Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jo Hamya, Hilma Wolitzer, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Three Rooms by Jo Hamya
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Rooms: “Hamya’s cerebral debut explores a young British woman’s identity formation while her country is besieged by inequality, disconnection, and political instability. In the fall of 2018, the unnamed narrator, a millennial woman of color, has just moved into student accommodations at Oxford for a temporary research assistant position. Trying to find her footing, she spends most of her time online, contemplating how others manage their online personae, such as a student named Ghislane, whose father recorded a hit ‘faux-folk’ song of the same name in the 1990s (‘Ghislane was not as famous as her father,’ the narrator notes, perusing her Instagram profile, ‘but there were the beginnings of some distinction there’). Later, the narrator moves to London and scrapes by while working yet another temporary job at a society magazine with a pitiful salary. As Brexit divides the nation, she reflects on the changing cultural climate and the purposelessness of her toils: ‘When did it become ridiculous to think that a stable economy and a fair housing market were reasonable expectations?’ In precise prose, Hamya captures the disillusionment and despair plaguing her protagonist. This perceptive debut will delight fans of Rachel Cusk.”
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Several People Are Typing: “Kasulke’s ambitious if underwhelming debut, a fantastical workplace comedy, unfolds via Slack messages sent by employees of a New York City PR firm. Gerald works from home, trapped indefinitely ‘within the confines of [Slack].’ Other colleagues also find opportunities to ‘wfh,’ citing a blizzard, or kids, but one of them, Tripp, continues going into the office, where he meets Beverly, a new team member, and the two begin a secret romance. Kasulke does a good job pulling together the signifiers of office culture—the team trade pet pics and carry on inside jokes with an emoji named ‘dusty stick’—and they work on a campaign for a dog food company that’s in crisis mode over its product allegedly containing poison. But none of these or the other internal mini dramas—such as the incessant ‘howling’ Lydia hears or Gerald’s unease-turned-existential crisis—are particularly engaging or inspiring, and things take a series of odd turns after the Slackbot AI takes over Gerald’s body with his mind still stuck in the digital realm. However clever the setup is, the satire lacks bite and feels not unlike listening to a friend complain about their job. For a book about Slack, it’s largely that.”
Moon and the Mars by Kia Corthron
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Moon and the Mars: “Playwright and novelist Corthron (The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter) combines a propulsive coming-of-age story with a fascinating history of the years before and after the Civil War. Beginning in 1857, biracial seven-year-old narrator Theo Brigid Brook observes the social upheaval and racial injustice leading to the conflict. She lives in Manhattan’s infamous Five Points neighborhood with her Grammy Brook and Grammy Cahill, who are discriminated against for being Irish and Black, respectively. Other residents of the Brook household include a barber who boards with them and a woman who escaped from slavery in South Carolina. Theo is acutely attuned to such events as the Metropolitan Police riots, and her intense relationship with the rough-and-tumble Irish lad Ciaran seems fated from an early age. While Theo is bookish and entrenched in family and community, Ciaran eschews education and takes a series of manual labor jobs. Corthron smoothly weaves in historical developments as divisions flare in the Five Points, such as the implications of the Dred Scott case, something Grammy Brook sums up concisely: ‘Whenever the rich make a crisis, you know what gonna fall to the poor is catastrophe.’ Corthron’s ambition pays off with dividends.”
Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket: “In this sage collection of stories, many of which were published in the 1960s and ’70s, Wolitzer (An Available Man) considers love, marriage, and motherhood. The title story is narrated by a woman who regrets her inability to help when she sees a woman with two children having a nervous breakdown in a supermarket. In ‘Mrs. X,’ a housewife receives a note signed from an ‘anonymous friend’ hinting that her husband is having an affair and grows angry at the friend for interfering in their lives. In ‘Overtime,’ a husband and wife allow the former’s needy ex to move in with them temporarily—with unsurprisingly uproarious results. In the affecting ‘Mother,’ a woman who has just given birth worries that something is wrong with her premature baby and leaves the maternity ward to search the hospital for her. Several of the stories revolve around a New York couple, Paulette and Howard; in a contemporary story, the couple must cope with the coronavirus pandemic: ‘We were going to have a Zoom meeting, whatever that was,’ Paulette narrates about a March 2020 book club meeting, her memories undercut with a wistfulness over the devastation that would come in the months to follow. Throughout, Wolitzer captures the feel of each moment with characters who charm with their honesty. The result is a set of engaging time capsules.”