingers in Sasha’s voicemail, her friendship with Dyson is tested. Things worsen when The Atmosphere appears in the news, and Sasha is presumed to be the sole leader. The author conveys Sasha’s dilemma in rich prose and haunting images, using a finely honed satirical lens. This notable debut makes hay with the miasma of contemporary culture.”

In the Event of Contact by Ethel Rohan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Event of Contact: “Rohan (The Weight of Him) delivers a striking collection about loners. In the title story, Ruth copes with an extreme aversion to touch, which began in kindergarten after a boy’s constant touching caused her to have a seizure. As a teen, Ruth is taught at home by a private tutor, a man whose inappropriate methods to cure Ruth shocks her two triplet sisters. In ‘Everywhere She Went,’ a 26-year-old narrator is reminded of her friend Hazel, who went missing when they were children, after her boyfriend mentions a co-worker with the same name. The narrator is haunted all over again by foggy memories of her friend, and reflects on how the disappearance has made it difficult for her to bond with others ever since. In ‘Rare, but Not Impossible,’ Margo returns home to Dublin from New York City for a friend’s wedding, disappointed to find her parents didn’t make the trek to the airport for her. While describing Margo’s cab ride, Rohan writes, ‘No matter where she was, she never sounded like she belonged.’ Margo’s role in the wedding makes her feel more isolated and alienated. Rohan makes the most of situations in which her protagonists grapple with what it feels like to be different and unable to be close with others. This is worth a look.”

Nervous System by Lina Meruane (translated by Megan McDowell)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nervous System: “Chilean writer Meruane’s razor-sharp novel (after Seeing Red) follows a young woman struggling to complete a dissertation in astrophysics. Ella’s doctoral work is going nowhere; she can’t even decide on a topic, something she keeps secret from her partner, El, and her father, who has poured his life savings into her education. (Her father, in turn, has kept his investment in her education a secret from Ella’s stepmother and half siblings.) Desperate, Ella invokes the spirit of her mother, who died in childbirth, praying for her to afflict her with a disease that will excuse her from her teaching responsibilities. Obsession with illness and injury is the overriding subject of the narrative—Ella manifests an undiagnosable spinal pain, El is injured in an explosion, her stepmother’s breast cancer returns. Her father, himself a doctor, is hospitalized. Meruane is a writer of undeniable talent; her portrayal of the body as a site of suffering is nuanced and unflinching. The years of dictatorship and ‘still-undiscovered graves’ in Ella’s unnamed ‘preterit country,’ and the migrant ‘problem’ in her ‘country of the present,’ where people speak a different language, add more dark layers. While there isn’t much in the way of momentum, on a sentence level it’s unimpeachable. The result is a challenge, but one that gives the reader much to chew on.”

Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Let the Record Show: “Novelist and AIDS activist Schulman (Maggie Terry) recounts the successes and failures of the New York chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in this fine-grained history. Drawing on interviews with 188 members of ACT UP New York, Schulman showcases the diverse array of people who worked to raise awareness about AIDS, and notes their simultaneous involvement in related issues including homelessness, gender inequity in medicine, and needle exchange programs. She also explains how ACT UP New York leveraged an ‘inside/outside’ strategy in which some members worked collaboratively with politicians and health officials while others created dramatic acts of protest, such as the 1989 infiltration of the New York Stock Exchange, when seven activists handcuffed themselves to a banister in a VIP balcony and threw fake hundred-dollar bills onto the trading room floor to pressure a pharmaceutical company to lower the $10,000-per-year price tag of the AIDS medication AZT. Readers less familiar with ACT UP may wish for a clearer explanation of its organizational structure and more narrative cohesion than Schulman provides. Still, her firsthand perspective and copious details provide a valuable testament to the courage and dedication of many unheralded activists.”

Phase Six by Jim Shepard

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Phase Six: “In this disappointing apocalyptic thriller from Shepard (The Book of Aron), a pandemic—exponentially more lethal than Covid-19—originates in a remote Greenland village and spreads worldwide, infecting millions within weeks. Eleven-year old Aleq, one of the only survivors of the initial outbreak, may hold the key to finding a way to stop the seemingly uncontainable contagion. The CDC tasks two investigators, epidemiologist Jeannie Dziri and lab wonk Danice Torrone, to inspect the decimated village in hopes of finding clues to head off a looming global disaster. While Dziri tries to find insights in the emotionally battered boy’s memories, Torrone crunches data in a race against time as more people become sick and die horrific deaths. The author has clearly done some impressive research into infectious diseases, but some readers may have a visceral reaction—not so much because of the heartbreaking similarities to the coronavirus and the millions who have died because of it, but because of the plot’s predictability and the lack of an ending. Shepard has done better.”

Also on shelves this week: Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho and Wild Belief: Poets and Prophets in the Wilderness by our own Nick Ripatrazone.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Peynado, Feng, Blau, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Brenda Peynado, Linda Rui Feng, Jessica Anya Blau, 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 Rock Eaters by Brenda Peynado

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Rock Eaters: “Peynado probes the limits of reckoning with such dilemmas as otherness, loss, and love in her glorious debut, a collection of inventive and fabulist stories. Here, pendulous stones sprout from the body (‘The Stones of Sorrow Lake’), an American-made ‘supertruck’ takes X-rays of vehicles suspected of drug trafficking in Venezuela (‘The Radioactives’), and spindly-legged, purple-faced aliens became enthralled by such unremarkable human activity as kite flying (‘The Kite Maker’). Rich social commentary on immigration, xenophobia, and right-wing Christianity underlie the title story, which follows first-generation immigrants returning to their unspecified Latin American island home with the gift of flying, ‘blotting the sky with [their] billowing skirts… skidding to rough landings.’ Their children likewise develop flying skills upon reaching puberty; however, in an ironic twist, the children devour rocks to moor themselves to the island. In ‘Thoughts and Prayers,’ birdlike angels preside over suburban homes where those with the ‘best’ angels are sanctified with material wealth and fortunate circumstances, but those who are ‘unlucky’ (read non-Christian, Hindu, Indian-American) endure a slew of catastrophes: school shootings, mental illness, and job loss. The perceptive ‘Whitest Girl’ highlights Latinx Catholic high school students’ fascination with whiteness. These alluring stories make powerful use of their fantastical motifs, enhancing the realities of the characters’ lives. The author’s skillful storytelling soars.”

Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Swimming Back to Trout River: “Feng’s striking debut novel (after the nonfiction work City of Marvel and Transformation) chronicles what happens to a young Chinese family in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. In 1981, five-year-old Junie, who was born without legs, is sent to live with her grandparents in Trout River, a small village. Junie’s father, Momo, has left China for America to seek a better future, with her mother, Cassia, due to follow. Both parents bear the weight of the Cultural Revolution: Momo sacrificed his dreams of becoming a violinist and his friendship with fellow musician Dawn, whose own story forms a minor plotline, while Cassia witnessed the horrifying death of a man she loved while under interrogation by revolutionaries. The novel traces the adults’ attempts to seek reconciliation within themselves and with each other, while Junie’s closeness with her grandparents—and ensuing determination to remain in Trout River despite her father’s wishes—lends brief but emotional drama. Feng captures humor and grief in equal measures, such as a scene with an airport security official who mistakes the ashes of Cassia’s stillborn boy for ‘baby powder,’ and she elegantly references Chinese concepts of fate and luck while building toward a poignant conclusion. This resonates from page one.”

V for Victory by Lissa Evans

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about V for Victory: “A middle-aged London woman takes in a 14-year-old boy during WWII in Evans’s beguiling sequel to Crooked Heart. In 1944, Vee Sedge continues living as Margery Overs, aunt of Noel Bostock, to maintain custody of Noel and others abandoned during the war. After Vee sees a man fatally struck by a van, she is called to testify in court, where she maintains her ruse as Margery, who is deceased, and recalls her fear when previously appearing before a magistrate’s court for alleged theft. As the bombing of London continues, meanwhile, Air Raid Precautions Warden Winnie Crowther works tirelessly as she ponders her future after the war and hopes her husband, Emlyn, returns from a POW camp. After Vee is blackmailed by someone threatening to expose her fraud, she reveals the details of the blackmailing to Noel, who has a secret of his own, and the bond between them grows stronger. A host of quirky characters adds levity to the frequent deadly bombing raids as the stories of Vee, Noel, and the Crowthers intersect. Evans’s down-to-earth tale will hook readers from the first page.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mary Jane: “Blau (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties) returns with a sweet if simplistic coming-of-age story about a teenage girl’s influential encounter with a rock star couple in 1975 Baltimore. Mary Jane Dillard, 14, the responsible daughter of country-clubbing, conservative Betsy and Gerald, takes a job as a nanny for her parents’ free-spirited acquaintances, the Cones: Richard, a psychiatrist; and Bonnie, his bohemian wife. The Cones need Mary Jane’s help with their five-year-old daughter while hosting celebrity couple Jimmy and Sheba as part of Jimmy’s group therapy treatment for his alcohol and drug addiction. Jimmy sings in a popular band, and Sheba stars in a variety show. Soon Mary Jane uses her choir voice to sing in harmony with Jimmy and Sheba, and as she witnesses both couples’ emotional outbursts and unadulterated shows of affection, she gains a deeper understanding of the potential of human relationships and of her own musical talent. Mary Jane’s narration can be cloying (‘I wondered if the addict would look like the addicts I’d seen downtown from the window of the car,’ Mary Jane thinks, anticipating Jimmy’s arrival), and the narrative arc, though shaped by Mary Jane’s eye-opening exposure to the realities of adulthood, is not particularly sophisticated. Still, this might please readers looking to indulge their ’70s nostalgia.”

Also debuting this week: Flares by Christopher Merrill.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Cusk, Pham, Silber, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Rachel Cusk, Larissa Pham, Joan Silber, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. ant to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Second Place by Rachel Cusk

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Second Place: “Cusk’s intelligent, sparkling return (after Kudos) centers on a woman in crisis. The narrator, M, is a writer living on an isolated coastal marsh with her second husband, Tony. They have built a guest cabin on their property, which they call the ‘second place.’ Through a mutual friend, M invites a painter, L, to stay in the cabin. L’s art deeply affected M 15 years earlier when she was a young mother and was struck by the work’s ‘freedom’ and how it was ‘elementally and unrepentingly male down to the last brushstroke.’ To her surprise, L accepts, before canceling. M’s daughter, Justine, and her new boyfriend, Kurt, who reminds M of her first husband, move into the cabin just before L shows up with a gorgeous young woman named Brett. The characters enter an uneasy equilibrium on the marsh as allusions of a global financial disaster fill in the backdrop. L paints portraits of everyone except M—which devastates her. Cusk expertly handles the logistics of the crowded setting, building tension as the characters form unexpected, temporary alliances—Kurt and L, Brett and Justine—and M’s isolation increases. There is the erudition of the author’s Outline trilogy here, but with a tightly contained dramatic narrative. It’s a novel that feels timeless, while dealing with ferocious modern questions.”

Pop Song by Larissa Pham

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pop Song: “Pham reinvents the memoir in a stirring debut that explores the power of language, art, and love. As an Asian American woman who felt alienated early on in her life, she poured herself into studying art and poetry to reconcile her need for closeness. In 11 essays, she interrogates desire in all its forms, beginning with an evocative piece about finding solace in the act of running. She aspires to the ‘affable stride’ of fellow runner and novelist Haruki Murakami, but instead she runs ‘as if trying to lose my mind.’ Throughout, Pham examines the emotionality of other artists’ and writers’ work and lives—from Barthes to Georgia O’Keeffe to Louise Bourgeois—as a way to better understand her own. In ‘Blue,’ she reflects on escaping mental burnout in New Mexico, and remembers the painter Agnes Martin’s flight from New York, after a schizophrenic episode: ‘Agnes’s voices and visions didn’t inform her art-making process, but… dictated her actions—where to be, what to eat, what to own.’ Ever-present, too, is the haunting of past lovers and her own sexuality, captured in prose that’s both beautiful and gutting. ‘If I could own it… become a woman with agency. It wouldn’t matter if I still hurt. At least I’d be able to describe it.’ This is a masterpiece.”

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sorrowland: “Solomon’s outstanding third novel (after The Deep) revisits the themes of memory and responsibility through two new lenses: horror and contemporary thriller. Vern, an albino, intersex, Black child raised in a cult known as the Blessed Acres of Cain, flees to the woods as a seven-months-pregnant 15-year-old, giving birth to twins she names Howling and Feral. The new family is pursued by ‘the fiend,’ who appears to the nearly blind Vern as ‘a white blur.’ The fiend scatters animal carcasses throughout the woods (often pointedly targeting animal families to send a message to Vern and her children) and sets dangerous fires. For four years Vern raises her twins without other human contact, until a cataclysmic encounter with the fiend, fearsome changes in her own body, and relentless hauntings drive her to seek answers in the world outside the woods. This plot is the most accessible of Solomon’s work to date, but they use the deceptively simple story to delve deep into Vern’s struggle to forge her own identity without buckling under the weight of history. As in their debut, An Unkindness of Ghosts, Solomon often packs so much into each image that the result can be overwhelming. They display a maturing control of their craft, employing a breathtaking range of reference that will enable any reader, from horror geek to Derridean academic, to engage with this thrilling tale. This is a tour de force.”

A Lonely Man by Chris Power

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Lonely Man: “In this beguiling literary thriller about the ethics of storytelling, Power (Mothers) examines the plundering tendencies of oligarchs and writers alike. Robert Prowe, an English novelist living in Berlin, strikes up a friendship with fellow writer Patrick Unsworth, who shares an outlandish tale: having been hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of dissident Russian oligarch Sergei Vanyashin and entrusted with compromising information about Putin’s regime, he is now being tracked by Russian agents. Moreover, Vanyashin and various figures in his circle have died under suspicious circumstances. Robert can’t decide if his new acquaintance is lying or ‘playing out some fantasy,’ but decides to use Patrick’s story, without his permission, as the basis for a new novel. Robert’s ‘twenty-four fucking carat’ material comes with a cost, as ominous signs emerge that he and his family could be in danger. For a novel filled with so much trickery, there are some slack sections, for example, when Robert prepares his family’s summer house in Sweden or returns to London for a funeral. Furthermore, the bond between the two men isn’t quite magnetic enough for the reader to feel the sting of the eventual vampiric betrayal. By and large, though, Power maintains an elegant sense of intrigue around the lengths writers will go for a good story.”

The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Parted Earth: “Enjeti documents the impact of India’s Partition on successive generations in her immersive debut novel (after the essay collection Southbound). In 1947, British India is on the brink of being decolonized, with the lives of millions hanging in the balance. Hindu teenager Deepa Khanna’s doctor parents confront escalating hostilities from Hindu Indians because of their willingness to treat Muslims, while Deepa becomes secretly attracted to her Muslim friend Amir. After Deepa’s parents are killed in an attack, she moves to London and Amir leaves for Pakistan. The story then shifts to Deepa’s granddaughter Shan, who, following a miscarriage and subsequent divorce in 2016, begins digging into her past, finally uncovering the reason for her grandmother’s aloofness. Deepa’s experience renders her ‘unknowable’ to Shan, filling Deepa with a grief that ‘seemed to burden generations of Khannas’ with guilt. Meanwhile, other stories emerge of the Partition, from characters such as Shan’s neighbor, Chandani Singh, who supports Shan through her difficulties, and Chandani’s late husband, Harjeet, spinning an increasingly broad set of voices. While no less affecting, these supporting accounts receive an imbalanced, sometimes disproportionate attention that can detract from the novel’s main characters. Still, this intergenerational account of remembering and reconciliation sits comfortably alongside works of its kind.”

Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Things We Lost to the Water: “Nguyen’s captivating debut spans three decades to chronicle the lives of a Vietnamese refugee family. In 1978, Hư ơ ng arrives in New Orleans with her two sons, five-year-old Tuấ n and infant Bì nh. They settle in the Versailles Arms project on the eastern outskirts of the city, where the hurricane alarm reminds Hương of the war, and she mails tape recordings to Cô ng, the husband she left behind. Her messages receive no reply until finally, in a terse postcard, Công urges her to forget him. Hương tells her sons their father died, and over the years, the boys grow to follow different paths. In 1991, Tuấn falls in with a Vietnamese gang, the Southern Boyz. The next summer, Bình, who insists everyone call him Ben, takes refuge in books and a romance with an older white boy. A couple years later, Ben finds Hương’s old letters to Công and confronts her, shattering their increasingly fragile bond. As the characters spin away from each other, Nguyen keeps a keen eye on their struggles and triumphs, crafting an expansive portrayal of New Orleans’s Vietnamese community under the ever-present threat of flooding, and the novel builds to a haunting conclusion during Hurricane Katrina. Readers will find this gripping and illuminating.”

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Secret of Happiness: “A crushing indiscretion comes to light in the sharp latest from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Silber (Improvement). The story is initially narrated by Ethan, a gay Manhattan attorney who discovers his businessman father, Gil, has led a secret double life after Gil is hit with a paternity suit by a Thai woman named Nok. Gil suffers several strokes and decides to recover with his Thai family, and awkward visitations ensue at Nok’s apartment, where Gil calls Nok Abby, Ethan’s mother’s name. The situation’s emotional complexity unfolds and expands through accounts from a diverse range of interconnected narrators, juggled by Silber with uncanny dexterity. In addition to witty and genially confident Ethan, there’s Abby, who now teaches English in Thailand; Ethan’s half brother, Joe, who feels uneasy about the return from Bangkok of his younger brother Jack, whom Joe had recently freed from jail by bribing the police; various characters’ ex-lovers and their exes; a Nepalese film director; and others. These perspectives become an extended family of sorts conjoined by love yet tormented by the past. As more layers peel away across continents, the fallout of Gil’s affair trickles down through Silber’s intricate and emotionally elaborate study of emotional ties. This mesmerizing story of love, lies, and the consequences of betrayal brims with heart and intelligence.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lahiri, Washuta, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jhumpa Lahiri, Elissa Washuta, 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.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Whereabouts: “The latest from Pulitzer winner Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies) is a meditative and aching snapshot of a life in suspension. The unnamed narrator, a single, middle-aged woman, lives a quiet life in an unnamed Italian city, ambling between cafes and storefronts, dinner parties with friends, and a leisurely career as a writer and teacher. The tranquil surface of her life belies a deeper unrest: a frayed, distant relationship with her widowed mother, romantic longings projected onto unavailable friends, and constant second-guessing of the paths her life has taken. The novel is told in short vignettes introducing a new scene and characters whose relationships are fertile ground for Lahiri’s impressive powers of observation. In a museum, for instance, sunlight refracted through the glass roof ‘brightens and darkens the room in turns. It’s a panorama that makes me think of the sea, of swimming in a clear blue patch underwater.’ Throughout, Lahiri’s poetic flourishes and spare, conversational prose are on full display. This beautifully written portrait of a life in passage captures the hopes, frustrations, and longings of solitude and remembrance.”

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Folklorn: “Blurring the lines between sci-fi and fantasy, Hur’s sophomore novel (after The Queens of K-Town) offers a complex meditation on intergenerational trauma. While working at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, Korean-American physicist Elsa Park suffers sudden tinnitus and sees her imaginary friend from childhood. This sparks memories of the time Elsa’s mother gave her a now lost collection of four Korean folktales and warned her that all the women in their family are doomed to live out their plots. To understand what’s happening to her, Elsa consults Oskar Gantelius, a Swedish Korean adoptee and linguistics professor who specializes in Korean folktales and also serves as Elsa’s love interest, though their relationship is given little development. But before the pair can make sense of Elsa’s episodes, her mother dies, driving Elsa to find the folktales and figure out how to apply them to her own life. The honest look at prickly Elsa’s internalized racism is ambitious but often brutal in its unflinching execution, and the third act twist relies on an outdated take on mental illness. Despite the unconvincing romance between Oskar and Elsa, their conversations on minority life in majority white spaces are painfully accurate. This thought-provoking work will appeal to SFF fans who like their talk of particle physics side by side with fox spirits and fairy tales.”

White Magic by Elissa Washuta

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about White Magic: “Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules), a creative writing professor at Ohio State, offers in this collection of tender reckonings ‘a book about how my heart was broken’ and her attempts to heal it. Washuta recounts her struggles with sobriety, relationships, and the ‘tyrannical rule’ of PTSD in her life. In search of healing, Washuta, a Native woman and occult enthusiast, examined the differences between ‘white magic’ and misaligned, ‘malicious’ black magic, and sought out ‘a version of the occult that isn’t built on plunder.’ In ‘Little Lies,’ Washuta reflects on a D.A.R.E. drunk-driving ad soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins, and ‘The Spirit Cabinet’ is an episodic collection of ‘synchronicities’ often about her ex-boyfriend, featuring quotes from magician David Blaine. The most eloquent section highlights her grief moving through a world built on violence toward Native peoples: ‘I have lost my land, my language,’ she writes. Her prose is crisp and precise, and the references hit spot-on (such as her fascination with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who travels through the underworld, and with Twin Peaks, ‘a show about the unexplained, the mystical, and the cycles of violence and neglect to which women find themselves tethered’). Fans of the personal essay are in for a treat.”

Also on shelves this week: My Good Son by Yang Huang.

Bonus Links:
Found in Translation: On Jhumpa Lahiri and ‘Whereabouts’
Lydia Davis and Jhumpa Lahiri Learn New Languages
Another Mask: On Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘In Other Words’

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Wright, Zauner, Simon, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Richard Wright, Michelle Zauner, our own Ed Simon, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. ant to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Man Who Lived Underground: “The power and pain of Wright’s writing are evident in this wrenching novel, which was rejected by his publisher in 1942, shortly after the release of Native Son. Fred Daniels, a Black man who lives in an unidentified American city, is on his way home after a hard day’s work for the Wootens, a well-to-do white couple. Before he can reunite with his pregnant wife, Rachel, Daniels is unjustly seized by three white cops for the murder of the Wootens’ next-door neighbors. After he’s beaten, Daniels signs a confession, naively hoping that doing so will enable him to see Rachel. The cops take him to see her (‘No one can say we mistreated him if we let ’im see his old lady, hunh?’ one says), and she goes into labor, necessitating a rush to the hospital, which provides an opportunity for Daniels to escape. From that point forward, Daniels hides out in the sewers. Wright makes the impact of racist policing palpable as the story builds to a gut-punch ending, and the inclusion of his essay ‘Memories of My Grandmother’ illuminates his inspiration for the book. This nightmarish tale of racist terror resonates.”

Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? by Jenny Diski

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?: “This effortlessly readable posthumous essay collection from Diski (1947–2016) (In Gratitude) shows her at her best. In ‘A Feeling for Ice,’ she writes about her troubled childhood and her longing to visit Antarctica: ‘I wanted white and ice as far as the eye could see.’ ‘It Wasn’t Him, It Was Her’ explores the reputation of Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, known primarily for having ‘corrupted Nietzsche’s work.’ ‘He Could Afford It’ investigates Howard Hughes’s obsessive compulsions: ‘What made Hughes remarkable,’ she writes, is that ‘there was no practical reason for him to try to control his madness.’ In ‘I Haven’t Been Nearly Mad Enough,’ she compares writer Barbara Taylor’s memories of mental institutionalization with her own: in the midst of fear, both found a sense of community. Diski’s works are varied and surprising, and she puts a fresh spin on the personal essay with her bracing, singular prose, never veering into self-indulgence: ‘One of the basic beliefs we all have… is that we are who we are because we know that by definition there can be only one of us. I’m Jenny Diski. You therefore aren’t.’ To miss these essays would be a shame.”

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Crying in H Mart: “Musician Zauner debuts with an earnest account of her Korean-American upbringing, musical career, and the aftermath of her mother’s death. She opens with a memory of a visit to an Asian American supermarket, where, among fellow shoppers who were ‘searching for a piece of home, or a piece of ourselves,’ Zauner was able to grieve the death of her mother, Chongmi, with whom she had a difficult relationship. Her white American father met her mother in Seoul in 1983, and Zauner immigrated as an infant to Eugene, Ore. In Zauner’s teenage years in the late 2000s, Chongmi vehemently opposed Zauner’s musical dreams and, in one outburst, admitted to having an abortion after Zauner’s birth ‘because you were such a terrible child!’ The confession caused a rift that lasted almost six years, until Zauner learned of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. After Chongmi’s death in 2014, Zauner’s career took off, and during a sold-out concert in Seoul, Zauner writes, she realized her success ‘revolved around [my mother’s] death, that the songs… memorialized her.’ The prose is lyrical if at times overwrought, but Zauner does a good job capturing the grief of losing a parent with pathos. Fans looking to get a glimpse into the inner life of this megawatt pop star will not be disappointed.”

An Alternative History of Pittsburgh by Ed Simon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about An Alternative History of Pittsburgh: “Pittsburgh native Simon (Furnace of this World), a staff writer at The Millions, explores ‘the major thematic concerns’ of his hometown in this rich and idiosyncratic history. Beginning 300 million years ago, when Allegheny County was the swampy domain of giant amphibians and ‘sun-dappled mangroves,’ the petrified remains of which formed western Pennsylvania’s extensive coal deposits, Simon spotlights ‘representative moments’ from the region’s history, including the founding (c. 1142) of the Iroquois Confederacy by the Great Peacemaker, Deganawidah, and his follower, Hiawatha, and the birth of composer Stephen Foster in Pittsburgh on July 4, 1862. Simon also details Andrew Carnegie’s roots in the radical socialist politics of mid-19th-century Europe and sketches the steel baron’s rise from ‘bobbin-boy in a weaver’s shop’ to ‘the richest man who ever lived’; notes the influences of Pittsburgh on famous sons including playwright August Wilson, jazz composer Billy Strayhorn, and artist Andy Warhol; and details how Democratic mayor David Lawrence and Republican financier Richard King Mellon partnered in the late 1940s to ‘completely redesign’ the city’s ‘gritty, decayed, rusting core.’ Though consequential events such as the collapse of the U.S. steel industry get relatively short shrift, Simon marshals his historical snapshots into an incisive survey of the region and its inhabitants. Even Pittsburgh history buffs will learn something new.”

Also on shelves this week: We Are Bridges by Cassandra Lane and Permafrost by Eva Baltasar.

Bonus Link:
The Ed Simon Archives

Tuesday New Release Day: Lispector, McCracken, Ozick, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Clarice Lispector, Elizabeth McCracken, Cynthia Ozick, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Apprenticeship, or the Book of Pleasures by Clarice Lispector (translated by Stefan Tobler)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Apprenticeship: “Lispector’s dense and singular romance (after The Besieged City), first published in Brazil in 1969, arrives in a rich new translation from Tobler and illuminating afterword by Sheila Heti. Lóri, a primary school teacher leading a solitary existence in Rio de Janeiro and unable to stomach her ‘bourgeois middle class’ milieu, becomes captivated by the elusive Ulisses, a philosophy professor and self-described excellent teacher (‘basically I like to hear myself talk about things that interest me,’ he explains). The two speak on the phone, meet for drinks, and visit a local swimming pool, but Ulisses tells Lóri she’s not ready for the relationship he wants, a claim that drives the bulk of Lori’s stream-of-consciousness analysis (‘she was bound to him because she wanted to be desired’). Ulisses speaks often of his ‘apprenticeship’ to something only aspired to—he’s ‘in the middle’ of it, he says, but Lóri feels he’s ‘infinitely further along’ than she is. The purpose of their apprenticeship is never expressed, though one of Lóri’s goals is to feel ‘alive through pleasure’ instead of pain, and Heti’s revealing afterword leaves the reader with much to chew on. This deep immersion into the vicissitudes of love will delight Lispector devotees.”

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Souvenir Museum: “McCracken’s sly, emotionally complex collection (after Bowlaway) focuses on characters uprooted from their usual surroundings. In ‘The Irish Wedding,’ Jack Valerts brings his new love, Sadie Brody, from Boston to Ireland to meet his family at the wedding of his older sister, where Sadie confronts for the first time the slapstick and sometimes threatening dynamics of the Valerts while holding her own with a quick wit. ‘Miss Mickle All at Sea’ follows the increasingly fraught mental state of an actor known for playing the villain on a children’s show as she travels from Amsterdam, where she’s been celebrating New Year’s Eve, back to England, in the company of an elderly balloon animal artist. In ‘Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark,’ four-year-old Cody’s two fathers take him to a German-themed water park in Galveston, Tex., where older father Bruno’s fear of drowning comically affects his negotiation of a wave pool. McCracken has a gift for surprising similes—’shoes damp as oysters’; ‘bored lifeguards, staring like unemployed goats’—that ignite the reader’s imagination, making great fun out of ordinary settings and scenery. Each story opens to reveal a whole life spent within the web of a family, chosen or not. Full of gems, this collection is a winner.”

Farthest South & Other Stories by Ethan Rutherford

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Farthest South & Other Stories: “Rutherford (The Peripatetic Coffin) grips with evocative detail and subtle rhythms in this accomplished collection, where doubt and danger simmer underneath the surface. Illustrations by Anders Nilsen, often featuring animals or children in stark scenes of nature, reinforce the motif. In ‘Ghost Story,’ a father tells a bedtime story about ‘the seal lady’ to his young sons while waiting for his wife to return home after her nightly swim. The effects of a story being told on its listeners is more explicit in ‘Fable,’ an eerie tale involving a fox and a dead child (‘each scene, familiar and not, had emerged as though from some shrouded, timeless woods, taken physical shape on the table in front of them’). ‘Angus and Annabel’ centers on two young siblings who grieve their dead mother. The younger one, Annabel, makes ‘poppets,’ dolls with sticks and berries like their mother had taught them, an act that unsettles Angus as sparrows circle overhead. In the title story, an Antarctic expedition including children and dogs is stranded in ice near the South Pole, and those who survive are visited nightly by the skulls of those who died. Throughout, Rutherford conveys an organic, insidious creepiness. These fresh and provocative yarns are spun with craft of a high order.”

Nancy by Bruno Lloret (translated by Ellen Jones)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nancy: “Lloret’s crushingly dark English-language debut follows a lonely, recent widow who’s dying from cancer as she reflects on her life in Chile. After her diagnosis, Nancy lost her husband when he was sucked into a tuna processor at work. He was drunk at the time, so she didn’t receive any insurance money. With nothing left, Nancy reminisces about her childhood with a brother who vanished one day, a sad father who turned to Mormonism late in life, and an emotionally and psychologically abusive mother who abandoned them. There is no joy or humor here, but the writing shines with piercing descriptions of pain, drawn up in increasingly fractured minimalist prose. Blocks of heavy Xs appear as forced pauses that dictate the rhythm of Nancy’s consciousness and forge black, angular reminders of death: ‘I slept in snatches full of sad dreams XXXX the kind you never remember after you wake up, but still, when you open your eyes there’s a real ache in your chest.’ Old Testament passages open each chapter (‘Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee’) and often trigger memories with stark brutality, such as Nancy’s mother’s threats to sell her to the Romany as a child. This visually striking fever dream is one worth braving.”

Antiquities by Cynthia Ozick

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Antiquities: “Ozick (Foreign Bodies) delivers a beguiling novel of a man living in the past. In 1949, Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, a retired lawyer estranged from his friends and his only son, has returned to live at the Temple Academy, the boarding school he attended as a child, which has been converted into a makeshift retirement home for its trustees. There, with his beloved Remington typewriter, he labors over his memoirs. His account revolves around two axes: his childhood fascination with the archaeological adventures in Egypt of his distant cousin Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, which Lloyd’s father impulsively joined, and a school-age infatuation with a mysterious classmate, Ben-Zion Elefantin, who claimed to be from Egypt. Ozick is adept at capturing the vicissitudes of fading memory or flashes of lucid insight, and she unspools the story at a brisk pace. While Petrie’s lively venom and wit are sometimes overdone by Ozick’s overwrought efforts to develop his private-school mannerisms (Ben-Zion Elefantin has a ‘farcical pachyderm name’; Temple retains ‘Oxonian genuflections’), the novel becomes a fascinating portrait of isolation, memory, and loss as Petrie’s health and the state of Temple become more perilous. While it doesn’t reach the heights of her greatest work, this is impressive nonetheless.”

Also on shelves this week: Southbound by Anjali Enjeti.

Bonus Links:
A Horribly Marvelous and Delicate Abyss: ‘The Complete Stories’ by Clarice Lispector
Evenings with Clarice Lispector’s Newest Translator
My Hour of the Star: On Clarice Lispector
A Story Made Purely of Feeling: The Millions Interviews Cynthia Ozick
The Good Place: The Millions Interviews Elizabeth McCracken
‘Bowlaway’: Featured Fiction from Elizabeth McCracken
A Year in Reading 2008: Elizabeth McCracken
A Year in Reading 2018: Elizabeth McCracken