Tuesday New Release Day: Starring McCarthy, Chen, Samatar, and More
Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new release titles from Cormac McCarthy, Kevin Chen, Sofia Samatar, and more—that are publishing this week. Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to helpT The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today. The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Passenger: "McCarthy returns 16 years after his Pulitzer-winning The Road with a rich story of an underachieving salvage diver in 1980 New Orleans, the first in a two-volume work. Bobby Western, son of a nuclear physicist who worked on the atomic bomb, is tasked with investigating a private plane crash in the Gulf. The plane’s crew is dead, the black box is missing, and one passenger is unaccounted for. Soon, agents of the U.S. government begin to harass Western and his coworker, then this colleague turns up dead. This thriller narrative is intertwined with the story of Western’s sister, Alicia, a mathematical genius who had schizophrenia and died by suicide. In flashbacks of Alicia’s hallucinations, vaudevillian characters perform for her—most notably, a character named the Thalidomide Kid. Alicia and the Kid engage in numerous conversations about arcane philosophy, theology, and physics—staples of the philosopher-tramps, vagabonds, and sociopaths of McCarthy’s canon, though their presence doesn’t feel quite as thematically grounded as they do in his masterworks. Still, he dazzles with his descriptions of a beautifully broken New Orleans: 'The rich moss and cellar smell of the city thick on the night air. A cold and skullcolored moon.... At times the city seemed older than Nineveh.' The book’s many pleasures will leave readers aching for the final installment." Ghost Town by Kevin Chen (translated by Darryl Sterk) Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ghost Town: "Chen (Three Ways to Get Rid of Allergies) offers a haunting if overstuffed drama of a Taiwanese family’s efforts to rise out of poverty. After Keith Chen arrives back in Yongjing, having spent a decade in prison in Germany for killing his lover, T, he reunites with his older sisters Beverly, Betty, and Belinda during the monthlong annual Ghost Festival, in which residents leave out offerings for the dead. Each sibling, as well as supporting characters, takes desperate measures to improve their lives. Beverly, the eldest, gets pregnant by the gambler Little Gao. Betty runs errands for the owners of the Tomorrow Bookstore before it gets shut down by the police for selling banned books. Belinda has an abusive husband and, in one poignant episode, visits Keith in prison. These strands, along with flashbacks of Keith’s relationship with T in Berlin, have a sort of stuttered pacing, but Chen does a great job creating atmosphere. A hot bowl of soup 'smell[s] like a snake, silently slithering around your ankle, up your leg, around your waist,' and termites 'nibbl[e] with fervid desperation.' Eventually, Chen gets into the nightmarish details around T’s killing, but it takes too long to bring everything together. Though vivid, this ambitious novel is a bit too unwieldy." Entry Level by Wendy Wimmer Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about Entry Level: "Wimmer’s innovative and darkly humorous debut collection employs emergency situations and fantastical elements as the protagonists struggle to make a living with low-paying jobs. 'Passeridae' follows a group of crew members aboard a cruise ship as they take cover from terrorists in a laundry closet, where they reflect on the debauchery of their guests and reference the movie Titanic while joking about their low likelihood of survival. 'INGOB' involves a search in Door County, Wis., for the missing county snowplow driver, nicknamed 'Chief.' Mabel, the narrator, wonders if Chief’s disappearance is connected to a mysterious stranger who recently appeared at the rec center, where Mabel runs the bingo table. She describes the sound of his voice as 'rustling leaves or maybe a rusted chain dropping to the floor,' which caused her to fumble the cards, and Chief came to her aid by ordering the man to leave. In 'Strange Magic,' the employees of a skating rink discover that if they skate counterclockwise around the rink, they will reverse their aging. When Mary Ellen, who had a mastectomy, discovers her breast has regrown, the narrator’s understated reaction perfectly sums up the mood of Wimmer’s characters: 'We had confirmation that something weird was happening.' Throughout, Wimmer makes the most of strange situations." Heretic by Jeanna Kadlec Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heretic: "A woman reckons with the religious trauma of her upbringing and embarks on a process of self-discovery in this searing debut. Growing up in the late 1990s rural Midwest in a family devoted to the evangelical church, Kadlec led a life defined by faith, from playing the part of pious daughter to marrying the pastor’s son in 2011 and accepting the role of dutiful wife. Entering a marriage 'intrinsically tied' to faith soon proved dysfunctional, even abusive, as Kadlec began to see how inextricable the lies and the indoctrination of her faith were to her understanding of the world: 'to question how worthlessness, shame, and control were supposed to sit side by side with a belief in unconditional love would have been to question the foundation on which I had built my entire life.' When the unreconciled trauma of her past—including years of volatile manipulation and a physical assault by a gang of boys in her youth group—fomented a radical revelation, followed by a fraught divorce, Kadlec set out to reclaim her selfhood, her sexuality, and to relearn to love and trust, eventually meeting her girlfriend, a fellow ex-evangelical. As she recounts her disentanglement from religion, Kadlec weaves a deeply personal narrative with excoriating criticism to unpack the ways in which religious belief is sewn into the fabric of American society. The result provides a poignant story of being born again in a secular world." The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about The White Mosque: "Sci-fi writer Samatar (The Winged Histories) strays from her imagined worlds to excavate a very real past in this fascinating look at her religious heritage. In the summer of 2016, the author—a descendant of Swiss-German Mennonites and Somali Muslims—traveled to Khiva, Uzbekistan, in a reconstruction of an 1880s pilgrimage wherein Mennonite minister Claas Epp Jr. led his followers from Russia into Central Asia, predicting that Christ would soon return. Over two weeks, Samatar, with a group of other Mennonites, traversed great distances and histories before arriving at their destination, Ak Metchet, a Mennonite church built to resemble a white mosque. What Samatar discovered within the walled garden of Ak Metchet was the story of a small but strong Christian community whose culture, traditions, and stories outlived their 50 years residing in the predominantly Muslim area. In evocative prose, Samatar captures the Odyssean sojourn and awakens the stories of the past—painting in harrowing detail the unspeakable horrors that befell the first settlers—while reckoning with her own identity, an 'electrical storm' created by two religions perceived 'as violently opposed... [yet] amplifying one another in a sizzling sibling rivalry.' Emerging from this is a vivid mosaic that interrogates the spirit of the faithful while celebrating the beauty of storytelling. This riveting meditation on the 'great tides of history' yields a wondrous take on the ways the past and present intertwine."