Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ishiguro, Nguyen, Banks, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Kazuo Ishiguro, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Russell Banks, 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.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Klara and the Sun: “Nobel laureate Ishiguro takes readers to a vaguely futuristic, technologically advanced setting reminiscent of his Never Let Me Go for a surprising parable about love, humanity, and science. Klara is an Artificial Friend (AF), a humanlike robot designed to be a child’s companion. She spends her days watching humans from her perch in the AF store, fascinated by their emotions and hungry to learn enough to help her future owner. Klara, who is solar-powered, reveres the sun for the ‘nourishment’ and upholds ‘him’ as a godlike figure. Klara is eventually bought by teenager Josie and continues to learn about humans through her interactions with Josie’s family and childhood friend. When Josie becomes seriously ill, Klara pleads with the sun to make her well again and confronts the boundary between service and sacrifice. While the climax lends a touch of fantasy, Klara’s relationship with the sun, which is hidden at times by smog, touches on the consequences of environmental destruction. As with Ishiguro’s other works, the rich inner reflections of his protagonists offer big takeaways, and Klara’s quiet but astute observations of human nature land with profound gravity (‘There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her,’ Klara says). This dazzling genre-bending work is a delight.”

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Committed: “The sequel to Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Sympathizer is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride filled with violence, hidden identity, and meditations on whether the colonized can ever be free. The fractured, guilt-ridden narrator, a veteran of the South Vietnamese Army, where he was a mole for the communists, goes by his assumed name Vo Danh, which means ‘nameless.’ He has survived reeducation and a refugee camp and is now living in early 1980s Paris, along with his devoutly anti-communist ‘blood brother,’ Bon, who doesn’t know he was a double agent. Vo Danh starts selling hashish for a Viet-Chinese drug lord called the Boss, whom he and Bon met in their refugee camp. The gig has him more vexed about the crime of capitalism than that of drug dealing, and he’s not expecting a turf war. Indeed, he’s chagrined to discover his rivals, French Arabs who share with him a legacy of colonization, want him dead. Meanwhile, there are opportunity for socializing, revenge, and reunions at the Vietnamese Union. The book works both as sequel and standalone, with Nguyen careful to fold in needed backstory, and the author’s wordplay continues to scratch at the narrator’s fractured sense of self (‘I am not just one but two. Not just I but you. Not just me but we’). Pleasures abound, such as the narrator’s hair-raising escapes, descriptions of the Boss’s hokey bar (‘This was the new and modern Orient, where opium was both cool and quaint, chic and cute, addictive and undemanding’), and thoughtful references to Fanon and Césaire. Nguyen continues to delight.”

Abundance by Jakob Guanzon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Abundance: “Guanzon debuts with a harrowing story of a man’s desperation and unyielding love for his son. Single father Henry has less than $100 to his name, and he’s planning on spending it on his son Junior’s eighth birthday present: a night in a hotel with a real bed and cable TV instead of sleeping in Henry’s truck. Recently released from a five-year prison sentence for possession of homemade fentanyl pills, Henry washes himself in the bathroom of a McDonald’s and lives on junk food, while Junior’s mother, Michelle, is nowhere to be found. Each chapter is titled after the dwindling amount of cash Henry has, while flashbacks show Henry’s brief windfall from a pill sale and struggle to foot the hospital bill for Junior’s delivery. Junior and Henry are all the other has, and Henry holds out hope that a job interview he has lined up at a call center will give them a shot at escaping their life of itinerancy. Unfortunately, Junior grows increasingly ill from their meager diet, and a violent altercation in a parking lot threatens to derail Henry’s plans. Guanzon’s descriptions of grinding poverty are visceral (pocket change rattles in Henry’s pocket ‘like tiny shackles’), and Henry’s attempts to fend off relentless adversity for the sake of his son are heartbreaking. This one hits hard.”

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What’s Mine and Yours: “Coster (Halsey Street) returns with a rich if diffuse story of loss, betrayal, and systemic racism, centered on two families spanning the 1990s to the present, set mainly in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. In 1992, six-year-old Gee’s, father, Ray, gets killed in front of him. Noelle Ventura grows up on the other side of town, and though her father, Robbie, is from Colombia, she passes for white. In 2002, the two families intersect when Gee, who is Black, is bussed to Noelle’s high school. Her white mother, Lacey May, who struggled to support three children while Robbie was in jail, joins a group of parents who protest the school’s integration, a racist position that forces Noelle to choose between Lacey May and her growing love for Gee. In a series of abrupt shifts, Coster portrays Noelle as a housewife in 2018 Atlanta, and her Black husband, Nelson, who works as a photographer in 2018 Paris and sleeps with a white woman. In 2018, Lacey May’s daughters reluctantly return home to visit after hearing she has cancer, setting off a series of confrontations and reconciliations. While Coster’s exploration of race is powerful, the scattered plotting dampens the impact of the various stories. It’s undoubtedly ambitious, but it doesn’t hang together.”

Spilt Milk by Courtney Zoffness

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Spilt Milk: “Zoffness, director of the creative writing program at Drew University, debuts with a keenly perceptive collection of essays that considers, among other topics, family dynamics, motherhood, and her ‘inconsistent’ relationship to Judaism. In “The Only Thing We Have to Fear,’ Zoffness worries she’s passing along her childhood anxieties to her first-born. ‘Ultra Sound’ recounts her attempts to become closer to her mother, who was once in a band that opened for the Doors, yet never played any of her recordings for her children. ‘How to read such caginess?’ Zoffness asks. In ‘Holy Body,’ she attends a ritual cleansing at a mikvah center while visiting a childhood friend from Jewish summer camp. Zoffness connects her personal experiences to larger cultural moments, reflecting, for instance, on her four-year-old son’s obsession with becoming a police officer amid the Black Lives Matter protests: ‘My son still misunderstands what officers say when taking people into custody. You’re unarrested, the LEGO officer in his left hand says to a LEGO wrongdoer in his right.’ Zoffness delivers masterful essays in a fresh, vulnerable voice readers will want to hear more of.”

The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Life of the Mind: “Literary critic Smallwood debuts with the brilliant story of a young academic powering through her existential dread. Dorothy languishes in ‘adjunct hell’ at a university in New York City, teaching up to four literature and writing courses per semester (including a course she designed titled ‘Writing Apocalypse’), while her affable boyfriend helps pay the bills from her two therapists. Each fall, she holds out an ever-dwindling hope to land one of the several jobs that open up in her field. She’s just had a miscarriage, and as the weeks pass, she muses on the menstrual blood and tissue discharge that results from her at-home Cytotec treatment. Dorothy is an intensely cerebral creature. Her narration of interactions with others, whether exchanging text messages with a friend, giving money to a panhandler, or parrying with her peers, is filtered by literary analysis, often to hilarious effect (‘This man is an albatross around my neck,’ she thinks, after the panhandler she’d dubbed the ‘Ancient Mariner’ follows her to another subway car). As she confronts her emotions about losing the unplanned pregnancy and reconsiders her ideas about endings, both literary and corporeal, she begins to reconnect with herself. Dorothy’s sharp, witty narration makes this book something special (‘In the asymmetrical warfare of therapy, secrets were a guerrilla tactic,’ she decides, after putting off a session with her primary therapist). The result is like the glorious love child of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sally Rooney.”

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Brother Sister Mother Explorer: “Figueroa’s masterly debut explores the grief and trauma of two half siblings. Four months after the death of their mother, Rosalinda, Rufina and Rafa Rivera, 28 and 30, make a pact: if they collect enough money performing for the tourists visiting their high desert town in the American Southwest over the course of a weekend, the depressed Rafa will live, traveling in search of new beginnings, instead of taking his own life. The siblings take to the streets, performing for white tourists who listen, entranced, at Rufina’s melodious, seductive whistling, or gaze intently at Rafa as he gleans meaning from the symbols he sees in people’s shadows. The siblings are haunted by the ghosts of those long gone, including that of Rufina’s stillborn baby, and by memories of their mother’s enigmatic former lover, the Explorer. Meanwhile, repeated intrusions of those who only wish to help—such as a cop who gives them a pass for performing without a permit as long as they don’t come back—add to the difficulty in achieving their goal. Though the novel brims with spellbinding prose, magical elements, and wounded, full hearted characters that nearly jump off the page, its most remarkable feature is perhaps its piercing critique of the white Anglo tourists’ tendency to romanticize people of color, as well as Figueroa’s examination of the traumatic effect this attitude can have on those who are deemed ‘the Other.’ This cleverly constructed and deeply moving account enthralls.”

Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Burning Girls and Other Stories: “Schanoes reinterprets and unpacks old, familiar tales in this powerful debut collection of 13 speculative stories. The pieces vary in subgenre, including fabulism, historical fantasy, and surrealism, but all are united by common threads of revolution, female power, revenge, and trauma both historical and personal. ‘The Revenant,’ told with a mild, distant tone that belies its deadly serious subject matter, reimagines the urban legend of Bloody Mary. In ‘Phosphorus,’ a woman dying of ‘phossy jaw’ joins a factory girls’ strike. The Shirley Jackson Award–winning title novella is the standout, following Deborah, a Jewish witch and healer, as she flees anti-Semitic violence in 19th-century Poland while being pursued by a jealous demon. Dark pacts, willful daughters, and young punks in fishnets abound, and the collection suffers somewhat from the limited range of perspectives, with a few of the pieces striking similar notes. But at their best, these stories are rousing, political, and visceral, even gut-churning. Fans of Kirsty Logan, Daniel M. Lavery, or Catherynne M. Valente will find much to enjoy.”

Foregone by Russell Banks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Foregone: “In this sinuous if uneven novel, Banks (Lost Memory of Skin) depicts the protean character of a filmmaker who turns the camera on himself at the end of a storied career. In the last stages of an incurable cancer, Canadian documentarian Leonard Fife sits to be interviewed in his Montreal apartment for a film being made by his former student, Malcolm. Fife’s life has been built around lies and evasions, and now he seeks to set the record straight, though the confession is directed less to the public than to his third and current wife, Emma. Instead of answering questions about his Errol Morris–like style, Fife delivers a leisurely self-portrait of serial flight: running away from home in Massachusetts as a teenager; leaving his first wife and young daughter as a confused young bohemian to be a writer; abandoning his second wife and young son to dodge the draft in 1968. However, only some of Fife’s confessions might be true, as one side effect of his medication is ‘confabulation.’ Fife’s reminiscences are generally vivid, though the spell is dissipated by the weaker scenes in which, for instance, Emma repeatedly objects to proceeding with the interview and the sycophantic Malcolm reiterates the novel’s themes in windy proclamations. Still, Banks keeps the audience rapt.”

Also on shelves this week: The Scapegoat by Sarah Davis.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Livings, Fine, Kushner, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jack Livings, Julia Fine, Rachel Kushner, 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 Blizzard Party by Jack Livings

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Blizzard Party: “Livings, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize winner for the story collection The Dog, returns with a brilliant debut novel centering on a woman’s memories of a fatal blizzard that occurred in her childhood. Hazel Saltwater determines to rewrite the story of Albert Caldwell’s death after a party during the historic blizzard of 1978 in New York City when Hazel was six. (Her father, Erwin, has already published a blockbuster autobiographical novel about it called The Blizzard Party.) Hazel pieces together backstories of the pivotal players who attended the party, including the neurotic Erwin, transformed by guilt over a WWII experience; Caldwell, an astute lawyer plotting his suicide before succumbing to dementia; Turk Brunn, who runs an amusement park where visitors sign up to experience various forms of simulated abuse; and Turk’s father, Lazlo, a linguistic virtuoso whose research inadvertently made him psychotic. Livings’s genius resides in his ability to weave these disparate threads together through banal events (a Christmas tree jammed into an apartment’s garbage chute; the selling of a painting; a brawl in a diner), illuminating an intricate pattern that, for Hazel, predestines a dénouement that is startling to the reader. Livings calls to mind the work of Michael Chabon as he brings insight into the way events and circumstances shape his characters’ lives. This is one to savor.”

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Smash-Up: “YA author Benjamin (The Thing About Jellyfish) revisits Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome in her adult debut, an ambitious if schematic novel of middle-aged liberal angst. Having cofounded a successful guerrilla marketing start-up, Bränd, Ethan Frome leaves New York City in the early 2000s for a quiet life in the Berkshires with his wife, Zo. In 2016, Donald Trump’s election marks a turning point: ‘It was good until it wasn’t. All of it: The town. His marriage. Their finances. The world.’ Ethan is a common, though well-drawn, fictional type: an ironic, middle-aged underachiever beset by temptation (here it’s the live-in babysitter), yet too decent, or timid, to force the moment to its crisis. Zo, meanwhile, is part of a feminist activist group called All Them Witches and an independent filmmaker who has grown increasingly distant and enraged. With Zo fuming over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Ethan becomes entangled, somewhat implausibly, in the #MeToo movement: his boorish Bränd cofounder asks him to help silence a Hollywood actress whose accusations could bring down the company. With satire and suspense, Benjamin handily encapsulates the incomprehension, sadness, and rage of the Trump era.”

The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits (translated by Orr Scharf)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Slaughterman’s Daughter: “In Israeli philosopher and novelist Iczkovits’s delightfully expansive tale (after Adam and Sophie), a Jewish woman goes to great lengths to help her older sister in 1894 Russia. Mende and her children have been abandoned by her husband, Zvi-Meir, in the town of Motal. Mende’s younger sister, Fanny, also a wife and mother, travels to Minsk, where Zvi-Meir has gone, to convince him to sign a writ of divorce so Mende can move on with her life. Fanny’s traveling companion is taciturn boatman Zizek Breshov. Their travels take a turn when a family of bandits tries to rob them. Fanny, trained in animal butchery by her slaughterman father, expertly wields the knife she keeps strapped to her leg, and they leave the family dead on the road. Investigating the murder, imperial secret police colonel Piotr Novak disguises himself as a Jew to find out more about his suspects, Fanny and Zizek. Iczkovits elevates this cat-and-mouse story into a sweeping narrative with trips down side roads that reveal the riveting backstories of major and minor characters. His observations about human nature, family dynamics, and the interplay between religion and politics come across as wise but never didactic. Ever entertaining, Iczkovits’s lively, transportive picaresque takes readers on a memorable ride.”

The Upstairs House by Julia Fine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Upstairs House: “Fine (What Should Be Wild) examines a new mother’s unraveling in her eerie sophomore outing. Eight days after stalled English PhD candidate Megan Weiler gives birth to her first daughter, Clara, Megan discovers a turquoise door in the stairwell above their apartment. Behind it she finds a woman who, upon asked what she’s doing, says she’s ‘building a house for Michael.’ While researching for her dissertation on children’s literature amid her postpartum delirium, Megan realizes the woman resembles Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, who died in 1952, and decides she must be Margaret’s ghost, and the house she is building is for her lover, poet Michael Strange (born Blanche Oelrichs). Interstitial chapters comprise chapters of Megan’s thesis, in which she casts Margaret and Michael’s lesbian relationship as a tempestuous, borderline-abusive affair beginning in the 1940s. As the ghosts of Margaret and Michael disturb Clara, Megan flees with Clara to a cabin in Wisconsin, but even there, she can’t shake the grip of the ghosts, and her world becomes more claustrophobic. Fine keeps the high concept under control as the book hurtles toward a disturbing conclusion. This white-knuckle depiction of the essential scariness of new motherhood will captivate readers.”

Also on shelves this week: Oh You Robot Saints! by Rebecca Morgan Frank and The Mayor of Leipzig by Rachel Kushner.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lockwood, Salih, Bolaño, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Patricia Lockwood, Zak Salih, Roberto Bolaño, 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.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about No One Is Talking About This: “Lockwood’s debut novel comes packed with the humor, bawdiness, and lyrical insight that buoyed her memoir Priestdaddy. The unnamed narrator—made famous by a viral post that read, ‘Can a dog be twins’—travels the world to speak on panels, where she explains such things as why it’s better to use the spelling ‘sneazing’ (it’s “objectively funnier”). While in Vienna for a conference, her mother urges her to come home to Ohio, where the narrator’s younger sister is having complications with her pregnancy and may need a late-term abortion. There, in the book’s shimmering second half, the internet jokes continue between the sisters as a means of coping with uncertainty, and resonate with the theme of life’s ephemerality vs. the internet’s infinitude. Throughout, a fragmented style captures and sometimes elevates a series of text messages and memes amid the meditations on family (‘I’m convinced the world is getting too full lol, her brother texted her, the one who obliterated himself at the end of every day with a personal comet called Fireball’). This mighty novel screams with laughter just as it wallops with grief.”

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Let’s Get Back to the Party: “The shifting landscape for gay men in America animates Salih’s heartfelt debut. In 2015, with gay marriage protected by the Supreme Court, 30-something Virginia high school art teacher Sebastian Mote wouldn’t mind a life of domesticity, but he’s just broken up with his boyfriend of three years. After the suicide of a gay student, Sebastian devotes himself to his students, especially 17-year-old Arthur, whose open sexuality Sebastian secretly envies while he works to make the school more LGBTQ inclusive. Sebastian hopes that luck has finally favored him when, at a wedding, he bumps into Oscar Burnham, a friend from childhood. But Oscar laments the end of a hedonistic lifestyle and complains that every gay man he knows is ‘a victim of marriage fever now.’ The closest Oscar comes to the life he pines for is in his friendship with Sean Stokes, an author in his 60s famous for books that document the abandon of previous decades. There’s a varied cast, though many of the support players come across as generic: an uncle disapproving of him expressing his gay identity, the loving but conflicted mother, and so on. But Sebastian’s and Oscar’s twinned dilemmas add fascinating complexity to the goings on. The party may be changing, but reasons for celebration remain, as evidenced by Salih’s passionate evocation.”

American Delirium by Betina González (translated by Heather Cleary)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about American Delirium: “Argentinian González anatomizes in her skillful English-language debut an American community’s pursuit of enlightenment and the violence and madness left in its wake. The novel takes place in a moribund, near-future unnamed U.S. city where only the university and the natural history museum have survived a devastating depression. The residents, increasingly attuned to ‘early cultural signs of the final imbalance, of how the entire planet would eventually rise up against us,’ have embraced a more resourceful lifestyle by taking up hunting. Among them, Vik, an ailing taxidermist from the fictional Caribbean island of Coloma, discovers that a possibly dangerous intruder has been living in his closet; the acerbic Beryl instructs those, like her, over 70, in marksmanship after crazed deer begin assaulting people; and a young girl, Berenice, looks for a new caretaker after her mother abandons her to join a cultish back-to-nature group. The story lines gradually converge around the prevalence of a hallucinogenic Coloma plant called albaria that ‘closes your eyes and sets you down in a ray of light where time doesn’t exist.’ This has the makings of a zany psychedelic romp, but instead the delirium is marvelously controlled and administered in doses just potent enough to ease patient readers into this off-kilter world. González’s distorted utopian vision is a memorable trip.”

Girls of a Certain Age by Maria Adelmann

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Girls of a Certain Age: “Adelmann’s uneven debut collection focuses on young women facing difficult choices to varying degrees of impact. In ‘Elegy,’ one of the most powerful pieces, a young woman who’s just had a double mastectomy reflects on the death of her aunt from breast cancer, and the near death of her mother as well. In ‘First Aid,’ the narrator details her self-harm, referring to her cuts as gills ‘because they help me breathe.’ In ‘Pets Are for Rich Kids,’ a young girl contrasts her own life and relative poverty with that of a wealthy friend while also trying to understand why her father abandoned her. Less successful are stories about 20-somethings, whether searching for meaning after a job layoff (‘None of These Will Bring Disaster’) or having relationship troubles (‘Middlemen’ and ‘Human Bonding’), though a standout among these is the lyrical and whimsical ‘Unattached,’ in which a young woman suddenly finds herself and her world turned literally upside down. While some stories could have been left on the cutting room floor, Adelmann offers an abundance of insights on the vicissitudes of life.”

Cowboy Graves by Roberto Bolaño (translated by Natasha Wimmer)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cowboy Graves: “An appealing if inchoate episodic collection emerges from Bolaño’s archives (after The Spirit of Science Fiction). In the title novella, Arturo Belano emigrates from Chile to Mexico City at 15 in 1968 to live with his father. There, Arturo befriends a transient man nicknamed the Grub, whom Bolaño fans will remember from Last Evenings on Earth. After the 1973 coup, Arturo returns to Chile to fight on behalf of the leftists. In ‘French Comedy of Errors,’ the book’s most linear story, a French Guianese teenager receives an unexpected call in a phone booth from a group of literally underground writers called the Clandestine Surrealist Group who are waiting to start a revolution. ‘Fatherland,’ narrated by a 20-something Rigoberto Belano who differs only slightly from Arturo, transmutes from an account of Belano’s family and a love affair disrupted by the Chilean coup into fragmentary lectures on a sadistic poet and a mélange of recollected dreams, letters, and detective-style case files. While the loosely connected vignettes in each novella fail to fully cohere, they show a writer working to capture the fragility of identity and relationships in revolutionary settings. These drafts reveal Bolaño (1953–2003) perfecting the literary obsessions that became his emblems.”

Also on shelves this week: Promoteo by C. Dale Young.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Mendelsun, Silverman, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Peter Mendelsund, Jen Silverman, 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 Delivery by Peter Mendelsund

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Delivery: “Mendelsund (Same Same) explores identity, community, and the past’s power to influence the future in his stunning latest. In a bustling city, an unnamed food delivery boy lives on tips and star ratings, and sleeps in the warehouse that handles his assignments. A brusque woman named N. manages him, overseen by an ominous male supervisor. The delivery boy frequently remembers his past in an unnamed country ruled by a strongman, where he played in a youth orchestra and had a crush on a French horn player. When the delivery boy gives N. a necklace, he doesn’t get the reaction he’d hoped for, and both are compromised in the eyes of the supervisor. As images from delivery boy’s past become more frequent, such as details of the ‘tyrant’ who ruled the country he fled from, the narrative becomes looser and offers up clues about why he became a refugee. Mendelsund conveys the delivery boy’s experiences and memories in brief crisp cuts separated by ample white space, where what’s not said takes on great importance. The author’s playful sense of form and command of language make for an original and provocative novel.”

We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Play Ourselves: “A playwright’s public shame and jealousy traps her in self-doubt in this mordant debut novel from Silverman (after the collection The Island Dwellers). Thirty-three-year-old playwright Cass flees New York after an embarrassing public meltdown in which she deliberately poked her nemesis, Yale senior and hot new playwright Tara-Jean Slater, in the eye. Unlike Tara-Jean’s work, Cass’s first play is a mess. A bad review compounds her sense of failure after having an affair with her married lead actor and having her advances rebuffed by the older French director, who tells her, ‘There are many kinds of intimacy, it’s so easy to confuse them all.’ In Los Angeles, she rooms with a friend who faces an impending breakup with his Australian boyfriend, who still hasn’t come out after a decade together. Cass meets charismatic filmmaker Caroline, who recruits Cass to work on a Fight Club–inspired cinema verité project starring teenage girls. After one of the girls goes missing, Cass learns Caroline is not only manipulative but deceitful. This, plus an illuminating encounter with Tara-Jean, prompts some soul searching. While the ending feels a bit unresolved, Cass’s dark humor and acts of self-sabotage keep the reader engaged. Silverman’s genuine, stirring novel speaks volumes about the lure and fickleness of fame.”

The Weak Spot by Lucie Elven

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Weak Spot: “Elven’s crisp and creepy debut looks at the transactional nature of relationships and the subtle signals of power at play in small-town dynamics. The young, unnamed narrator takes a pharmacist apprenticeship in a remote mountain community, reachable only by funicular. One of the community’s leading figures is the handsome Mr. Funicular, a costumer who carries a talismanic figurine of a beast said to have once eaten girls alive in the region. Mr. Funicular’s rival for leading town citizen is the protagonist’s new boss, August Malone. Where Mr. Funicular is expansive and artistic, Mr. Malone is authoritarian and businesslike. Other prominent characters include a respected schoolteacher, Mr. Malone’s enigmatic new assistant, and a gossipy pharmacy coworker. Very short chapters focus on the mundane interactions of everyday life, which in Elven’s hands become significant and sometimes ominous, despite (or because of) the heroine’s cool narrative voice. Plot developments are small, except for Mr. Malone’s campaign for mayor that dominates much of the novel, but the arch, skillfully polished prose keeps things intriguing. Elven successfully channels the magic and mood of Kafka’s fables.”

Love and Other Poems by Alex Dimitrov

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Love and Other Poems: “‘Love is hard to account for,’ writes Dimitrov (Together and by Ourselves) in his joyous and captivating third collection. These memorably voiced lyric poems find his speakers expressing love for things local and cosmic. Driven by unsatisfied appetites, ‘broke and lonely/ in Manhattan,’ Dimitrov’s urbane, wistful speakers recall those of Frank O’ Hara (a muse invoked in the epigraph and several poems), transcribing city life through taxis, bars, clubs, and restaurants. The tension between connection and distance frequently finds humorous expression, as when a speaker observes how ‘kids race toy boats in the pond/ and the dogs are on leashes,/ tied to their humans and better behaved.’ Meditations on humanity’s search for meaning are handled with wit and vulnerability, while the book’s final section, the 14-page ‘Poem Written in a Cab,’ breaks the fourth wall in a captivating performance of selfhood (‘I have never wanted to be myself./ What a ludicrous obligation!’). Ultimately, it’s the sensory that keeps people tethered, suggests Dimitrov: ‘Every time I feel close/ to understanding the world… I rise, attending to [the kettle]/ with annoyance and the pleasure/ of the unmade cup of tea.’ In this affecting collection, his most fully achieved thus far, Dimitrov provides the reader with a needed celebration of pleasures.”

Also on shelves this week: Self-Portrait with Cephalopod by Kathryn Smith.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lee, Oyler, Hobson, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Chang-rae Lee, Lauren Oyler, Brandon Hobson, 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 Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about My Year Abroad: “Lee’s action-packed picaresque (after On Such a Full Sea) chronicles how an ordinary New Jersey college student ended up consorting with international criminals. As the novel opens, Tiller Bardmon is living with 30-something Val and her eight-year-old son, whom he met in the Hong Kong airport after a series of adventures in Macau and Shenzhen. Val and son are both in witness protection after Val cooperated with the U.S. government to bring down her gangster husband. The story of Tiller and Val runs parallel to Tiller’s recollections of the preceding year, when a day of caddying for a colorful foursome earns him an invitation from entrepreneur Pong Lou to join him on a business jaunt to Asia. The trip is not all work, though, as Tiller discovers he can surf, sing, assume difficult yoga positions, and make mad passionate love—but the great adventure turns into a nightmare when Pong abandons Tiller outside Shenzhen. In energetic prose, Lee nests stories within stories, such as the moving tales of a family torn apart by Mao’s Cultural Revolution and an immigrant family that reinvents itself for survival in America. The frenetic roller-coaster ride is impressively structured as the naive and sometimes reckless Tiller learns about trust and betrayal from his dealings with Pong, and gains a more mature understanding of his identity, culture, and values as his bond with Val develops. This literary whirlwind has Lee running on all cylinders.”

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fake Accounts: “In Oyler’s bold debut, a blogger discovers her boyfriend is an influential online conspiracy theorist. A suspicion that the unnamed narrator’s withdrawn boyfriend, Felix, might be cheating leads her to find his anonymous social media accounts, which stoke alt-right sentiments as Donald Trump’s inauguration looms. The narrative flashes back to show the couple’s meet-cute in Berlin—he’s a tour guide, she’s a tourist—and their burgeoning long-distance relationship, which changes for the worse after he joins her in New York. Felix is a habitual liar, prone to inventing alter egos for himself and the narrator when meeting strangers, and initially she plays along, but soon longs for the real Felix. She resolves to break up with him, but first she travels to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., where she gets a phone call informing her Felix has died in a bike accident. Feeling adrift, she quits her job and moves to Berlin, where she leans into a lying life of her own—with the men she meets on dating apps, the mother of twins whom she nannies, even the German government. Oyler experiments with various forms along the way: there is a lengthy parody of fragmented novels, copious analysis of millennial internet habits, literary references from Dickens to Ashbery to Ben Lerner, a Greek chorus of ex-boyfriends, and direct address to the reader. Oyler wields all these devices freely, creating a unique, ferociously modern voice. This incisive, funny work brilliantly captures the claustrophobia of lives led online and personae tested in the real world.”

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Close to Okay: “Cross-Smith (So We Can Glow) explores fragility, grief, and the effects of mental illness in this wonderfully strange novel about new love between broken people. Tallie Clark is a divorced, childless therapist who sees a man about to jump from a bridge on her way home one night. She pulls over and talks him into joining her for a cup of coffee, then invites the man, who goes only by Emmett, to stay at her house. In the days that follow, Tallie and Emmett learn about each other’s divorces and the deaths, infidelities, and heartaches that have shaped their lives. All the while, Cross-Smith builds suspense by gradually alluding to each character’s ulterior motives as Tallie neglects to tell Emmett she’s a therapist, and Emmett emails Tallie’s ex-husband to get her the answers he thinks she needs. Alternating between Tallie and Emmett’s perspectives, the narrative cannily inhabits a space where Tallie calls danger a ‘frothing aphrodisiac,’ and the two characters at times learn, or fail, to cope with sorrow and depression. As dark and tense as it is flirty and humorous, this moving novel offers consistent surprises.”

Milk, Blood, Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Milk, Blood, Heat: “Northern Florida looms large over the 11 stories that comprise Moniz’s smart debut collection, a comingling of themes of adolescent discovery, family strain, and temptation’s dangerous appeal. In the title story, a friendship between two eighth grade girls, complete with awkward companionship and blood pacts, turns to conversations on death, and ‘An Almanac of Bones’ sees another pair of tweens bonding over animal skulls and one girl’s family tradition of moon festivals. An absent mother figures in the latter story, and fractured relations populate several others. ‘Thicker Than Water’ follows estranged siblings as they reluctantly reunite to drive their father’s ashes to his final resting place. ‘The Loss of Heaven’ stars a 50-something man who begins spending more time at the local watering hole after his wife refuses chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, and in ‘Snow,’ the icy sexual relationship between a woman and her husband leads her to contemplate their future during a night of spiritual awakening while bartending. Some stories end abruptly, but Moniz knows her characters well and writes with confidence throughout, letting narratives meander without losing sight of their destinations. Each of these humanity-studying journeys through the Sunshine State easily stands on its own.”

100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about 100 Boyfriends: This stunning collection of vignettes from artist, punk rocker, and Whiting Award winner Purnell (Since I Laid My Burden Down) forms a delightfully crass, kaleidoscopic worldview. Each story introduces new heartbreaks and reminders that moments of intimacy often end in loneliness. In ‘Boyfriend #666/The Satanist’ the narrator describes disappointing sex with a man referred to as ‘Trench Coat Mafia dick.’ In ‘Boyfriend #4/4/The Drummer’ the narrator tenderly asks, ‘What else is a boyfriend for but to share in mutual epiphany?’ Whether falling apart during a punk band’s tour of Europe (‘Do They Exist If No One’s Watching?’), searching for sex in rural Alabama (‘Hooker Boys (Part Two)’), or sifting through a wealthy man’s drug stash in Hell’s Kitchen (‘Boyfriend #100/The Agent’), the characters are joined in their vulnerability and constant longing. The raw, confessional voice in ‘Meandering (Part Two)’ demonstrates the collection’s best quality, as the narrator remarks on the secretive delight of sex with strangers. Purnell brilliantly immerses the reader in Black, queer desire with humor, self-awareness, and just the right amount of vulgarity.”

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Milk Fed: “Broder (The Pisces) delivers a bittersweet and erotic account of a woman’s intertwining relationship to food, her mother, and her sexuality. Rachel, a lapsed Jew who works at a Los Angeles talent management agency by day and does stand-up comedy by night, has suffered from anorexia since childhood. But things begin to change after her therapist suggests she take a 90-day communication detox from her overbearing and controlling mother, whose own relationship with eating and fatphobic comments have long contributed to Rachel’s body image troubles. After Rachel meets Miriam, a food-loving Orthodox Jewish woman, and embarks on a passionate affair with her, Rachel breaks her self-imposed ‘Spartan regimen,’ rediscovers life’s simple pleasures, and tries to figure out what will bring her true happiness. With luscious descriptions of delectable foods and fantastical romps through Rachel’s imagination, the novel oscillates between serious and playful, obsessive and free, and explores the difficulties of loving oneself in a world that prizes thinness above all else. This poignant exploration of desire, religion, and daughterhood is hard to resist.”

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Bad Muslim Discount: “In this ambitious if flawed novel, Masood (More Than Just a Pretty Face) charts the unraveling lives of two Muslim immigrants. Anvar Faris moves with his family at 14 from Karachi, Pakistan, to San Francisco in 1996, after his father has had enough of the country’s growing conservatism and embrace of Islamic fundamentalism. Masood then introduces the reader to 10-year-old Azza bint Saqr in Baghdad, two years before the U.S. invasion. When Azza’s father is arrested and held by U.S. forces in 2005, Azza flees to an aunt’s house in Basra. Anvar, in college, grapples with the end of a sexual relationship with a Muslim woman (‘The more I study what Allah wants, the more I realize that I don’t want to sin anymore,’ she says). Later, as a young lawyer, Anvar grows disenchanted after failing to protect a Muslim client’s civil liberties. Azza and her father finally reach the U.S. in 2016, after Azza was sexually exploited by the man who provided their passports, and arrive as then-candidate Trump begins calling for a border wall and ban on Muslims. In their shared subsidized apartment block, Anvar and Azza meet and begin sleeping together, leading to an explosive conclusion. Despite many insightful moments, Masood’s characters never fully come to life. Still, the immersive story offers a rich meditation on religion and personal identity.”

U UP? by Catie Disabato

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about U UP?: “Disabato (The Ghost Network) offers a poignant if strained story of grief, ghosts, and friendship. When Eve, a Los Angeles slacker and witch, finds out her best friend, Ezra, is going to Palm Springs with his girlfriend, Noz, on the anniversary weekend of their friend Miggy’s suicide, thus breaking Eve and Ezra’s initial plans to honor Miggy together, Eve is livid. Various text threads unspool through Eve’s narration, including one with Miggy’s ghost, who encourages Eve to let Ezra ‘deal with his grief in his own way.’ After Eve gets a ‘u up?’ text from Ezra, she learns Noz has just broken up with him, and by the next day, Ezra has stopped responding to her messages. Fearing Ezra has disappeared, Eve drops everything to find him. As she searches for clues to Ezra’s whereabouts, meeting up with various mutual friends amid texting and hooking up with her ex-girlfriend, Disabato makes clear—heavy-handedly—that Eve has some lessons to learn about selfishness and recognizing other people’s feelings. Though the ending’s twists are unsurprising, Disabato makes Eve’s friend group come alive on the page and in her texts. Still, other novels have done more with similar milieux.”

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Kindest Lie: “Johnson’s sharp debut takes a deep dive into the life of a Black Chicago woman after the 2008 presidential election. Ruth Tuttle, 29, feels like she’s made it: she’s married to a Pepsi exec and thriving in her own career as a chemical engineer. However, her marriage hits a rocky spot when, during a talk with her husband, Xavier, about having children, she reveals she had a son at age 17. Her grandmother, Mama, who raised her, encouraged Ruth to give up her son to fulfill her dreams, and now, after Ruth asks for help in finding him, Mama tells Ruth not to go digging up the past. Still, Ruth returns to Ganton, determined to find her son before she starts a family with Xavier. With the auto plant that employed her brother, Eli, and her grandfather now closed, the town is reeling. Here, Johnson’s lens widens to address the increasing racial divide following Obama’s election, and she dramatizes it through a friendship forged between Ruth and an 11-year-old white boy named Midnight, whose abusive father also lost his job. Midnight is friends with a Black boy named Corey Cunningham, who Ruth deduces is her son after Eli defends him from a racially motivated attack by a group of white boys. As Ruth learns more about what’s happened to her town and reckons with what she left behind, powerful insights emerge on the plurality of Black American experience and the divisions between rural and urban life, and the wealthy and the working class. Johnson’s clear-eyed saga hits hard.”

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Land of Big Numbers: “The often haunting stories in Chen’s strong debut follow characters striving for a better futures in China as buried memories begin to surface. The stories with an allegorical bent are some of the best, among them ‘New Fruit,’ in which a ‘peculiar’ agricultural offering, the qiguo, first intoxicates those who eat it, then kindles politically dangerous memories of the Cultural Revolution. Another standout is ‘Gubeikou Spirit,’ in which a train delay traps passengers below ground for months because regulations state that they ‘must exit at a different station from where they entered.’ The absurdism takes on a haunting quality as the passengers adapt to, and then come to prefer, their confinement. The more realist stories offer subtle portrayals of the costs of political activism (‘Lulu’), seemingly unbridgeable cultural and marital gulfs (‘Field Notes on a Marriage’), and, in the title story, the lure of wealth in China’s booming economy. ‘Shanghai Murmur,’ a melancholy vignette about a florist’s fascination with a rich client, is the most psychologically complex in a collection where the characters can occasionally be one-dimensional. Still, Chen’s sweeping collection comprises many small moments of beauty.”

Blood Grove by Walter Mosely

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Blood Grove: “Early in MWA Grand Master Mosley’s strong 15th Easy Rawlins mystery (after 2016’s Charcoal Joe), Craig Kilian, a vet traumatized by combat experiences in Vietnam, arrives unannounced one day in 1969 at the L.A. detective agency that employs Easy. Craig, a white man, tells Easy he got into a fight with a knife-wielding Black man who was about to attack a white woman tied to a tree at a remote campsite. After fatally stabbing the Black man, Craig was hit in the head and lost consciousness. When he woke up, the body and the woman were gone. WWII vet Easy feels sympathy for Craig, and agrees to help find out what happened at the campsite. The upright detective soon becomes caught in a web of trouble involving stolen money, grisly murders, and weird sex clubs. Amid all the twists and turns and double-crosses, Easy confronts racism, an enduring feature ‘of the America I loved and hated.’ Mosley does a fine job highlighting a world of Black survivors who know how difficult their struggle remains, every day of every decade. This marvelous series is as relevant as ever.”

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House: “Jones’s intense debut explores the poverty and crime in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, amid an explosive collision between tourists and locals. The place, called Paradise by foreigners and residents alike, turns out to be a living hell for two women whose lives are changed by one horrific incident. Lala, a local hair braider, is stuck in a turbulent marriage to Adan, a burglar. Mira Whalen, a former local who now lives in London, is vacationing with her English husband, Peter, at their beachfront villa. One night, Lala is on the beach, in labor and about to give birth. Adan, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. Lala stumbles upon the Whalens’ mansion and presses the buzzer for help. She hears a gunshot and Adan rushes out, an ear-piercing shriek following on his heels. A parallel narrative follows Mira dealing with the aftermath of Peter’s murder by Adan, while a detective works the case, and more violence ensues as Lala and Mira’s lives eventually collide. Rich characters and pulsing backstories add a great deal of flavor to the drama. Jones is off to a strong start.”

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Removed: “National Book Award–finalist Hobson (Where the Dead Sit Talking) depicts a Cherokee family’s grief and resilience 15 years after a police officer unjustly kills one of the family’s three children in Quah, Okla. Maria Echota, a retired social worker in her 70s, battles depression and watches as her adult children struggle and her husband, Ernest, develops Alzheimer’s. Their oldest, 31-year-old Sonja, works at Quah’s public library, and they fear she’s taken an unhealthy fixation on Vin Hoff, a younger white man. Edgar, the youngest, lives in Albuquerque and is addicted to meth. The family’s plan to reunite for an annual bonfire to celebrate Cherokee independence in Quah—an event always shaped for them by memories of Ray Ray, who was killed the same day at 15 after a cop wrongly believed Ray Ray had shot a gun—are complicated when Edgar won’t answer the phone. Instead, he’s taken a train to the mysterious Darkening Land, where the spirits of David Foster Wallace and Jimi Hendrix appear, leaving the reader to wonder if Edgar has died as well. There’s hope, though, as Maria and Ernest’s foster child, Wyatt, stimulates Ernest’s decaying mind, reminding him of Ray-Ray—and Sonja’s obsession with Vin turns out to be part of a wonderfully twisted plan to heal her grief. The alternating first-person narration is punctuated by the powerful voice of Tsala, a family ancestor who died before he was forced onto the Trail of Tears. Hobson is a master storyteller and illustrates in gently poetic prose how for many Native Americans the line between this world and the next isn’t so sharp. This will stay long in readers’ minds.”

Also on shelves this week: Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Carey, Doshi, Lyon, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Edward Carey, Avni Doshi, Annabel Lyon, 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 Swallowed Man by Edward Carey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Swallowed Man: “British writer and illustrator Carey (Little) brings his grotesque whimsy to this lackluster retelling of a harrowing episode from Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio. The story begins with Giuseppe Lorenzini having been swallowed by a giant sharklike creature. Giuseppe, who had been sailing the seas looking for his runaway wooden son, Pinocchio, takes up residence in the monster’s abdomen, finding refuge in a Danish ship the fish has also ingested. Thus sheltered and supplied (with food, drink, candles, and ink), he composes his autobiography, attempts some new carving projects, and, as time passes, succumbs to hallucinatory fits of madness. The humble craftsman is an orotund narrator, holding forth from the belly of the beast in high rhetorical style: ‘I am a monarch of space. Emperor of Inner Sharkland.’ Some of Collodi’s famous scenes (burning feet, growing nose) are briefly replayed, but the narrative is mostly devoted to Giuseppe’s backstory, including tepid accounts of the women he loved, and to his Crusoe-like survival strategy. In the most interesting sections, Carey dives into Giuseppe’s strained relationship with his own father that presages his tempestuous relationship with the impish Pinocchio, but these moments are few and far between. The book feels both slight and overstuffed, a prolonged exercise in style that brings little insight into Collodi’s classic.”

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Thousand Ships: “The women of the Trojan War take center stage in this excellent take on the Greek classics from Haynes (The Ancient Guide to Modern Life). Hopping through nearly a dozen perspectives, Haynes provides an enthralling reimagining of the lives of women from both Troy and Greek culture. There is Calliope, the muse who resents the poets demanding she supply them with inspiration; Andromache, who goes from princess to spoil of war when her husband, Hector, is killed by Achilles; and Penelope, who writes biting letters to Odysseus, asking him why it is that he doesn’t feel any urge to come home to her and their son. There are also the royal heroines, such as Clytemnestra, who seeks revenge against Agamemnon for sacrificing their daughter; and Helen, who is weary of being constantly blamed for her role in beginning the war and for plots and prophecies she has no power to stop. Cassandra, cursed with prophesies no one will ever believe, struggles to function when she knows exactly what will become of her and her family after the war. Haynes shines by twisting common perceptions of the Trojan War and its aftermath in order to capture the women’s experiences. Readers who enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Circe will want to take a look.”

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Burnt Sugar: “Doshi’s stunning debut, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, explores the murky, toxic relationship between a mother and daughter living in the Indian city of Pune. Antara, a reflective, recently married artist, notices something is off with her volatile, demanding mother, Tara. Doctors believe it’s early-onset dementia but can’t find biological evidence of the disease, causing Antara to wonder if her mother is willfully forgetting her. She concludes her mother named her Antara (‘Un-Tara’) ‘because she hated herself,’ setting up a dynamic in which the two women became pitted against each other. She reexamines her early years living in an ashram, where her mother landed after leaving her husband. There, Tara fell in love with the ashram leader but neglected her daughter, not seeing Antara for weeks at a time. The young Antara refused to eat and eventually resigned herself to self-sufficiency to avoid beatings from her mother. Tara’s rejection of her daughter continues after Antara’s grandparents send her to boarding school against her will and Tara neglects to intervene, and Tara later criticizes Antara’s teenage body. Yet by the captivating conclusion, Tara’s memory loss proves too much for Antara, causing the daughter to react in ways she never expected. Doshi’s portrayal of troubled mother-daughter intimacy is viscerally poetic. This has the heft and expansiveness of a classic 19th-century novel.”

No Heaven for Good Boys by Keisha Bush

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about No Heaven for Good Boys: “Bush’s vivid and heart-wrenching debut paints a jarring portrait of Dakar, Senegal, inspired by the author’s encounters with the talibés, boys forced by their teachers to beg on the street. The novel follows Ibrahimah, age six, as he fights for survival under the abusive hands of Marabout Ahmed, a duplicitous stranger who has tricked Ibrahimah’s parents into sending their child to join his older cousin Etienne to beg in Dakar under the guise of studying the Quran. Ibrahimah sustains himself with memories of his village and the family he left behind, in order to cope with the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse they endure from his and Etienne’s teacher, while Etienne determines to rescue them both. Snippets from the perspective of Ibrahimah’s family deepen the kaleidoscopic portrait of a family whose faith blinds them against hearsay about the talibés’ treatment. Ibrahimah is portrayed with realistic childlike innocence, which informs his occasional magical encounters with animals, such as a red bird that lands on his knee like a ‘ball of fire.’ Etienne, in contrast, has an all-knowing edge from the trauma he’s suffered. This tale of survival and familial love will move readers.”

Sergeant Salinger by Jerome Charyn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sergeant Salinger: “In this literary tour de force, Charyn (The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King) recreates J.D. Salinger’s experiences during WWII. The book begins with a bravura set-piece in which Sonny Salinger goes on a date with teen debutante Oona O’Neill to the Stork Club, where he rubs shoulders with columnist Walter Winchell, gangster Frank Costello, and his idol, Ernest Hemingway, before returning home to receive his draft notification. Assigned to the Army’s much-feared Counter Intelligence Corps, Sonny storms Utah Beach on D-Day, helps to liberate Paris, survives the Battle of the Bulge, and frees the inmates of a concentration camp, all the while carrying with him the work-in-progress that will one day become his masterpiece. One year after the end of the war and a nervous breakdown, Sonny returns home to his family in New York, accompanied by a German war bride and suffering from writer’s block. Charyn makes a persuasive case for how America’s most famous reclusive author endured the horrors of war and carried these memories into his postwar writing career. With standout scenes—Sonny’s disastrous bar mitzvah, a confrontation with Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, a breakthrough in Bloomingdale’s bargain basement—Charyn vividly portrays Sonny’s journey from slick short story writer to suffering artist. The winning result humanizes a legend.”

Consent by Annabel Lyon

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Consent: “The lives of two pairs of sisters from Vancouver intersect in Lyon’s intense, intimate novel of love, grief, and murder (after The Sweet Girl). After 30-something Sara Landow’s mother dies in 2011, Sara assumes responsibility for her intellectually disabled younger sister, Mattie. A month later, when Sara returns from a short trip, Mattie has married their late mother’s handyman, Robert Dwyer. While Mattie had never been declared legally incompetent, Sara doubts she is capable of consenting to marriage, and tries to have it annulled. In 2015, the lives of 27-year-old twins Saskia and Jenny Gilbert are derailed when a car accident leaves Jenny in a coma. While Jenny is still unconscious in the hospital, a man is caught masturbating in her room. As Saskia, disturbed by the news, learns about Jenny’s practice of BDSM, Lyon alternates back to Sara as she grieves in the aftermath of Mattie’s death from a fall for which Robert was present, a few years after they married. When Sara and Saskia eventually meet, they process their sisters’ disturbing relationships. While the circumstances leading to the women’s connection are not entirely surprising, their reactions ramp up the novel toward a deliciously dark conclusion. Lyon’s mesmerizing novel perfectly captures the odd mix of love and resentment faced by caregivers.”

Also on shelves this week: The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (translated by Tiina Nunnally).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Eaton, Hubbard, Salesses, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Ellie Eaton, Ladee Hubbard, Matthew Salesses, 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 Divines by Ellie Eaton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Divines: “Eaton’s intelligent debut follows freelance writer Josephine as she reflects on her past as a bully at a now-defunct all-girls English boarding school. In flashbacks to the mid-1990s, it’s revealed that Josephine’s lower-class roommate, Gerry Lake, suffered a fall from their dorm window that threatened her figure-skating career and led to a scandal that forced the school to close. Before the fall, Gerry had long been bullied by a group of classmates led by Josephine’s frosty best friend, Skipper. Insecure and lonely, Josephine befriends Lauren McKibbin (whose older brother, Stuart, handles maintenance for the school), despite a prohibition on socializing with ‘townies.’ As the girls grow closer, Josephine develops a crush on Stuart and tries to retain the good graces of her old crew by joining in on their bullying of Gerry, even after Gerry helps her deal with an upsetting incident involving Stuart. The book winds down on a satisfying note as a school reunion and Josephine’s travel for an assignment lead her to catch up with key characters and confront some unflattering things about herself. Eaton does a good job describing class tension and the misery of trying to fit into a social clique as a teenager. Josephine’s steady unraveling of her teenage dramas will keep readers riveted.”

The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P. Nimura

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Doctors Blackwell: “Historian Nimura (Daughters of the Samurai) probes the lives of the pioneering Blackwell sisters, Elizabeth (1821–1910) and Emily (1826–1910), in a captivating biography. The author charts the ambitious Elizabeth’s path, as she became the first woman to receive a medical degree from an American medical college, at Geneva College in 1849, and went on to further study medicine in England and work at a maternity hospital in France, where an infection cost her her left eye and, thus, surgical career. The elder Blackwell sister emerges as an impressive but intimidating figure, a rigid idealist who equated illness with moral weakness and who disdained the suffrage movement even as she did much to advance the state of women. As Emily follows in her sister’s footsteps, she is depicted more endearingly, as having a genuine interest in her patients and the ‘daily, steady effort of medical practice’ that Elizabeth lacked. Though Emily often labored in her strong-willed sister’s shadow, she was instrumental, Nimura argues, in the success of their New York Infirmary, founded in 1857. In recounting the lives of two ambitious figures who opened doors for many who came after them, Nimura casts a thoughtful and revelatory new light onto women’s and medical history.”

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Rib King: “Hubbard (The Talented Ribkins) delves into issues of race, vengeance, redemption, and rage in this inventive historical. Beginning in 1914, the narrative follows groundskeeper August Sitwell and the other Black servants working for the Barclays, a once affluent Southern white family whose fortune is rapidly dwindling. As labor strikes and racial violence grow in their unnamed city, Sitwell begins to take an interest in the three orphans who have been hired to work as kitchen apprentices for Miss Mamie Price, the house cook. But his relationship to the boys and to the rest of the staff is put to the test when Mr. Barclay agrees to sell the recipe for Mamie’s meat sauce to one of his associates, who plans to market it locally and and use Sitwell’s likeness as the brand’s image—all without Sitwell’s or Mamie’s approval. Haunted by a brutal episode of violence instigated by Sitwell’s mother’s employer in Florida when he was a boy, Sitwell commits a startling act that alters the lives of everyone who works in the Barclay household. Hubbard’s prose brims with unspoken tensions and a prevailing sense of dread as she skillfully explores how the characters are impacted by trauma. Shocking and thought-provoking, Hubbard’s latest cements her status as an American original.”

Also in stores this week: Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing versus Workshopping by Matthew Salesses and Pretty Tripwire by Alessandra Lynch.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Saunders, Enríquez, Gurganus, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from George Saunders, Mariana Enríquez, Allan Gurganus, 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.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: “Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) offers lessons from his graduate-level seminar on the Russian short story in this superb mix of instruction and literary criticism. In surveying seven stories by Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev, Leo Tolstoy, and Nikolai Gogol, Saunders concludes that the secret to crafting powerful fiction is, ‘Always be escalating. That’s all a story is, really: a continual system of escalation.’ Each story is presented in full, along with Saunders’s commentary: on Chekhov’s ‘In the Cart,’ Saunders asks, ‘why we keep reading a story,’ and on Tolstoy’s ‘Master and Man,’ he writes that facts can ‘draw us in’ when the ‘language isn’t particularly elevated or poetic.’ Saunders’s teaching style, much like his fiction, is thoughtful with touches of whimsy, as when he breaks the action of Turgenev’s ‘The Singers’ into a table and compares the short story writer to a roller-coaster designer. The writing advice, meanwhile, is expansive: revising, he writes, involves intuition, and he views a story as a conversation. His closing note for writers is to ‘go forth and do what you please.’ Saunders’s generous teachings—and the classics they’re based on—are sure to please.”

Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Aftershocks: “In her enthralling memoir, Whiting Award–winner Owusu (So Devilish a Fire) assesses the impact of key events in her life via the metaphor of earthquakes. The biracial daughter of an Armenian mother and Ghanaian father, Owusu’s early life was fractured by her parents’ divorce and multiple moves necessitated by her father’s U.N. career. Living in Rome at age seven, she was visited by her long-absent mother on the day a catastrophic quake hit Armenia, seeding an obsession with earthquakes ‘and the ways we try to understand the size and scale of impending disaster.’ She believed ‘an instrument in my brain’—a kind of emotional seismometer—picked up vibrations and set off protective alarms. Her shaky relationship with her stepmother Anabel, meanwhile, worsened in her teens after her father’s death from cancer. College in Manhattan offered escape, but at 28 she was devastated by Anabel’s claim that her father died of AIDS: ‘Although… Anabel was a liar… the alarm continued to sound.’ A subsequent breakup with a boyfriend released long-suppressed anxiety, and she spent a week sitting in a chair in her apartment—’almost like sitting in my father’s lap,’ and it was only then that she could contemplate the complex love she, her mother, and her stepmother felt for her father. Readers will be moved by this well-wrought memoir.”

The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata: “Filipino writer Apostol (Insurrecto) revises her playful 2009 novel, winner of the Philippine National Book Award and appearing in the U.S. for the first time, to highly entertaining effect. Framed as the expansive, postmodern memoir of the visually impaired Raymundo Mata, the book combines Mata’s reminiscences of the 1890s revolution against Spanish colonial forces and his involvement with the secret revolutionary Katipunan society with references to revered real-life 19th-century nationalist Filipino writer Jose Rizal. In a note commenting on the new edition, Apostol describes the book’s eccentric intricacies by noting how it was ‘planned as a puzzle: traps for the reader, dead end jokes, textual games, unexplained sleights of tongue.’ The narrative is studded with hilarious argumentative footnotes between an editor, a translator, and a scholar of Mata’s work, producing dueling Nabokovian narratives: Mata’s diaries and the conflicting commentaries, all suffused perfectly with Apostol’s dense, demanding style. As the story of the revolution faces off with literary histrionics, all is resolved with a gut-punch conclusion. Apostol’s unique perspective on facts versus fiction would make for a perfect Charlie Kaufman movie.”

That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about That Old Country Music: “Irish writer Barry follows Night Boat to Tangier with a rather mixed story collection. ‘The Coast of Leitrim’ and ‘Deer Season’ tread well-worn romantic territories, depicting doomed and all-too familiar relationships. ‘Who’s-Dead McCarthy,’ about a morbid townie chatterbox, is entertaining, yet it ends with a punch line that falls flat. On the other hand, the title story, which follows a pregnant teen as she waits for her criminal fiancé to return from a robbery, pulses with electricity and emotion, despite its abrupt conclusion. ‘Toronto and the State of Grace’ showcases the author’s gift for dialogue and wit, as a brash son and his elderly mother hold court in a sleepy pub, drinking their way through the pub’s liquor and showering the barkeep with stories. And ‘Roma Kid’ transforms what initially seems to be a depressing runaway child story into a fairy tale of finding family and purpose. As always, Barry can’t write a bad sentence (‘A light rain began to fall and it spoke more than anything else of the place through which she moved’), but the too-tepid stories don’t do justice to the author’s considerable talents. This won’t go down as one of Barry’s finer works.”

Hades, Argentina by Daniel Lodel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hades, Argentina: “An Argentinian American unspools his dark memories of the Dirty War in Loedel’s mesmerizing debut. Tomás Orilla, a naive medical student, was drawn into Argentina’s dangerous political miasma in 1976 to impress his first love, the left-wing activist Isabel. The reader first meets Tomás in 1986 in New York City, where Tomás had fled 10 years earlier with a forged passport. Now married to an American woman, he shares with her a conveniently selective version of his story (‘the full, fleshed-out story still wasn’t one I was eager to examine, much less hand over’). Tomás returns to Buenos Aires after receiving a call from Isabel’s mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. There, he encounters what appears to be the ghost of a former mentor who takes him to a crypt underneath an old detention center, where he relives a series of horrifying events, some of which he was party to in the lead-up to a difficult choice he made for his own survival. The theme of ghosts is bent a few ways—ghosts appear in memories, the crypt, and on the street—and it becomes an apt, poignant descriptor for the people who were disappeared and the agony of their loved ones who had to carry on without knowing what happened to them. Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature.”

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Detransition, Baby: “Peters’s sharp comedy (after Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones) charts the shifting dynamics of gender, relationships, and family as played out in three characters’ exploration of trans femininity. Reese, a trans woman from the Midwest now living in New York City, is in the throes of an affair with a kinky, dominant, and married man. Ames, Reese’s ex who has detransitioned since their breakup three years earlier, is now with his boss, a divorced cis woman named Katrina. When Katrina gets pregnant, Ames must reckon with his gender once again. Katrina intends to get an abortion if Ames leaves her, and he comes up with a solution so crazy it just might work. He cannot be a father, but he can be a parent (‘He knew, however, that Katrina didn’t have the queer background to allow for that distinction’), and Reese, more than anything, wants to be a mother; desperate, Ames asks Reese if she will be a co-mother; he also confesses to Katrina that he once lived as a woman. As Reese, Katrina, and Ames reckon with the possibility and difficulties of forming a family, their quick wit gets them through heavy scenes (Reese on Katrina’s ‘AIDS panic’: ‘How retro’). Peters conceives of a world so lovable and complex, it’s hard to let go.”

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Summerwater: “Moss’s taut latest (after Ghost Wall) turns a rain-drenched park in the Scottish Highlands into a site of tension and unease for a group of vacationing strangers. The book opens with a middle-aged woman going for a run in the early morning, her family still asleep in their rented cabin. As she follows the trail past an illegally pitched tent, she considers the trope of a dangerous man in the woods. From here on out, each chapter introduces a new point of view among the mix of English tourists and Scots who watch and pass judgment upon one another without interacting, and situations such as a teenage boy’s ill-advised kayak trip across a rough loch and a teenage girl’s sneaking out at night keep the reader wondering if this is the kind of book where the worst thing will happen. As the noises of late-night revelry from one cabin draw attention from all others, many of whom describe its dwellers wrongly as ‘foreign’ or ‘those Romanians,’ the suspense builds. Meanwhile, a series of lyrical interludes describing the park’s elements of nature and eons of evolution provide delightfully ironic contrasts to the small human dramas. Readers unafraid of a bit of rain will relish this.”

Inland Sea by Madeleine Watts

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inland Sea: “Australian writer Watts punctuates her eloquent debut with deep-seated anxiety about climate change. For the most part, the story follows a young woman’s downward spiral after she graduates from college and faces a bleak future. The unnamed protagonist finds work as an operator at a call center connecting those in need to appropriate organizations. The rote job turns daunting when calls suddenly pour in, saturating her in horrific reports of floods, fires, and violence. Meanwhile, her personal life remains chaotic as she continues her relationship with an emotionally abusive ex, and indulges in heavy drinking along with nightly hookups, of which she observes, ‘I wanted to be undone. I wasn’t interested in protecting myself.’ Snapshots of her childhood reveal an angry father and her parents’ messy divorce, and the journal entries of real-life 19th-century explorer John Oxley, the narrator’s great-great-great-grandfather, find their way into the story. Oxley’s search for Australia’s inland sea is mirrored in the narrator’s bleak outlook on the future (‘The sea need only rise a few meters for… the rock and sand and red gibber plains to become submerged once more’). While the narrative moves haphazardly, the prose is consistently rich and loaded with imagery. Watts’s bold, unconventional outing makes for a distinctive entry into the climate fiction genre.”

Life Among the Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Life Among the Terranauts: “Vigorous and supremely crafted, Horrocks’s second collection (after the novel The Vexations) explores human frailties, desires, and mechanisms for survival. In ‘The Sleep,’ family man Al Rasmussen persuades the fellow residents of his moribund Midwestern town to sleep through the winter (‘ ‘Don’t try to convince me,’ Al said, ‘that anything worthwhile happens in this town during January and February. I’ve lived here as long as you have’ ’). A posse of high school girls are haunted by their favorite fortune-telling games in ‘Better Not Tell You Now,’ and a former-cult member turned real estate agent takes his estranged son on a Boston-area college tour in ‘Chance Me.’ After a gruesome act of violence in ‘Teacher,’ an elementary school teacher considers whether one can really know how a student will turn out. The title story, one of the most arresting and inventive of the bunch, follows a small group of scientists, engineers, and a philosopher who live in an isolated artificial ecosystem, vying for the chance to win a small fortune. With 187 days to go and their faith in survival unraveling into disorder, the possibility of cannibalism becomes increasingly likely. Horrocks’s linguistic finesse and narrative range is impressive, and she brings incisive humor, pathos, and wit to her characters and their predicaments. The result is an immersive and engaging work that astutely captures the complexities of the human condition.”

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (translated by Megan McDowell)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: “The alleys and slums of Buenos Aires supply the backdrop to Enriquez’s harrowing and utterly original collection (after Things We Lost in the Fire), which illuminates the pitch-dark netherworld between urban squalor and madness. In the nightmarish opener, ‘Angelita Unearthed,’ the bones of a rotting child reanimate after being dug up; likewise, in ‘Back When We Talked to the Dead,’ the dead foretell dread using a Ouija board. Themes of obsession and the arcane come to light in ‘Our Lady of the Quarry,’ where a band of teenage girls turn to witchcraft to snare the object of their desires; ‘Meat,’ which follows two grave-robbing fans of a recently deceased rock star; and ‘Where Are You, Dear Heart?’, in which a self-described ‘heartbeat fetishist’ gets off by holding a stethoscope to a diseased man’s chest. Things grow darker still in ‘Rambla Triste,’ as the victims of a pedophile ring are resurrected in Barcelona as “incarnations of the city’s madness,” and in ‘Kids Who Come Back,’ the book’s epic and visceral centerpiece, in which the missing, damned, and destitute begin returning home. (Which isn’t to discount the grotesque title story or the exorcism at the heart of ‘The Well.’) Finally, there are the pair of film fanatics who undertake made-to-order pornography only to quickly get in over their heads in ‘No Birthdays or Baptisms.’ Enriquez’s wide-ranging imagination and ravenous appetite for morbid scenarios often reaches sublime heights. Adventurous readers will be rewarded in these trips into the macabre—and hopefully they’ll be able to find their way back.”

The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus by Allan Gurganus

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Uncollected Stories of Allan Gurganus: “Gurganus’s vital collection (after Lost Souls) portrays small-town Americans, mostly oddballs and misfits, at moments of self-discovery as recounted in their own authentic voices. Several stories take place in fictional Falls, N.C., once called ‘the Athens of This Far into Eastern North Carolina,’ according to the tour guide in ‘The Deluxe $19.95 Walking Tour of Historic Falls (NC).’ Small-town residents like Falls’ know each other’s secrets and relish the telling. In ‘The Mortician Confesses,’ a 60-year-old undertaker has sex with a corpse, and the man’s sad story is colorfully told by the cop who caught him. In ‘Unassisted Human Flight,’ a reporter investigates a local legend of a man said to have flown almost a mile as a boy of eight. The characters can also be heroic, as when a 65-year-old widower rescues his neighbors during Hurricane Floyd in ‘Fourteen Feet of Water in my House,’ and an Ivy League doctor saves a Midwestern town from cholera in ‘The Wish for a Good Young Country Doctor,’ set during the 1850s. Among the greatest entries in this stellar work are ‘My Heart Is a Snake Farm,’ featuring a spinster whose life in a crumbling Florida motel brightens when a slippery charmer opens a reptile tourist attraction, and ‘He’s at the Office,’ which details a son’s efforts to help his 80-year-old father, a WWII veteran mentally stuck in the 1940s. Simultaneously funny and compassionate, literary and lowbrow, Gurganus’s stories trawl the mysteries of the human heart and surface with wonderful results.”

Also on shelves this week: Pedro’s Theory by Marcos Gonsalez.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Knausgaard, Davies, North, and More


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Peter Ho Davies, Anna North, 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.

In the Land of the Cyclops by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Land of the Cyclops: “In this dense and thought-provoking essay collection, Knausgaard (My Struggle) once again displays his knack for raising profound questions about art and what it means to be human. While Knausgaard brings complexity to his studies of paintings and photographs, analyzing the function of myths in German artist Anselm Kiefer’s paintings and wondering ‘how are we to understand’ Francesca Woodman’s mid-20th-century photographs, the essays pick up when Knausgaard writes about literature. Among the most successful pieces are ‘To Where the Story Cannot Reach,’ which contains his musings on craft and his relationship with his editor (whom Knausgaard has ‘absolute trust in’); the title essay, which asks, ‘What is literary freedom?’ when writers are told ‘what they should and shouldn’t write about’; and an exploration of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (‘If [it] were published today, there is no doubt in my mind that tomorrow’s reviews would be ecstatic’). In ‘All That Is Heaven,’ he eloquently compares art to dreams, writing, ‘art removes us from and draws us closer to the world, the slow-moving, cloud-embraced matter of which our dreams too are made.’ Though unevenly paced, the volume tackles knotty subjects and offers nuggets of brilliance along the way. These wending musings will be catnip for Knausgaard’s fans.”

A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself by Peter Ho Davies

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself: “Davies (The Fortunes) delves into fatherhood in his thoughtful latest, intertwining musings on pregnancy, marriage, family life, and work. The unnamed narrator, a writer and creative writing professor, makes the difficult decision with his wife to terminate their pregnancy after the fetus tests positive for mosaicism and their doctor gives them a long list of potential birth defects. A subsequent successful pregnancy brings new fears over their son’s development, as the couple processes their internalized shame over the abortion and their son’s potential autism (‘Abortion is shameful, because pregnancy is shameful, because sex is shameful, because periods are shameful. It almost makes me relieved we had a boy,’ the wife says). Davies explores their emotions in unflinching honesty, as the narrator contends with lingering fears over getting their son tested for autism. Davies’s smooth prose and ruminations on language (a synonym for ‘imagine,’ the narrator considers, is also ‘to conceive’) are the stars of this work. While an anticlimactic, philosophical conclusion somewhat undermines the narrator’s character development after he embraces his role as a father, it resonates with the key theme of paradoxes. Davies’s meditation on the complexities of parenthood is at once celebration and absolution, finding truth in human contradictions.”

The Prophets by Robert Jones

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Prophets: “This is a first novel, but I hope it took years and years to write since it is so powerful and beautiful. It is an antebellum story of a flourishing Mississippi plantation some people refer to as ‘Nothing’ and others call ‘Elizabeth,’ the name of the owner’s mother. This is a love story of two gay enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel (not their original African names), who’ve been assigned to look after the horses and who work together in perfect harmony in the barn.

With astonishingly real details, Jones creates a convincing picture of slave life, everything from transportation in ships (where those captives who had died from hunger or wounds or disease were just thrown overboard) to the arrival, in this case, at a vast cotton plantation, where they are branded, forced with whipping to work harder and faster, insulted, mocked and, if they’re female, raped.

Jones’s women are all sharply delineated, starting with the ‘king’ of a tribe in Africa, a woman-warrior who lives with her several wives. The main women on the plantation—Be Auntie, Sarah, Puah, Essie—have their own clearly delineated identities and complex psychologies. What is unprecedented in this novel is its presentation of the two gay male slaves, each endowed with his own personality, which never merges with a stereotype.

In fact, Jones’s compassionate understanding extends even to the whites (who are referred to as toubab, a Central African locution): ‘When they approached, she had figured out something that had been like a splinter in her foot: the easy thing to believe was that toubab were monsters, their crimes exceptional. Harder, however, and even more frightening, was the truth: there was no such thing as monsters. Every travesty that had ever been committed had been committed by plain people and every person had it in them.’ Which is not to say Jones lets his slave owners off easily. They were hypocritical Christians, sadists who raped their chattel, who worked their slaves until they could do no more and called them ‘lazy’: ‘They stepped on people’s throats with all their might and asked why the people couldn’t breathe.’ Whites kidnapped black children and then called slave parents ‘incapable of love.’

The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin. The strong cadences are equal to those in Faulkner’s Light in August. Sometimes the utterances in the short interpolated chapters seem as orphic as those in Thus Spake Zarathustra. If my comparisons seem excessive, they are rivaled only by Jones’s own pages and pages of acknowledgments. It seems it takes a village to make a masterpiece.”

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Black Buck: “Askaripour eviscerates corporate culture in his funny, touching debut. Darren, a young Black man, lives with his mom in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood and manages a midtown Manhattan Starbucks. He’s content with his life and girlfriend, Soraya, but people tell him he could do more—he was valedictorian at Bronx Science, after all. Opportunity knocks when Darren persuades Rhett Daniels, the CEO of tech startup Sumwun and a Starbucks regular, to change his usual order. Rhett is impressed (his response: ‘Did you just try to reverse close me?’) and invites Darren to an interview, which leads to a sales job before he understands what the company actually does (it’s a platform for virtual therapy sessions). Darren makes good money, but struggles to keep up his commitments to his family and Soraya as Rhett pulls him into heavy after-hours partying. When an employee in China is charged with murder, Sumwun crashes, and so does Darren’s life. In an author’s note, Askaripour suggests the book is meant to serve as a manual for aspiring Black salesmen, and the device is thrillingly sustained throughout, with lacerating asides to the reader on matters of race. (‘The key to any white person’s heart is the ability to shuck, jive, or freestyle. But use it wisely and sparingly.’) Darren, meanwhile, is alternately said by various white characters to resemble Malcolm X, Sidney Poitier, MLK, and Dave Chappelle, while he struggles to hold onto a sense of self, which the author conveys with a potent blend of heart and dramatic irony. Askaripour is always closing in this winning and layered bildungsroman.”

After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about After the Rain: “Upon Chioma’s arrival to the remote Nigerian village where her great-aunt and grandma live, heavy, unseasonable rain begins to fall, in this vibrant, succinct graphic adaptation by Jennings (Kindred) and Brame (Baaaad Muthaz) of Okorafor’s short story ‘On the Road.’ On the third night of rainfall, a boy with brains busting out of his broken skull calls on Chioma and declares her ‘it.’ A Chicago detective, Chioma isn’t easily shaken by gore, but even she isn’t able to grasp the strange happenings that follow, the unknowable entity that stalks her, and what that entity will do when it catches her. Though, the original is open to interpretation, the adaptation, which was created in conjunction with Okorafor, outright states a moral to the story: ‘I am Nigermerican… and where those two parts meet is where I am whole again,’ slightly marring the enigma of the ending. But Brame’s bold and arresting use of color and shading lends an unnerving atmosphere to the setting, while his attention to facial expressions injects the panels with emotion. This mostly faithful adaptation honors Okorafor’s voice and paints a potent portrait of Nigeria and its folklore.”

Outlawed by Anna North

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Outlawed: “North’s knockout latest (after The Life and Death of Sophie Stark) chronicles the travails of a midwife’s daughter who joins a group of female and nonbinary outlaws near the end of the 19th century. Eighteen-year-old newlywed Ada, unable to conceive a child, fears she will be accused of witchcraft, a fate common to the women in her Dakota territory community. After Ada’s former friend has a miscarriage and accuses Ada of casting a spell on her, Ada’s mother helps her flee to a nunnery, where a Sister suggests she join a nearby gang known as Hole in the Wall. Ada becomes a ‘doctor’ to the motley group led by the Kid (to whom no gender pronouns are attributed—’‘Not he, not she,’ Elzy said. ‘The Kid is just The Kid’’). The outlaws plan to create a town where nonconforming people can belong. The tense plot takes many turns through Ada’s increasingly violent adventures with the gang, beginning with a botched holdup of a wagon laden with gold. As the novel barrels toward a surprise ending, it’s further strengthened by Ada’s voice and reflections, which preserve a sense of immediacy: ‘distances that had once seemed vast were now so small that my enemies could cross them in an instant.’ The characters’ struggles for gender nonconformity and LGBTQ rights are tenderly and beautifully conveyed. This feminist western parable is impossible to put down.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Joukhadar, Celan, and van Heemstra


Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Zeyn Joukhadar, Paul Celan, and Marjolijn van Heemstra—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 Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Thirty Names of Night: “Joukhadar’s evocative follow-up to The Map of Salt and Stars explores a 20-something Syrian-American trans man’s journey of self-discovery. The unnamed protagonist—he later goes by the name he gives himself, Nadir—is an aspiring artist in Brooklyn who likes to go out dancing with friends and enjoys listening to his friend Sami play the oud. Nadir lives with his grandmother, Teta, and is haunted by the death of his mother years ago in a fire. After Nadir finds a diary belonging to a Syrian artist named Laila, in an old tenement inhabited by Syrian-Americans, he becomes obsessed with finding the print of a rare bird by Laila. As the story unfolds, Nadir’s narration and direct addresses to his mother (‘your presence is still here, everywhere, your hand on everything’) expands to include Laila’s voice (‘The day I began to bleed was the day I met the woman who built the flying machine’) as Nadir blossoms into his trans identity. Scenes with Sami, with whom Nadir falls in love, are particularly affecting. Quietly lyrical and richly imaginative, Joukhadar’s tale shows how Laila and Nadir live and love and work past the shame in their lives through their art. This is a stirring portrait of an artist as a young man.”

A Memory Rose Into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry by Paul Celan (translated by Pierre Joris)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Memory Rose Into Threshold Speech: “This ambitious bilingual edition completes Joris’s herculean effort to translate all of Celan’s poetry into English. Celan’s experiences of trauma as a Holocaust survivor permeate poems such as ‘Todesfuge’ (‘Deathfugue’): ‘Black milk of dawn we drink you at night/ we drink you at noon death is a master from Deutschland/ we drink you evenings and mornings we drink and drink.’ Celan expresses the propulsive, hypnotic unraveling of the world through his fragmented refrain. Elsewhere, he paints himself as a perpetual outsider: ‘Blacker in black, I am more naked./ Only as a renegade am I faithful./ I am you when I am I.’ The importance of seeing and witnessing comes up again and again throughout: ‘Gaze-trade, finally, at untime:/ imagefast,/ lignified,/ the retina—:/ the eternity-sign.’ Joris’s introduction and commentary provide useful historical and literary context. This admirable translation presents the early work of an eminent German language postwar poet to a new audience.”

In Search of a Name by Marjolijn van Heemstra (translated by Jonathan Reeder)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In Search of a Name: “Van Heemstra’s perceptive if tepid English-language debut confronts the transformation of family myth and the hazards of historical memory. When writer and narrator Marjolijn van Heemstra was 18, she was bequeathed a ring that once belonged to her late distant uncle Bommenneef, upheld by her family as a hero of the Dutch resistance during WWII. Fifteen years later, a pregnant Marjolijn, who had promised to name her first-born son after her uncle, sets out to better understand the man who was to be ‘the blueprint for my son.’ As her quest for more information leads her to the national archives and reconnections with far-flung relatives, Marjolijn begins to realize Bommenneef might not have been as heroic as her family insists. In a plot punctuated by the travails of a complicated pregnancy, Marjolijn’s investigation touches critical questions about the past and its relation to the present. How do the stories one tells come to supplant the truth? Is it better to preserve an idealized family history than mess it up with facts? Unfortunately, the monotonous and observational narrative, mired in mundane particulars, fails to provide insight on these deeper mysteries. Readers expecting an immersive family drama will be disappointed.”