Mount Chicago: A Novel

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Giddings, Tang, Levin, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Megan Giddings, Belinda Hujuan Tang, Adam Levin, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Women Could Fly: “Giddings (Lakewood) pulls off a dynamite story of a Black woman’s resistance in an oppressive dystopia. Jo Thomas’s mother, Tiana, has been declared dead after having been missing for 14 years. At 28, the age at which all women must marry or register with the Bureau of Witchcraft, Jo works at the Museum of Cursed Art and is in love with her white best friend, Angie. Tiana taught Jo as a girl that magic wasn’t real, but rather a myth to enable oppressions of women and non-cisgender people. Jo is set to inherit a large sum from Tiana on the condition that she agrees to visit an island in Lake Superior, which, according to a story Tiana once told her, only appears once every seven years. The instructions remind her of a story her mother told her as a child, about an island with a treasure. Though Jo doesn’t want to leave her sometimes-boyfriend Preston, or her job and Angie, she complies, and upon returning is promptly imprisoned for suspected witchcraft. When Preston promises to take custody of Jo, as required by law, the two enter a tender phase of their relationship. But after the island’s secrets leak into the real world, Jo is imprisoned again. Giddings ingeniously blends her harrowing parable of an all-powerful patriarchy with insights into racial imbalances, such as a scene in which Jo and Angie are pulled over by the cops (‘I wanted the ease of feeling protected and beautiful enough to try to make a joke, to not have my hands on the dashboard, to not text someone pulled over by cops, please call in 15 minutes if you don’t hear from me again’). This is brilliant.”

A Map for the Missing by Belinda Huijuan Tang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Map for the Missing: “Tang’s gripping if predictable debut opens in 1993 as math professor Tang Yitian receives word in the U.S. from his aging mother in rural China that his father has gone missing. Yitian boards a flight, leaving his wife behind, and returns to his birthplace for the first time in nearly a decade to help in the search. After it becomes clear the police aren’t interested in helping, Yitian reaches out to Tian Hanwen, an estranged friend now married to a local politician, to ask for help, and their reunion fans romantic sparks they’d both denied in their youth. Tang rewinds the nonlinear timeline back through the late 1970s and early ’80s to track the duo, showing Yitian passing the gaokao college exam and Hanwen failing it. Meanwhile in 1993, sightings of Yitian’s father turn out to be false and Yitian begins to lose hope. Throughout, Tang weaves her characters’ stories seamlessly and incorporates commentary on class politics via Hanwen’s participation in China’s ‘sent-down youth’ program as a teen and Yitian’s uncomfortable early adulthood. Still, the plot sometimes feels manufactured to produce moments of triumph and disaster. While the turns are easy to anticipate, Yitian and Hanwen’s complex history makes this engrossing.”

Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi (translated by David Boyd and Lucy North)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Diary of a Void: “Yagi, in her riveting and surreal debut, offers a close inspection of the demands of motherhood. Shibata, 34, works at a paper core manufacturer. Though it appears an improvement from her previous position, where she was sexually harassed, the new workplace has its own sexist culture. Shibata soon learns that as the only woman in her section, her responsibilities also include undertaking the traditionally feminine chores of cleaning up after everyone, making coffee, and serving snacks. Sick of it, Shibata invents a lie: she’s pregnant. Instantly, the menial tasks go away and people around her begin to treat her with more caution and consideration. She gets to leave early, and treats herself to relaxing baths and dinners by herself. Soon, though, she realizes the lie, though easily created, will need work to uphold. As the weeks progress, Shibata tracks fetus development with an app, eats for two and enrolls in maternity aerobics. The more she works to keep up the fake pregnancy, the more it begins to seem real to her. Absurdist, amusing and clever, the story brings subtlety and tact to its depiction of workplace discrimination—as well as a touch of magic. Readers will eagerly turn the pages all the way to the bold conclusion.”

Mother in the Dark by Kayla Maiuri

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mother in the Dark: “Maiuri’s wrenching and poignant debut centers on a family in escalating crisis due to a mother’s mental illness. Anna, 20-something, left her Massachusetts hometown for New York City, where she shares an apartment with her friend Vera. Now, Vera has fallen in love, and Anna is afraid she’ll move in with the boyfriend. Distressed, Anna ignores phone calls from her father, Vin, and her two younger sisters, Lia and Sofia, despite sensing the calls are because her mother, Dee, is not well. Most of the action is in flashbacks to Anna’s adolescence, when Vin, without consulting Dee, moves the family out of the Italian American suburb in Boston where Dee grew up. They are the first family to move into a new development, where Vin becomes more aloof and drinks too much, and Dee mentally shuts down. The sisters react in different ways, as Anna and Lia become close to Vera, who moves in across the street. Maiuri brings nuance to the heavy subject matter: inherited madness, fracturing family bonds, and resentment held in the body, balanced nicely with Anna’s strong narrative voice: ‘I hate that she’s so desperate for love,’ she says of Vera. Fans of Justin Torres’s We the Animals will find a lot to like.”

The Last Karankawas by Kimberly Garza

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Last Karankawas: “Garza debuts with an accomplished account of the ties between members of a Galveston, Tex., Filipino and Mexican community as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Though there are many connected accounts from different points of view, the narrative centers on Carly Castillo, who longs to leave Galveston. After Carly’s mother returned to the Philippines without her, Carly was raised by her grandmother Magdalena, who is now declining from dementia. Magdalena tells her they’re the descendants of the Karankawa Indigenous tribe, trying to impart a tie to Galveston even as Carly longs to explore life elsewhere. Carly’s boyfriend, Jess Rivera, a promising baseball player, helps support his family by working with local fisherman Vinh Pham. Since his father was incarcerated, Jess’s mother rarely leaves the house, and the matriarch role has fallen to the eldest of his four sisters, Yvonne. Though readers might have trouble keeping track of the many characters, the strong sense of place carries through no matter who is talking, whether individual characters or a chorus of Filipino church members who scrutinize Carly (‘we are afraid that what we suspect is true, that she has a Filipina mother but no Philippines anywhere in her’). This is a worthy love letter to Galveston.”

Mount Chicago by Adam Levin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mount Chicago: “In Levin’s exhausting metafictional latest, a sinkhole opens under Chicago and swallows up big swaths of the city. Comedian and novelist Solly Gladman stays home with hemorrhoids while his family takes a trip to the museum, then disappear in the sinkhole, leaving Gladman to drown in whiskey, Xanax, and regret. Gladman’s ‘foil,’ Apter Schutz, who made big profits off a hilarious scheme involving desk calendars meant to parody white nationalists, idolizes Gladman. After Apter is recruited to work for the mayor, who wants to create ‘Mount Chicago,’ a memorial that will be a ‘less depressing Auschwitz,’ the mayor tasks Apter with putting together ‘Day Zero,’ a music festival to aid the city’s recovery. Apter finally gets the chance of an encounter with Gladman when he is tasked with finding and convincing him to perform. Unfortunately, Levin undercuts the otherwise satisfying sociopolitical comedy with frustrating interjections about his struggles to write this novel and sell his previous one, his wife’s uncertainty about whether Apter or Gladman is supposed to be Levin, and many other asides that read like missives to creative writing students or nod to the difficulties of this latest project. As the frustrated reader will find, acknowledging a problem is not equivalent to solving it.”

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