The Hopeful

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ford, Millet, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Richard Ford, Lydia Millet, Tracy O’Neill, and more—that are publishing this week.

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Sorry for Your Trouble by Richard Ford

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sorry for Your Trouble: “Pulitzer-winner Ford’s middling collection (after Let Me Be Frank with You) showcases men experiencing glimmers of epiphanies amid the process of mourning. In ‘The Run of Yourself,’ a lawyer from New Orleans lives a quiet existence in Maine after his wife’s untimely death, and a chance meeting in a bar with a younger woman leads to a platonic sleepover and an eye-opening morning walk on the beach. In ‘Second Language,’ Jonathan, a widower who made his millions in Texas oil, begins a new life in New York City with a shaky marriage. After his new wife’s mother dies, Jonathan comforts her while realizing they will never really understand each other. In the standout story, ‘Displaced,’ 16-year-old Henry reels from his father’s death and lives in a rooming house with his mother in Jackson, Miss. Henry befriends Niall, an Irish-American teenager; after they get drunk, Henry lets Niall kiss him, and though he’s open to being comforted, he’s unwilling to explore a sexual relationship. Ford’s unrelenting exploration of life’s bleakness and sadness makes these stories enervating, particularly compared to his previous work, though his clear, nuanced prose continues to impress. Ford is a supremely gifted writer, but he’s not at his best here.”

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Children’s Bible: “Millet follows up Sweet Lamb of Heaven with a lean, ironic allegory of climate change and biblical comeuppance. A group of friends, successful ‘artsy and educated types,’ plan an ‘offensively long reunion’ at a summer house ‘built by robber barons in the 19th century,’ somewhere on the East Coast. They bring along their children, ranging in age from prepubescent to 17, who devise inventive ways to ignore them. With the young teenage narrator, Evie, Millet perfectly captures the blend of indifference and scorn with which the teenagers view their boozy parents, emblematic of humanity’s dithering in the face of environmental catastrophe: ‘They didn’t do well with long-term warnings. Even medium-term.’ After a massive storm interrupts the summer idyll and brings looting and riots to New York and Boston, the parents lose themselves to booze and cocaine and the children flee with a menagerie of rescued animals, seeking refuge at a farmhouse. This lurid section, in which they are besieged by armed raiders searching for food, is shaky, and allusions to biblical tales such as Noah’s Ark and the Ten Commandments feel facile, but the novel regains its footing once parents and children reunite, with the children calling the shots. Millet’s look at intergenerational strife falls short of her best work.”

Quotients by Tracy O’Neill

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Quotients: “O’Neill’s esoteric follow-up to The Hopeful centers on the deceit-filled relationship between Alexandra Chen, an American woman, and Jeremy Jordan, an Englishman, who meet and begin dating in London in May 2005. Alex works in international public relations (‘She had practiced how to sell a country on her selling their country’), while Jeremy, a hedge fund analyst, tries to keep his past as a British intelligence officer stationed in Belfast during the Troubles a secret from Alex. Alex has troubles of her own—her brother, Shel, ran away at 13, and she’s been looking for him ever since. After Alex accepts an advertising job in New York City that December, Jeremy follows her and they get married. O’Neill’s narrative is tinged with commentary on the rise of digital and social media, which drives a wedge between screen-obsessed Alex and analog Jeremy. Then, in 2008, a journalist friend of Alex’s does his own digging on Shel and raises alarms from Jeremy’s old intelligence contacts after the story unearths NSA secrets. As the details of the couple’s pasts come to light, their marriage is put in jeopardy. O’Neill’s oblique, sometimes opaque prose wears on the reader, though it also offers flashes of insight on the characters’ frequent incomprehension of one another. This would-be techno thriller takes on a bit too much.”

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Book of the Little Axe: “Francis-Sharma (’Til the Well Runs Dry) delivers a satisfying and perceptive transnational family saga. In 1830 Montana, Victor Rose struggles to complete an Apsaalooke vision quest, while his best friend, Like-Wind, passes through their tribe’s initiation rite. Victor and his mother, Rosa Rendon, flee after Victor witnesses the drowning death of a young woman who’d spurned him for Like-Wind, to avoid potential suspicion. While traveling, Victor discovers the journal of Creadon Rampley, a hardworking young wanderer from the States seeking gold in Trinidad, in Rosa’s belongings. Here, the narrative flashes back to Rosa’s childhood in Trinidad as the daughter of a prosperous free black farmer and blacksmith. When the British seize control of the colony and attempt to edge out all non-European landowners, Rosa’s father takes desperate measures to keep the land, eventually settling on marrying Rosa’s sister Eve to Creadon. Back on the trail, Victor and Rosa run into trouble on their way to Kullyspell territory. Like-Wind, having reluctantly led two Frenchmen to Victor and Rosa, is killed by one of the Frenchmen during a fight with them as Victor defends Rosa from their sexual assault. Creadon’s writings and Rosa’s memories disclose a cascade of family secrets that explains how Rose and Creadon ended up in North America. In this masterly epic, the pleasure lies in piecing everything together.”

The Anthill by Julianne Pachico

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Anthill: “At the start of Pachico’s uneven sophomore effort (after The Lucky Ones), 28-year-old half-Colombian and half-British Maria ‘Lina’ Carolina returns to her birthplace of Medellín, Colombia, for the first time in 20 years. Anxious and aimless, she has left behind a foundering academic career in England to volunteer at The Anthill, a school founded by Mattías (‘Matty’), whom Lina’s mother had raised with Lina in Colombia. After a disarming initial reunion with Matty, who is scarred and embittered by his experiences in the city when it was more dangerous (‘You won’t be able to recognise who was once a guerilla or who was once a paramilitary,’ he tells her), Lina makes friends with the school’s other volunteers and grows close to the children. However, as Matty tells the other volunteers a different version of his childhood story from the one Lina remembers, Lina is disturbed by the children’s sightings of a strange, dirty boy who vanishes whenever Lina turns to look at him. While plot inconsistencies, underdeveloped characters, and awkward second-person narration lessen the narrative’s emotional impact, Pachico navigates issues of class, war, and violence with intelligence and grace. This lopsided tale falls somewhere between literary fiction and commercial mystery without quite finding its footing.”

Bonus Links from Our Archive:
Tossed on Life’s Tide: Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank with You
Across the Border: Richard Ford’s Canada
Recession Reading: Independence Day by Richard Ford
The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford: A Review
A Year in Reading 2014: Lydia Millet
A Year in Reading 2012: Lydia Millet
A Year in Reading 2007: Lydia Millet

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