Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Howrey, Johanne Lykke Holm, Collins, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Meg Howrey, Johanne Lykke Holm, Billy Collins, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
They’re Going to Love You by Meg Howrey
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about They’re Going to Love You: “Howrey (The Wanderers) delivers a poignant family story of alienation, regret, and desire. Carlisle Martin, 43, a Los Angeles choreographer, has learned that her father, Robert, whom she hasn’t seen for 19 years, is dying. As the daughter of two professional ballet dancers, Carlisle was a natural talent, and was especially driven to impress the astute Robert and his effusive partner, James, a ballet teacher. Growing up, she visited Robert and James two weeks a year (from her home in Ohio with her mother), relishing in the magic of their decadent Greenwich Village home. She especially craved James’s stories and strived to be closer to the pair. As she narrates in a flashback of her life at 24: ‘My father, I love, and James I sort of want to be. Maybe I mean: have?’ But then she did something Robert won’t forgive her for (the details of which don’t come out till much later), and went on to build a career without the help of her family. Now, she learns she might inherit Robert and James’s house, according to the terms of her grandfather’s trust, causing a painful flood of memories and tension with the couple, whom she assumes want her to give the house to James. The fraught scenes provoke staggering bursts of emotion, such as a flashback to Carlisle at 12 returning from New York to Ohio and realizing she doesn’t feel like she belongs with her mother’s new family. Howrey expertly builds tension, leading the reader to feel alongside Carlisle both the draw of ballet and her anxiety about her reunion with her father. It’s a breathtaking performance.”
Strega by Johanne Lykke Holm
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Strega: “Translator Holm’s stylish and spellbinding gothic debut follows a group of nine young women who arrive for seasonal work at the Olympic Hotel near the remote Alpine village of Strega. The hotel, once a playground for the rich, now sits empty, and the women spend their days cleaning and preparing for guests who never arrive. Punchy, rhythmic sentences capture the mixture of boredom and anticipation that permeates their work. Amid the routine, the narrator, Rafa, develops a bond with Alba, but their idyll is broken when a festival brings a raucous party of guests to the hotel. That night, after one of the women performs a dance routine for the guests, she disappears. A subsequent search yields nothing but her dress, which Alba finds. Holm has a sure hand in conveying the atmosphere of dread that ensues and colors Rafa and Alba’s relationship as the women resume their routine and summer winds to a close. Rafa’s narration, meanwhile, crystallizes into an unsettling reckoning with her vulnerability in which she contemplates how ‘a girl’s life could at any point be turned into a crime scene.’ Readers won’t be able to turn away from this gorgeous and captivating work.”
The Wintering Place by Kevin McCarthy
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Wintering Place: “McCarthy follows up Wolves of Eden with another tough tale of the Dakota Territory, one as bloody and visceral as a Sam Peckinpah film. It’s 1867 and Irish immigrants Thomas Sugrue and his younger brother, Michael, are mired in a brutal struggle for survival. Both have fled a murder charge in their home country and served with Union forces in the American Civil War. Tom and his lover Sara—who is half French, half Indigenous, and whom Tom recently liberated from abusive captors by more killings—have just rescued Michael from a near-scalping and sure death following a Sioux onslaught at their fort. Over the next few months, a series of events cast the three in sharp relief against a treacherous environment that is as unforgiving as it is lawless: a deadly encounter with a pair of cutthroat fur trappers, a tense dispute with two Crow braves over rights to a pair of elk carcasses, and a final violent reckoning of unresolved grudges from the past at a frontier trading post. McCarthy effectively alternates chapters cobbled from a journal kept by Michael with stark omniscient accounts, thus combining an intimate tone with an unflinching appraisal of the territory’s harsh terms of engagement. This is a solid entry in the revisionist western fiction canon.”
I Am the Light of This World by Michael Parker
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Am the Light of This World: “Parker (Prairie Fever) traces in this frank if uneven outing the harrowing journey of an east Texas man who attempts to build a new life after serving a 40-year prison sentence. One night in 1973 Smyrna, Tex., 17-year-old Earl Boudreaux attends a wild, druggy party. The night turns hazy: there’s an orgy Earl scarcely remembers, and a drug dealer tries to rape Tina, the woman Earl’s in love with, then murders her. In short order, Earl, whose car is coated with Tina’s blood, is arrested and convicted for murder. Upon his release in 2018, Earl receives a large sum of money bequeathed by his lawyer which enables him to make a fresh start in Cliffside, Ore., where, after staying in a motel and struggling to lead a normal life, he finds a place to live and a new set of friends, all the while concealing his history until another fateful mistake brings his past to light. While the author aptly conveys Earl’s quotidian challenges post-incarceration, the book is marred by thinly developed characters, particularly in the first half covering Earl’s teen years. It’s not bad, but other authors have done much more with stories of false convictions.”
Also out this week: Musical Tables by Billy Collins.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Banks, Wilson, Krasznahorkai, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Russell Banks, Kevin Wilson, László Krasznahorkai, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
The Magic Kingdom by Russell Banks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Magic Kingdom: “Banks’s heartbreaking latest (after Foregone) delves into the history of a Shaker community in Florida through one man’s tragic story. In a metafictional frame, Banks describes finding in a public library a trove of reel-to-reel tapes, on which Harley Mann recounts his years as a teenager growing up in the remote New Bethany Shaker colony. What follows are Banks’s transcriptions of the recordings, which Harley made in 1971 when he was 81. After Harley’s father dies, Harley and his family move from their faltering utopian socialist community to New Bethany, and though he doesn’t immediately buy into the Shaker beliefs, he accepts the mentorship of John Bennett, the Shaker elder who sponsored them. However, when Harley develops an obsession with Sadie Pratt, whom he believes is playing him romantically against John, the stage is set for a devastating reckoning that undermines the colony’s survival. Looking back, Harley reflects bitterly on the acquisition of the community’s land by Walt Disney and the theme park’s discriminatory labor policies, which ran counter to the Shakers’ philosophy of inclusiveness. Though Harley’s tale is deeply personal, Banks artfully presents it on a larger scale, showing how it fits in a centuries-long pattern of settlers who came to Florida seeking a better life only to find, in Harley’s words, ‘It’s where you go when your prospects elsewhere have ended, and you’ve not yet settled into despair.’ Banks’s penetrating dissection of the American dream and its frequently unfulfilled promises is consistently profound. This is his best work in some time.”

Now Is Not The Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Now Is Not The Time to Panic: “Wilson (Nothing to See Here) spins a delightful story of two aspiring artists in small-town Tennessee. It’s 1996 when Frankie Bulger, an outcast who dreams of becoming a writer, meets Zeke, also 16, who is new to town. Together they make a poster with the cryptic line ‘The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.’ Thrilled at their creation, Frankie and Zeke make hundreds of copies of it on a photocopier stolen by Frankie’s triplet brothers, then post them around town. Copycats begin doing the same, and before long, local and national newspapers report on the panic caused by the posters, fashion brands reproduce the slogan on T-shirts, and tourists arrive in droves. Frankie and Zeke keep their involvement a secret until 22 years later, when a journalist finds out Frankie’s role. Confronted with the possibility of her secret coming out, Frankie goes on a quest to come clean with her family and reconnect with old friends. Wilson ably captures Frankie and her peers’ adolescent confusion and the creative power of like-minded teens, and his coming-of-age story is ripe with wisdom about what art means in the modern age. It adds up to a surprisingly touching time capsule of youth in the ’90s.”

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We All Want Impossible Things: “Newman’s moving adult debut (after the kids’ guide What Can I Say?) explores a lifelong friendship between two women, one of whom is dying. Set primarily in a hospice where Edi is dying of ovarian cancer, the story shifts between past and present to show the depth of Edi’s lifelong bond with Ash—the childhood missteps, the joys, the Bowie concerts, and their ‘absolute dependability’ for each other, as Ash puts it. When Edi receives her terminal prognosis, Ash becomes her primary bedside companion. But this isn’t just a harrowing depiction of the heartbreak and indignity of Edi’s decline, it’s also about Ash, who stumbles through her disintegrating marriage, contends with her daughter’s refusal to go to school, and takes a series of lovers. Ash also details the moments—at turns hilarious and sad—that make up her friendship, calling Edi’s memories a ‘back-up hard drive’ for her own. Here and throughout, Newman does a wonderful job channeling Ash’s sense of impending loss. Ash also keeps up a steady stream of wickedly wry observations, such as her description of a group of children who visit Edi’s bedside to play their recorders, ‘stand[ing] in a nervous semicircle, clutching their terrible instruments.’ Newman breathes ample life into this exquisite story of death and dying.”

Flight by Lynn Steger Strong

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Flight: “Three siblings gather with their spouses and children for a fraught Christmas in Strong’s delicate latest (after Want). Martin, the eldest, is a disgraced college professor married to ruthless lawyer Tess. Henry is an artist married to artist turned social worker Alice. Kate, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mom married to the useless Josh, who has recently come to the end of a once considerable inheritance. Everyone gathers at Henry and Alice’s house in upstate New York; it’s their first Christmas together since their mother, Helen, died eight months earlier. Tensions rise: Kate wants to live in Helen’s house in Florida until her kids are off to college, but she needs her brothers to agree. Henry and Alice can’t have kids; the other two families are knee-deep in child-rearing, and, meanwhile, Alice is inappropriately attached to a child named Maddie, one of her clients. A disappearance midway through amplifies the plot, but the theme of grief takes center stage, as Helen’s memory permeates the gathering. Strong is adept as characterizing this loss in all its manifestations, and in rendering the challenges inherent in three families trying to celebrate together; upon arrival, Tess ‘wishes this visit were over.’ Of course, the drama and fully formed characters make readers feel otherwise. Once again, Strong demonstrates her talents for perception and nuance.”

Participation by Anna Moschovakis

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Participation: “Novelist, poet, and translator Moschovakis (Eleanor, or, The Rejection of the Progress of Love) delivers a brilliant and prescient story of an intellectual woman’s engagement with two book clubs amid climate catastrophe and political strife. As E, founder of the now-defunct group Anti-Love, theorizes about her own desires, she experiences dueling erotic impulses toward S, whose full name and gender are unknown to E, and who belongs to another group, Love, which has transitioned from IRL to virtual meetings; and a man she nicknames ‘the capitalist,’ whom she knows through one of her jobs. The two clubs’ binary names highlight E’s ambivalence about love and partnerships; she reflects on the Love group’s choice of a text about Aristophanes’s view that each person spends their life searching for their other half. Meanwhile, news alerts of marching white supremacists and extreme weather events flash on E’s computer screen, which she describes as a ‘stack of small explosions, almost registering, then, compulsively, swiped away.’ Often, E breaks the fourth wall, anticipating and toying with the reader’s expectations (‘I love it when you try to guess. Sometimes it’s exactly what I need’). Throughout, Moschovakis brings her fierce intelligence to bear in the structurally surprising and impeccably executed narrative. This is formal innovation at its finest.”

The Age of Goodbyes by Li Zi Shu (translated by YZ Chin)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Age of Goodbyes: “Li makes a beguiling metafictional English-language debut with a kaleidoscope of stories about and perspectives on Malaysian life over the past 50 years. The novel begins on page 513, a reference to post-election celebrations on May 13, 1969, that led to a wave of political and racial violence. In the aftermath, 20-something movie theater employee Du Li An marries mafioso Steely Bo, becomes a stepmother to his children, and opens a popular coffee shop. However, Du Li An is revealed to be a character in a novel titled The Age of Goodbyes by Shaozi, the pen name of a writer also named Du Li An. This novel is being read in the present day by an unnamed teenager who lives in a cheap hotel with his uncle and mourns his mother’s recent death, and whom Li addresses in second-person narration. This ‘you’ also reads evaluations of Shaozi’s work by a critic called ‘The Fourth Person,’ published in the 2000s. As Li zigs back and forth between the multiple Du Li Ans, the ‘you’ character, and The Fourth Person, a semblance of truth becomes increasingly elusive, making for a frustrating though provocative endeavor. It’s a singular outing, though also a forbiddingly esoteric one.”

A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East by László Krasznahorkai (translated by Ottilie Mulzet)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East: “The hermetic latest from Krasznahorkai (Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming) finds the author in a meditative mode. From a vantage point undefined in time or space, the grandson of the legendary Prince Genji arrives at an ancient monastery in Kyoto and sets about exploring its grounds. The reader is made privy to its walls and relics, the artifacts of the buddhas and bodhisattvas tended by its monks, every brick in its antique craftsmanship enumerated in Krasznahorkai’s breathless prose. Silk scrolls, tomes compiled by venerated scholars, and a treatise called The Infinite Mistake by Sir Wilford Stanley Gilmore (one of the author’s recurring characters) are all of equal interest to Prince Genji’s grandson as he makes his way toward the center of the temple, until his history, and that of countless dynasties that have come before, blur together. The narrative is entirely bereft of action, with Krasznahorkai dwelling for its duration on the secrets of the monastery, which, though captivating, add up more to exercise than story. Still, it’s a virtuosic performance by a master.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Everett, Dunn, Als, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Percival Everett, Katherine Dunn, Hilton Als, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Dr. No by Percival Everett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dr. No: “The immensely enjoyable latest from Booker-shortlisted Everett (The Trees) sends up spy movie tropes while commenting on racism in the U.S. The narrator is Wala Kitu, a Black mathematics professor researching the substance of ‘nothing,’ which yields endless clever riffs (in his search for nothing, he has ‘nothing to show for it’). Kitu is recruited by John Sill, a Black billionaire and aspiring supervillain hoping to use the power of ‘nothing’ to terrify the nation, all in retaliation for the murder of his parents by a white police chief. Intrigued by the possibilities of furthering his research, Kitu joins Sill and is whisked to a Miami lair to begin plotting the attack on Fort Knox, which Sill claims contains no gold, just a powerful ‘nothing.’ Along for the ride is Kitu’s sheltered white colleague, topologist Eigen Vector, whom Sill drugs into becoming his arm candy. As Kitu learns more about Sill’s plan and witnesses his ruthlessness, he tries to escape and save Eigen. Another Sill associate, Gloria, a Black woman with an ‘enormous afro’ who also seems to be under Sill’s spell, tells Kitu her brother was shot for ‘standing around being Black.’ Throughout, Everett boldly makes a farce out of real-world nightmares, and the rapid-fire pacing leaves readers little time to blink. Satire doesn’t get much sharper or funnier than this.”

Toad by Katherine Dunn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Toad: “Dunn (1945–2016) leaves readers a throwback to the 1960s counterculture scene in this pungent precursor to her 1989 National Book Award finalist Geek Love. Sally Gunnar, middle-aged and living alone with her goldfish, reminisces about her student days spent on the periphery of the cool kid scene at a small liberal arts college in the northwest. She relives moments steeped in magic mushroom dust and unwashed bodies with her friend Sam, who rarely goes to class and never follows the rules. She looks with disgust, not on his filthy student digs or the horsemeat he serves, but on his circle of friends as they party and pose. She is filled with rage at their inauthenticity and the way they seem to themselves not exist unless someone is looking—except Sam. And then Carlotta appears. She and Sam move to a farm, then to Montana, and eventually tragedy strikes. Sally goes through a string of lovers, slits her wrists, and breaks the law with a violent act, all in an attempt at some kind of self-realization. The story has moments of hilarity, its raw prose fresh with unpretty evocations of stale rooms and bad poetry. It amounts to a sobering look at the reality of what one’s glory days actually entailed, shot through with the unmistakable undertow of pain and self-loathing.”

The Islands by Dionne Irving

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Islands: “The characters in Irving’s penetrating collection (after the novel Quint), many of whom are Jamaican Canadians, navigate the persistent hurdles of their family relationships as they attempt to build new lives while reckoning with the past. In ‘Waking Life,’ Jamaican Canadian travel writer Po meets her Jamaican British mother, Janice, for the first time since early childhood, and her mother’s uncompromising independence fuels Po’s hope of keeping alive her own fragile romantic relationship. In ‘Canal,’ a Jamaican Panamanian Canadian woman, Pilar, travels to Panama from Canada to settle her childhood maid’s affairs, realizing only as an adult that it was her maid’s history as a Holocaust survivor that shaped the fierce protection she gave Pilar during the 1965 riots that led to her family’s emigration. ‘It is hard to be the last one left,’ Pilar thinks. Throughout, and in lucid prose, Irving depicts her characters’ chilly shocks over unexpected gaps in intimacy with their loved ones as they work to fit into non-immigrant Black spaces, making for stories that are both class-conscious and richly atmospheric. Irving’s inviting combination of subjects and style heralds a welcome new voice.”

Small Game by Blair Braverman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Small Game: “Braverman’s spellbinding debut follows a cast of five as they film an ill-fated survival-reality series called Civilization. Mara works as an instructor at a survival-style camping school, which comes easily to her after having been raised by prepper parents. She joins Civilization hoping the prize money will improve her life. Her fellow cast members, all handpicked by the show’s producers for their archetypal value, include gorgeous, inexperienced Ashley, who wants to be famous; validation-seeking Eagle Scout Kyle; gruff carpenter Bullfrog, who hopes his estranged daughter will see him on TV; and James, who books it soon after filming begins at the show’s unidentified wilderness location. Clashes with insecure Kyle ensue, though Mara doesn’t anticipate falling for Ashley, whose sweet demeanor has a dark side. Mara also surreptitiously accepts food from Tom, a crew member who takes a shine to her. Braverman does a good job demonstrating how Mara’s expertise is constantly undermined by touchy would-be survivalists both on and off the show, and how the cast members’ relationships change once things get real and the crew mysteriously disappears. With danger setting in, the author keeps up a terrific sense of suspense about whether the crew’s abandonment is intentional. Like the best TV, readers won’t want this to end.”

My Pinup by Hilton Als

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Pinup: “Pulitzer winner Als (White Girls) brings serpentine prose and acerbic wit to this slim, two-part take on Prince, desire, and loss. Als fashions Prince as the avatar of his own lovers, as well as Als’s many changing selves (‘I saw his difference. It was like yours, Prince. Was I in love with him or with you when I met you backstage in St. Louis or saw you in Texas?’), and these strands of sexuality mingle with confusion and injustices, among them Prince and other Black artists’ forfeiture of their own work to their record labels. Meanwhile, Als examines how poet and cultural critic Dorothy Parker haunted Prince as the subject of his 1987 song, and by extension Als as he tries to understand Parker’s role in Prince’s life and his own; she could be the lover that they both seek, or the self that they portray to others. Als also recounts watching Prince pander to white audiences and producers and then return to a more recognizable version of himself with his 2004 album Musicology. Don’t be fooled by the page count, Als conjures entire worlds between these covers. Readers are sure to find pleasure and pain in this bite-size delight.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring McCarthy, Chen, Samatar, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Cormac McCarthy, Kevin Chen, Sofia Samatar, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Passenger: “McCarthy returns 16 years after his Pulitzer-winning The Road with a rich story of an underachieving salvage diver in 1980 New Orleans, the first in a two-volume work. Bobby Western, son of a nuclear physicist who worked on the atomic bomb, is tasked with investigating a private plane crash in the Gulf. The plane’s crew is dead, the black box is missing, and one passenger is unaccounted for. Soon, agents of the U.S. government begin to harass Western and his coworker, then this colleague turns up dead. This thriller narrative is intertwined with the story of Western’s sister, Alicia, a mathematical genius who had schizophrenia and died by suicide. In flashbacks of Alicia’s hallucinations, vaudevillian characters perform for her—most notably, a character named the Thalidomide Kid. Alicia and the Kid engage in numerous conversations about arcane philosophy, theology, and physics—staples of the philosopher-tramps, vagabonds, and sociopaths of McCarthy’s canon, though their presence doesn’t feel quite as thematically grounded as they do in his masterworks. Still, he dazzles with his descriptions of a beautifully broken New Orleans: ‘The rich moss and cellar smell of the city thick on the night air. A cold and skullcolored moon…. At times the city seemed older than Nineveh.’ The book’s many pleasures will leave readers aching for the final installment.”

Ghost Town by Kevin Chen (translated by Darryl Sterk)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ghost Town: “Chen (Three Ways to Get Rid of Allergies) offers a haunting if overstuffed drama of a Taiwanese family’s efforts to rise out of poverty. After Keith Chen arrives back in Yongjing, having spent a decade in prison in Germany for killing his lover, T, he reunites with his older sisters Beverly, Betty, and Belinda during the monthlong annual Ghost Festival, in which residents leave out offerings for the dead. Each sibling, as well as supporting characters, takes desperate measures to improve their lives. Beverly, the eldest, gets pregnant by the gambler Little Gao. Betty runs errands for the owners of the Tomorrow Bookstore before it gets shut down by the police for selling banned books. Belinda has an abusive husband and, in one poignant episode, visits Keith in prison. These strands, along with flashbacks of Keith’s relationship with T in Berlin, have a sort of stuttered pacing, but Chen does a great job creating atmosphere. A hot bowl of soup ‘smell[s] like a snake, silently slithering around your ankle, up your leg, around your waist,’ and termites ‘nibbl[e] with fervid desperation.’ Eventually, Chen gets into the nightmarish details around T’s killing, but it takes too long to bring everything together. Though vivid, this ambitious novel is a bit too unwieldy.”

Entry Level by Wendy Wimmer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Entry Level: “Wimmer’s innovative and darkly humorous debut collection employs emergency situations and fantastical elements as the protagonists struggle to make a living with low-paying jobs. ‘Passeridae’ follows a group of crew members aboard a cruise ship as they take cover from terrorists in a laundry closet, where they reflect on the debauchery of their guests and reference the movie Titanic while joking about their low likelihood of survival. ‘INGOB’ involves a search in Door County, Wis., for the missing county snowplow driver, nicknamed ‘Chief.’ Mabel, the narrator, wonders if Chief’s disappearance is connected to a mysterious stranger who recently appeared at the rec center, where Mabel runs the bingo table. She describes the sound of his voice as ‘rustling leaves or maybe a rusted chain dropping to the floor,’ which caused her to fumble the cards, and Chief came to her aid by ordering the man to leave. In ‘Strange Magic,’ the employees of a skating rink discover that if they skate counterclockwise around the rink, they will reverse their aging. When Mary Ellen, who had a mastectomy, discovers her breast has regrown, the narrator’s understated reaction perfectly sums up the mood of Wimmer’s characters: ‘We had confirmation that something weird was happening.’ Throughout, Wimmer makes the most of strange situations.”

Heretic by Jeanna Kadlec

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heretic: “A woman reckons with the religious trauma of her upbringing and embarks on a process of self-discovery in this searing debut. Growing up in the late 1990s rural Midwest in a family devoted to the evangelical church, Kadlec led a life defined by faith, from playing the part of pious daughter to marrying the pastor’s son in 2011 and accepting the role of dutiful wife. Entering a marriage ‘intrinsically tied’ to faith soon proved dysfunctional, even abusive, as Kadlec began to see how inextricable the lies and the indoctrination of her faith were to her understanding of the world: ‘to question how worthlessness, shame, and control were supposed to sit side by side with a belief in unconditional love would have been to question the foundation on which I had built my entire life.’ When the unreconciled trauma of her past—including years of volatile manipulation and a physical assault by a gang of boys in her youth group—fomented a radical revelation, followed by a fraught divorce, Kadlec set out to reclaim her selfhood, her sexuality, and to relearn to love and trust, eventually meeting her girlfriend, a fellow ex-evangelical. As she recounts her disentanglement from religion, Kadlec weaves a deeply personal narrative with excoriating criticism to unpack the ways in which religious belief is sewn into the fabric of American society. The result provides a poignant story of being born again in a secular world.”

The White Mosque by Sofia Samatar

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The White Mosque: “Sci-fi writer Samatar (The Winged Histories) strays from her imagined worlds to excavate a very real past in this fascinating look at her religious heritage. In the summer of 2016, the author—a descendant of Swiss-German Mennonites and Somali Muslims—traveled to Khiva, Uzbekistan, in a reconstruction of an 1880s pilgrimage wherein Mennonite minister Claas Epp Jr. led his followers from Russia into Central Asia, predicting that Christ would soon return. Over two weeks, Samatar, with a group of other Mennonites, traversed great distances and histories before arriving at their destination, Ak Metchet, a Mennonite church built to resemble a white mosque. What Samatar discovered within the walled garden of Ak Metchet was the story of a small but strong Christian community whose culture, traditions, and stories outlived their 50 years residing in the predominantly Muslim area. In evocative prose, Samatar captures the Odyssean sojourn and awakens the stories of the past—painting in harrowing detail the unspeakable horrors that befell the first settlers—while reckoning with her own identity, an ‘electrical storm’ created by two religions perceived ‘as violently opposed… [yet] amplifying one another in a sizzling sibling rivalry.’ Emerging from this is a vivid mosaic that interrogates the spirit of the faithful while celebrating the beauty of storytelling. This riveting meditation on the ‘great tides of history’ yields a wondrous take on the ways the past and present intertwine.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Millet, Cain, Orner, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Lydia Millet, Amina Cain, Peter Orner, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dinosaurs: “Millet returns with a brilliant story of survival, one subtler and more effective than the NBA-shortlisted A Children’s Bible (2020). Gil, the decent and well-meaning 40-something protagonist, leaves Manhattan for Phoenix, Ariz., where he moves into a ‘castle’ next to a glass house. The neighbors are a family of four, and Gil, still bruised from a breakup three years earlier and ever uncertain how to find his footing after he inherited his family’s fortune at 18, eventually lets his guard down and becomes friendly with the family next door. They are Arlis, a beautiful psychotherapist; her handsome husband, Ted; Clem, 14, sullen and smart; and the sweet and martial arts–obsessed Tom, 10. There are occasional whiskeyed bro-outs with Ted (‘I could ask to borrow a tool,’ Ted says to break the ice on his first social call), and Clem seems to appreciate Gil for keeping Tom out of her hair with baseball and other sports, but Gil also becomes close with Arlis in a way that feels symptomatic of a problem in her marriage. A series of little interventions on Gil’s part ratchets up the tension—there’s a coach at Tom’s dojo with a swastika tattoo; a bully on Tom’s bus; and someone illegally shooting birds, whom Gil tracks with night vision goggles. Millet bakes a sense of foreboding into the atmosphere, making the scenes especially fraught. Her character work—notably of the men—is precise and stunning, as she locates their foibles and virtues, and injects a surprisingly moving dose of optimism into Gil and the married couple as they try to endure. This wonderful and dynamic writer is at the top of her game.”

A Horse at Night by Amina Cain

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Horse at Night: “Novelist Cain (Indelicacy) offers a rewarding collection of literary musings, combining personal reflections, criticism, and thoughts on the act of writing. Cain writes that ‘interiority is one of my favorite things to read in fiction—to abide in a narrator’s mind if that narrator, that mind, compels me—and when you read a diary you have that, ten fold.’ Indeed, readers will enjoy abiding in Cain’s mind as she moves gracefully from topics as disparate as solitude (‘it’s hard for us to see our own selves if we’re not ever alone’), darkness (‘maybe we get closer to something in the dark, or maybe it’s the opposite’), pets (‘We are both neurotic,’ she writes of her cat, Trout), and art (‘How strange and sometimes demonic the faces of babies and children in early portrait paintings’). Books, films, and other artworks serve as signposts along the way—reflections on the work of Virginia Woolf, Italo Calvino, and Elena Ferrante appear frequently, plus she considers paintings by Paul Delvaux and Marie NDiaye. Readers will relish following Cain’s winding prose and carefully considered conclusions. Fans of her work—and of literary criticism more generally—won’t want to miss this.”

Before All the World by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Before All the World: “Rothman-Zecher (Sadness Is a White Bird) delivers a rich and engrossing narrative of two Jewish immigrants in the U.S. and a Black writer who translates their story from the Yiddish. After a massacre at the fictional Zatelsk shtetl during the anti-Bolshevik pogroms in the early 1920s, survivor Leyb Mireles makes it to the U.S. as a young boy. Over a decade later, 19-year-old Leyb meets Charles Patterson, a 33-year-old communist ghostwriter, at a Philadelphia speakeasy catering to gay men. They strike up a friendship, but after Leyb misconstrues another man’s actions as sexual advances, the stranger beats him. Leyb is then arrested in a police raid and further assaulted. The violence triggers Leyb to remember the attack at Zatelsk, and after his release he tracks down Charles and the two men become close. Meanwhile, Gittl Khayeles, 33, another survivor who rescued Leyb from the massacre and who’s spent the intervening years in various Ukrainian and Belarusian cities, arrives in Philadelphia at the behest of a rich Jewish woman who summons Gittl after reading her poem about the pogrom in a literary journal. Gittl clings to an oft-repeated mantra, “all the world is not darkness,” while searching for Leyb. She eventually writes Leyb’s and her stories in a Yiddish manuscript, which Charles then crudely translates in 1935 (he calls the shtetl a ‘dustvillage’). As Rothman-Zecher gradually unfolds the remarkable stories of how Gittl reconnects with Leyb, and how Charles comes to possess Gittl’s manuscript, Charles offers droll commentary on his creative license as a translator and sustains an inventive blend of languages (‘Leyb inbreathed one breath through his nose, awaytook one glass from Charles’s hand, downdrank half its contents in one zhlyuk’). It’s a powerful story, brilliantly told.”

The Runaway Restaurant by Tessa Yang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Runaway Restaurant: “Yang debuts with a promising speculative collection largely focused on the isolation of young and marginalized women. In the title story, a mother picks up a young hitchhiker while searching for the mythic roadside restaurant she believes houses her own runaway daughter. Along the way, she works through her anger and disappointment at her wife, her child, and herself over their ruptured family. ‘Biohack’ follows a high school student as she explores her need for love and her growing resemblance to her mother in a culture obsessed with aesthetic body modification. In ‘Haunting Grounds,’ a recently deceased Japanese American woman drifts through locations important to her past life while looking for a resting place and eventually wrangling with the ghost of a white man over the house her family lived in after surviving an internment camp. Though the stories tend to be a bit formulaic, Yang thoughtfully explores her characters’ needs and emotions, and she effectively conceives surprising and uncomfortable circumstances—up to and including an apocalyptic pandemic in ‘Your Anger Is a Tiny Bird’—to interrogate the strength of human relationships. Readers will be delighted by Yang’s creative examination of her characters’ psyches.”

Still No Word from You by Peter Orner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Still No Word from You: “Pushcart Prize–winning fiction writer Orner (Maggie Brown & Others) brings his lyrical, mosaic style to the story of his own life in this gorgeous and contemplative memoir. Blending photographs, family lore, speculation, and literary musings, Orner’s nonlinear narrative weaves through elliptical reflections and faint memories from his 1970s childhood to the sorrows and delights of his adulthood. The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa, for instance, becomes a salve in the aftermath of his stepfather’s death, loitering in Orner’s mind as he reflects on his mother’s grief: ‘We all go where love takes us, whether closer or farther.’ Elsewhere, seeking solace from some unnamed grievance, Orner spends a day marveling at the crowded prose of Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day: ‘[Her thoughts] connect like they do in our actual brains. Meaning: they don’t.’ A similar stream of consciousness logic pervades his loosely connected vignettes, with certain recurring figures and dreamlike appearances of half-forgotten acquaintances. As Orner observes, ‘There’s no greater fantasy on the face of the earth than the linearity of time. Time only circles.’ Likewise, when his fragmented ruminations loop back to a powerful impression or image or favorite book, the effect is like turning over a prism in one’s hands, catching vivid flashes of light at each angle. Evocative and erudite, this meditation on impermanence and its ephemeral joys is a gem.”

Also out this week: Some of Them Will Carry Me by Giada Scodellaro.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Pamuk, Ng, Yoder, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Orhan Pamuk, Celeste Ng, our own Anne K. Yoder, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk (translated by Ekin Oklap)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nights of Plague: “In the ambitious latest from Nobel Prize winner Pamuk (My Name Is Red), a plague has swept through Mingheria, a fictional island in the Ottoman Empire. The 1901 calamity was chronicled by Princess Pakize, whose letters historian Mina Mingher is preparing for publication in 2017. But struck by the princess’s ‘descriptive flair’ and weary of writing another ‘dreary’ history book, Mina decides to turn the letters into a novel. Indeed, there’s flair to Mina’s text, which forms the bulk of a narrative that includes the murder of Istanbul’s royal chemist, sent to the island to implement quarantine protocol; political upheaval that results in Mingheria declaring its independence; and romances among a slew of characters. Via Mina, a descendent of Mingherians, Pamuk ascribes importance to players from all social strata: politicians, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens alike. Though Mina’s romanticizing of her ancestors and her nation’s history can sometimes be overwrought, the story she shapes is consistently captivating. As a result, the grandiose statements—’emotions and decisions of individuals could often change the course of history’—wind up ringing true. Though it doesn’t stand with the author’s best work, the cracking narrative will keep readers in for the long haul.”

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Our Missing Hearts: “Ng’s remarkable dystopian latest (after Little Fires Everywhere) depicts draconian family separation tactics and a normalizing of violence against Asians and Asian Americans in an alternate present. In the wake of the nativist PACT act (Preserving American and Culture Traditions), a piece of legislation that opposes foreign cultural influences, the U.S. government begins reassigning custody of children whose parents are accused of being un-American. Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives with his white father, Ethan, a former Harvard language teacher who now shelves books in the university’s library. Bird’s mother, Margaret Miu, a Chinese American poet, vanished three years earlier after her work became seen as subversive. Out of the blue, Bird receives a mysterious drawing from her, reminding him of a fairy tale she used to tell him, which he’s mostly forgotten. In a world where neighbors spy on each other and people with Asian features are frequently attacked on the street, Ethan has long instructed Bird to lay low. But nothing can stop him from looking for Margaret. While searching for a book that might contain the story Margaret used to tell him, he discovers a network of librarians who secretly collect information about children seized from their families and learns how Margaret’s work inspired anti-PACT art demonstrations. Ng crafts an affecting family drama out of the chilling and charged atmosphere, and shines especially when offering testimony to the power of art and storytelling (here’s Bird remembering the fairy tale in his mother’s voice, “painting a picture with words on the blank white wall of his mind. Long buried. Crackling as it surfaced in the air once more”). Like Margaret’s story, Ng’s latest crackles and sizzles all the way to the end.”

The Enhancers by Anne K. Yoder

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Enhancers: “Yoder’s scathing speculative debut follows a group of teenagers who are pushed to their limits with mind-enhancing drugs. As Hannah finishes high school in the near-future factory town of Lumena Hills, she and her peers disregard advice from their parents and prescriptions from their school’s psychiatrist Dr. Billy, whom Hannah describes as the ‘bunco in charge of dosing and augmentation,’ and swap their various mind- and memory-altering supplements with abandon. After Hannah, who’s been on a new drug called Valedictorian, or ‘V,’ witnesses a gruesome accident, she’s given a memory-erasing therapy. Then, after her best friend Celia has a psychotic breakdown and winds up in the hospital, Celia runs away from treatment and encourages Hannah and their friend Azzie to flee Lumena Hills in the chaos following a fire at the pill factory. While the townspeople worry about access to their meds, the three teens hope to join up with radicals living off the grid. The narrative mostly follows Hannah, but Yoder also spins chapters from the perspective of Hannah’s uptight mother and adrift father, and sprinkles in advertising copy and warning labels for the various medications that carry a distinctive dystopian flair (‘It’s so EZ to EMPTY your mind with EmptEZ’). It makes for an effective satire of achievement and, well, empty pharmaceutical promises.”

Cocoon by Zhang Yueran (translated by Jeremy Tiang)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cocoon: “Zhang (The Promise Bird) dazzles with an intricately crafted web of secrets centered on two childhood friends in China. Li Jiaqi returns as an adult to the home of her grandfather, a renowned surgeon, to take care of him as he’s dying. Soon after his death, she visits her estranged friend Cheng Gong. Over the course of a snowy night, they discuss their long history and what drove them apart. The story alternates between their perspectives: Jiaqi reminisces on her father, Muyuan’s, hatred of her grandfather, as well as Muyuan’s cold relationship with her mother and eventual alcoholism; and Gong recounts his lower-class upbringing with a vegetative grandfather and abusive grandmother. They discuss how they met and became unlikely friends when Jiaqi transferred to Gong’s school, but their relationship strained as their respective family troubles overwhelmed them and Gong learned a deadly secret about his grandfather’s condition. In lyrical prose, Zhang deeply humanizes her leads as they look to the past in an effort to understand themselves. It adds up to a remarkable and tragic story of family and community.”

It Came from the Closet edited by Joe Vallese

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about It Came from the Closet: “Queer writers recall the horror films that touched their lives in this stellar anthology. Noting in the introduction a common ‘deep queer affinity’ for horror, NYU writing professor Vallese lays out the conundrum at the center of the collection: ‘How can we find such camaraderie in the very thing that so often slights us?’ There’s not a weak piece in the pack; among the standouts is ‘Both Ways,’ in which Carmen Maria Machado pushes back against accusations of queerbaiting in the 2009 flick Jennifer’s Body, detecting in them a judgment against fluid bisexuality. ‘There is such little grace given to the perfect messiness of desire,’ she writes. In ‘Three Men on a Boat,’ Jen Corrigan makes a convincing case for Jaws as a queer film (‘Is there really anything gayer than three men on a boat?’), and in ‘The Girl, the Well, the Ring,’ Zefyr Lisowski writes searingly about The Ring and Pet Sematary, both of which present the idea that ‘the disabled were to be feared’: ‘These movies hurt me and I kept watching them…. They were all I had.’ Taken together, the pieces are a brilliant display of expert criticism, wry humor, and original thinking. This is full of surprises.”

When They Tell You To Be Good by Prince Shakur

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When They Tell You To Be Good: “In this electric debut, essayist and organizer Shakur turns an unflinching eye to the realities of growing up queer and Black amid the racialized violence and political backlash of recent decades. Coming-of-age as the son of Jamaican immigrants in Ohio in the early aughts, Shakur was haunted by his father’s absence and wounded by familial homophobia. While college brought opportunities for political action and fellowship forged by common values, Shakur details that it also stoked a more painful awareness of social injustice. ‘If America could not deliver me what I deserved as a young and curious Black person,’ writes Shakur. ‘I deserved to try to find it where I could and not be overpowered by the kind of son or citizen I needed to be.’ Recounting travels that take him from Costa Rica to the Philippines, as well as Ferguson, Mo., and Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to protest, Shakur traces the perspective he gained while untangling the cords of trauma brought by microaggressions he weathered along the way. What emerges is a moving portrait of the artist as a young activist, powered by Shakur’s captivating prose, ‘the plywood, nails, and sails that sent me off into a world of my own making.’ The result is a searing account of self-discovery in the face of structural oppression.”

Weasels in the Attic by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Weasels in the Attic: “The sharp and surreal latest from Oyamada (The Hole) charts a 40-something unnamed narrator’s peculiar interactions with his friends and their wives. The narrator recalls a strange dinner shared with his old friend Saiki and Saiki’s friend Urabe, in which the two discussed their mutual obsession with tropical fish while the narrator spoke with Urabe’s much younger wife about her newborn and marriage. Later, the narrator learns Saiki has gotten married to a younger woman named Yoko (‘It was just like Saiki to mention her age,’ the narrator thinks). The narrator and his wife visit Saiki and Yoko and discuss the weasels that have mysteriously infested the house’s attic after they moved in. When they return to see Saiki and Yoko’s three-month-old baby, the narrator and his wife spend the night, during which they are surrounded by tropical fish and the narrator has a nightmare. Throughout, the narrator expresses anxiety about his and his wife’s struggle to have a baby (‘peak fertility nights that we’d missed because I couldn’t do my part’), which, along with the narrator’s tacit acceptance of others’ obsession with younger women, rounds out Oyamada’s sly critique of her characters’ attempts at masculinity. The simultaneously disparate yet related elements at work in the novella create an odd yet vivid dreamlike effect. It’s a unique and unsettling tale.”

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hero of This Book: “McCracken (The Souvenir Museum) blurs fiction and memoir with a mischievous and loving portrait of her late mother. The unnamed narrator dislikes memoirs, and her mother, Natalie, whom she revered, ‘distrusted’ them. So the narrator turns to fiction, claiming that all it takes to leap from the dreaded realm of grief memoirs is to make a few things up, such as the desk clerk at the London hotel she checks in to in 2019, a year after Natalie’s death, to sort through her thoughts and feelings. Despite her avowed opposition to memoir, she unleashes a flood of details about Natalie while wandering around London, describing how the short Jewish woman’s cerebral palsy made walking a struggle, and how she had to cultivate a stubborn nature to ignore the ‘muttering’ of those who doubted her potential. (She ended up a beloved magazine editor in Boston.) The narrator lists a few made-up details that diverge from McCracken’s own life: ‘the fictional me is unmarried, an only child, childless,’ and she notes how novelists are free to kill off characters as needed. What emerges alongside this love letter to the restive Natalie is an engaging character study of a narrator who views everything through the lens of fiction (‘Your family is the first novel that you know’). It’s a refreshing outing, and one that sees McCracken gleefully shatter genre lines.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Proulx, Serpell, Hsu, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Annie Proulx, Namwali Serpell, Hua Hsu, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Fen, Bog, and Swamp by Annie Proulx

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fen, Bog and Swamp: “Pulitzer winner Proulx (Barkskins) sounds the alarm on the place of Earth’s wetlands in the climate crisis in this stunning account. In an attempt to ‘understand some of what has disappeared,’ Proulx lays out how ‘the history of wetlands is the history of their destruction.’ They’ve largely been drained for agricultural and housing purposes, she writes, and continuing that trend risks calamity, as wetlands’ peat layers contain huge quantities of methane and carbon dioxide that will be released if they’re destroyed. Her dire warnings are leavened with glimpses of potential hope, but the bigger picture is bleak: ‘The world needs the great swamps we have drained away and the few that still exist but the human impetus to develop and drain continues,’ she writes. Proulx’s prose is, as ever, stunning—in bogs, ‘black pools of still water in the undulating sphagnum moss can seem to be sinkholes into the underworld,’ and the Earth’s peatlands ‘resemble a book of wallpaper samples, each with its own design and character—some little more than water and reeds, others luxuriously diverse landscapes of colors we urban moderns never knew existed.’ This resonant ode to a planet in peril is tough to forget.”

The Furrows by Namwali Serpell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Furrows: “In the brilliant and impressionistic latest from Serpell (The Old Drift), a young woman traverses the trenches of grief that have shaped her life. Cassandra’s younger brother, Wayne, drowned at the beach when she was 12, and his body was never found. With the steadiness of water seeking its level, Serpell explores the parallel but distinct realities Cassandra and her parents inhabit, leading up to her postcollege years: she’s forever in therapy, her mother won’t admit Wayne has died, and her father leaves them to start a new life. Whenever Cassandra is asked to retell the story, she can’t make sense of it. In a breathtaking maneuver, Serpell resets the novel again and again, cycling through possible accidents that convey Cassandra’s shock: Wayne drowns, he’s hit by a car, he’s thrown from a carousel. Then, Cassandra meets an enigmatic man she seems to know is her brother by the light in his eyes. In a series of shocking twists, Serpell shatters comfortable ideas about grief and melds Cassandra’s glittering narrative shards into a searching, unforgettable story. It’s a considerable shift from the huge canvas of her previous work, and no less captivating.”

Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm: “Warrell unfurls in her engaging debut the story of a peripatetic trumpet player. Circus Palmer, a touring 40-year-old jazz musician and lothario, has recently learned in Miami that his main love interest, drummer Maggie Swan, is pregnant. Circus, ever the ladies’ man, panics, rushing back to his home turf in Boston (‘It was the going he liked, liked the unclasping of links, liked getting to whatever was waiting at the other end of leaving,’ Warrell writes). His former wife, Pia, still quietly clinging to hope for reconciliation, manages to keep him involved in raising their 15-year-old daughter, Koko, who’s beginning to have her sexual awakening. Meanwhile, a long-awaited meeting with a producer ends badly for Circus, sending him on a bender. Soon thereafter, Circus, pining for Maggie, visits instead a girlfriend in Providence, a trip that irrevocably alters his future. The author evocatively describes the women who inspire Circus’s music and his lust—one brings his playing to ecstatic heights by shimmying her shoulders; another makes his horn ‘coo’ with her ‘girlish giggle’—and finds the sadness deep in his heart. Warrell hits all the right notes.”

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Best of Friends: “Shamsie follows her Women’s Prize–winning Home Fire with a nuanced meditation on a lifelong friendship. In 1988 Karachi, best friends Zahra and Maryam, both 14, come of age in the last days of the Zia dictatorship. Zahra is bookish and middle class, while Maryam is worldlier and wealthier. One night they make an impulsive decision to get into a stranger’s car with their classmate Hammad. The girls have differing perspectives on what happened next, and Shamsie hints that there was danger. Then, after Benazir Bhutto is elected Prime Minister, the girls are swept up in the country’s wave of elation. The second half is set in 2019 London, where Zahra is head of the Center for Civil Liberties and Maryam is a venture capitalist. Their circumstances may have changed dramatically, but their friendship remains strong until the surprise reappearance of Hammad, who dredges up the fallout from that night in the car 30 years earlier. Though the revelations aren’t that surprising, Shamsie is perceptive when it comes to picking apart the nuances of the women’s shifting dynamic. It’s not the author’s best, but it shows her to be a consistently thoughtful writer.”

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Motherthing: “Hogarth (The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated)) turns the tale of a haunting on its head in a masterfully crafted horror novel that’s by turns humorous and deeply unsettling. It opens as Abby Lamb and her husband, Ralph, return from the hospital after Ralph’s mother, Laura, died by suicide. For Abby, Laura’s demise is liberating; she never got along with her mother-in-law, whom she and Ralph moved in with years earlier, and Laura’s departure from their lives means they can finally start the family they’ve dreamed of. But Laura’s lingering influence assumes a tangible presence that thwarts her recovery efforts. As Ralph slips into a depressive funk under Laura’s ghost’s tight maternal grip, Abby grows increasingly desperate to exorcise Laura from their lives. Abby makes a wonderful narrator; full of wry insights and frothy humor, she fully engages reader sympathies—until revelations about her childhood with her own mother suggest that she may be projecting her troubled emotions onto others. This dark domestic drama packs a punch.”

Concerning My Daughter by Kim Hye-jin (translated by Jamie Chung)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Concerning My Daughter: “Kim excavates the complexities of a mother and daughter’s relationship in her excellent debut. The unnamed narrator, a widow who works at a nursing home in South Korea, expresses a strong affinity for an elderly dementia patient named Jen. In contrast, the narrator feels only anger and resentment toward her own daughter, Green, who has recently moved back in with her, along with Green’s apparent lover, Lane, despite never asking permission to bring him along. Underlying the narrator’s anxiety is a sense of invisibility or smallness, which comes through in her stream-of-consciousness inner monologue as she deals with the pain caused by missteps and miscommunications between her and Green, who rejects her hope for her to have a husband and children. ‘Ma, Lane is my family,’ Green says. Later, while working with Jen, her mother thinks, ‘What’s the use of family? We all end up the same way.’ Kim skillfully depicts the vulnerability and fear underlying her protagonist’s anxiety and anger, laying bare the ways in which family dynamics are fluid and full of paradoxes. As the narrator reflects, ‘The child who sprang from my own flesh and blood is perhaps the creature I’m most distant from.’ Kim’s compassionate portrayal of the narrator’s contradictions and ever-changing feelings makes her project captivating and moving. Readers will be grateful to discover this new author.”

Stay True by Hua Hsu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Stay True: “New Yorker staff writer Hsu braids music, art, and philosophy in his extraordinary debut. As a second-generation Taiwanese American coming of age in 1990s Cupertino, Calif., Hsu traversed an evolving cultural climate with rebellious gusto, finding creative expression in zines and developing, as he writes, a ‘worldview defined by music.’ At UC Berkeley Hsu met Ken, an extroverted, ‘mainstream’ frat-brother whose only similarity to Hsu was that he was Asian American. Yet despite their differences, an unlikely friendship bloomed. In lyrical prose punctuated with photos, Hsu recalls smoke-filled conversations—from the philosophy of Heidegger to the failures of past relationships—trolling chat rooms and writing a movie script with Ken as they navigated a world teeming with politics and art, and basked in the uncertainty of a future both fearsome and enthralling. That future came to a harrowing end when Ken was murdered, leaving Hsu to fend for himself while unraveling the tragedy. As he recounts sinking into songs ‘of heartbreak and resurrection,’ Hsu parses the grief of losing his friend and eloquently captures the power of friendship and unanswerable questions spurred in the wake of senseless violence. The result is at once a lucid snapshot of life in the nineties, an incredible story of reckoning, and a moving elegy to a fallen friend.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Li, Greer, Strout, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Yiyun Li, Andrew Sean Greer, Elizabeth Strout, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Book of Goose: “Li follows Must I Go with an intriguing novel of two devious teenage friends who are coping with the aftermath of WWII. Fabienne helps her drunken father, a widower, on their Saint Rèmy farm, and her friend Agnès lives with her parents and attends the village school. One of their ‘games’ involves Fabienne dictating a series of stories about little children who die in various ghastly ways, which Agnès records in a notebook that they share with the recently widowed postmaster, M. Devaux, whose friendship they pursue on a lark. Devaux, an author himself, helps get them published, and Agnès, whom Fabienne decides should get sole credit, becomes famous. Her rise from peasant girl to author becomes a big story, and she is given free education at a finishing school in England. Then, on a whim, Fabienne lies and frames Devaux for a drunken sexual assault on her, forcing him to leave town in disgrace. As the story unfolds, Agnès reckons with a frightening series of episodes in which she takes on Fabienne’s mischievous traits. Bringing to mind Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, by way of Anita Brookner’s quietly dramatic prose, this makes for a powerful Cinderella fable with memorable characters. It’s an accomplished new turn for Li.”

Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Less is Lost: “Greer follows up his Pulitzer-winning Less with another delightful road story featuring middle-aged writer Arthur Less. This time, he’s traveling across the U.S., hoping to raise money to salvage his home with partner Freddy Pelu. Freddy, who narrates the story and has lived with Less for nine blissful months in San Francisco, has recently taken a teaching sabbatical in Maine, where Less plans to join him. But after the death of Less’s former lover, the poet Robert Brownburn, the estate hits him up for 10 years of back rent on Brownburn’s former house, where he now lives with Freddy. He assures Freddy he’ll make everything okay by paying it back with magazine articles and other literary gigs. Soon Less is off to do a profile of a famous sci-fi author, who has Less drive him and his pug in a camper van to Santa Fe, N.Mex., for an onstage interview. Along the way, Less accidentally floods a commune, sleeps in a tepee, and rides a donkey down a canyon. After a cascading series of humorous mishaps, Less wonders if Freddy will leave him. Though a bit overboard at times, Greer packs in plenty of humor and some nicely poignant moments. Fans will eat this up.”

Three Muses by Martha Anne Toll

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Muses: “Loss, memory, and romance are explored in Toll’s bittersweet debut. In 1944, Janko Stein is an 11-year-old German Jewish death camp inmate who is spared because of his beautiful singing voice. That same year, in New York City, seven-year-old Katherine Sillman receives ballet lessons as a consolation after the death of her mother and later grows up to become an acclaimed prima ballerina, thanks to her Svengali-like choreographer, Boris Yanakov, who is also her lover. Janko, adopted by a New York City family after the war and renamed John Curtin, goes on to a psychiatric residency. In 1963, John and Katherine, now rechristened Katya Symanova, meet in Paris after John becomes entranced by her performance in Yanakov’s Three Muses. Back in New York, the two of them begin a heated love affair, but will they ultimately be separated by John’s survivor’s guilt and Katya’s allegiance to Yanakov? Toll is savvy in exploring how love can flourish in the face of trauma, but her theme is undercut by clichéd situations and dialogue (‘You were born to dance’). Despite the pungent realism of the death camp setting and the vibrant depiction of the New York ballet scene, John and Katya feel a bit too wooden, with every emotion spelled out. It’s an ambitious if uneven effort.”

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lucy by the Sea: “Strout follows up Oh William! with a captivating entry in the Lucy Barton series. This time, Lucy decamps to rural Maine during the first year of the Covid lockdown. At the pandemic’s onset in 2020, Lucy’s philandering ex-husband and longtime friend, William, whisks her away from New York City to a rental house in coastal Maine. He may have self-centered ulterior motives beyond his assertion that he’s trying to save her life, but they are not readily transparent for most of the narrative. Personal and public events intrude during the lockdown as the pair develop a “strange compatibility” while attempting to comprehend the new normal. Their two daughters each face a crisis in their marriage; William contacts his once unknown half sister, Lois Bubar, and reveals a life-threatening medical condition; and the country roils from George Floyd’s murder and the insurrection on January 6. Bleak memories of Lucy’s impoverished childhood and of her recently deceased husband surface in shattering flashbacks. Loneliness, grief, longing, and loss pervade intertwined family stories as Lucy and William attempt to create new friendships in an initially hostile town. What emerges is a prime testament to the characters’ resilience. With Lucy Barton, Strout continues to draw from a deep well.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ma, Riley, Ogunyemi, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ling Ma, Gwendoline Riley, Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bliss Montage: “Ma (Severance) examines themes of otherness and disconnection in this fantastical and often brilliant collection. In ‘Tomorrow,’ an arm protrudes from a woman’s vagina during her pregnancy, which her doctor says is ‘not ideal’ but ‘relatively safe,’ his cursory advice gleaned from a website that ‘looks like WebMD.’ The mother, like many of the book’s protagonists, emigrated from China to the U.S. as a child; later in the story, she returns to visit her great-aunt, with whom she communicates primarily through a translation app. In ‘Returning,’ a woman travels with her husband to his native country, the fictional Garboza, only to be abandoned by him at the airport. The protagonist, who wrote a novel about a couple who ‘during an economic depression, decide to cryogenically freeze themselves,’ experiences ambivalence about her marriage. These stories, and the elliptical ‘Office Hours’ (about a young woman’s semi-romance with her film professor, who has a Narnia-like magical wardrobe in his office), are enchanting, full of intelligence, dry humor, and an appealing self-awareness. On the other hand, a couple of entries—such as ‘Los Angeles,’ about a woman living with 100 of her ex-boyfriends—don’t quite manifest into something more than their conceit. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy.”

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Phantoms: “Riley (First Love) returns with an affecting story about the complicated relationship between a daughter and her two parents. Bridget, the 40-something narrator, cut off contact with her father when she was 26 and limits her interactions with her mother, who left her father when she was two. Still, memories of both parents—their self-involvement and staggering immaturity—come back to her vividly. The narrative begins with scenes of Bridget’s father, who, on court-ordered visitations when Bridget was 10, regales her and her older sister with dubious tales of accomplishment, such as acing job interviews by putting his feet on the desk of his potential employer. (‘It is strange when somebody [is] lying, but somehow you’re on the spot,’ Bridget reflects.) The recollections shift to a series of encounters with her mother, Hen, who, after another divorce, has settled into a kind of frenzied gadabout, keeping herself busy with volunteer work and ‘daft crushes,’ in Bridget’s view. Riley’s incisive dialogue and astute observations of family dynamics offer a sympathetic and painful perspective on both estrangement and the choices people make in order to survive parents who maybe should have never been parents at all. The result is a fine addition to Riley’s notable body of work.”

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: “Nigerian writer Ogunyemi debuts with a dynamic novel in stories featuring four women and their lost illusions. Schoolmates Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape become close friends at a Nigerian boarding school in the 1980s, where, in the title story, the girls are consumed with ‘spite-filled delight’ while protesting the school’s contentious principal for firing several beloved teachers. Their revolt, while personally liberating and unifying, ends tragically. The stories that follow explore their professional success and interpersonal betrayal. ‘Reflections from the Hood of a Car’ picks up with Remi’s former lover, now living in the Bronx in 1991. In ‘Last Stop, Jibowu,’ set in 2005, Nonso lives in Brooklyn and works as an investment banker, while the short ‘Area Boy Rescue’ dictates the daily trials of Nonso’s housekeeper. The ambitious closer, ‘Messenger RNA,’ set in 2050, imagines a 78-year-old Aisha savoring a ‘nice, comfortable silence’ and the company of her granddaughter. Through the many leaps in time and views from supporting characters, Ogunyemi succeeds at showing how each of the four women’s lives were shaped by their fiery youth. These richly developed stories are resonant and rewarding.”

Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated by Mark Polizzotti)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kibogo: “Mukasonga (Igifu) draws on Rwanda’s colonial history and ancient myths for an intriguing theological satire. In the opener, ‘Ruzagayura,’ set in the aftermath of the 1943 famine, characters variously blame the disaster on Hitler, paganism, and missionaries. After a French priest, referred to only as ‘padri,’ urges villagers to pray for rain, the elders call on their own mythical martyr, Kibogo, a king’s son who sacrificed himself to bring rain. Kibogo’s last priestess, Mukamwezi, lives on the local mountain and agrees to help. But when the rains come, the padri claims the Virgin Mary brought the rain. In ‘Akayezu,’ the Rwandan title character is kicked out of a seminary for heresy after linking the story of Kibogo with that of Jesus and Elijah. In ‘Mukamwezi,’ Akayezu attempts to baptize an old pagan woman, but instead, the two join forces. In the complex and revelatory ‘Kibogo,’ a white professor arrives to record the stories of Kibogo told by two old men of the village. As the men compete in their storytelling, three young men join in, and the professor eventually hears the story he wants them to tell, Mukasonga complicates the blurry line between history and myth and critiques its relationship to colonialism. This speaks volumes to the power of storytelling.”

Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bindle Punk Bruja: “Mesa’s ambitious but messy historical fantasy debut plunges deep into the underbelly of Prohibition-era Kansas City, following half-white, half-Mexican Luna Alvarado as she crafts a new life for herself as Rose Lane, cub reporter by day, and speakeasy manager by night. Passing as white is not as difficult as passing as mortal; she’s also half bruja, or earth witch, and her powers manifest in an ability to charm men into doing her will by kissing them. She uses this charm to open a club ‘with real booze and a real orchestra’ in the ritzy Hotel Bellerive—but as soon as she does, the Klan tries to shut her down, local mobsters extort her, all the men in her life try to claim and control her, and Al Capone schemes to use her to expand his operations across the Midwest. The result is fun but shallow, with brassy one-note characters who constantly repeat themselves and often speak in goofily rendered dialects (‘Hey, latecoma’, I’m the one who’s skewa’d here!’) in between bewildering or groan-worthy descriptions of emotions (‘his eyes hardening in sable angst’). This is a lesser addition to the recent slew of 1920s-set SFF, one perhaps best left to diehard fans of Prohibition-era historical fantasy.”

Also out this week: Junie by Chelene Knight and Hysterical by Elissa Bassist.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring O’Farrell, Sexton, Homes, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Maggie O’Farrell, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, A.M. Homes, and more—that are publishing this week.
Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then become a member today.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Marriage Portrait: “This lush, provocative historical from National Book Critics Circle Award winner O’Farrell (Hamnet) follows a young woman who is married off at 15 amid the complex world of 16th-century Italian city-states. O’Farrell bases her heroine, Lucrezia de’ Medici, on a real-life figure depicted in Robert Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess,’ who was murdered by her husband. When the reader first meets Lucrezia, she’s been married for not quite a year and faces mortal danger in what O’Farrell describes as a ‘wild and lonely place.’ The narrative moves back and forth from the nearly deserted fortress where Lucrezia plays a game of cat and mouse with the duke of Ferrara, the husband who might be attempting to kill her, and the events that have brought her here. As a child of a noble family in Florence, she was untamable and passionate about making art. Now, the duke grows increasingly impatient with her as she fails to produce the heir he needs to secure his position. O’Farrell excels at sumptuous set pieces: Lucrezia’s encounter with a tiger her father keeps in the basement beneath their palace, the wedding where she is draped and almost swallowed up by her gown, her meetings with the mysterious figures at her new home, particularly her enigmatic husband. By imagining an alternative fate for Lucrezia that deviates from the historical record, the author crafts a captivating portrait of a woman attempting to free herself from a golden cage. Fans of the accomplished Hamnet won’t be disappointed by this formidable outing.”

On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about On the Rooftop: “Sexton (The Revisioners) broadly reimagines The Fiddler on the Roof in an affecting family story set in a rapidly changing historically Black San Francisco neighborhood. It’s 1953, and people from all walks of life pack the Champagne Supper Club to see the latest jazz and R&B performers. On Fridays, they cheer the Salvations, hometown favorites made up of sisters Ruth, Esther, and Chloe Jones. Now in their early 20s, the sisters’ talents have been relentlessly forged during countless rooftop rehearsals run by their mother, Vivian, a widow whose hopes for her daughters all center on their musical superstardom. Just as Vivian’s dream seems within reach, though, her daughters yearn for independence, with Chloe eyeing a solo career and Esther wanting to join the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, white developers begin disrupting Vivian’s Black Fillmore neighbors— many of whom, like Vivian, fled racial violence in the deep South—with eminent domain proceedings. In alternating viewpoints, Sexton depicts the nuances of familial relationships, including the sisters’ combination of loyalty and jealousy, as well as the complex and changeable nature of regret. The historical milieu is less sharply drawn, with celebrity cameos too often standing in for concrete details of time and place. Nevertheless, Sexton brings undeniable power to her depiction of dreams fragmented and deferred.”

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about If I Survive You: “Escoffery’s vibrant and varied debut, a linked collection, chronicles the turbulent fate of a Jamaican American family in Miami. Trelawny, the main character in most of the entries, is the younger of two sons. He questions where his light skin places him within America’s racial categories and where he fits into family hierarchy: ‘You want to prove your father bet on the wrong son,’ Trelawny narrates in the title story, addressing his father’s favorable treatment of his older brother, Delano, an arborist and musician. ‘In Flux’ recounts Trelawny’s liberal arts education as he leaves Miami and attends college in the colder, and more racially homogenous, Midwest. ‘Odd Jobs,’ ‘Independent Living,’ and the title story center on the strange and ethically dubious gigs Trelawny takes to survive, including a running stint as a voyeur for a rich Miami couple, asking himself all the while: ‘What kind of employee are you? And just what kind of man?’ Two stories exert a thrilling dramatic pull: In ‘Splashdown,’ Trelawny’s cousin Cukie learns the lobster trapping trade, and something darker, from his estranged father; and ‘If He Suspected He’d Get Someone Killed…’ follows Delano rushing to secure a bucket truck and a tree-trimming contract before a dangerous storm arrives. This charged work keeps a tight hold on the reader.”

What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What We Fed to the Manticore: “The unifying premise of Kolluri’s exquisite debut collection—stories narrated from various animal perspectives—might seem gimmicky or cute, but it’s neither. Instead, these nine exceptional stories, centered on a variety of mammal and bird species and set in global locations ranging from the Sundarbans to the open ocean, from the arctic to Delhi, feel both timeless and urgent. Each deal in some way with the disruptions wrought by humans on the natural world and on nonhuman species. These include war (‘The Good Donkey,’ set in a Gaza zoo), hunting and poaching (in a pair of nearly unbearably sad stories, one set in Yellowstone, the other in Kenya), and technological disruptions. Perhaps inevitably, climate change is either explicitly or implicitly at the heart of several of these tales, including the title story, in which man-eating tigers realize there’s something menacing their home that’s even more dangerous than their own kind. A list of sources points to the real-world incidents and phenomena that inspired Kolluri, such as an Atlantic article titled ‘Why Did Two-Thirds of These Weird Antelope Suddenly Drop Dead?’; the context serves to make the author’s treatment that much more remarkable. Joy might understandably be in short supply in settings defined by mass extinctions and climate crisis, but the exceptional closer, ‘Let Your Body Meet the Ground,’ soars on the promise of human kindness, no matter how small. This remarkable collection leaves an indelible mark.”

The Deceptions by Jill Bialosky

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Deceptions: “Bialosky (The Prize) contests patriarchal notions about life, marriage, and art in her clever if uneven latest. An unnamed poet and teacher regularly visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her refuge and source of inspiration. Through the lens of Greek and Roman mythology, she traces the gradual unraveling of her marriage after her son leaves for college in Maine, as well as her complicated friendship with a man she calls the ‘Visiting Poet,’ who arrives from Ohio for a yearlong fellowship at her school. The narrator draws parallels between her life and the tribulations of Heracles and Odysseus (‘What labors must I endure for what I’ve done?’ she asks herself, looking at a bust of Heracles), and the explosive third act considers the myth of Leda and the Swan, prompting deeper questions on the autonomy of female desire in the face of male dominance (‘Who is the true abductor, the victim or the perpetrator?’). It also inspires her next book. Despite the shocking betrayal-fueled climax, Bialosky’s messages on feminism are a bit pat—as one character says, ‘we have not come further as a society’ since Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘intellectual equals’ declaration of 1792. Still, Bialosky’s sensuous evocation of longing and regret will no doubt linger in readers’ minds.”

Solito By Javier Zamora

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Solito: “Poet Zamora (Unaccompanied) presents an immensely moving story of desperation and hardship in this account of his childhood migration from El Salvador to the U.S. To reunite with his parents—who left during the Salvadoran Civil War—nine-year-old Zamora was forced to rely on the help of coyotes to get to America in 1999. But, as he relates in affecting detail, the voyage for his group was perilous and trust was a rare commodity. What was supposed to be an easy two-week trip became a two-month nightmare pocked with seedy characters, days spent locked in various hideouts before moving, and a never-ending stream of promises shattered. Between dangerous marches through the desert and being caught at the U.S. border multiple times, Zamora’s group was forced to depend on one another for survival. The surrogate family they formed offered Zamora respite from the despair, and he transforms the experience into a stirring portrait of the power of human connection. Rendering the end of their journey in a final heartbreaking scene, Zamora writes, ‘I can feel my heart in my stomach… I close my eyes and take a long sniff. Their sweat, the smell of loroco and masa, is faint, but it’s them.’ This sheds an urgent and compassionate light on the human lives caught in an ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

The Unfolding by A.M. Homes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Unfolding: “Homes follows Days of Awe with a satiric misfire about a wealthy Republican donor and his family in the wake of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. At the center is a 60-something money man called the ‘Big Guy’ who forms a small clandestine organization with like-minded Republican men to erode American trust in Democratic Party agendas. Meanwhile, the Big Guy’s alcoholic wife, Charlotte, attempts suicide, is shipped off to the Betty Ford Center, and grows close to another resident, Terrie. The Big Guy’s 18-year-old daughter, Meghan, begins to question her sheltered upbringing after she learns some family secrets. Throughout, Homes injects her signature wit (on the choice of Sarah Palin for John McCain’s running mate, the Big Guy says, ‘If you want to appeal to women voters, don’t pick an idiot’), but most of the supporting cast are caricatures, and far too often, when meeting with the Big Guy to plot their retribution, they ramble on interminably. Homes loses the balance provided by the three family members, and though she makes a stab at tying up loose ends in the final pages, it’s too little, too late. While the novel sparks when exploring the political underground, it never fully ignites.”