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

-

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

-

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

-

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.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Mosberg, Chai, Reid, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jason Mosberg, May-lee Chai, Taylor Jenkins Reid, 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.
My Dirty California by Jason Mosberg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Dirty California: “The murder of Marty Morrel, an L.A. blogger focused on the ‘dark history below California’s undeniably beautiful surface,’ propels screenwriter Mosberg’s kaleidoscopic, sprawling debut—a mystery with a sci-fi/supernatural vibe. Marty’s brother uses his trove of videos and blog posts to search for the killer, but other story lines from Marty’s past intersect with his quest: Pen, a documentary filmmaker who believes that reality might be a simulation, stumbles on Marty’s blog; Renata, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, meets Marty then disappears; and Tiphony, a striving, struggling young mother, gets enmeshed in a scheme to find a stash of stolen art that may have had a connection to Marty. The entire narrative is framed as a kind of true crime podcast that was never released, but that conceit isn’t carried through effectively. Mosberg writes well about the many ills, past and present, in the Golden State, but he’s simply not in control of his unnavigable plot, which reads like a prose rendition of a 10-part Netflix series. Mystery fans won’t bite, but readers with a taste for freewheeling, ambiguous narratives may have fun.”

Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Tomorrow in Shanghai: “Chai (Useful Phrases for Immigrants) showcases in her insightful collection protagonists attempting to figure out their roles in their families and careers. In the gritty and poignant title story, a young Shanghai doctor uneasily travels to the Chinese countryside to extract organs after a prisoner’s execution—’not an ideal job,’ he admits, but he’s deep in debt. The doctor gives the condemned man a sedative to avoid a second shot from the firing squad, but refrains from watching the execution, and instead reflects on his lost youth and turns up his nose at the uncouth rural guards. In ‘Life on Mars,’ set in the late 1990s, teenager Guo Yu describes his new life in Denver in alien terms after relocating from China (‘It was both exactly like and nothing like the America of the movies he’d seen,’ Yu narrates, struck by the ‘jade-colored’ cornfields). Yu toils at a restaurant job over the summer, though a tutoring gig for the cook’s son offers a glimmer of hope. ‘Hong’s Mother’ follows a white woman married to a Chinese man who neglects to defend the couple’s children from racism in their small Midwestern town. At 19, their daughter, Hong, is dismayed her mother is going to visit her in France while she’s studying abroad, but goes to extreme lengths to ensure her mother has a good trip, feeling yet again she doesn’t measure up. Throughout, Chai commits brilliantly to the characters’ competing drives for self-determination and approval, and conveys them with perfect subtlety. This slim but wide-ranging work is a great achievement.”

Lapis by Kerri Webster

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lapis: “An epigraph from Oscar Wilde, ‘Where there is sorrow there is holy ground,’ is one of several that opens the introspective and conversational latest from Webster (The Trailhead). Investigating death, including that of her mother, a mentor, and a friend, these poems circle grief in four sections of prose, list, and long lyric poems that make intriguing use of white space. In ‘Elegy,’ Webster writes, ‘And I was equal to my longing:/ the mums blackening;/ sorrow a carboned figurine;/ the firmament steaming; your ashes/ interred in the boulder;/ the ugly birds crying dolor dolor dolor.’ In ‘Primrose, Orchid, Datura,’ she declares ‘-blossoms collected in jars,/ granite thieved from silt. I napped and architected/ a decadent inwardness.’ This entry, which displays Webster’s gift for moving and surprising imagery, ends: ‘Once I was a girl/ who wore feathers and ivory, a woman who let/ the tap run in the desert past all decency. Forgive me.’ In ‘Against Shame,’ she writes, ‘For the scroll of lamentations, no remedy. Your ravaged arms, your garnet light, your when, not if: poison mistranslated as honey.’ Webster’s expert use of form and evocative vision make this affecting and memorable.”

The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The House of Fortune: “Burton returns with a captivating standalone companion to 2014’s The Miniaturist. In 1705 Amsterdam, 18-year-old Thea Brandt lives in a cold mansion with her father, Otto, a Black man who was formerly enslaved; her aunt Nella; and her elderly nursemaid and cook Cornelia. The family can barely afford the house, which Otto inherited, leading to Nella intensifying her efforts to find a wealthy husband for Thea, whose mother was white, and Otto thinking about partnering with a botanist to cultivate pineapples in Holland. Thea finds refuge at a nearby theater with her friend Rebecca, a fierce and talented leading lady; and Walter, the chief set-painter and Thea’s secret lover. However, after Walter breaks her heart, Thea resigns herself to marrying a wealthy lawyer from a prominent family. Throughout, the mysterious ‘miniaturist’ of the previous book surreptitiously delivers warnings in the form of detailed figurines on Thea’s doorstep, each with its own eerie significance and seeming supernatural power, just as she had done years ago with Nella. While the ending feels a little abrupt, the vibrant period detail, the characters’ vibrant inner lives, and Thea’s fulfilling journey to maturity make for a winning combination. Readers will relish the return of Nella and her world.”

Also out this week: Enjoy Me Among My Ruins by Juniper Fitzgerald and Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Donoghue, King, Gurnah, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Emma Donoghue, Ella King, Abdulrazak Gurnah, 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.
Haven by Emma Donoghue

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Haven: “Donoghue (The Pull of the Stars) returns with an intricate slow-burn about three monks who start a monastery on an isolated island in seventh-century Ireland. As it opens, priest Artt dreams about an island where he believes he’s to pilgrimage with two others to found a monastic retreat. He picks the old monk Cormac, a skilled builder and gardener, and the young monk Trian, a piper, and both men pledge their lives to him. They set off on a small boat in search of the haven, and on the fifth day they see two islands jutting from the water. They land on the bigger one, a steep cathedral of rock possessed by an army of birds. There, high on a plateau, Artt, the future prior, decides they will camp then build, soon putting Cormac to work on a great cross and Trian on copying the Bible. As the prior turns a deaf ear to the others’ concerns about dwindling supplies, tensions rise over his monastic demands and their narrowing chances of survival as summer dips into fall. The slow pacing tends to wear, but the narrative picks up toward the end with a surprising twist. Patient readers will be rewarded with a thoughtful tale of faith, isolation, and blind obedience.”

Bad Fruit by Ella King

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bad Fruit: “King delves into toxic family ties and intergenerational trauma in her hypnotic debut. As a summer heat wave blankets London, the already thin emotional boundary between 18-year-old Lily and her mother, May, dissolves further when Lily’s mind is flooded with images of a shattered glass of milk and a crumpled woman. After a doctor says they aren’t hallucinations but flashbacks, Lily believes the visions are her mother’s memories of abuse. Lily, who grew up with stories of May’s Peranakan Chinese heritage and childhood in Singapore, bends to May’s every whim, such as tasting the partly spoiled orange juice May prefers before serving it to her, and always wearing pink, May’s favorite color. Lily even goes so far as to wear makeup with yellow undertones and colored contacts to hide her eyes (‘white devil eyes,’ May calls them, convinced Lily’s British father is having an affair). Not long after the flashbacks start, Lily meets Lewis, a 30-something lecturer at Oxford. A former teenage runaway from a difficult home, Lewis picks up on Lily’s struggle and promises to help her get to the bottom of her flashbacks. As May’s manipulative behavior escalates and Lily seeks out the truth behind the flashbacks, King rachets up the tension in this perfect blend of psychological thriller and coming-of-age. This author is off to a great start.”

Meet Us by the Roaring Sea by Akil Kumarasamy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Meet Us by the Roaring Sea: “Kumarasamy’s dazzling if sometimes unwieldy debut novel (after the collection Half Gods) follows a young woman as she tries to unpack the past amid an unforgiving near future. Ada, 26, works as a trainer for an advanced AI model, and on the side, perhaps as a coping mechanism, she translates a manuscript written in Tamil during the 1990s, which she first encountered during her college years. The manuscript details a group of women students at a remote medical college who slowly descend into a cult of ‘radical compassion’ while treating war refugees, inflicting as much suffering on themselves as possible in order to truly understand their patients. After the students receive televisions from the government, their philosophy becomes tested and a schism develops within the cult. Kumarasamy also gets into Ada’s interactions with Sal, an artist whose parents died in a self-driving car accident; and Rosalyn, Ada’s cousin and roommate who illegally performs memory experiments on a homeless man. While some of the thematic threads can feel underdeveloped or untethered, such as the AI subplot, Kumarasamy’s gorgeous prose and quiet meditations on memory will enthrall readers. This ambitious effort has much to offer.”

The Hundred Waters by Lauren Acampora

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hundred Waters: “In the arresting latest from Acampora (The Paper Wasp), a former artist is jolted from her suburban torpor. Louisa has left Manhattan and her photography career behind to settle in the wealthy town of Nearwater, Conn., with her older architect husband, Richard, and their 12-year-old daughter, Sylvie. Shaken by the death of a former lover from her Manhattan art world days, Louisa begins to mistrust the ‘fairytale quicksand’ of her Connecticut life (‘Grown people need friction to live,’ as the author puts it). Enter the Steigers, an Austrian couple who are big players on the international art scene, and whose artist son, Gabriel, makes brash environmentalist installations (he calls one of them a ‘new ark for our time’). Gabriel soon talks Louisa into an under-the-table residency at the town art center, which she’s trying to whip into shape, and enlists Sylvie’s help in a secret and dangerous project. The entanglements result in a series of literal and figurative conflagrations. Louisa makes for an alluring heroine who is more complex than the average bored, tempted suburbanite. The supporting characters, however, are less well drawn, whether it be the priggish Richard or the committed but comically pompous Gabriel. Still, Acampora achieves a sharp and tense depiction of an illusory and stultifying haven. Overall, it’s enjoyably offbeat.”

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Afterlives: “In Nobel laureate Gurnah’s riveting latest (after Gravel Heart), the lives of three East Africans play out in an unnamed coastal town during the period of German colonial rule in Africa in the early 20th century. As a child, Ilyas is kidnapped by a soldier from the German colonial army. Years later, he locates and briefly reunites with his sister, Afiya, only to enlist with the schutztruppe, a band of African mercenaries, and subject her once more to the cruel treatment of the family who raised her after their parents were killed. Elsewhere, Hamza, a fellow townsman with an enigmatic past, joins the Germans as a mercenary and is subsequently immersed in a bloody territorial war among the European colonial powers. Years later, he meets and falls for Afiya, and their attempts to locate Ilyas, who went missing during the war, close out the novel. Gurnah’s spare, unvarnished prose shines a harsh but honest light on the brutality of Africa’s colonial past and the violence inflicted by Europeans, which amounts to ‘absurd and nonchalant heroics,’ and through his rich main characters, the impact of colonialism and other key global events truly hits home. This profound account of empire and the everyman is not to be missed.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ball, Campbell, Barnes, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jesse Ball, Jane Campbell, Julian Barnes, 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.
Autoportrait by Jesse Ball

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Autoportrait: “Modeled on French writer Édouard Levé’s work of the same title, this slender and innovative work from novelist Ball (Census) reflects on the vagaries of love, loss, and life in a single, unspooling paragraph. As he oscillates from one musing to the next without regard for chronology or resolution, Ball ruminates on having ‘no musical talent’ (‘when I try to play, my dogs howl until I stop’); his two marriages; his brother’s trip to the hospital in 1990 that rendered him quadriplegic; and a falling out with the proprietors of a favorite Chinese restaurant. Readers will not learn much about either wife, how his brother was injured, or the reason Ball and the restaurateurs parted ways. Though his writing implies a stream-of-consciousness approach, it may not be a coincidence that Ball, a self-identified absurdist, often recounts violence or tragedy, then swiftly changes the subject; a typical non sequitur: ‘Once, some years ago I was mean to my mother and she cried. I never wear watches.’ While jarring, such punches mimic the ruthlessness of life. It’s a somewhat depressive affair, but Ball skillfully molds it into a rich self-portrait that evokes wonder at odd passions (cooking with strangely named spices, drawings of dead babies) and delightfully idiosyncratic opinions. Fans of Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too should take note.”

Cat Brushing by Jane Campbell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cat Brushing: “Campbell debuts at 80 with an accomplished collection centering the emotional and psychological lives of the elderly, delivering astute observations and sharp critiques, and restoring agency to characters who are routinely robbed of it. Foregrounding sexuality, ‘Susan and Miffy’ depicts an 86-year-old woman as she develops an attraction to her younger caretaker. (‘The lust of an old man is disgusting but the lust of an old woman is worse. Everyone knows that,’ goes the opening line.) In the title story, the narrator contemplates the dispossession ‘of rights, of respect, of desire’ while fearing her son is going to take away her beloved cat. Some of the stories take on a sci-fi tinge, as in ‘Schopenhauer and I,’ wherein a character is given a robot to ward off loneliness and help her with daily tasks—and surveil her every move. While the plots are sometimes too heavily reliant on coincidence, as in ‘Lacrimae Rerum,’ when a woman happens upon her long-ago ex-boyfriend’s funeral, and occasionally employ choppy dialogue (‘I am leaving you. Our relationship is over. I am in love with Hils. I thought you knew. Everyone else knows’), Campbell succeeds in portraying the characters’ complex inner lives. Ripe with sensuality, this is full of vivid portraits.”

Paul by Daisy Lafarge

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Paul: “In LaFarge’s timid debut novel (after the poetry collection Life Without Air), a young British student gets entangled with an older man during a summer in the French countryside. Frances Hawthorne, 21, is taking a break from her medieval history research in Paris after an unspecified incident with her toxic supervisor to volunteer at farms in the French countryside in exchange for room and board. At the first farm in Lazeaux, however, she becomes enchanted by Paul, her 40-something host. Over the course of her week on the farm, she and Paul fall into a romance before Frances must reluctantly depart for her next farm and hosts. There, after a death in the host’s family, she’s asked to leave earlier than planned, and she ends up back at Lazeaux, where Paul turns out to be a textbook misogynist. LaFarge confidently evokes the various settings, though often in a way that feels simultaneously heavy-handed and ethereal, such as Frances’s description of a Lazeaux McDonald’s: ‘The shift in light in the shaded interior feels vaguely spiritual, as if I’m approaching something sacred.’ The spiritual motif seems to have something to do with Paul’s initial appeal to Frances (he shares the name of a saint), and there’s more symbolism in descriptions of cathedrals and murals, but the connections don’t fuse to the story of Paul or illuminate Frances. This shows promise, but it doesn’t quite cohere.”

A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A History of Present Illness: “Palliative care physician DeForest delivers a reflective debut about cadavers, family trauma, and perplexing ailments. During the unnamed narrator’s term as a medical student, she tries to process her experiences as well as her history of abuse and neglect. She spends a lot of time by the bed of Ada, a younger woman with a slow encephalitis. Throughout, the narrator offers arresting reflections on the godlike powers doctors hold over their patients (‘No one even dies until we let them’), on the desensitization that comes with seeing so much pain and death, and the pressure and competitiveness that often pushes residents to self-harming behaviors. Fascinating medical facts abound (for example: during an autopsy, fixative is used on the brain to preserve it), along with disturbing passages about the narrator’s stepfather, who would lock her and her siblings in the basement. The tone remains detached, creating an atmosphere that echoes the narrator’s ‘mechanical existence.’ There’s not much of a story, but DeForest does a great job conveying the impact of the surroundings on her narrator, as well as how she learns the value of honesty with patients’ families, after giving Ada’s husband the unvarnished truth about her fate. This slim volume gives readers much to contemplate.”

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Stories from the Tenants Downstairs: “The residents of a low-income high-rise apartment building in Harlem form the beating heart of Fofana’s dynamic debut collection. The hardscrabble tenants of Banneker Terrace tread water while their greedy landlord imposes evictions. In ‘The Rent Manual,’ Mimi in 14D remarks on how the building houses ‘a little bit of everybody,’ including ‘folks with child-support payments, uncles in jail, aunties on crack, cousins in the Bloods, sisters hoein.’ Besides raising her young son, she desperately cobbles together the rent before late notices land on her doorstep again. In ‘The Okiedoke,’ Swan in 6B nervously awaits his friend’s release from prison, while in ‘Camaraderie,’ Dary in 12H, who is gay, has high hopes for his future while doing sex work to pay the rent. Quanneisha, the former gymnast at the heart of ‘Tumble,’ also sees better things for herself. But the apartment walls are closing in on her and elderly Mr. Murray in 2E, who has been challenging passersby on the street to a game of chess on a plastic crate for decades, until he realizes the time for games is finally up. Fofana delivers the hardy, profane, violent, and passionate narration in Black English Vernacular, and finds the humanity in all his characters as they struggle to get by. These engrossing and gritty stories of tenuous living in a gentrifying America enchant.”

Touch by Olaf Olafsson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Touch: “Olafsson (The Sacrament) imagines how two people confronting the pandemic reconsider their futures in Reykjavik and Japan. After increasing lockdown restrictions, widower Kristófer Hannesson, 74, shutters his restaurant. Then he receives a friend request on Facebook from Miko Nakamura, the one who got away in the late 1960s. Miko had been hospitalized with Covid, and without telling her, Kristófer buys a plane ticket to Japan to see her. While waylaid in London by canceled flights, Kristófer decides ‘to confront a few things [he’s] avoided thinking about.’ He recalls his youth in the city when he dropped out of the London School of Economics and started working at Miko’s father’s Japanese restaurant, where he fell in love with Miko. He also wrestles with his more recent past in Iceland, including misunderstandings with his stepdaughter, how he’s blamed others for his choices, and having to accept his true feelings for his late wife. A languid tone belies the horrifying secret about why Miko and her father suddenly disappeared 50 years earlier, but the gratifying ending is hopeful. It adds up to an affecting story about the sway one’s past can hold on the present.”

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Elizabeth Finch: “Booker Prize winner Barnes (The Sense of an Ending) delivers a tepid, talky meditation on the impact of a professor on a middle-aged man. Former actor Neil, wounded by the end of his marriage, signs up for an adult education course titled ‘Culture and Civilisation’ taught by Elizabeth Finch, an author of two scholarly works. He’s immediately entranced by Finch’s calm, rigorous presence as she lectures on St. Ursula, the abolition of slavery, and Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome, causing Neil to feel his ‘brain change gear.’ After the course ends, Neil meets Finch for lunch two or three times a year for two decades, though she never eases her reserved demeanor. One day, Neil learns Elizabeth has died and is astonished that she has left him her books and papers. Scouring her bequest for clues on the private life she kept hidden, he honors her frequent references to Julian the Apostate by writing the essay on the emperor that forms the novel’s central section, which, via Barnes, is reliably intelligent and perceptive. Barely characterized beyond his preoccupation with Finch’s ideas, which Barnes shares in lengthy quotations from her lectures and notebooks, Neil, though, is less character than mouthpiece. ‘You can see, I hope, why I adored her,’ he effuses, but Finch’s appeal remains as mysterious as she does. Even devoted fans may be disappointed.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Giddings, Tang, Levin, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Megan Giddings, Belinda Hujuan Tang, Adam Levin, 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 Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Women Could Fly: “Giddings (Lakewood) pulls off a dynamite story of a Black woman’s resistance in an oppressive dystopia. Jo Thomas’s mother, Tiana, has been declared dead after having been missing for 14 years. At 28, the age at which all women must marry or register with the Bureau of Witchcraft, Jo works at the Museum of Cursed Art and is in love with her white best friend, Angie. Tiana taught Jo as a girl that magic wasn’t real, but rather a myth to enable oppressions of women and non-cisgender people. Jo is set to inherit a large sum from Tiana on the condition that she agrees to visit an island in Lake Superior, which, according to a story Tiana once told her, only appears once every seven years. The instructions remind her of a story her mother told her as a child, about an island with a treasure. Though Jo doesn’t want to leave her sometimes-boyfriend Preston, or her job and Angie, she complies, and upon returning is promptly imprisoned for suspected witchcraft. When Preston promises to take custody of Jo, as required by law, the two enter a tender phase of their relationship. But after the island’s secrets leak into the real world, Jo is imprisoned again. Giddings ingeniously blends her harrowing parable of an all-powerful patriarchy with insights into racial imbalances, such as a scene in which Jo and Angie are pulled over by the cops (‘I wanted the ease of feeling protected and beautiful enough to try to make a joke, to not have my hands on the dashboard, to not text someone pulled over by cops, please call in 15 minutes if you don’t hear from me again’). This is brilliant.”

A Map for the Missing by Belinda Huijuan Tang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Map for the Missing: “Tang’s gripping if predictable debut opens in 1993 as math professor Tang Yitian receives word in the U.S. from his aging mother in rural China that his father has gone missing. Yitian boards a flight, leaving his wife behind, and returns to his birthplace for the first time in nearly a decade to help in the search. After it becomes clear the police aren’t interested in helping, Yitian reaches out to Tian Hanwen, an estranged friend now married to a local politician, to ask for help, and their reunion fans romantic sparks they’d both denied in their youth. Tang rewinds the nonlinear timeline back through the late 1970s and early ’80s to track the duo, showing Yitian passing the gaokao college exam and Hanwen failing it. Meanwhile in 1993, sightings of Yitian’s father turn out to be false and Yitian begins to lose hope. Throughout, Tang weaves her characters’ stories seamlessly and incorporates commentary on class politics via Hanwen’s participation in China’s ‘sent-down youth’ program as a teen and Yitian’s uncomfortable early adulthood. Still, the plot sometimes feels manufactured to produce moments of triumph and disaster. While the turns are easy to anticipate, Yitian and Hanwen’s complex history makes this engrossing.”

Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi (translated by David Boyd and Lucy North)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Diary of a Void: “Yagi, in her riveting and surreal debut, offers a close inspection of the demands of motherhood. Shibata, 34, works at a paper core manufacturer. Though it appears an improvement from her previous position, where she was sexually harassed, the new workplace has its own sexist culture. Shibata soon learns that as the only woman in her section, her responsibilities also include undertaking the traditionally feminine chores of cleaning up after everyone, making coffee, and serving snacks. Sick of it, Shibata invents a lie: she’s pregnant. Instantly, the menial tasks go away and people around her begin to treat her with more caution and consideration. She gets to leave early, and treats herself to relaxing baths and dinners by herself. Soon, though, she realizes the lie, though easily created, will need work to uphold. As the weeks progress, Shibata tracks fetus development with an app, eats for two and enrolls in maternity aerobics. The more she works to keep up the fake pregnancy, the more it begins to seem real to her. Absurdist, amusing and clever, the story brings subtlety and tact to its depiction of workplace discrimination—as well as a touch of magic. Readers will eagerly turn the pages all the way to the bold conclusion.”

Mother in the Dark by Kayla Maiuri

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mother in the Dark: “Maiuri’s wrenching and poignant debut centers on a family in escalating crisis due to a mother’s mental illness. Anna, 20-something, left her Massachusetts hometown for New York City, where she shares an apartment with her friend Vera. Now, Vera has fallen in love, and Anna is afraid she’ll move in with the boyfriend. Distressed, Anna ignores phone calls from her father, Vin, and her two younger sisters, Lia and Sofia, despite sensing the calls are because her mother, Dee, is not well. Most of the action is in flashbacks to Anna’s adolescence, when Vin, without consulting Dee, moves the family out of the Italian American suburb in Boston where Dee grew up. They are the first family to move into a new development, where Vin becomes more aloof and drinks too much, and Dee mentally shuts down. The sisters react in different ways, as Anna and Lia become close to Vera, who moves in across the street. Maiuri brings nuance to the heavy subject matter: inherited madness, fracturing family bonds, and resentment held in the body, balanced nicely with Anna’s strong narrative voice: ‘I hate that she’s so desperate for love,’ she says of Vera. Fans of Justin Torres’s We the Animals will find a lot to like.”

The Last Karankawas by Kimberly Garza

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Last Karankawas: “Garza debuts with an accomplished account of the ties between members of a Galveston, Tex., Filipino and Mexican community as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Though there are many connected accounts from different points of view, the narrative centers on Carly Castillo, who longs to leave Galveston. After Carly’s mother returned to the Philippines without her, Carly was raised by her grandmother Magdalena, who is now declining from dementia. Magdalena tells her they’re the descendants of the Karankawa Indigenous tribe, trying to impart a tie to Galveston even as Carly longs to explore life elsewhere. Carly’s boyfriend, Jess Rivera, a promising baseball player, helps support his family by working with local fisherman Vinh Pham. Since his father was incarcerated, Jess’s mother rarely leaves the house, and the matriarch role has fallen to the eldest of his four sisters, Yvonne. Though readers might have trouble keeping track of the many characters, the strong sense of place carries through no matter who is talking, whether individual characters or a chorus of Filipino church members who scrutinize Carly (‘we are afraid that what we suspect is true, that she has a Filipina mother but no Philippines anywhere in her’). This is a worthy love letter to Galveston.”

Mount Chicago by Adam Levin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mount Chicago: “In Levin’s exhausting metafictional latest, a sinkhole opens under Chicago and swallows up big swaths of the city. Comedian and novelist Solly Gladman stays home with hemorrhoids while his family takes a trip to the museum, then disappear in the sinkhole, leaving Gladman to drown in whiskey, Xanax, and regret. Gladman’s ‘foil,’ Apter Schutz, who made big profits off a hilarious scheme involving desk calendars meant to parody white nationalists, idolizes Gladman. After Apter is recruited to work for the mayor, who wants to create ‘Mount Chicago,’ a memorial that will be a ‘less depressing Auschwitz,’ the mayor tasks Apter with putting together ‘Day Zero,’ a music festival to aid the city’s recovery. Apter finally gets the chance of an encounter with Gladman when he is tasked with finding and convincing him to perform. Unfortunately, Levin undercuts the otherwise satisfying sociopolitical comedy with frustrating interjections about his struggles to write this novel and sell his previous one, his wife’s uncertainty about whether Apter or Gladman is supposed to be Levin, and many other asides that read like missives to creative writing students or nod to the difficulties of this latest project. As the frustrated reader will find, acknowledging a problem is not equivalent to solving it.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Hamid, Gavino, Marra, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Mohsin Hamid, our own Kate Gavino, Anthony Marra, 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 Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Last White Man: “On the first page of Hamid’s underwhelming latest (after Exit West), a white man named Anders wakes up to find he has mysteriously ‘turned a deep and undeniable brown.’ From this Kafkaesque beginning, Hamid spins a timely if unsatisfying racial allegory in which, one after another, the white inhabitants of an unnamed country become dark-skinned. Hamid mutes the power by harnessing his plot to the dishwater-dull Anders, who works at a gym, and his equally bland girlfriend, Oona, a yoga instructor. The lack of social context is also puzzling, with the story set in an unspecified time and place largely stripped of historical and cultural detail. Hamid employs a cool, spare prose style with little dialogue, leaving the reader to feel like the action of the novel is taking place behind a wall of soundproof glass. The glass briefly shatters when white militants come for Anders, though the author quickly turns back the threat. Later, when Oona’s mother, who indulges in right-wing conspiracy theories, is sickened by the sight of her white daughter in bed with dark-skinned Anders, Hamid taps the rich potential of his premise. For the most part, though, this remains stubbornly inert.”

A Career in Books by Kate Gavino

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Career in Books: “With quill-sharp narration and spot-on details, this delightful graphic novel from Gavino (Last Night’s Reading) depicts New York City publishing through the eyes of three Asian American NYU grads who share an apartment. Nina Nakamura, the most career-driven of the group, takes an assistant job at a large house. Silvia Bautista, an aspiring novelist, works for an indie press supported by the publisher’s ‘seemingly endless trust fund.’ Shirin Yap is hired at an academic press, possibly because the editor hoped she’d be able to speak Cantonese with their Hong Kong–based printer (Shirin is Filipina). Besides artistic fulfillment, their goal is to ‘make that Anthropologie money… non-sale section Anthro money!’ Their neighbor, 92-year-old Veronica Vo, turns out to be a Booker Prize winner whose subsequent books about the domestic lives of Asian American women have fallen out-of-print. Nina leads a charge to reissue Veronica’s work—success for Veronica will, of course, mean hope for their own ambitions, while righting one small historical wrong. Gavino peppers her savvy line drawings with price tags (‘Edith Wharton leather-bound edition, $279’), and applies actual numbers to her characters’ salaries and calculations. Specificity is the fire that fuels this witty social satire, in which fairness doesn’t always triumph, but friendship does.”

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Rabbit Hutch: “Gunty debuts with an astonishing portrait of economically depressed Vacca Vale, Ind., centered on the residents of a subsidized apartment building nicknamed the Rabbit Hutch. The main character is 18-year-old Blandine Watkins, who grew up in foster care and dropped out of high school in junior year. In the opening scene, she is stabbed in her apartment by an unidentified assailant. Gradually, the causes of the crime emerge, followed eventually by the facts, as well as her fate. Along the way, Gunty delves into the stories of Blandine’s neighbors, brilliantly and achingly charting the range of their experiences. An erotic flashback of an infant’s conception at a motel on higher ground in Vacca Vale called the Wooden Lady (‘It’s like if manslaughter were a place,’ one reviewer describes it), where married couple Hope and Anthony hole up during a ‘1,000-year flood,’ contrasts with a devastatingly banal and ultimately traumatic sexual encounter between Blandine and her drama teacher the year before. There’s also a lonely woman who lives in a state of ‘flammable peace’ due to her sensitivity to noise, with whom Blandine shares her fascination with Catholic mystics before going off to sabotage a celebration involving the city’s gentrification scheme with voodoo dolls and fake blood. It all ties together, achieving this first novelist’s maximalist ambitions and making powerful use of language along the way. Readers will be breathless.”

Acceptance by Emi Nietfeld

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Acceptance: “Nietfeld debuts with a heart-pounding look at her path out of homelessness and the flawed systems she had to navigate along the way. Raised in Minneapolis in the early 2000s by a single mother, Nietfeld’s home was ‘filled to the top with garbage, and… covered with mouse and dog excrements.’ Despite the glaring signs of abuse, Nietfeld’s mother convinced therapists her daughter was mentally unwell. ‘No one would listen to me. No one would trust me,’ Nietfeld writes, describing in unsparing prose the revolving door of mental institutions she spun through before being put into foster care in her teens. Though her foster parents belittled her academic pursuits, she excelled in her studies and secured a scholarship to boarding school, where she spent school breaks alternating between prestigious academic camps and living in her car. After being accepted to Harvard, Nietfeld was sure her life would change, but as she reckoned with the school’s elitist culture and, later, the disillusionment that came from working in Silicon Valley, she realized the trauma ‘ingrained into my nervous system’ couldn’t be eradicated by the fleeting thrills and rewards of finding ‘status’ in America. It’s a sobering narrative, and Nietfeld’s raw resilience and candor will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. This hits hard.”

Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu (translated by Julia Sanches)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dogs of Summer: “Abreu’s emotionally resonant debut charts the tumultuous friendship between two 10-year-old girls over the course of the summer of 2005 in the Canary Islands. The unnamed narrator is fascinated by her brazen and enigmatic friend, Isora, the granddaughter of Chela, an abusive matriarch who manages the neighborhood minimarket and cares for Isora after her mother’s suicide. Isora calls the shots in the friendship and nicknames the narrator ‘Shit.’ In potent, stream-of-consciousness prose, Abreu details the girls’ long summer days spent in each other’s presence: the afternoons dedicated to memorizing the lyrics of Aventura songs, dipping their toes in the canal and imagining they’re at San Marcos beach, and the timid narrator eating burnt cake just so Isora may watch her after the latter is forced into a diet by the overcritical Chela. (Isora also develops an eating disorder.) Along the way, Abreu ingeniously picks apart the submissive narrator’s conflicting feelings of resentment, admiration, and sexual curiosity, and reveals the way these emotions quickly turn devastating once a traumatic assault changes the power dynamics upon which the girls’ friendship is based. Abreu’s exhilarating chronicle of a young friendship is not to be missed.”

Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Properties of Thirst: “Pulitzer Prize finalist Wiggins (Evidence of Things Unseen) returns with a powerful epic set on a Southern California ranch during WWII. Rocky Rhodes named the ranch Three Chairs, after Thoreau’s idea that three chairs are for ‘society’—or ‘company,’ as Rocky puts it. A widowed scion of a wealthy family back east, he lives there with his daughter, Sunny, and his twin sister. Sunny has a twin brother, Stryker, who is presumed to have died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Rocky has spent much of his fortune battling the Los Angeles Water Board, furious that the city has stolen all the local water. Things get worse when Schiff, a young lawyer from the Department of the Interior, is sent to the area to establish an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Morally outraged himself, Schiff befriends the Rhodes family and falls for Sunny, a self-taught cook who takes inspiration from notes left by her mother. Here, Wiggins’s wordplay is stellar, as when the properties of a souffle become metaphor for the emotions of those about to eat it: ‘Sunny folded one thing—the inflated egg whites—into the other, le fond—with the greatest care, aware of both their fragile properties.’ The dialogue is full of grit, and Wiggins manages to capture a big swath of mid-century America by placing a blue-blooded family into a desert inland complete with adobe haciendas, desert blooms, and Hollywood movie sets, while throughout, the Rhodes hold out hope for Stryker’s survival. Wiggins’s masterpiece is one for the ages.”

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mercury Pictures Presents: “Marra’s meticulously crafted latest (after the collection The Tsar of Love and Techno) follows a host of outsiders as they try to make it through pre-WWII Italy and wartime Los Angeles with some of their morals intact. Teenage Maria Lagana and her mother leave Italy for Los Angeles after Fascists exile her father. By 1941, Maria is B-movie producer Artie Feldman’s second-in-command. Artie, a toupee-wearing loudmouth with a heart of gold (he’ll hire any down on their luck European exile), is at war with the censors, his twin brother/business partner, and the bankers with a stake in Mercury Pictures. Marra skillfully switches between small-town Sicily and a still-small Los Angeles where, post–Pearl Harbor, Maria must register as an internal enemy and her Chinese American boyfriend, Eddie, has to flee assailants who are convinced he’s a Japanese spy. The plot is intricate: Artie tries to release a political movie and fend off creditors, Maria and Eddie plot to make a film, a Berlin-born model-builder recreates her city, a Sicilian photographer flees Italy. While Marra’s pleasure in the details and argot of the past occasionally feels like overkill, this tough-minded, funny outing exemplifies what Maria calls the democratic promise of ‘the miniaturist’s gaze,’ in which ‘all were worthy.’ Thanks to Marra, the pleasure is contagious.”

Also out this week: Ex-Members by Tobias Carroll and Bonsai by Alejando Zambra (translated by Megan McDowell).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Castillo, Hokeah, Murphy, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Elaine Castillo, Oscar Hokeah, Dwyer Murphy, 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.
How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How to Read Now: “Novelist Castillo (America Is Not the Heart) argues in this brilliant and passionate collection that the publishing industry is designed to suit white readers and that changing the way one reads can change the way one sees the world. In ‘Reading Teaches Us Empathy, and Other Fictions,’ she warns against seeing stories by writers of color as a ‘kind of ethical protein shake’ to teach white readers how to be better people, and urges that ‘we have to push back against the idea that engaging with our art in ways that look beyond the aesthetic is a cheapening of our engagement.’ In ‘The Limits of White Fantasy,’ Castillo critiques white authors’ appropriation of narratives about oppression, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which was partly ‘inspired’ by dissidents in the Philippines during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Meanwhile, ‘Main Character Syndrome’ takes Joan Didion to task for her novel Democracy, in which, Castillo writes, Hawaiian and Southeast Asian settings and characters exist as a background against which the white main characters act out the central drama. Castillo’s knowledge, along with her firebrand style and generous humor, result in a dynamic and necessary look at the state of storytelling. This one packs a powerful punch.”

Calling for a Blanket Dance by Oscar Hokeah

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Calling for a Blanket Dance: “The Kiowa, Cherokee, and Mexican family members of a young man named Ever Geimausaddle tell stories that span from his infancy to his adulthood in this captivating debut. When Ever is six months old, he witnesses his father being nearly beaten to death by police on the way back to Oklahoma from visiting his paternal grandparents in Chihuahua, Mexico. Ever’s maternal grandmother, Lena, decides to make a quilt for him to help him heal from the incident, but Lena’s schism with her daughter, Turtle, prevents her from ever delivering the gift. Though Ever grows up under a specter of violence, he finds connection to his cultures and the people around him amid the climate of grief, fear, and anger. A chapter narrated by Ever’s paternal grandfather, Vincent, in which Vincent observes his grandsons taking part in a gourd dance, perfectly conveys the double-edged sword of the family’s heritage: ‘I was amazed at how quickly they followed in my footsteps. And then it scared me.’ Throughout, Hokeah succeeds at making each character’s voice distinct and without losing a sense of cohesion. With striking insight into human nature and beautiful prose, this heralds an exciting new voice.”

Denial by Jon Raymond

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Denial: “The engaging speculative latest from screenwriter and novelist Raymond (Freebird) imagines a future in which a slew of energy executives and lobbyists have been convicted of environmental crimes. In 2052, reporter Jack Henry is hot on the trail of Robert Cave, a former fossil fuel official who fled the U.S. during the trials in 2032, was convicted in absentia, and has never paid for his offenses. After one of Jack’s sources spots Cave in Guadalajara, Jack convinces his boss to send him to Mexico to ferret Cave out. Jack scouts Cave at a museum café, and Cave strikes up a conversation with him. The two meet again the next day, and as Jack is introduced to Cave’s new life, he grows fond of his target, who knows nothing of Jack’s planned exposure, and wrestles with the ramifications of following through with his scheme. The narrative works best when it focuses on Jack and Cave, as their interactions drive the novel into unexpected directions. Less successful is a tame romance subplot between Jack and an old friend. Still, Raymond satisfies with a clever vision of a not-too-distant future. The moral ambiguity at the center leaves readers with much to chew on.”

The Boys by Katie Hafner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Boys: “Journalist Hafner’s marvelous fiction debut centers on a socially awkward man’s neuroses about fatherhood. While working as the chief technology officer at a startup in Philadelphia, Ethan meets Barb, a University of Pennsylvania grad student, and the two start dating. They soon marry, though Ethan suspects he’s scored out of his league. Having lost his parents at an early age, he also fears becoming a father, but Barb changes his mind, only for them to discover after a year of trying to conceive that Ethan is sterile. They decide to foster two young boys, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hits and Ethan develops an overbearing attachment to them, his relationship with Barb disintegrates. She leaves him and he takes the boys on a bike trip to Italy, where a jaw-dropping twist ensues. Starting out as a lighthearted romance before taking an unsettling turn, this upsets expectations in the best way. The heartbreaking late reveal will take a second reading to fully sink in and pushes the troubled marriage genre to dizzying extremes. It’s a remarkable outing, and readers will look forward to seeing what Hafner does next.”

An Honest Living by Dwyer Murphy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about An Honest Living: “The New York attorney who narrates Murphy’s uneven debut—who is unnamed but hints he has a name similar to the author’s—gave up a career with a prestigious law firm to make an honest living in a solo practice doing odd jobs, contract work, and document reviews, but his earnings have been slim of late. Then a wealthy woman calling herself Anna Rennick approaches him, claiming that her much older estranged husband, a former antiquarian book dealer, is stealing rare books from her library. The narrator can’t resist her $10,000 fee as well as a potential bonus if he can catch her husband offering any of her books for sale. Something about the case bothers him, but he manages “to put it out of mind” and he winds it up with little effort. The trouble begins when the real Anna Rennick shows up, threatening to sue. Murphy, the editor-in-chief of CrimeReads, writes with authority about the New York book world and literary references abound, from Edith Wharton to Cormac McCarthy, but the novel’s digressive first half drags and the plot never picks up much speed. This is destined to amuse a niche audience at best.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Fitzgerald, Jacobs, Stevens, and More

-

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Isaac Fitzgerald, Liska Jacobs, Nell Stevens, 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.
Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dirtbag, Massachusetts: “Journalist Fitzgerald (How to Be a Pirate) weaves a raucous mosaic of a rough-and-ready New England rarely seen with a transfixing story of his path to finding himself. In a series of essays, he recounts his impoverished childhood in 1980s Massachusetts and follows his escape from it through a litany of jobs and identities. In ‘Family Stories,’ he charts the ‘stained and tattered map’ of his dysfunctional Catholic parent’s lives and their bumpy road from ‘city poor to country poor.’ A poster child of the ‘classic New England family, incapable of discussing… things openly,’ Fitzgerald buried his past in drinking, drugs, and porn: bonding relationships,’ he writes in ‘The Armory,’ ‘were based on the consumption of porn and communal jerking off.’ By his mid-20s, he was ‘on the other side’ starring in pornos. As he takes readers along on his search for salvation, he barrels through many venues—from San Francisco to Southeast Asia to Brooklyn to Kilimanjaro—recounting the ‘conversations that changed me’ and eventually helped him overcome old ideals of masculinity and untangle his complicity in a racist society (in his case, ‘hipster racism’). ‘To any young men out there who aren’t too far gone,’ he writes. ‘I say you’re not done becoming yourself.’ The result is a marvelous coming-of-age story that’s as wily and raunchy as it is heartfelt.”

The Pink Hotel by Liska Jacobs

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Pink Hotel: “Jacobs (The Worst Kind of Want) returns with an amusing if over-the-top satire of the überwealthy. After a chance meeting at a hospitality conference, small-town newlyweds Keith and Kit Collins befriend the tony Richard and Ilka Beaumont, who invite the couple to honeymoon at their renowned Beverly Hills establishment, the Pink Hotel. Once Keith and Kit check in, Keith, who works as the general manager of his uncle’s restaurant and hotel, is enamored of the elite scene and agrees to help Richard attend to guests in hopes of securing a job offer, leaving Kit to spend time with a hard-partying young socialite who’s also staying at the hotel. Complications arise when Keith develops a crush on Richard’s mistress, Coco, whose cousin Sean (a construction worker helping with an expansion at the hotel) takes a liking to Kit after she faints from heatstroke and lands in his arms. Then things go off the rails as encroaching wildfires and rolling blackouts stir up angry mobs outside the hotel gates, while, inside, a guest’s exotic cats go on the attack, shots ring out, and tensions boil over. The chaotic climax is something to behold, but thinly drawn characters water down the satire’s potency, and the class commentary is a bit predictable. Readers who can look past a few wobbles will be easily carried along by the rollicking madcap sensibility.”

Shmutz by Felicia Berliner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Shmutz: “Berliner’s memorable debut concerns a young Brooklyn Hasidic woman who becomes addicted to porn. Despite the community’s strict laws against the internet, Raizl, 18, receives a laptop as part of her accounting scholarship to Cohen College, and her naive initial Google searches quickly lead her to more explicit corners of the web. Each night, after her younger sister Gitti falls asleep, Raizl watches porn under the covers with the volume off. More transgressions follow, as she befriends a group of goth classmates and eats a bacon and egg roll from a street vendor. Meanwhile, Raizl endures a series of matchmaker-arranged ‘dates’ with potential husbands. After two failed dates, Berliner writes, ‘the matchmaker must have smelled the fear on [Raizl’s] mother because the next boy she sends… is a clammy snail in a suit.’ Meanwhile, Raizl’s porn addiction affects her grades; she stops sleeping, watching ‘video after video until morning,’ and her attempts to quit prove unsuccessful. Berliner shines in her depictions of a deeply religious life, both in its inequities and its enchantments. If the plot is at times a bit sparse, the prose is inventive, notably in how it uses Raizl’s native Yiddish (and her application of it to porn) to great effect. This brave, eye-opening tale is full of surprises.”

Briefly, a Delicious Life by Nell Stevens

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Briefly, a Delicious Life: “Stevens (Bleaker House: A Memoir) makes her fiction debut with a smart and haunting outing that immerses readers in Valldemosa, Mallorca, over four centuries. The story revolves around the ghost of a 14-year-old girl named Blanca, who died in the 15th century and is captivated by the appearance of author George Sand and her lover, composer Frédéric Chopin, on vacation in the late 19th century. Blanca is attracted to both men and women, and her playful, sensuous narration describes the centuries she’s spent observing the trysts of monks in the monastery where she lives. Sand’s masculine dress particularly excites Blanca, though it elicits disgust of the villagers. As Chopin becomes gravely ill, Stevens alternates the lovers’ story with Blanca’s memories of her own life and death, and Blanca dwells on feelings of blame toward the man who got her pregnant during their affair. Eventually, the stories entwine, as Blanca uses her ghostly powers to intercede in Chopin’s fate. Though Stevens’s idealized view of Sand can feel a bit Mary Sue–ish, for the most part it credibly reflects Blanca’s romanticizing of a woman who ‘dressed like a man, kissed like a man, smoked like a man.’ This will entice readers.”

Also out this week: The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories by Jamil Jan Kochai and Amanat edited by Zaure Batayeva and Shelley Fairweather-Vega.