Little Eyes: A Novel

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October Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

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We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around). Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments!
Want to know about the books you might have missed? 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.
Before All the World by Moriel Rothman-Zecher: Original, daring, experimental, moving, poignant, engaging – Moriel Rothman-Zecher’s Before All the World asks if since we can’t go home again, might it just be possible to build a new one? With shades of Tony Kushner and Cynthia Ozick, Rothman-Zecher envisions the denizens of the Philadelphia speakeasy Cricket’s at the tale end of Prohibition, an establishment catering to gay men. This is where the Jewish immigrant Leyb has an awakening from the torpor of his traumatic childhood, one of the few survivors from an eastern European shtetl destroyed by pogrom. Poetic and magical, Before all the World understands how our worlds are made by words, and in the altering of the later we may as yet redeem the former, a central commandment, axiom, and incantation being “ikh gleyb nit az di gantze velt iz kheyshekh” – “I do not believe that all the world is darkness.” (Ed Simon)
Lech by Sara Lippmann: Lech is the ambitious debut novel of an excellent new prose stylist. On one level, it’s about a woman recovering from an abortion at a vacation property in Sullivan County NY. But Lippmann expertly weaves together many voices—among them an eccentric aging landlord, a grief-stricken Hasid, a scheming real estate agent looking for her break, her dogged daughter longing for her way out, and her addict boyfriend—to explore themes of community, parenthood, and overcoming the legacy and burden of the past. No less of an expert in multi-POV novels set in the Catskills (me) blurbed Lech as following, “Sara Lippmann’s Lech is a superb Jewish gothic, an expertly pitched polyvocal tale of family, loss, and redemption. By turns funny, beautiful, lewd and heartbreaking, Lippmann delivers a literary performance with all the timing and energy of a great Borscht Belt comic.” (AOP)
The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken: The latest from the award-winning and compulsively readable author of Bowlaway and The Souvenir Museum, The Hero of This Book follows an unnamed narrator (McCracken?) as she wanders the streets of London and grieves her mother, who loved the city. It’s more than that, though – of course it is – and as the narrator tells story after story about her extraordinary, determined mother and the quirky family they shared, the novel expands, spiraling outwards and in to include meditations on memory, memoir, and all the complexity of a remarkable parent-child relationship. As Kirkus puts it – “Novel? Memoir? Who cares. It’s a great story, beautifully told.” (Kaulie)
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng: This story is set in a world that is dystopian — a society being consumed by fear – and close to our own. A twelve-year-old named Bird lives with his father, who is a former linguist who now shelves books at Harvard University’s library. Bird’s mother, a Chinese American poet, seemingly abandoned the family three years before. A mysterious letter leads Bird on a search to find her. Ng barely needs an introduction as the author of the number one bestseller Little Fires Everywhere and the much-loved Everything I Never Told You. (Claire)
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet: The National Book Award finalist builds a surreal and finely textured world in her new novel, which follows Gil, a man who walks all the way from New York to Arizona in a Hail Mary bid to recover from heartbreak. Not long after he arrives in the desert, new neighbors move into the (literal) glass house next door, kicking off a strange and unsettling process that sees Gil’s life begin to mesh with theirs. (Thom)
Liberation Day by George Saunders: The Booker Prize winner (for Lincoln in the Bardo) is back with his first new collection of short fiction since 2015’s Tenth of December. In “Love Letter,” an elderly man in a dystopian, uncannily believable future sends a letter to his grandson urging him not to take righteous actions that might endanger him with the unnamed fascists running their country. In “Ghoul,” the author returns to amusement parks as a setting, bringing readers to a Hell-themed section of an underground park in Colorado. And in “Elliott Spencer”, an eighty-nine-year-old finds himself brainwashed and stripped of his memory so he can be forced to work as an astroturfed political protester. (Thom)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver: The famed author of The Poisonwood Bible returns with an Appalachian story inspired by the Dickens classic David Copperfield. In a single-wide trailer, the protagonist is born to a teenaged single mother, bereft of any wealth apart from his late father’s good looks and scrappy talent for staying alive. As the novel follows his life, he moves through foster care, takes jobs that break child labor laws, tries to learn in crumbling schools, and runs into painful addictions familiar to anyone with firsthand knowledge of the opioid crisis. Throughout, the protagonist reflects on his own invisibility in a culture with a waning interest in rural life. (Thom)
The Consequences by Manuel Muñoz: A collection of stories set mostly around Fresno in the 1980s, telling the stories of Mexican and Mexican Americans in California, many of them farmworkers who feed the country while facing deportation, abuse, and poverty imposed by an inhuman economy. Muñoz tells both the large and the small struggles, and illuminates moments of love and care alongside pain and hauntings figurative and literal. Sandra Cisneros raves of the book “Haunting, powerful, humble, precise, this collection shook my being. Manuel Muñoz is a great American writer who sees with his heart—as great as Juan Rulfo in writing about the poor. I wish I had written these stories.” (Lydia)
Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap): The Nobel Prize laureate, Orhan Pamuk imagines a plague wreaking havoc on the fictional island of Mingheria in the Ottoman Empire. To control the epidemic, the Ottoman sultan sends off his most trustworthy medical expert, an Orthodox Christian. But some of the residents of the island, because of their religious beliefs, refuse to follow the quarantine mandates. To make things worse, a mysterious murder happens. With themes that feel weirdly relevant, Nights of Plague helps us to reflect on our chaotic realities with a sobering distance and perspective. (Jianan Qian)
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy: Now pushing 90, the poet laureate of American violence has written not one, but two new books for this fall. In the first, salvage diver Bobby Western finds a wrecked plane containing nine bodies still buckled into their seats, but missing the pilot’s flight bag, the plane’s black box, and the flight’s tenth passenger. How is this possible? It’s Cormac McCarthy, so the answer is likely to be terse, perverse, and quite bloody. (Michael)
The Enhancers by Anne K. Yoder: Brilliant, longtime Millions staff writer Yoder publishes a dizzying, kaleidoscopic novel of three teenage friends navigating the journey to adulthood in a techno-pharmaceutical society that looks a lot like reality. Patrick Cottrell says of the book “The Enhancers asks, ‘How do I distinguish between what’s me and what’s chemical?’ Animated by the absurdity of a Yorgos Lanthimos film, The Enhancers is a wildly original and contemporary tale about chemical augmentation, memory, yearning, and loss. Imagine the fearlessness and wild imagination of Jenny Erpenbeck if she had a background in the pharmaceutical industry and you might come close to approximating the tremendous brilliance of Anne Yoder.” (Lydia)
Some of Them Will Carry Me by Giada Scodellaro: In her genre-, tone-, and style-defying debut collection, Scodellaro’s short stories center Black women in moments of change, upheaval, and disruption. Katie Kitamura writes: “This is a book of wonders, full of intricate beauty, and Giada Scodellaro is an extraordinary talent.” (Carolyn)
Entry Level by Wendy Wimmer: Winner of the Autumn House 2021 Fiction Prize, Wimmer’s debut story collection features 15 stories centered around people who are underemployed—and how they confront, subvert, and navigate the systems and forces hellbent on keeping them down. Deesha Philyaw, who selected the book for this prize, says: “The stories are, at turns, heartfelt and hilarious, wry and whimsical, full of magic and mayhem. These are well-crafted love stories, ghost stories, and stories of everyday people just trying to navigate life’s cruelties and impossibilities.” (Carolyn)
Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd): The acclaimed author of The Factory and The Hole, whose work Hilary Leichter called “surreal and mesmerizing” returns with a novel of marriage and gender roles in contemporary Japan, revisiting the same characters in different settings, including an exotic pet store and a home infested with weasels. (Lydia)
Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell): Samanta Schweblin’s collection Seven Empty Houses announced her arrival in 2015 at the vanguard of a new generation of terrific Latin American writers, and in late-October it will finally be published in English. The proximity to Halloween is appropriate, given Schweblin’s idiosyncratic mode of tense and unsettling literary horror. As in Fever Dream and Little Eyes, two of my favorite books of the last two years, something is always creeping around these empty houses: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child’s first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents. In the words of O, the Oprah magazine, Seven Empty Houses is “A blazing new story collection that will make you feel like the house is collapsing in on you.” (AOP)
Cocoon by Zhang Yueran (translated by Jeremy Tiang): Cheng Gong and Li Jiaqi are childhood friends. After many years of separation, they reunite and find a shared interest in the stories of their grandparents’ generation. What happened on that rainy night in the deserted water tower in 1967? How did that event impact both families and the generations after? Zhang Yueran, one of the most renowned young writers from China, tells the story of the country’s past in a different perspective and with a unique insight. In her beautiful and meaningful prose, hope and love reside where trauma heals. (Jianan Qian)
A Horse at Night by Amina Cain: “Without planning it, I wrote a diary of sorts. Lightly. A diary of fiction. Or is that not what this is?” writes author Amina Cain, in her first book of nonfiction and her second book with Dorothy, A Horse at Night: On Writing. In a series of essayistic inquiries, Cain meditates on her own cannon of writers, which includes Marguerite Duras, Elena Ferrante, Renee Gladman, and Virginia Woolf, as well as topics like female friendship, so that encountering this book feels like an intimate conversation on books and reading and life. Turkish author Ayşegül Savaş compares the book to “light from a candle in the evening: intimate, pleasurable, full of wonder,” with Cain acting “as our generous, gentle guide.” (Anne)
Ghost Town by Kevin Chen (translated by Darryl Sterk): Winner of the Taiwan Literature Award for Books, Chen’s newest novel follows Kevin Chen, a young gay man who escaped his traditional Taiwanese family, after he’s released from prison for killing his boyfriend. Returning to his home village after a decade, Kevin realizes how fractured his family is—and along with his sisters attempts to mend and improve his life during the annual Ghost Festival. Booklist’s starred review writes: “Kevin Chen has done a masterful job of managing his material, creating multidimensional characters, a beautifully realized setting, and an apposite surprise ending.” (Carolyn)
The Runaway Restaurant by Tessa Yang: In Yang’s speculative debut short story collection, a mother picks up a hitchhiker in the hopes that she will find her daughter, a runaway herself;  a group of pandemic survivors wonder whether they will join a group hell-bent on repopulating civilization; and two ghosts fight over who will get the final resting place they both want. About the collection, Brenda Peynado says: “Tessa Yang delights with whimsy and bravery, her magical conceits probing the human heart’s quest for love, laying bare how we fumble desperately toward each other.” (Carolyn)
The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar: Science fiction and fantasy author Samatar (Tender) writes a historical-memoir hybrid about her 2016 trip to Khiva, Uzbekistan. In a recreation of the 1880s pilgrimage made by Mennonite minister Claas Epp Jr. and his followers, Samatar and a group of other Mennonites explore the remarkable and nearly lost history of Ak Metchet—or “The White Mosque”—which was a small, strong, and culturally-enduring Christian village in the predominantly Muslim area. Carmen Maria Machado writes: “This is a perfect memoir: a mosaic (or as Samatar calls it, ‘a shattering’) of self that elevates the genre of nonfiction to new heights, and an exploration of what it means to stand in the illuminated intersection of history and identity, and bring precise language to the diffuse and unknowable.” (Carolyn)
It Came from the Closet edited by Joe Vallese: Just in time for spooky season, writer and editor Vallese’s (What’s Your Exit?) newest anthology gathers 25 queer and trans writers to explore their experiences through the lens of particular horror films, including Carmen Maria Machado, Jude Ellison S. Doyle, and Bruce Owens Grimm. Alex Marzano-Lesnevich says, “Why do queers love horror? What a gift to read writers I love and admire offer so many different answers. It Came From the Closet is at times beautiful, at times funny, at times gorgeously weird and baroque, and always as off-kilter brilliant as the genre, and queerness, itself.” (Carolyn)
When They Tell You To Be Good by Prince Shakur: Jamaican-American author, journalist, and organizer Shakur debuts with his coming-of-age memoir which won the 2021 Hurston/Wright Crossover Award. In what Kirkus calls a “scorching, nonlinear journey,” Shakur explores growing up queer and Black amid a backdrop of intergenerational and political violence, familal and racial trauma, and the Afro-diaspora—and how he became the radicalized, reflective, and self-aware man he is today. (Carolyn)
Heretic by Jeanna Kadlec: Kadlec’s debut memoir—which blends a coming-of-age narrative and cultural and religious criticism—explores her journey of leaving the evangelical church, navigating her religious trauma, and finding community and love within her secular found family. About the memoir,  Lyz Lenz says: “ From her life as a good Christian girl to her emergence as a queer woman, Kadlec writes with voice and conviction. Heretic is a memoir that employs a coming of sexuality and a coming of womanhood with a prose that is empowering and beautiful.” (Carolyn)
Helen House by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya: In Kumari Upadhyaya’s debut horror novelette, the unnamed narrator and her girlfriend Amber discover the secrets between them and bury the secrets they aren’t ready to reveal yet. After discovering the two women both have dead sisters, Amber brings the narrator to her parent’s rural home where things become more nightmarish, terrifying, and traumatic than she could have ever imagined. (Carolyn)
Still No Word from You by Peter Orner: Finalist for the NBCC Award for Criticism, critic and fiction writer Orner’s (Maggie Brown & Others) newest collection features pieces about literature, his personal life, and the intimate intersection of the two. Marilynne Robinson says: “Peter Orner’s work clings close to life, to the unadorned, untranscended, dear and haunting Actual.” (Carolyn)

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