Party of Two

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Doyle, Burton, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Roddy Doyle, Susan Burton, and more—that are publishing this week.

Love by Roddy Doyle

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Love: “This witty, satisfying novel about male friendship, aging, and guilt from Doyle (A Star Called Henry) dramatizes language’s inadequacies when it comes to affairs of the heart. ‘The words are letting me down,’ says Dubliner Joe to Davy, his old friend visiting from England, while telling him that he has left his wife for another woman, Jessica, whom they both briefly adored as young men. Over pints at several pubs, the two 50-something Irishmen get back into their old rhythms and revive, or occasionally reinvent, the past. Joe grasps for the right metaphors or analogies with which to explain his life-altering decision to Davy as much as to himself, ‘testing the words’ for how they sound. Davy, burdened by his own sense of guilt with regard to his rapidly declining father, is at times intrigued, bored, contemptuous, resentful, provoking, or supportive of his friend as Joe circles around his infidelity with an almost Jamesian vagueness. Some readers may chafe at Doyle’s leisurely unfolding of the plot, though the two men are nothing if not good company. By closing time, Doyle has focused the novel’s rambling energy into an elegiac and sobering climax. This one is a winner.”

Empty by Susan Burton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Empty: “This American Life producer Burton debuts with an unfiltered discussion of how binge eating and anorexia plagued her throughout her adolescence and into her 20s and turned her into a ‘desperate wreck.’ Around the time she entered puberty, Burton began worrying about getting fat; she started controlling her portions and took ‘perverse pleasure in [her] smallness.’ Burton ably recreates her anxiety-filled youth, when she struggled with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s alcoholism, and with eating disorders. She offers raw descriptions of binging late at night in her kitchen as a teen, eating ice cream, muffins, and power bars to fill a void (‘This was tearing things, a frenzy’), then, later in life, starving herself to the point that she developed osteoporosis, all in an effort to feel ‘light’ and ’empty.’ Burton traces her issues with food back to her grandmother, who obsessed about weight, but offers no easy answers about what ultimately drove her own behavior. Physically healthy now, she writes that she remains ‘inflexible, paranoid, and self-loathing about food,’ and is still on the road to recovery, aided by therapy, writing, and family support. Burton convincingly conveys the desperation and darkness of eating disorders.”

Barcelona Days by Daniel Riley

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Barcelona Days: “A volcano grounds a pair of 29-year-old New Yorkers at the end of their 2017 Barcelona vacation in Riley’s emotionally grinding latest (after Fly Me). Whitney, a rising television producer, suggests that she and her fiancé, Will, each sow their wild oats over the two months she’ll spend working in L.A., before their planned trip to Barcelona. They agree to three sexual encounters with strangers, and in Barcelona, they disclose the details of their hookups in light-hearted banter. The next morning, an ash cloud from Iceland indefinitely postpones their return flight, and the fallout of their experiment begins to strain the relationship. At a party, they bump into Jack Pickle, the star of their alma mater’s basketball team, and Jenna Leonard, a quirky college student from Southern California. Then Will and Jenna attend a concert together, ramping up Whitney’s jealousy as she goes back to Jack’s apartment. The next morning, both accuse the other of cheating, and their argument upends the already fractured relationship. While Riley’s cool, sensuous prose evokes the ‘promise of being trapped in the city forever,’ pages of acrimony between Will and Whitney and a lurid backstory involving Jenna throttle the tale’s momentum. There are better stories of love on the rocks.”

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Tokyo Ueno Station: “In Yu’s coolly meditative, subtly spectral tale (after Gold Rush), Kazu, a former denizen of a Tokyo tent city, looks mournfully on the past. Kazu lingers around Ueno Park in present-day Tokyo, where he once spent several years camping among the homeless, and spends the days people-watching and reminiscing. He recalls his birth in 1933 in rural Soma; remembers how he sought work for long stretches away from his family, including a grueling stint doing construction work in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; and replays his response to the death of his only son at 21, in 1981 (‘My shock, my grief, my anger were all so great that crying felt inadequate’), which led him to drift away and spend more time alone in Tokyo. After two decades pass, he winds up living in the park. The banal conversations he overhears in the present from middle-class park visitors clash with the bleak recollections of his perpetual misfortune, along with the fraught history of the park as a mass grave and site of rebellion, details that emerge in Kazu’s remembered conversations with a fellow homeless man. The novel’s melding of memory and observation builds toward Kazu’s temporary eviction from the park in 2006. Yu’s spare, empathetic prose beautifully expresses Kazu’s perspective on the passage of time; he feels a ‘constant absence from the present, an anger toward the future.’ This slim but sprawling tale finds a deeply sympathetic hero in a man who feels displaced and longs for connection after it’s too late.”

Also on shelves this week: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory.

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