Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Julie Otsuka, Quan Barry, Sarah Weinman, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Swimmers: “Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic) delivers a quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways. The regulars at a pool range in age, ability, and swimming habits, and are connected by an incessant need to swim. When a crack shows up in the deep end of lane four, the swimmers all grow nervous about the pool’s future. While the ‘nonswimmers’ in their lives (also known as ‘crack deniers’) dismiss the swimmers’ concerns, the swimmers collectively discover how the crack ‘quietly lodges itself, unbeknownst to you, in the recesses of your mind’—except for cheerful Alice, who has swum in the pool for 35 years and now has dementia. Some members stop going to the pool out of fear, while others try to get close to the crack. Just before the pool is closed, Alice determines to get in ‘Just one more lap.’ Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers’ first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice’s daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It’s a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters’ inner worlds.”
When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East by Quan Barry
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East: “Barry (We Ride upon Sticks) returns with the uneven story of a novice Buddhist monk’s search for an enlightened teacher believed to be reincarnated. Chuluun, 23, hasn’t seen his twin brother Mun for more than a year, ever since Mun renounced his vows at the monastery where they grew up. But after he retains Mun as his driver, the brothers set out across the vastness of Mongolia to look for the child among the Reindeer People of the north, the eagle hunters of the Altai Mountains, and the herders of the Gobi Desert. Along the way, Chuluun struggles with his decision over his final vows and tries to reconnect with Mun. It’s complicated, as the brothers can read each other’s thoughts, and Chuluun keeps Mun’s reason for leaving the monastery a secret until the end. Barry drops in occasional Mongolian words without defining them, which immerses the reader into the setting, but can take some getting used to. The pacing of the quest, meanwhile, is inconsistent, with bits of action here and there (including a dramatic sandstorm) among the digressions on Buddhist philosophy, but Barry brings a great deal of empathy and nuance to the brothers’ attempts to reckon with their spirituality. It’s a mixed bag, but much of this will resonate.”
Wildcat by Amelia Morris
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wildcat: “A writer and new mother flails through life in Morris’s sparkling debut novel (after the memoir Bon Appetempt). After Leanne Hazelton realizes she detests her best friend, East Los Angeles influencer and anti-vaxxer Regina Mark, Leanne surreptitiously gets Regina’s Instagram password and launches a slow campaign to discredit her. While nursing the grudge, Leanne prepares for the launch of her cookbook memoir; grapples with the recent death of her father (she keeps hearing his voice); and struggles to manage a student in the writing class she teaches out of her house, an older man who doesn’t recognize page limits or personal boundaries. A local measles outbreak and the potential exposure of it to Leanne’s son ramps up Leanne’s annoyance at Regina, though her attempts to sabotage Regina’s reputation gain little traction until she teams up with new friend and literary phenomenon Maxine Hunter for a large-scale prank. Seeing the feud from only Leanne’s side perfectly captures the false intimacy of social media and how confusing its connections can be, an ambience intensified by Morris’s arresting, concise observations, such as the description of Leanne communicating with her half-sister ‘mostly with variations on the heart emoji.’ These zany episodes yield great drama.”
Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dead Collections: “Lambda Literary Award winner Fellman (for The Breath of the Sun, in the LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror category) returns with a delightfully eccentric story of a trans vampire and archivist. Sol Katz lives in the basement archive of the Historical Society of Northern California, where he works as a historian while staying in the safety of the sunless offices except for visits to the blood transfusion clinic and nighttime meanderings along the San Francisco streets. His work is interrupted by a visit from Elsie, the widow of Tracy Britton, writer of the popular sci-fi television series Feet of Clay. Elsie has come to donate Tracy’s documents and memorabilia, and quickly falls in love with Sol as their archival work together progresses. Fellman’s description of Sol’s Feet of Clay fandom sprawls into the show’s universe and characters, charmingly evoking the fan fiction genre. Rife with dry humor and a creative mix of narration, texts, emails, and Facebook threads, the novel expertly balances the humorous and the heartfelt. Fellman thoughtfully examines gender, sexuality, and belonging through an unforgettable main character, who explores what it means to truly embody himself. This bold and self-aware story delivers the goods.”
Scoundrel by Sarah Weinman
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Scoundrel: “In this mesmerizing account, Weinman (The Real Lolita) does a masterly job resurrecting a stranger-than-fiction chapter in American criminal justice. In 1957, unemployed veteran Edgar Smith was arrested for bludgeoning 15-year-old Victoria Zielinski to death in Mahwah, N.J. Smith, who testified in his own defense at his trial, was sentenced to death. In 1962, after conservative intellectual William F. Buckley learned Smith was an admirer of Buckley’s magazine, National Review, Buckley began corresponding with Smith, leading to an unlikely friendship and financial support for legal efforts to spare Smith’s life. Smith, who published both a book about his case and a mystery novel from behind bars, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder during a retrial, and in 1971 he was released for time served. In 1976, Smith stabbed a woman nearly to death in California. (During his testimony at the subsequent trial, he admitted to killing Zielinski.) Weinman’s dogged research, which included correspondence with Smith, who died in prison in 2017, and a study of Buckley’s papers, enable her to craft a deeply unsettling narrative about how a clever killer manipulated the justice system to his benefit. This instant classic raises disturbing questions about gullibility even on the part of the very bright.”