Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Alix Ohlin, Emily Adrian, Ha Jin, and more—that are publishing this week.
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We Want What We Want by Alix Ohlin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Want What We Want: “Ohlin (Dual Citizens) delivers another rich collection full of insights and sticky contradictions. In ‘The Brooks Brothers Guru,’ Amanda is recruited to rescue her long-lost cousin by his girlfriend, from a possible cult in Upstate New York. While there, Amanda, who spends much of her life on various devices, begins to understand the appeal of her cousin’s quiet new life. ‘The Point of No Return’ follows Bridget from her 20s into middle age as she views her life at a distance, seeing herself as ‘a tiny animal she had happened upon by chance one day and decided to raise.’ The strongest stories feature connected characters, such as ‘The Universal Particular,’ told by a Swedish-Somalian orphan, a beard blogger, a gamer, and a massage therapist as each longs to break out of their isolation. Ohlin also does a great job capturing her characters’ perspectives on life. As Bridget in ‘The Point of No Return’ begins to understand, sometimes one’s 20s are a ‘performance of adulthood,’ while Tamar in ‘The Universal Particular’ imagines telling her husband, during a fight, that adulthood requires one ‘to embody a role and not be able to escape it.’ Throughout, Ohlin reveals the depth of her characters with empathy and precision. The strongest stories are more than worth the price of admission.”
‘The Second Season by Emily Adrian
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Second Season: “The spare, bold latest from Adrian (Everything Here Is Under Control) follows a sportswriter as she reckons with middle age. Ruth Devon, 42, covers NBA games and longs for a television analyst position now held by her ex-husband, Lester, who is about to retire. Meanwhile, Ruth and Lester’s daughter, Ariana, a high school senior, aspires to be a model, and Ruth has a boyfriend, Joel, who is six years her junior. When Ruth learns she is unexpectedly pregnant, she struggles with deciding whether to tell Joel and weighs her career ambition as well as her devotion to Ariana. Adrian cleverly structures the novel around Ruth’s experiences during the NBA finals, as she covers a conflict between two best friends who play play for the opposing teams (‘For the next four games he’s my enemy,’ one says). As the games unfold in sharp detail, with attention paid to the action on the court and on the sidelines, Adrian raises the stakes on Ruth’s attempt to keep a handle on things. Even the sports-averse will be caught up in the drama.”
Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fierce Little Thing: “After 12-year-old Saskia’s father goes to prison for her little brother’s murder and her mother decamps to Mexico in this haunting psychological thriller from bestseller Beverly-Whittemore (June), Saskia goes to live in a Manhattan loft with her friend Xavier. While Xavier’s mother is traveling, his father, an eccentric artist, decides that he and the kids should summer in Maine at a lakeside commune dubbed Home. Saskia quickly falls under the thrall of the commune’s charismatic leader and finds a sense of belonging she’d do anything to preserve. Twenty-five years later, reclusive Saskia is sequestered inside her Connecticut home when Xavier comes knocking: someone has been writing to Home’s former teen residents, threatening to tell the world about the crime they committed unless all five of them return. Saskia’s evocative, elegiac narration cycles rapidly between past and present, escalating pace and imparting suspense while developing the keenly rendered characters and their thorny histories. Not every revelation feels earned, but on balance, Beverly-Whittemore delivers a twisty, rewarding tale of friendship, secrets, and childhood trauma. Donna Tartt fans, take note.”
The Minister Primarily by John Oliver Killens
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Minister Primarily: “Killens (1916–1987), a member of the Black Arts movement and author of And Then We Heard the Thunder, cleverly satirizes 1960s American politics in this sharp thriller. Jaja Okwu Olivamaki, prime minister of the Independent People’s Democratic Republic of Guanaya, sees his country lifted from obscurity after a great quantity of the radioactive metallic element cobanium is found there, making it the newest front in the Cold War. African-American musician James Jay Leander Johnson travels to Guanaya to learn ‘the folk songs of his people,’ only to become a suspect in a plot to murder Olivamaki. Johnson’s life takes an even stranger detour after his resemblance to his supposed target leads to his being asked to impersonate the nation’s leader, a pretense he must maintain on a state visit to the U.S. Killens is pointed in his barbs; when the imposter is asked his opinion of Malcolm X, he declares he believes in the same kind of nonviolence the U.S. does: ‘I believe we should keep everybody nonviolent, even if we have to blow them off the face of the earth, in the American tradition.’ Throughout, Killens maximizes the potential of his plot with outrageous humor. Readers will be glad to find this gem unearthed.”
A Song Everlasting by Ha Jin
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Song Everlasting: “At the onset of the uninspired latest from Jin (The Boat Rocker), set in the early 2010s, singer Yao Tian stays behind in the U.S. for a few extra days after his state-sponsored choir’s tour ends. When his employer asks him to turn over his passport as punishment, Tian instead returns to the U.S. and settles in New York City, leaving behind his wife and teenage daughter. Now free to make his own decisions, Tian performs occasionally, sending what funds he can to his family, but after the Chinese media spreads the story of a violent altercation between Tian and his manager, his reputation is tarnished. He relocates to Boston and works for a cousin on home renovation jobs, all the while clinging to his dream of restarting his singing career, but the Chinese government cancels his passport, stranding him in the U.S. with few prospects. Jin has a knack for seamlessly compressing large swaths of time, yet Tian remains something of a mystery, with little effort made to explore his singing abilities. And though the author shuttles his protagonist through a series of trials over many years, Tian’s unfailing ability to overcome setbacks lessens the novel’s dramatic pull. As far as itinerant heroes’ quests for freedom go, this one doesn’t get the heart racing.”