Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jhumpa Lahiri, Elissa Washuta, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Whereabouts: “The latest from Pulitzer winner Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies) is a meditative and aching snapshot of a life in suspension. The unnamed narrator, a single, middle-aged woman, lives a quiet life in an unnamed Italian city, ambling between cafes and storefronts, dinner parties with friends, and a leisurely career as a writer and teacher. The tranquil surface of her life belies a deeper unrest: a frayed, distant relationship with her widowed mother, romantic longings projected onto unavailable friends, and constant second-guessing of the paths her life has taken. The novel is told in short vignettes introducing a new scene and characters whose relationships are fertile ground for Lahiri’s impressive powers of observation. In a museum, for instance, sunlight refracted through the glass roof ‘brightens and darkens the room in turns. It’s a panorama that makes me think of the sea, of swimming in a clear blue patch underwater.’ Throughout, Lahiri’s poetic flourishes and spare, conversational prose are on full display. This beautifully written portrait of a life in passage captures the hopes, frustrations, and longings of solitude and remembrance.”
Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Folklorn: “Blurring the lines between sci-fi and fantasy, Hur’s sophomore novel (after The Queens of K-Town) offers a complex meditation on intergenerational trauma. While working at the Amundsen Scott South Pole Station, Korean-American physicist Elsa Park suffers sudden tinnitus and sees her imaginary friend from childhood. This sparks memories of the time Elsa’s mother gave her a now lost collection of four Korean folktales and warned her that all the women in their family are doomed to live out their plots. To understand what’s happening to her, Elsa consults Oskar Gantelius, a Swedish Korean adoptee and linguistics professor who specializes in Korean folktales and also serves as Elsa’s love interest, though their relationship is given little development. But before the pair can make sense of Elsa’s episodes, her mother dies, driving Elsa to find the folktales and figure out how to apply them to her own life. The honest look at prickly Elsa’s internalized racism is ambitious but often brutal in its unflinching execution, and the third act twist relies on an outdated take on mental illness. Despite the unconvincing romance between Oskar and Elsa, their conversations on minority life in majority white spaces are painfully accurate. This thought-provoking work will appeal to SFF fans who like their talk of particle physics side by side with fox spirits and fairy tales.”
White Magic by Elissa Washuta
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about White Magic: “Washuta (My Body Is a Book of Rules), a creative writing professor at Ohio State, offers in this collection of tender reckonings ‘a book about how my heart was broken’ and her attempts to heal it. Washuta recounts her struggles with sobriety, relationships, and the ‘tyrannical rule’ of PTSD in her life. In search of healing, Washuta, a Native woman and occult enthusiast, examined the differences between ‘white magic’ and misaligned, ‘malicious’ black magic, and sought out ‘a version of the occult that isn’t built on plunder.’ In ‘Little Lies,’ Washuta reflects on a D.A.R.E. drunk-driving ad soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins, and ‘The Spirit Cabinet’ is an episodic collection of ‘synchronicities’ often about her ex-boyfriend, featuring quotes from magician David Blaine. The most eloquent section highlights her grief moving through a world built on violence toward Native peoples: ‘I have lost my land, my language,’ she writes. Her prose is crisp and precise, and the references hit spot-on (such as her fascination with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who travels through the underworld, and with Twin Peaks, ‘a show about the unexplained, the mystical, and the cycles of violence and neglect to which women find themselves tethered’). Fans of the personal essay are in for a treat.”
Also on shelves this week: My Good Son by Yang Huang.