Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Brandon Taylor, Elias Rodriques, Kelsey McKinney and more—that are publishing this week.
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Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Filthy Animals: “Taylor follows his Booker shortlisted Real Life with a sharp, surprising collection. Many of the stories cover a 24-hour period in Madison, Wis., beginning with the excellent ‘Pot Luck.’ Lionel, an exam proctor and mathematician who is recently out of psychiatric care following a suicide attempt, goes to a dinner party and meets Charles, a dancer. A mutual attraction emerges, despite some awkwardness and the presence of Charles’s partner, Sophie. ‘Flesh’ shifts perspective to Charles in his dance class the next morning, and delineates his complex dynamic with Sophie. ‘Proctoring,’ a standout featuring Lionel at work, further complicates the triangle. As the sequence continues, supporting characters are linked by various circumstances. (The client of a young woman who works as a home cook and a babysitter in ‘Little Beast’ turns out to be the doctor of one of Charles’s dance classmates.) In the marvelous ‘Meat,’ Lionel concludes, ‘All of life was shifting equations.’ Throughout, Taylor spins intimate narratives of fraught relationship dynamics and demonstrates a keen sensitivity to his characters’ fragile mental health. Taylor’s language sparks with the tension of beauty and cruelty, conveying a sense of desire and the pleasures of food and sex complicated by capricious behavior. The author has an impressive range, and his depictions of complex characters trapped in untenable situations are hard to forget.”
All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running by Elias Rodriques
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running: “Rodriques’s fresh and rhapsodic debut follows a group of Florida high school friends who reunite to rediscover the ties that still bind them. Though their lives have diverged since graduation—’so much of the future became the past so quickly’—the friends, some Black, some white, meet again after seven years when Daniel, a Jamaican American teacher living with his boyfriend in Brooklyn, returns to his hometown of Jacksonville. He’s come to mourn his first love, a self-proclaimed redneck girl named Aubrey, who was killed in a truck crash with her drunk ex-boyfriend Brandon. Daniel reconnects with his teammates on the track team, Twig, Des, and Des’s girlfriend, Egypt; and Aubrey’s best friend, Jess. They drink and reminisce, but things get out of hand when Des and Daniel drive out to Brandon’s place to confront him. The lilting cadence of the friends’ dialogue as they contemplate what lies ahead adds particular resonance, as do Daniel’s reflections (‘They guarded me because they weren’t sure they were going to get out of Palm Coast themselves. But if I escaped, we all did’). This melancholy story is a startling and necessary addition to the canon of works that parse what it means to grow up in the American South.”
Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Songs in Ursa Major: “Brodie’s breezy debut draws on the American soft rock music scene of the 1960s and ’70s to mixed results. In the summer of 1969, ‘heir apparent of folk rock’ Jesse Reid is supposed to perform at a famous festival on an island off the coast of Massachusetts that bears more than a passing resemblance to Martha’s Vineyard. When Jesse is suddenly sidelined by a motorcycle accident, local band The Breakers, led by 19-year-old Jane Quinn, takes his place, to resounding success. Soon, Jesse’s manager offers to make Jane a star, and Jane visits gorgeous, tormented Jesse at his parents’ island mansion, where he is recovering from his injuries. After Jane and her band get a record contract and start touring with Jesse, Jane and Jesse become romantically involved, and she becomes aware of his increasing dependence on drugs. Brodie’s narrative is at its best when focused on the mechanics and politics of music production, which emerge from the perspectives of the band’s manager and sound engineer. Brodie also has a clear grasp of the hurdles faced by Jane as a female musician, but the romantic and erotic aspects of the novel are less convincing (‘his hands gripping her hips like handles on a plow’). In the end, this riff on A Star Is Born doesn’t transcend its well-worn origins.”
God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about God Spare the Girls: “Two sisters are rocked by the infidelity of their famous pastor father in McKinney’s promising debut. At the outset, Caroline Nolan is excited to leave for college and is helping her older sister, Abby, prepare for her wedding with Matthew, an oil rig worker. The sisters have always been expected to behave like their father, Luke—gracious and holy—which as a girl Caroline thought was a privilege, but now begins to question. Abby, meanwhile, has helped write her father’s sermons without receiving credit—one of which went viral with Luke encouraging a million teenagers to wear abstinence rings and take purity vows. Caroline secretly loses her virginity and worries her sister is settling for Matthew, whose strong feelings for Abby aren’t completely reciprocated. Then a woman from the congregation confesses to a relationship with Luke, leading the church board to put him on probation. Their mother stands by her man, but the sisters move into a ranch they inherited from their grandmother. As the weeks go by and the wedding nears, the sisters bond over their anger toward their father’s hypocrisy, which escalates with another revelation. While the ending is a bit abrupt, McKinney otherwise successfully wrangles her plot. This stirring debut about faith, secrets, and familial bonds will keep readers turning the pages.”