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

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Isabel Allende, Danez Smith, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Jeanine Cummins, Kyle Chayka, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

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

Homie by Danez Smith

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

The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg

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

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

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

Heart of Junk by Luke Geddes

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

The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao

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

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

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Wiener, Greenwell, Jin, Hurston, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Anna Wiener, Garth Greenwell, Meng Jin, Zora Neale Hurston, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Uncanny Valley: “Technology journalist Wiener looks at Silicon Valley life in this insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry. In 2013, Wiener left an assistant job at a New York literary agency to work for an e-book start-up run by young men who were uninterested in reading books. That job led to a move to San Francisco, where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. Wiener humorously describes the employee perks at the office (‘a miniature theme park’ with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy), though she decided to primarily work from home ‘in sagging leggings.’ Wiener writes of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry that lacked diversity; attended lavish work events—at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lake Tahoe—while San Francisco’s homeless population increased; communicated with coworkers using just emoji; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. She eventually became disillusioned with her job (‘I was burning out and failing up’) and left in 2018 to pursue writing, but not before buying up her vested stock options. Wiener is an entertaining writer, and those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at life in Silicon Valley will want to take a look.”

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cleanness: “A young American teacher’s reckonings with intimacy and alienation compose the through line of Greenwell’s elegant and melancholy volume (after What Belongs to You). Nine stories track the unnamed narrator, who teaches literature in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. Documenting the narrator’s relationship with R., a Portuguese university student, and its dissolution, the stories are touchstones in his emotional development, from an attempt to shepherd a student through the crisis of first love in ‘Mentor,’ to an encounter with homophobia in the midst of an outpouring of national solidarity in ‘Decent People.’ As the teacher’s hopes of a life with R. fade, he returns to sex with men he meets online, which proves both dangerous, as in the chilling ‘Gospodar,’ and revelatory, as in his encounter with the self-abnegation of the young man he calls Svetcheto, ‘Little Saint.’ Unresolved regarding his own character, ‘how little sense of myself I have, how there was no end to what I could want or to the punishment I would seek,’ the narrator struggles to guide the young people he teaches, conscious of the chasm of experience and expectation between them. Greenwell writes about sex as a mercurial series of emotional states and is lyrical and precise in his descriptions of desires and motivations he suggests are not subject to control or understanding. This is a piercingly observant and meticulously reflective narrative.”

Little Gods by Meng Jin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Little Gods: “Jin’s stunning debut follows 17-year-old Liya on her journey to China with the ashes of her recently deceased mother, a mysterious and mercurial woman whom Liya both loved and resented. Su Lan, her mother, was a former physicist from China who died in America, where she had lived and worked for nearly two decades. Intertwined with Liya’s grief-stricken quest is the voice of Zhu Wen, Su Lan’s former neighbor in Shanghai, whose memory of Su Lan as a beautiful, charismatic, and fiercely brilliant physics student in a happy marriage to a handsome doctor does not square with the woman Liya knows. The third narrative strand belongs to Yongzong, Su Lan’s husband and Liya’s father, who has long lost touch with Su Lan and has never known Liya. Liya arrives in China with only her mother’s last known address, in Shanghai, where Su Lan had once lived with Yongzong. On first meeting Zhu Wen there, Liya realizes just how little she knew about her mother. Liya then visits the small mountain village where her mother was raised, and goes to Beijing, where she finds out what happened during the night of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when she was born and Su Lan began to transform from a promising young student to a living ghost. Artfully composed and emotionally searing, Jin’s debut about lost girls, bottomless ambition, and the myriad ways family members can hurt and betray one another is gripping from beginning to end. This is a beautiful, intensely moving debut.”

We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Wish You Luck: “Zancan’s inventive, addictive second novel (after Local Girls) follows the bonds, ambitions, and betrayals within a group of aspiring writers at a low-residency MFA program. The book is narrated as a collective ‘we’ by the students at competitive Fielding College, but the story focuses on three particular students: Leslie, a spitfire who wants to write erotica and make money; Hannah, who attracts Leslie’s attention after she submits in workshop a short story about a young woman who has lost her mother; and Jimmy, a talented poet whose mysterious background is a source of gossip in the program. Also at Fielding is their teacher, Simone, a new faculty member and former model with a bestselling debut novel under her belt. Zancan spends much of the first act wittily conveying the unique textures of a writing program, and convincingly shows the closeness that develops between Leslie, Hannah, and Jimmy. But when Jimmy experiences a devastating critique of his poems in a workshop led by Simone, the dark turns of the story are set into motion. Zancan excels at portraying the claustrophobia and competitiveness that can arise when someone is near others who share the same goals. This ambitious novel about love and revenge reads like a thriller, while asking probing questions about what it means to make art and how artists influence each other, for better or worse.”

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: “This arresting collection from Hurston (Barracoon) includes eight previously unpublished works, mostly set in or featuring characters from her hometown of Eatonville, Fla. Many of the stories draw on folklore and mythology to dramatize conflicts around gender, class, and migration. In ‘John Redding Goes to Sea,’ a young boy named John dreams of leaving his small Florida town and continues to dream of leaving after he’s grown up. Delayed at first by his mother, who neither understands nor approves of her son’s wanderlust, and then his wife, John finally gets an opportunity, undaunted by a portentous, impending storm. In ‘Magnolia Flower,’ a young couple’s stealing of time together away from the woman’s overbearing, abusive father is framed as a bedtime story shared by an anthropomorphic river to a splashing brook after it disrupts the river’s slumber (‘ ‘Oh, well,’ the river muttered, ‘I am wide awake now, and I suppose brooks must be humored’’). Hurston ingeniously uses the cadence of her characters’ speech to denote regionalism and class—there’s a marked difference between how her Eatonville characters speak and how her Harlem characters speak. Arranged chronologically, the collection offers an illuminating and delightful study of a canonical writer finding her rhythm.”

Also on shelves this week: Track Changes by Sayed Kashua.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Popkey, Hass, Reid, Palahniuk, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Miranda Popkey, Robert Hass, Kiley Reid, Chuck Palahniuk, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Topics of Conversation: “The women in Popkey’s astute debut bristle with wanting. Readers meet the unnamed narrator in Italy, ‘twenty-one and daffy with sensation,’ where she is working as a nanny for a well-off friend’s younger brothers while her friend leaves her behind in favor of Greek tourists she’s met on the beach. In her third week, she has a late-night conversation with her friend’s mother, Artemisia, an Argentinean psychoanalyst, about their paralleled romantic histories with much older men, both their former professors. These conversations about power, responsibility, and desire, often as they manifest in relationships with men, provide the backbone for the subsequent sections of the novel, which follow the narrator through breakups with friends, with lovers, and motherhood. As the years progress, the narrator’s hyperawareness and cheeky playfulness when it comes to her narrative as something she owns, grows as well. At a new moms meetup in Fresno 14 years after that night in Italy, the narrator asks the rest of the moms to share ‘how we got here.’ The story she herself shares is an echo of the one she told Artemisia, but better, the details burnished and editorialized. Popkey’s prose is overly controlled, but this is nonetheless a searing and cleverly constructed novel and a fine indication of what’s to come from this promising author.”

Summer Snow by Robert Hass

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Summer Snow: “In this ruminative, endlessly clever book, Pulitzer Prize–winner Hass (The Apple Trees at Olema) turns his eye toward nature, love, and even drone strikes, as, when chronicling a visit to a Las Vegas Air Force base for a protest, he juxtaposes the specter of commerce at a nearby casino with headlines detailing drone-related deaths in the Middle East. Though death may be the prevailing theme, these poems are far from dirges, as images of his Northern California environs shimmer with life: ‘you can almost hear the earth sigh/ As it sucks up the rain.’ Hass experiments with form, vacillating between long and short lines, stanzas and long unbroken blocks of verse. His language is lofty but accessible, as in ‘The Archaeology of Plenty,’ a loose, associative riff about finding meaning in a callous and capricious world, in which the poet argues for poetry as a cure for existential dread: ‘reach into your heavy waking,/ The metaphysical nausea that being in your life,/ With its bearing and its strife, its stiffs,/ Its stuff, seems to have produced in you,/ Reduced you to, and make something with a pleasing,/ Or teasing, ring to it.’ Hass is a rarity, a poet’s poet and a reader’s poet who, with this newest endeavor, bestows a precious gift to his audience.”

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Such a Fun Age: “In her debut, Reid crafts a nuanced portrait of a young black woman struggling to define herself apart from the white people in her life who are all too ready to speak and act on her behalf. Emira Tucker knows that the one thing she’s unequivocally good at is taking care of children, specifically the two young daughters, Briar and Catherine, of her part-time employer, Alix Chamberlain. However, about to turn 26 and lose her parents’ health insurance, and while watching her friends snatch up serious boyfriends and enviable promotions, Temple grad Emira starts to feel ashamed about ‘still’ babysitting. This humiliation is stoked after she’s harassed by security personnel at an upscale Philadelphia grocery store where she’d taken three-year-old Briar. Emira later develops a romantic relationship with Kelley, the young white man who captured cellphone video of the altercation, only to discover that Kelley and Alix have a shared and uncomfortable past, one that traps Emira in the middle despite assertions that everyone has her best interests at heart. Reid excels at depicting subtle variations and manifestations of self-doubt, and astutely illustrates how, when coupled with unrecognized white privilege, this emotional and professional insecurity can result in unintended—as well as willfully unseen—consequences. This is an impressive, memorable first outing.”

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling (translated by Jamie Searle Romanelli)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Qualityland: “The latest from Kling (The Kangaroo Chronicles), already in production at HBO, is a hilarious romp through an absurd hypercapitalist dystopia. After the third ‘crisis of the century’ in a decade, a country is renamed QualityLand. There, each person is named after their parents’ professions, has a social media feed specially created by a corporation, and is assigned a level from 1 to 100, which dictates what partner someone can match with, what job someone can have, and so on. Peter Jobless is a low-level metal recycling scrapper who, one day, receives a delivery from TheShop that he didn’t order—not unusual in itself, as TheShop anticipates all desires (its motto is ‘We know what you want’)—but more importantly, that he doesn’t want. Aided by the defective robots living under his shop that he saved from the scrapper, Peter embarks on a journey to return his unwanted delivery. Peter’s quest unfolds against the backdrop of a presidential election, where voters can choose between a maximally intelligent, socialist-minded robot programmed for objectivity, and a celebrity right-wing chef, prone to contradicting himself in the same sentence. No need to guess who’s leading the polls. Sharp and biting, the most implausible aspect of Kling’s novel is the relative note of optimism that ends it. This is spot-on satire.”

Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Consider This: “Palahniuk (Adjustment Day) delivers a fine book on writing, full of advice and anecdotes garnered from his career as a novelist, that will help both those aspiring to write bestsellers and those hoping to write from the heart. His practical tips range from the importance of surprising one’s readers to the need to torment one’s characters. He concludes the book’s nuts-and-bolts component with a troubleshooting chart (he asks those whose beginnings don’t hook readers, ‘Do you begin with a thesis sentence that summarizes, or do you begin by raising a compelling question or possibility?’). Palahniuk also writes about his own life, in recurrent ‘Postcards from the Tour’ sections on the joys and trials of being a famous author (the latter including an incident when a book-signing attendee, angered that Palahniuk refused to sign a Don DeLillo novel, attacked him with a tube full of mice). The book finally rises to a moving emotional crescendo, in a final chapter that shares moments of serendipity from Palahniuk’s time on the road. Reminiscent of Stephen King’s On Writing in never failing to entertain while imparting wisdom, this is an indispensable resource for writers.”

A Year in Reading: Thomas Beckwith

I did a lot of moving this year, both literal and figurative, so it isn’t hard to see why I was drawn to reading tales of instability, of moments when the girders are buckling and the bridge won’t hold up for much longer. Sometimes, this affinity led me to pick books about traumas and disasters, but other times it led me to narratives of a generalized insecurity, be the source of that insecurity economic, social, or romantic. All I wanted to feel this year was a sense of ambient doom, it seemed, and the books I’ll remember in the future are those that delivered, and then some.

Chief among them has to be The New Me by Halle Butler, an excruciating recession fable and one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I suppose it’s not technically a fable, as its plot is grimly realistic, but with its gimlet-eyed view of the precarity and misery of the modern workplace, it earns a spot among the classics of what we might call the Recession Era. The protagonist, Millie, is stuck in an awful temp job, and everything she does to move up or please her superiors inevitably makes it all worse. She writes polite emails, gets all her work done, and (mostly) keeps her gripes to herself, but none of it proves to be enough to keep her afloat in her position. Her struggles will prove familiar to millennials of my particular age cohort, as will the farce that plays out as she vainly attempts to keep her dignity. All her interactions with her boss are somehow both threatening and smarmy, and fairness itself is nothing more than a joke. Eventually, she has no choice but to move back home with her parents, which the book depicts with a masterful grip on her interiority. I found this book unbearably painful, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

I also loved reading Severance, Ling Ma’s excellent debut, which adds the tropes of zombie fiction to the microgenre of the office novel. The book switches back and forth between the recent past and the present, when the world has been wrecked by a brain-frying virus called Shen Fever. The protagonist, Candace, used to work at a Bible publisher, and most of the novel’s flashback sections focus on her time at work. It likely says a lot about me (almost none of it particularly flattering) that I found these flashbacks as thrilling as the action-packed sections in the present, partly because, like Candace, I too have spent time in a number of soul-grinding jobs. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her stubborn pride and industry, which keep her ensconced in a position that’s a little too real for comfort. Like The New Me, Severance illustrates the costs of our economic hellscape, all the while telling a genuinely new story that’s always a pleasure to read.

I also read some great short stories, some from this year, some not. I fell for “Waugh,” a heartbreaking tour-de-force by Bryan Washington and easily my favorite New Yorker story from this year. I loved “Elliott Spencer,” a new-ish George Saunders story that brings the author’s considerable skills to bear on Trumpian propaganda. I loved “Guests,” a story in The Paris Review by Mary Terrier, with its brilliantly textured portrayal of grief. And I spent a month on The Collected Stories of Grace Paley, which made me yearn for a bygone socialist community that has almost completely disappeared. All of the above were beautiful and startling, and I hope I never forget them.

God willing, I won’t feel drawn to reading stories of doom, next year.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Colvin, Awkward-Rich, Sarginson, Grey, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeffrey Colvin, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Saskia Sarginson, Iona Grey, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Africaville: “Inspired by Africville, a neighborhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Colvin’s intriguing and memorable debut shines a light on a little-known black experience: the freed slaves from the Caribbean and U.S. who established a community in Canada in the 1800s. This family saga extends from 1918 to 1992 and focuses on descendants of the Sebolt and Platt families, who are joined when Omar Platt has an affair with Kath Ella Sebolt in 1936 right before his accidental death. She gives birth to a son and leaves Halifax for Montreal to further her education, meeting her future husband there, a white man who adopts baby Omar, renaming him Etienne. Etienne moves to Alabama in the 1960s, passes for white, marries a white woman, and ignores the black side of his family to such an extent that his own son, Warner, doesn’t find out about his black heritage until after his father’s death. Colvin expertly weaves in the subject of owning one’s heritage as Warner comes to terms with his Canadian past and the tragedies that dogged the Sebolts and Platts. The book covers much territory—the black experience in a small enclave in Canada and Etienne’s and Warner’s grappling with their racial identity—and sometimes these varying plots feel like they belong in two different books, making for a novel that feels diffuse. Nevertheless, this is a penetrating, fresh look at the indomitable spirit of black pioneers and their descendants.”

Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dispatch: “Cave Canem–fellow and Lambda Literary Award–finalist Awkward-Rich (Sympathetic Little Monster) holds self (‘the pith of me,’) assuredly at the surface of his powerful second collection. Imagination emerges as a strategy for black trans survival: ‘if I have to I’ll shape a window/ to the universe adjacent calm/ my blackened heart.’ Weighed down by the ‘brutal choreography’ of violence against black, queer, and trans bodies, the poet reestablishes buoyancy through will and formidable artistry: ‘now I have a choice/ repair a world or build/ a new one inside my body.’ In a linked series of poems that share the title ‘[Black Feeling],’ the poet wakes ‘alone in the manic dark/ head in [his] hands ringing// &ringing, faithful/ goddamned blood alarm’ or rides, anonymous, on a bus through the city, ‘circling like animals, like prey.’ ‘Either way,’ a refrain reminds, ‘there you are in the room with your body.’ In countless rooms, poetry plays out the ‘perfect skein/ of my living, brazen/ misplaced song’: ‘I think gunflower & here’s a field. Here’s a room/ where every bullet planted blooms,’ and ‘here’s a room/ where everything you’ve lost is washed ashore.’ In these poems of bracing clarity, national violence is unflinchingly and meaningfully confronted.”

Gatekeeper by Patrick Johnson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Gatekeeper: “In this impressive and formally versatile debut, Johnson places the lyric in dialogue with a host of nonpoetic forms, among them diagrams, numbered lists, and maps. ‘It’s different in the lab; dissection is bloodless,’ he warns early in the collection. Johnson frames beauty and transcendence as a source of authority equal to the language of formal scientific inquiry. ‘Speak from a place of reversibilities,’ he advises, as though describing the poems’ own provocative movements between types of discourse. Johnson’s strength lies in his ability to reflect on his own unexpected juxtapositions and wild associative leaps: ‘The dream has not only shown me history in reverse but somehow changed it,’ he writes. Johnson calls attention to his own agency in inhabiting language, ‘In this moment I realize I have a level of control,’ framing his practice as a poetics of intervention. The work is filled with self-aware poems like this one, which reflect on their own philosophical underpinnings, and Johnson’s formal experimentation compliments the poems, involving and implicating the reader in their critique of linguistic hierarchies. ‘The individual becomes invisible,’ he observes, positioning the reader as collaborator and coconspirator in this thought-provoking collection.”

The Wonderful by Saskia Sarginson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Wonderful: “Sarginson (The Other Me) crafts an unusual, bittersweet coming-of-age novel that’s also a fascinating mystery steeped in Cold War history. Ruby thought she had left her lonely, emotionally desolate childhood in Norfolk, England, behind when she married Todd, a dashing American fighter pilot. In 1957, however, Todd receives a new posting at a U.S. airbase in England, close to where Ruby grew up, and they move there with their 12-year-old twins, Hedy and Christopher. Hedy is tomboyish and brave, often sticking up for her fragile, dreamy brother, who avoids his painful scoliosis (and equally painful back brace) by escaping into an imaginary science fiction universe. Life on the base is lonely and claustrophobic—as Christopher claims to hear screams and see mysterious lights, and as Todd’s behavior grows increasingly erratic, the family arrives at a breaking point that leaves Hedy on her own, contending with profound losses. Over the following 20 years, Hedy gradually grasps—and then confronts—the lies and misperceptions that, she comes to realize, characterized her childhood. Sarginson effectively interrogates the power of storytelling to engender catharsis and healing but also to deceive others and destroy relationships. Portions of the early sections are presented from Ruby’s and Christopher’s points of view, but as the narrative develops, it becomes Hedy’s story of reclaiming the truth and redefining the past. Set against a historical backdrop that will surprise many readers, Sarginson’s novel movingly captures the private and at times painful evolution of a resilient and inventive protagonist.”

The Cupped Field by Deirdre O’Connor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cupped Field: “Readers will need to quiet themselves as they lean into the hushed subtlety of O’Connor’s formally precise second collection (after Before the Blue Hour). The book reflects a sensibility of belatedness: ‘What is the word for not having been/ in the room, for missing the turn?’ Elsewhere, a car-struck doe lies dying, “awash… in glass and fur,” while the poem resolves with Dickinson-ian imagery: ‘the ocean// closing over, its great rolling horses/ corralled, a finger of sun/ holding the horizon down.’ In such moments, the poet calls into question the very conditions that make possible the tranquility from which emotion is recollected: ‘this now,/ no, this now,/ which, when I write it down,/ becomes this snow,// this snow, a way of covering things,/ the ethical problem,/ privilege of saying, I am here,/ in this calm place,// while elsewhere girls are being stacked/ in trucks.’ And yet, the contours of such privilege remain merely suggested, however apologetic (‘as if my special/ self-knowledge should translate into something’). Readers will find a poet who masterfully serves the elegiac mode she favors: ‘the mystery within trumping/ the mystery without.'”

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Glittering Hour: “A nine-year-old child pieces together clues to her mother’s wild past in this slow-building but dramatic historical tale of love lost and familial secrets uncovered from Grey (Letters to the Lost). In 1936 England, Alice Carew is sent to live with austere grandparents after her parents leave for Burma. Her only entertainment is her correspondence with her mother, Selina, who sends her clues to a treasure hunt that gradually reveals the story of Selina’s life before Alice was born. In 1925, Selina Lennox was one of the ‘Bright Young People’ whose outrageous behavior often featured in gossip columns. Though Selina’s parents urged her to settle down with staid former soldier Rupert Carew, bohemian artist Lawrence Weston captured her heart. Told in a series of extended flashbacks, their romance is vividly drawn and heart-wrenching. Together, Alice and the reader come to understand that Alice’s origins are not what they seem—but that’s not the only secret the family is keeping. The novel’s final twist is a devastating blow that more than makes up for some plodding plotting during the buildup. This sweeping history is sure to be a tearjerker.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring VanderMeer, Hess, Murugan, Olafsson, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeff VanderMeer, Annette Hess, Perumal Murugan, Olaf Olafsson, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dead Astronauts: “VanderMeer returns to the hallucinatory world of Borne, where an all-powerful company has ravaged a metropolis known only as the City, in this lackluster novel. Into this unpredictable landscape come three astronauts, Chen, Moss, and Grayson, determined to explore their otherworldly environment, which is watched over by a mysterious blue fox that seems capable of transcending time and space. After the first few chapters, fragmentary subplots bubble up: there is Charlie X, a rogue astronaut from the expedition fighting to hold on to his memories amid a creeping amnesia; a massive sea monster awaits its death; a mysterious journal containing knowledge of demons that foretells the coming of the monster Behemoth is passed between survivors; a total darkness called Nocturnalia threatens to engulf the dead city; and a shapeshifter confronts a cosmic duck over ownership of the journal. If this sounds overstuffed, it’s because it is. It’s certainly among VanderMeer’s most experimental work, but the novel never coalesces; the characters and concepts are too loosely sketched and the prose is both grandiose and oddly humorless, punctuated by lines such as ‘A fox is a question that must be answered’ and ‘The duck represented a paradox.’ This diffuse novel reads like unused notes from Borne and feels incomplete.”

The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Story of a Goat: “This superbly fabulist tale from Murugan (One Part Woman) dives into the inner life and turmoil of a Asuras, a fictional farming village in rural India, through a small but determined goat and her unlikely caretakers. A large, mysticlike man gifts a rare black goat to an old farmer one day on his way home from the field. When the old farmer brings the malnourished goat home to his wife, she quickly gets to work caring for the goat, whom she names Poonachi. It’s not an easy start for Poonachi, who must deal with the abuses of the village children, refuses to suckle, and is attacked by a tiger. But in the hands of the old woman, Poonachi eventually thrives alongside their older goats and becomes her inseparable companion. As Poonachi grows older, she learns that life is filled with struggle and suffering, but also that it holds moments of beauty and love. Anthropomorphic Poonachi lets readers into many of her thoughts and experiences, including a vibrant view of life under a government regime that banned black goats (which supposedly can’t be seen in the dark) and oversaw long periods of famine and food rationing. Murugan explores the lively inner life of an observant goat in this imaginative exploration of rural life under the caste system.”

The German House by Annette Hess (translated by Elisabeth Lauffer)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The German House: “Hess’s strong debut follows Eva Bruhns, who works as an interpreter at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in 1963 Germany, in which German defendants have been charged with crimes they perpetrated at Auschwitz during WWII. Eva becomes emotionally invested as she interprets the testimonies of Polish witnesses from Polish to German, but she doesn’t understand why her parents, Edith and Ludwig, owners of the German House restaurant, don’t seem to care about the trial. As Eva continues her work and makes a trip to Auschwitz along with other members of the trial team, she uncovers secrets her parents have hidden from her about her father’s work during the war. The period detail is impressive, but the highlight is Eva, a complex and thoughtful woman who finds herself in the midst of a significant moment in history. This novel will appeal to both WWII fiction fans and those seeking historical novels anchored by a strong, memorable heroine.”

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sacrament: “Olafsson (One Station Away) offers a mesmerizing and powerful look at abuse in the Catholic Church through the eyes of an elderly French nun called upon to revisit a two-decades-old case from 1987 in Iceland. Back then, Sister Johanna Marie, brought in to investigate because she had learned the language from her Icelandic college roommate, discovered that priests engaged in abhorrent behavior with impunity. Now, in 2009, she would rather tend her convent’s rose garden, but when a Cardinal calls upon her to obtain new evidence from a witness who will speak only to her, she agrees to help. The circumstances of the original case are vividly recalled: during an investigation of a priest accused of abusive behavior, the priest fell to his death from a bell tower. Johanna is concerned now about what this witness remembers and what he will reveal. Besides the investigation particulars, the reader discovers why Johanna became a nun and why she had to mask her feelings for her college roommate—a hidden love that impacted the rest of her life. The author shines a light on the enigmatic workings of the Catholic Church and, in an astounding dénouement, delves into the balance between justice and vengeance, and the power of conviction, absolution, and redemption. This is an incisive novel.”

This Is Happiness by Niall Williams

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Is Happiness: “In glorious and lyrical prose, Williams (History of the Rain) spins the tale of one 1958 season in the village of Faha, County Kerry, where young ‘Noe’ Crowe, only 17 and already departed from the seminary, has washed up with his grandparents. The story opens on the Wednesday of Holy Week with the cessation of an almost constant rain, relieving the villagers of their life ‘under a fall of watery pitchforks.’ To add to this wonder, the electricity is finally coming to Faha and with it a lodger at Ganga and Doady Crowe’s house. Christy McMahon is a man of broad experience who seems ‘as if it was he who told the world the joke of himself’ and a perfect companion to Noe. During that late spring and early summer, Noe assists Christy in signing up the locals for electric service, and they spend their evenings on a quest for music at countryside pubs. Most important for Christy is his attempt to gain forgiveness from Annie Mooney, now Annie Gaffney, widow of the village chemist, a woman that Christy left at the altar decades before. Meanwhile, love springs on Noe unawares as he comes under the thrall, in succession, of each of the lovely Troy sisters, daughters of Faha’s doctor, whose attention Noe needs after an accident. Noe’s reminiscences of that period are full of beauty and hard-won wisdom. This novel is a delight.”

I Offer My Heart as a Target by Johanny Vázquez Paz (translated by Lawrence Schimel)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Offer My Heart as a Target: “In the introduction to this piercing and timely exploration of gender, violence, and social justice, novelist, poet, and critic Rigoberto González writes: ‘The survivor speaks her truth, or rather, writes her way to truth as an avenue of expression.’ As the book unfolds, readers witness the role of language in creating truth from a variety of aesthetic vantages, ranging from the philosophical to the image-driven: ‘To smoke in another language causes a cancer that spreads; first the lips, then the tongue,’ Paz explains in ‘Diaspora of Words.’ Throughout, she calls attention to language as a reason for those in power to exclude, and effectively disenfranchise, those individuals beneath them. Yet language also appears as a source of understanding, connection, and community: ‘We went to live to indulge the enemy/ to resist nights of storms and orphanhood to hear the silence of the lips/ sealed by the ignorance of the language.’ To understand others, individuals must first learn how they organize, structure, and understand the world around them through language, Paz suggests. ‘Against all prognoses,/ we survive,’ she proclaims in this moving book that, with Schimel’s skillful translation, highlights resilience in the face of oppression.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Duffy, Habral, and Lynch

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Bobby Duffy, Bohumil Habral, and Thomas Lynch—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything by Bobby Duffy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: “Duffy, Policy Institute director at King’s College London, puts his 20 years of research into opinion formation to good use in this illuminating first book. Through cogent analysis, made accessible through charts and anecdotes, he thoroughly examines ‘general and widespread delusions about individual, social, and political realities.’ The book divides misperceptions into two categories: mistakes people make in their own thinking, and mistakes originating in what they are told by others, both by authority figures and the media, and by friends, family, and colleagues. Within these categories, Duffy’s examples of things people often get wrong range from the trivial, such as whether the Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), to the consequential, such as whether violent crime is on the rise (a single high-profile case can make people think it is, even when crime rates are actually declining). While addressing such well-known conceptual pitfalls as the inherent ‘bias toward information that confirms what we already believe,’ Duffy avoids pessimism. He focuses on the things everyone can do to change how they process information, such as learning not to focus on extreme examples, or improving critical reading abilities. The result is a well-informed breath of intellectual fresh air about how best to avoid misunderstanding the world.”

All My Cats by Bohumil Habral (translated by Paul Wilson)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All My Cats: “This slender volume from novelist Hrabal (1914–1997), originally published in 1983, is an affecting meditation on the joys and occasional griefs of sharing his life with a large group of cats. While working in Prague during the week, Hrabal constantly worries about the animals that inhabit—and which he’s allowed to completely overrun—his country cottage, and only upon returning there for the weekend can he feel relieved. Should anything happen to him or his wife, he frets, ‘Who would feed the cats?’ So when a new litter brings the cottage’s feline population over capacity, and Hrabal rashly decides to kill several kittens, readers will be shocked. That he can keep them on his side afterward—by persuasively showing himself as appalled at what he’s done—is a testament to his storytelling skills. These include an ability to balance brutal moments with tender ones, as when relating how even his feline-averse wife ‘always looked forward to mornings, when we’d wake up and I’d open the door and five grown cats would come charging into the kitchen and lap up two full bowls of milk.’ Hrabal’s involving and moving story will prod his audience to look more closely at their own relationships with other creatures.”

The Depositions by Thomas Lynch

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Depositions: “This meditative, often emotionally affecting collection from funeral director, poet, and essayist Lynch (Whence and Whither) explores, with personal honesty and philosophical curiosity, the intersection of faith, death, family, and vocation. It features selections from Lynch’s four previous collections, along with five new pieces. It begins with ‘The Undertaking,’ an introduction to his trade that is moving and humorous in turns—the latter, particularly, as Lynch considers people’s frequent discomfort with his profession, noting, ‘I am no more attracted to the dead than the dentist is to your bad gums.’ Despite this flippant remark, Lynch explores his work as a spiritual one. In ‘How We Come to Be the Ones We Are,’ he recalls how learning Catholicism’s language and rituals in childhood informed his work. In ‘Y2Kat,’ one of the standout pieces, Lynch views his first marriage’s collapse through the metaphor of the ancient, seemingly immortal family cat that hates him, again expertly straddling the line between comedy and tragedy. In the new essays, Lynch contemplates the potential collapse of his second marriage and the challenge of maintaining sobriety during dark days, among other topics. Providing an excellent entry point for newcomers to Lynch’s work, this assemblage is an erudite but unpretentious discussion of life and mortality by a master craftsman of language.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring MacLaughlin, Gritton, Hamilton, Dunn, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nina MacLaughlin, JP Gritton, Saskia Hamilton, Stephen Dunn, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wake, Siren: “MacLaughlin, whose debut book was the carpentry memoir Hammerhead, heads in a vastly different direction with this collection of myths recast for the #MeToo era. In more than 30 short stories, nymphs and human women are allowed to tell their own stories, many of which depict gods and heroes as more dangerous than the lascivious and mischievous rogues they’ve often been portrayed as. These settings are largely unmoored from traditional chronology, borrowing freely from both classical tropes and contemporary popular culture, and some—such as one where incestuous Myrrha confesses everything to her therapist, or another in which the cyclops Polyphemus is Galatea’s cyberstalker—are inventive in form. There is nevertheless a certain sameness to many of the stories, perhaps unavoidable in such a project, but MacLaughlin largely succeeds in varying the recurrent themes of sexual violence and women’s subsequent rage and inevitable transformations, largely imposed by gods to ensure women’s silence. The emotional heart of the collection arrives when the horrific story of Proche and Philomela is immediately followed by Baucis’s sensually and emotionally satisfying tale of a long, love-filled marriage. In the latter story, the narrator states that ‘Not all stories are sad,’ a much-needed reminder at this point in the collection. MacLaughlin skillfully elevates what could have been merely a writerly exercise, instead composing a chorus of women’s justifiable rage echoing down through the millennia.”

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Confession Club: “Berg (The Story of Arthur Truluv) returns to Mason, Mo., for this feel-good testament to taking risks, falling in love, and reinvention. Here, the focus is on the irrepressible members of a monthly club of eight women ranging in age from 20s to 80s, who bare their fibs, sins, and shame. ‘They knew they were mostly silly,’ Berg writes. ‘They enjoyed being silly, because sometimes you just needed to take a load off.’ The heart of this story belongs to cooking school teacher Iris, who’s ‘coming into my fifties,’ divorced and childless when she falls in love with John, 66, a homeless Vietnam vet still haunted by the war and the wife and child he left behind. Berg effortlessly wraps her arms around this busy universe of quirky characters with heartbreaking secrets and unflagging faith. ‘We forget how ready people are to help,’ 47-year-old “stout and practical” club member Toots says, adding: ‘To say those words to yourself or another, ‘I forgive you’? Most powerful words in the world.’ Readers new to Berg’s Mason will be dazzled by this bright and fascinating story, and fans will be cheering for the next volume set there.”

Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Umit Hussein)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Labyrinth: “Sönmez’s latest, following Istanbul, Istanbul, is a cerebral philosophical meditation on memory and what it means to live without it. Boratin Bey is a 28-year-old blues singer living in Istanbul, or at least that is what he has been told. After jumping from the Bosphorus Bridge in an apparent suicide attempt, the musician has experienced complete amnesia: ‘He raises his eyes and looks at his face. The face he met a week ago. It’s that new. Hello stranger, he says.’ His friend and bandmate Bek helps him relearn who he is, or was, answering basic questions such as ‘what sort of person was I, what did I look like?’ Boratin wanders unfamiliar streets, kisses a woman he is told he knows, and attends the funeral of someone who he is told was a friend, Zafir—who, as Boratin describes it, ‘got left behind in the past and disappeared there.’ Indeed, the central question of the novel is if the loss of one’s past is a loss of selfhood or a liberation. As another patient says to him, ‘Maybe you are unfortunate to still be alive and fortunate to have lost your memory.’ Both poetic and an existential novel of ideas, Sönmez’s prose, in Hussein’s translation, is accessible and profound, bringing to mind Albert Camus and Patrick Modiano. While Boratin must learn to find fulfilment with ‘a blank memory,’ this is a book that will undoubtedly linger in a reader’s mind.”

Wyoming by JP Gritton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wyoming: “In a voice rough as a chainsaw blade and Midwestern as green bean casserole, debut author Gritton chronicles the trip-to-hell-and-back life of the troubled Shelley Cooper. After a fire ravages the mountains in the vicinity of Montgrand, Colo., and most of the construction work dries up, Shelley steals an air compressor from his boss and loses his job. He needs money, same as his weed-growing older brother, Clayton, and his sister, May, who is married to Shelley’s best friend Mike. Clayton’s wife, Nancy, has the same shaking sickness her mother had, and May and Mike’s little daughter, Layla, has cancer: in short, these are folks ‘whose bad luck run longer than an interstate.’ Something deep and unnameable bothers Shelley; he cares an awful lot about Mike, though his discontent mostly seems like a mean streak to others. When Clay starts coming up with mystery money, Shelley becomes suspicious; his brother already spent five years in prison for dealing weed, and Shelley blames this calamity for their mother’s death. Nevertheless, he agrees to deliver Clay’s latest batch of marijuana to Houston, and what happens on this trip is both violently tragic and a twisted sort of redemption. Pitch perfect cadences sing from the mouths of Gritton’s characters, and the author performs skilled loop-de-loops in and out of Shelley’s memories. This auspicious debut marks Gritton as a storyteller to watch.”

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979 edited by Saskia Hamilton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Dolphin Letters: “The push and pull of love and anger course through this riveting collection of correspondence between onetime literary power couple Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick. Beginning soon after Lowell’s move to England, without Hardwick, to teach, the book then tracks her discovery of his infidelity, their 1972 divorce, and his 1973 publication of The Dolphin, a sonnet sequence drawing extensively on her letters to him. It then covers the aftermath, which saw Hardwick deeply hurt, and their friends (including Elizabeth Bishop, Mary McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich) rallying around her. Though Lowell is perhaps better known, Hardwick emerges as the collection’s central figure. Her voice resonates more deeply, with frustrated but loving concern for Lowell—who struggled with manic-depressive disorder—and with protectiveness toward their daughter, Harriet. Despite such pressures, Hardwick also, as Harriet noted, ‘was never freer or more livel’ than after the divorce, when she was able to focus on her own creativity rather than on her feckless husband. Bolstered by a helpful introduction and timeline by poet and Barnard professor Hamilton (Corridor), this compulsively readable collection illuminates a tumultuous time in two celebrated writers’ lives.”

Pagan Virtues by Stephen Dunn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pagan Virtues: “In this 19th book, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Dunn (Different Hours) offers up the soul of a mature, solitary man who appreciates company, but who finds that love is, ultimately, ‘a better way to be alone.’ The humble pagan virtues he upholds may be less flashy than religious ones, but they provide many ‘options,’ such as ‘to uphold the beautiful// by renouncing the pretty.’ Moving from instructions to his eulogist (‘for accuracy you might say/ I often stopped,/ that I rarely went as far as I dreamed’) to the disenchantments of success, he advises the lucky to ‘try to settle in,/ take your place, however undeserved,/ among the fortunate.’ The book’s center is the luxurious pit of ‘The Mrs. Cavendish Poems,’ a sequence that moves through an affair with an unsettled, run-on address to the eponymous lady, plumbing the solipsism of its sorrow: ‘the sea doesn’t want to be bothered today,/ it merely wishes to behave like a lake / reflect back a face it believes is its own… / it would also like to change / its salty ways, but like you, / Mrs. Cavendish, it can’t.’ Intimations of illness and age are carried forward with small steps of irony and courage in Dunn’s latest, moving work.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Davis, Jackson, Comensal, Pinckney, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Lydia Davis, Lauren Michele Jackson, Jorge Comensal, Darryl Pinckney, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Essays One by Lydia Davis

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Essays One: “The first in a planned two-volume collection of the nonfiction of short story author Davis (Samuel Johnson Is Indignant) proves a cornucopia of illuminating and timeless observations on literature, art, and the craft of writing. A master of short, punchy prose works, Davis discloses her influences, some of which may be surprising even to longtime fans, including Roland Barthes, Franz Kafka, and Grace Paley, among many more. In a few essays, Davis presents first drafts of her own work along with the final versions, annotating and explaining revisions and providing an instructive window into her process. Interwoven throughout are short pieces on some of Davis’s favorite artists, or alternatively, those whom she finds pleasingly confounding. In the latter category is expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, whose 1973 work Les Bluets Davis credits with helping her to accept and embrace the inscrutable. Invaluable is the 2013 piece ‘Thirty Recommendations for Good Writing Habits,’ which outlines best practices for creative writing, from honing one’s observational techniques to crafting believable dialogue. Fans of Davis’s unfailingly clever work should add this volume to their collection, and creative writers of every genre should take the opportunity to learn from a legend.”

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Innocents: “In his fifth novel, Crummey (Sweetland) imparts another heartfelt, extraordinary perspective on survival in the rugged isolation of his homeland of Newfoundland, this time from two pre-adolescent, newly orphaned siblings, after illness fells their infant sister and parents. Evered and Ada Best endure inconceivably severe weather conditions; their 19th-century livelihoods are at the mercy of nature—will they harvest enough fish to trade for necessary winter provisions? Besides the biannual visits of the ship, ironically named The Hope and run by an unscrupulous money-man, the brother and sister only have each other for companionship. Happenstance brings a captain and his cook to their cove—just in time to save a feverish Ada from near death; later a ship full of sailors looking to replace their mainmast arrives, temporarily enlivening their existence. Against the sensitive portrayal of how two naïfs handle their budding sexuality, these fortuitous encounters underscore Evered’s and Ada’s innocence about life and the larger world. Crummey delivers profound insight into how individuals grapple with the forces of nature, not only in the unpredictable environment, but in the mystifying interior of their temperaments, drives, and character. This story of how two guileless youngsters navigate life will have a deep emotional impact on its readers.”

White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue … and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about White Negroes: “Northwestern University professor Jackson’s insightful debut essay collection takes on cultural appropriation—particularly of black innovation by white celebrities, artists, and entrepreneurs—through the lens of power dynamics, identifying it as a process by which ‘society’s imbalances are exacerbated and inequalities prolonged.’ In the realm of pop culture, she analyzes the pursuit of ‘urban’ sexual wildness by Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, the aesthetic but not economic investment of the Kardashians in black fashion, and Paula Deen’s fetishistic presentation of Southern food alongside explicit racism. Her exploration of the art world juxtaposes the public reaction to Rachel Dolezal, made famous by her ‘impulse to inhabit blackness,’ with accusations against institutions such as the Whitney Biennial, which she asserts ignores black artists but treats depictions of antiblack violence as edgy and relevant. She identifies toxic white resentment of black success in the recent viral videos of white people calling the police on black people (often children) for using public pools, having lemonade stands, or barbecuing in parks. Jackson is uncompromising in her bold language, palpable in her outrage; she keeps her razor-sharp analysis in an accessible but academic register. She both calls out the damage done by appropriative and oppressive behavior and calls in white readers to take part in valuing black contributions in a way that helps black lives.”

The Bad Side of Books: Selected Essays of D.H. Lawrence edited by Geoff Dyer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Bad Side of Books: “Dyer (Broadsword Calling Danny Boy) selects and introduces an uneven but fascinating array of essays by D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930). Comprising 38 selections from the earlier collections Phoenix and Phoenix II, the book demonstrates Lawrence’s mastery of multiple genres, from philosophical tract (‘Of Being and Not-Being’) and book review (‘Death in Venice by Thomas Mann’), to memoir (“Myself Revealed”) and nature writing (“Flowery Tuscany”). Dyer edits with a light hand, presenting the essays in strict chronological order so readers can ‘follow the twists and turns of Lawrence’s writing and thought over time.’ Occasionally, his editorial presence proves too recessive, with minimal footnotes. The wide variety of topics—one stretch of essays considers, in turn, Cézanne, pornography, Christianity, and the mines of Lawrence’s home county of Nottingham—makes it likely that any reader can find something of interest, but unlikely that the entirety will appeal consistently to those new to Lawrence. Such neophytes will also find that some of Lawrence’s thoughts regarding race, ethnicity, and gender jar discordantly against modern norms. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive example of a curious mind grappling with big issues, and samples the work of a writer of great intelligence and wit.”

The Mutations by Jorge Comensal (translated by Charlotte Whittle)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Mutations: “Comensal’s punchy debut follows a group of physically and emotionally ailing characters in present-day Mexico City. Lawyer Ramon Martinez opens his mouth ‘like an angry baboon’ to discover a painful lump. His whole tongue needs to be removed; his wife Carmela seems more worried about his children’s reactions than his pain, though she adopts his insomnia ‘in solidarity.’ Psychoanalyst Teresa de la Vega, a breast cancer survivor, specializes in treating people with illnesses. One patient is Eduardo, a young man also very concerned with cancer, having had leukemia as a child. Teresa obsesses over Eduardo as Carmela does over her family. When Eduardo comes down with bronchitis, Teresa and the reader are compelled to wonder about the connection between neurosis and physical ailments. A quote from Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor introduces the novel’s second half. Teresa, Eduardo, and Ramon and his family anchor the narrative, while Comensal folds in other, complementary plot threads. Ramon’s doctor, Joaquin Aldama, becomes passionately involved in the care of his terminal patient Lorena Galvan, but not so much in that of Luis Ramirez, who is fond of complex conspiracy theories about his illness. The novel gets its comic charge from blunt and colorful descriptions of emotional situations that in other fiction would dictate long and evocative passages (‘The dream’s latent content represented the paradox of the jouissance of the Other.’). Sidestepping sentimentality and elaborate emotional expression, Comensal brings comic compassion to his treatment of contemporary neuroses.”

Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Busted in New York and Other Essays: “This robust group of essays written between 1994 and 2018 by novelist Pinckney (Black Deutschland) explores African-American identity, politics, and culture. Covering such topics as Aretha Franklin’s ‘profound influence’ and what Pinckney sees as Afro-pessimism’s futility, the author puts his insightful perspective on full display in each selection. From the highs of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign to the lows of police violence in Ferguson, Mo., Pinckney acknowledges both the social progress that’s been made and the urgency for further change. In the book’s title essay, Pinckney recounts spending a night in the Manhattan municipal jail known as ‘the Tombs’ after he and two friends were arrested for smoking a joint outside a nightclub. Spending that night and much of the next day behind bars, Pinckney observes how ‘the system’ exercises absolute control over ‘the nonwhite young, the poor’ in ways previously unknown to him and his friends, all educated professionals able to easily brush off the experience. Reflections on black women’s experiences are relatively underrepresented, but nonetheless, Pinckney demonstrates his extensive range as a commentator on African-American life. This collection offers a deep dive into his prolific career as an indispensable critic of his times.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Machado, Pico, Sexton, Tariq, Older, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Carmen Maria Machado, Tommy Pico, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Malcolm Tariq, Daniel José Older, and more—that are publishing this week.

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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Dream House: “In this haunting memoir, National Book Award–finalist Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) discusses the mental and physical abuse she was subjected to by her girlfriend. The book is divided into short, piercing chapters, in which Machado refers to the victimized version of herself as ‘you.’ (‘I thought you died, but writing this, I’m not sure you did.’) Machado discusses meeting the girlfriend (her first) in Iowa City, where Machado was getting her MFA. She masterfully, slowly introduces unease and dread as the relationship unfolds. The girlfriend turns threatening if Machado doesn’t immediately return her calls, starts pointless fights, and inflicts physical discomfort on Machado (squeezing her arm for no reason, for instance). The hostile environment turns utterly oppressive, yet Machado stays, becoming further disoriented by someone who inflicts harm one minute and declares her love the next. Machado interestingly weaves in cultural references (to movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1984’s Carmen) as she considers portrayals of abuse. She points out that queer women endure abuse in their relationships just as heterosexual women do, and queer abusers shouldn’t be protected: ‘We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented.’ The author eventually leaves her toxic relationship behind, but scars remain. Machado has written an affecting, chilling memoir about domestic abuse.”

Feed by Tommy Pico

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Feed: “In the riveting fourth installment of Pico’s imaginative tetralogy, food, music, sex, and the void serve as means to reveal and dissect the speaker’s interior life. Stepping outside of his alter ego persona, Teebs, to wonder about the possibility of a ‘true self,’ Pico resists the obvious narrative and claims that Teebs, perhaps, is more real than himself. The speaker declares himself a ‘recipe’ made of the ingredients of his past and his family, defined by the intergenerational trauma of Native American genocide and displacement. His Native identity is both an albatross and an amulet of protection: ‘My spirits surround me like a cloud of disapproving aunties, keeping most of you at bay.’ Amid the purposeful cacophony and confusion the poet throws at the reader, exacerbated by a lack of punctuation and erratic changes in line length, there are moments of stunning beauty: ‘What a better time than in the face / of spring and the spring / ephemerals—a bloom / so / short / it puts the fleet in ‘fleeting feeling.’ Readers familiar with Pico’s work will find continuity from previous volumes; the poet’s present concerns and ongoing obsessions are proffered in a seemingly stream-of-consciousness format that is actually meticulously well-organized. New readers, as well, can easily dive in.”

On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about On Swift Horses: “Pufahl’s powerful debut follows two brothers just back from the Korean War and the woman from Kansas who loves them both. Muriel agrees to marry Lee not long after he and his brother, Julius, step off their ship in Long Beach, but it’s Julius with whom she finds a haunting affinity. When he disappears, both Muriel and Lee live for word from him again. Muriel and Julius are gamblers; Muriel overhears horse betting tips from men who drink at the Heyday Lounge in San Diego where she works. Muriel wins enough at the Del Mar racetrack to buy her husband the lot on which he builds their dream house. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Julius falls in love with Henry, a tender card cheat who’s run out of town. Desperate to find him, Julius returns to his brother’s house, steals money from Muriel, and goes in search of him. Muriel, in turn, searches for Julius, and finds herself instead. SoCal’s illicit gay joints, Mexico, and memories of Kansas are finely wrought, though by the time Muriel discovers that the mystery Julius represents actually resides deep inside her own self, Pufahl’s gorgeous metaphors and heartbreaking revelations may make readers feel like less is more. Peopled by singular characters and suffused with a keen sense of time and place, Pufahl’s debut casts a fascinating spell. This melancholy story will show up in the dreams of those whose heartstrings it has tugged.”

Space Invaders by Nona Fernández

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Space Invaders: “This standout debut from Chilean author Fernández dexterously tells the story of a group of Chilean friends haunted by the absence of their old classmate and friend, Estrella González, who left their school as they grew up during the Pinochet dictatorship. Years later, the friends all remember Estrella differently. Fuenzalida remembers her voice; Maldonado dreams about the letters Estrella sent to her (three of which are in the text); Riquelme remembers going to Estrella’s house to play Space Invaders and witnessing Estrella’s father, a high-ranking officer for Pinochet, remove his wooden prosthetic hand after he got home from work. The narrative eventually winds its way to revealing what happened to Estrella. Fernández’s masterstroke is her remarkable structure: the novella is related in fragments that drift and remain unreliable, which evokes the pervasive fear and uncertainty of life under Pinochet. ‘Time isn’t straightforward, it mixes everything up, shuffles the dead, merges them, separates them out again…. Whether we were there or not is no longer clear…. we’re left with traces of the dream, like the vestiges of a doomed naval battle.’ Fernández’s outstanding novel explores the nature of memory and dreams, and how after a certain point, they become indistinguishable.”

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Revisioners: “Sexton (A Kind of Freedom) returns with this excellent story of a New Orleans family’s ascent from slavery to freedom, paying poetic tribute to their fearlessness and a ‘mind magic’ that fixes the present, sees into the future, and calls out from the past. In alternating chapters, two women tell their haunting, frightening, and ultimately uplifting stories: Ava, a mixed-race single mom struggling to establish a career and raise a teenage son in 2017, and her great-great-grandmother Josephine, a former slave who in 1924 proudly runs the family farm. Ava’s decision to be the caregiver for her rich white grandmother, Martha, as she slips into dementia will trigger disturbing premonitions for her own cancer-stricken mother, a doula named Gladys. Josephine’s story focuses largely on her struggle to turn over management of the family farm to a son intent on standing up to the Klan—and a troubling interaction with a shy white neighbor who seeks out Josephine’s rumored powers to get pregnant and appease an abusive husband. A chilling plot twist reveals the insidious racial divide that stretches through the generations, but it’s the larger message that’s so timely. ‘Ain’t no use in hate,’ Josephine’s mother advises. ‘Whatever you trying to get away from, hate just binds you to it.’ This novel is both powerful and full of hope.”

Heed the Hollow by Malcolm Tariq

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heed the Hollow: “Winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, Tariq’s daring debut explores the intersection of black, queer, and Southern identity through the concept of ‘bottom,’ both as a sexual role and a position in the social hierarchy. The conceit is often playful, as in the repeated phrase ‘Malcolm Tariq’s Black Bottom,’ which is woven throughout the collection: ‘His Tastykake / cake / His Doublicious Kandy Kake / cake cake / the bounce/  of his Little Debbie / cake.’ More often, this concept makes erotic submission continuous with historical traumas, torquing familiar expressions: ‘Take this moan as historical rendering, / my downward-facing sigh. Thy rod / and thy staff they come for me.’ Charting a journey from Savannah to Michigan, Tariq’s confessionalism can be direct, as in the title poem (‘I take my own pills as I once learned / to sign for my mother’s birth / control. Preventative measures’), or suggestively and wittily oblique: ‘He’s never had / a black man. I’ve never had myself.’” Readers of Robin Coste Lewis will appreciate Tariq’s archival erasures, while Natasha Trethewey fans will appreciate a journey to South Carolina’s ‘Ellis Island of Slavery,’ where ‘baby strollers and casual dog walks/ file before a single marquee meant to hold/ place for history.’ Reckoning with historical atrocities and making use of a variety of formal gestures, Tariq triumphs in creating his distinctive brand of blues.”

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Book of Lost Saints: “A ghost of the Cuban revolution haunts the pages of this vivid and emotional literary fantasy from Older (Shadowhouse Fall). Marisol Aragones died after Castro gained power and the Cuban revolution turned sour, but she can’t remember how or why. Now a disembodied spirit in early-2000s New Jersey, with only a tenuous foothold in the land of the living, her one hope for piecing together her past is through her nephew, Ramon. Marisol spends her days observing—and criticizing—Ramon’s work as a hospital security guard and DJ and his hopeless feelings for his no-strings-attached fling, Aliceana Mendoza. At night, she infiltrates his dreams to give him visions of what little she remembers of her life during the revolution. These dreams send Ramon on a quest to uncover long-buried family secrets, dragging a difficult truth from his mother and traveling with Aliceana to Cuba, where the resistance works against the government in secret. Older’s descriptions of Cuba, both past and present, are thoroughly transportive. This moving story of family and freedom is sure to captivate readers.”