Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Shipstead, Ryan, Walker, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Maggie Shipstead, Eimer Ryan, Sarai Walker, 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.
You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Have a Friend in 10A: “The 10 stories in this daring, wide-ranging debut collection from Shipstead (after the novel Great Circle) resonate as they leap across time and space. ‘The Cowboy Tango,’ set at a Montana dude ranch, cruises through several decades as the complicated relationship between the ranch’s owner and a woman who works for him remains uncomfortably static, then changes radically upon the arrival of the owner’s nephew. ‘Lambs,’ on one level a casual piece about the interactions of those at an artist’s colony in Ireland, is haunted by an eerie foreshadowing as each character is introduced with parenthetical summaries of their birth and death dates, which makes its ending both surprising and believable. The masterwork is the deeply unsettling ‘La Moretta.’ Interspersed with segments from an enigmatic inquisition, it documents a honeymoon excursion gone horribly wrong. Here and throughout, Shipstead demonstrates a remarkable ability to interlace the events of ordinary life with a mythological sense of preordained destruction. Both formally inventive and emotionally complex, this pays off with dividends.”

Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Holding Her Breath: “An Irish collegiate swimmer unearths the truth about her grandfather, a famous poet, in Ryan’s penetrating debut. Beth Crowe, 20, is just starting university away from home on a sports scholarship, and is slowly acclimating after an undisclosed crisis. She meets Justin Kelleher, an older postdoc lecturer who is curious about the archives of famed poet Benjamin Crowe, Beth’s grandfather who died by suicide at age 43 after completing his collection Roslyn, later declared his masterwork. As Beth settles into swimming and schoolwork, she begins a secret affair with Justin while trying to find out more about her grandparents. She’s close to her grandmother, Lydia, who previously barred Justin from viewing Benjamin’s archives. Eventually, she makes an allowance for Beth, and Beth discovers the unpublished biography of Benjamin by Julie Conlon-Hayes, a friend of her grandparents who was rumored to have had an affair with Benjamin. As tensions from her personal life come to a head, Beth begins to wonder if she’s inherited her grandfather’s self-destructive tendencies. Despite some underdeveloped plot points, Ryan’s strong character-building and intriguing narrative parallels keep this afloat. Readers will want to see what Ryan does next.”

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance: “A young woman addresses her older sister, who died when they were teens, in Espach’s inventive and powerful latest (after The Adults). Sally Holt, now 28, continues to find her life shaped by sister Kathy’s absence, prompting her to recount her life story, here unfolded in second-person narration. As a child, Sally is the subject of family concern because of her shyness, while Kathy, three years older, is comfortable in the spotlight and praised for her beauty. Despite the sisters’ contrasting temperaments, they are each other’s closest confidantes as they grow up in 1990s small-town Connecticut. Of particular interest to them both is high school senior Billy Barnes—a dreamy basketball player and the son of the town florist—who is in the grade above Kathy. After Billy saves 13-year-old Sally from drowning at the public pool, he begins dating Kathy, to Sally’s fascination and envy. A car accident involving all three teenagers permanently shifts the Holt family dynamic (‘To sue for reckless driving or not to sue? That was the question,’ Sally narrates, describing the tension between her parents over what to do about Billy, who was behind the wheel). In the aftermath, Billy and Sally unite in their shared grief and guilt. Espach captures the minutiae of love and loss with unflinching clarity and profound compassion, and pulls off the second-person point of view unusually well. Readers will be deeply moved.”

Family Album by Gabriela Alemán (translated by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Family Album: “Ecuadorian writer Alemán’s sparkling collection (after the novel Poso Wells) brims with humor and adventure. In the poignant ‘Baptism,’ an unnamed bartender and expert on Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the Robinson Crusoe character, befriends Max, an 81-year-old customer who convinces the narrator to take him on an underwater voyage in the Galápagos in search of Selkirk’s long-lost treasure. The shadowy narrator in ‘Family Outing’ finds work in Ecuador escorting young, overzealous missionaries attempting to convert the native Huao people, with whom the missionaries unexpectedly end up in a violent confrontation. A widow in ‘Marriage’ discovers her recently deceased husband isn’t the failure she always thought he was after stumbling across large bank accounts, cash, and references to children that aren’t hers, leading her on an investigation involving a nefarious notary. ‘Honeymoon’ finds an overweight, balding real-life John Wayne Bobbitt in Buenos Aires, where he goes home with a woman he meets at a film screening and weeps while listening to her Ecuadorian records, which remind him of his ex-wife, Lorena. Alemán’s sly wit and descriptive power—Max, underwater, looks to the bartender ‘like a moss-covered statue from an ancient civilization’—portray the beauty and ravages of South America. This dynamic collection has a lot to offer.”

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies: “Lama debuts with the heartfelt and magical saga of a Tibetan family’s love, sacrifice, and heritage. Starting in 1960, Lama interweaves the lives of four characters: Lhamo and her younger sister Tenkyi, whose parents don’t survive the rigors of the Himalayas during their flight from Tibet to Nepal, where they resettle in a village for refugees; Lhamo’s daughter Dolma; and Samphel, Lhamo’s childhood love, whom she meets in Nepal. Lama also explores the influence of a ku—an ancient statue that Samphel’s uncle brings into Lhamo’s village—on each of their lives. Lhamo, despite heartache, encourages her younger sister to leave their village to study in India and improve her future prospects. Decades later, in another act of selflessness, Lhamo suggests her daughter join Tenkyi, now in Toronto, to complete her studies and have a better life. When Dolma discovers the ku of Lhamo’s childhood in the possession of a private collector in Canada, she sets in motion a series of events that illustrate the power of the ancient relic and its hold on Lhamo’s family. Lama imbues this mesmerizing tale—informed by her own family fleeing Tibet for Nepal in the early 1960s— with a rich sense of history, mysticism, and ritual. This brings great revelations and significance to a family’s courage and acts of cultural preservation.”

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cherry Robbers: “The delightfully eerie latest from Walker (Dietland) follows a woman who reinvents herself after a painful childhood. The story begins with Sylvia Wren, a famous artist in her 80s, living in present-day Abiquiu, N.Mex., while her partner, Lola, is away in Brazil. Sylvia receives a letter from a journalist with questions about her past that threaten to reveal her true identity as Iris Chapel. Walker then flashes back to 1950s Connecticut, where Iris grows up with her five older sisters and a mother who has a habit of staring off into the woods and dropping her china before declaring she feels ‘something terrible’ will happen. Their father, who isn’t around much, runs Chapel Firearms, and the women believe their house is haunted by those who were killed by the guns manufactured by the company. Walker does a great job weaving this thread of gothic mystery with revelations about the woman Iris becomes, a ‘haunted mother, haunted daughter.’ A mix of bildungsroman and ghost story, the narrative gains strength as it illuminates its characters’ power of intuition, especially when they’re not afraid to use it. This uncanny tale of dark origins shines brightly.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Smith, Harpman, Haber, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Bud Smith, Jacqueline Harpman, Mark Haber, 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.
Teenager by Bud Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Teenager: “Smith’s vibrant and violent debut novel (after the collection Double Bird) captures the pain, ebullience, and illusions of a troubled young man’s adolescence. Kody Green, 17, raised in New Jersey foster care, has a wild imagination and dreams of becoming a cowboy. He also has seizures and delusions from a skull injury caused by one of his foster mom’s boyfriends. The best part of his life is his girlfriend Tella Carticelli, though her sexually abusive father has recently forced her to have an abortion after Kody got her pregnant. After learning Tella’s parents are sending her to Rome to break up their relationship, Kody murders them and the couple flees. Driving west in a series of stolen cars, they try to get pregnant again, visit Graceland (it’s disappointingly small), descend into the Grand Canyon, and dodge a series of dim-witted cops. After Kody invents false identities to land them jobs at a Montana ranch, their experience doesn’t quite match his visions of the West. Meanwhile, Tella’s older brother Neil goes AWOL from the Navy to search for her. Though a muddled resolution disappoints, there are plenty of mythic motifs and pithy insights (‘Kody thought they looked like any average family did, absolutely unhinged’), and the author evokes the surreal contrasts of the American landscape in smart, jittery prose. Smith makes this a trip worth taking.”

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (translated by Angela Rodel)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Time Shelter: “A radical new therapy tests the power of nostalgia in the electric and fantastical latest from Gospodinov (The Physics of Sorrow). In present-day Vienna, geriatric psychiatrist Gaustine redecorates his clinic in the style of the 1960s, replete with miniature pink Cadillacs and Beatles memorabilia. Patients with memory issues appear invigorated by the decor and share more during therapy. The narrator, an unnamed amateur novelist who had the same idea as Gaustine years earlier, comes across an article about the psychiatrist and seeks him out. They strike up an unusual collaboration: Gaustine establishes clinics that painstakingly recreate bygone eras with artifacts tracked down by the novelist. The clinics rapidly expand and start offering services to healthy people, and eventually entire countries opt to simulate returns to supposedly happier eras (France, Germany, and Spain all choose the 1980s). The clever prose sells the zany premise and imbues it with poignant longing: ‘Everything happens years after it has happened…. Most likely 1939 did not exist in 1939, there were just mornings when you woke up with a headache, uncertain and afraid.’ Thought-provoking and laced with potent satire, this deserves a spot next to Kafka.”

I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman (translated by Ros Schwartz)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Who Have Never Known Men: “An account of a near future on an unknown planet where 40 women are imprisoned in underground barracks guarded by mysterious uniformed men, this novel marks the American debut of a writer the publisher proclaims as a new ‘womanist’ voice but who is in fact a veteran French novelist (Orlanda, winner of the 1996 Prix Medicis, etc.). The story is divided in two. It first describes the countless years of the women’s imprisonment; then is recounts their fortunate escape and slow realization that they are still prisoners, the only survivors on a barren planet they can’t flee. Nonetheless, their new freedom inspires an emotional and intellectual reawakening. The women search for answers to explain how and why they came to be imprisoned; they remember, painfully but fondly, their past lives. The most enthusiastic of them is the nameless narrator, the youngest member of the group. She explores the land, demands that the other women educate her and maintains her curiosity long after her companions have given up. But her insights are neither provocative nor profound, and the authority she assumes rings false. More interesting is her emotional development. As prisoners in the barracks, the women were forbidden to touch each other. The narrator never learns to appreciate fully the new possibilities of physical closeness and remains emotionally unattached to all but one of her companions, who serves as her mentor. But such telling details are rare here. While offering hints and glints of Harpman’s talent, this novel proves a disappointing Stateside debut.”

Saint Sebastian’s Abyss by Mark Haber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Saint Sebastian’s Abyss: “Haber (Reinhardt’s Garden) returns with a sharp-witted exploration of friendship, art, and criticism. The unnamed narrator receives an email from his former best friend, Schmidt, after 13 years of estrangement, with the news that Schmidt is on his deathbed in Berlin. The narrator flies to Germany, and what ensues is an examination of their decades-long friendship, initially forged over a mutual fascination with Saint Sebastian’s Abyss, a painting of the apocalypse that the two first discovered while students at Oxford. Schmidt and the narrator have since made their careers as art critics based on their insights on the painting and its creator, Count Hugo Beckenbauer. The pair had a devastating falling out after the narrator said something unforgivable, which Schmidt now refers to as ‘that horrible thing,’ and in the years since, the two have resorted to petty vendettas as their work turned away from the painting that they both revere and toward disproving each other’s theories. Schmidt—heavily mustached, chronically ill, and a staunch holder of harsh beliefs—is a difficult friend but memorable character. Haber intelligently explores how his leads’ small-mindedness gets in the way of their higher pursuits, as the narrative zeroes in on an inevitable and surprising conclusion. With this dark comedy of obsession, Haber keeps the Bernhard flame burning.”

Also out this week: Ill Feelings by Alice Hattrick and Jameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Diaz, Cañas, Hart, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Hernan Diaz, Isabel Cañas, Michelle Hart, 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.
Trust by Hernan Diaz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Trust: “Diaz returns after his Pulitzer finalist In the Distance with a wondrous portrait in four texts of devious financier Andrew Bevel, who survives the Wall Street crash of 1929 and becomes one of New York City’s chief financial barons before dying a decade later at age 62. First there is Bonds, a novel by controversial writer Harold Vanner, which tells the story of Benjamin Rask, a character clearly based on Bevel. The novel, published shortly before Bevel’s death, infuriates the magnate, particularly for its depiction of Bevel’s deceased wife, Mildred, as a fragile madwoman. Bevel responds by undertaking a memoir, which only serves to highlight his own touchiness and lack of imagination. The third story-within-the-story is the most significant; in it, the reader meets Ida Partenza, daughter of an Italian anarchist in exile, who, in pursuit of her own writerly ambitions, suppresses both her own conscience and the suspicions of her suitor, Jack, to become Bevel’s secretary and coconspirator in ruining Harold Vanner, as Ida concocts a counternarrative of a saintly Mildred. The reader eventually hears from Mildred directly via her journal, discovered by Ida during her research and included as a coda. The result is a kaleidoscope of capitalism run amok in the early 20th century, which also manages to deliver a biography of its irascible antihero and the many lives he disfigures during his rise to the cream of the city’s crop. Grounded in history and formally ambitious, this succeeds on all fronts. Once again, Diaz makes the most of his formidable gifts.”

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hacienda: “Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in Cañas’s stunning debut. After Beatriz’s mestizo father, General Hernandez, is betrayed and murdered in Mexico’s War of Independence, Beatriz marries mysterious widower Don Rodolfo Solórzano, as his estate, the Hacienda San Isidro, seems the perfect escape for Beatriz and her mother. Beatriz’s first sign that something’s off is the housekeeper, who refuses to work without burning copal incense and chalking glyphs on the kitchen door. Then Beatriz is plagued by bad dreams and mysterious, bloody visions. Her sister-in-law, Juana, who shares the estate, insists these are signs that Beatriz is going mad. Beatriz, however, comes to believe that her husband’s first wife was murdered and is haunting the house, and she finds an ally in Mestizo priest Padre Andrés, who’s torn between the folk beliefs of his childhood and his Catholic teachings. To exorcise the house, the pair digs into a past deliberately obscured by those who would kill them if the truth comes out. Cañas clearly knows the genre, alternately deploying and subverting haunted house tropes. The result is a brilliant contribution to the new wave of postcolonial Gothics. Readers won’t want to miss this.”

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Remarkably Bright Creatures: “A cross-species friendship helps solve a pair of decades-old mysteries in Pelt’s whimsical if far-fetched debut. After Tova Sullivan’s husband dies, she takes a night job as janitor at an aquarium, where she enjoys talking to the sea creatures. She’s particularly fond of Marcellus, a giant octopus who shies away from most human attention. But when Tova finds Marcellus out of his tank and helps him back to safety, he becomes fond of her. Meanwhile, Cameron Cassmore comes to town looking for his long-lost father and joins Tova on the night shift, disrupting her routine. However, the two soon realize that Cameron’s mother, who disappeared after leaving him with an aunt when he was nine, and Tova’s son, who died after falling off a boat decades earlier, might have known each other. Marcellus, who lived in the sea before his capture, is the only creature who knows for sure. Pelt imbues Tova, Cameron, and Marcellus with pathos, but her abrupt cycling between their perspectives can be disorienting, and her no-frills prose is ill-suited for the anthropomorphic conceit at the story’s core. While the premise intrigues, this fantastical take on human-animal connection requires a bit too much suspended disbelief.”

The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Premonitions Bureau: “A British psychiatrist’s inquiries into ‘the problem of precognition’ are recounted in New Yorker contributor Knight’s mesmerizing debut. In October 1966, one week after the collapse of an enormous coal waste pile killed 116 schoolchildren in Aberfan, Wales, John Barker, a psychiatrist with ‘a keen interest in unusual mental conditions,’ and Evening Standard science reporter Peter Fairley issued a call for people to report their premonitions of the disaster. The responses they received—including a letter from Kathleen Middleton, a London dance teacher who awoke the morning of the accident ‘choking and gasping and with the sense of the walls caving in’—led Barker to speculate that precognition ‘might be as common as left-handedness.’ To test the theory, he and Fairley established a ‘premonitions bureau’ to ‘log premonitions as they occurred and see how many were borne out in reality.’ Within 15 months, they received more than 700 premonitions, 3% of which proved to be correct. One of the most accurate correspondents was Middleton, who also envisaged a train derailment, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and Barker’s untimely death from a burst vessel in his brain. Amid the vivid profiles of Barker, Middleton, and others, Knight interweaves intriguing episodes of precognition from history and literature. The result is a captivating study of the uncanny. Photos.”

Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Six Days in Rome: “In Giacco’s sensual and deliberately paced debut, an American artist in her early 30s takes a transformative trip to Rome. After getting out of a relationship with a married man, Emilia turns the Roman vacation they had planned together into a solo trip, wandering the city and reflecting on the breakup and her memories of growing up as the daughter of a famous rock singer. Emilia begins an affair with a charming American ex-pat, whose thoughtful conversation helps her to see the toll that her father’s passions and celebrity exacted on her family throughout her childhood. Giacco revels in her setting, providing rich descriptions of the streets, food, and people Emilia encounters (‘Butter-yellow buildings, with their faded blue windows…. Around a nondescript corner, a gorgeous slap in the face’), but much of the narrative takes place inside Emilia’s head as she forges an identity independent of her father and her ex. Indeed, the author’s discursive style and the inconclusive ending will frustrate readers looking for an immersive narrative. Though slow moving, this is sumptuously written.”

We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Do What We Do in the Dark: “Hart debuts with a transfixing queer coming-of-age novel about a woman’s affair with a much older professor. Mallory Green is in her first year at a college on Long Island shortly after her mother’s death from cancer in 2008. There, she becomes fixated on a never-named woman who teaches children’s literature. The professor, who is brusque but encouraging in their conversations, invites Mallory over for dinner. Her husband is away, and she makes plain her own attraction to Mallory. Despite feeling ’embarrassed, as if she’d written an intense journal entry that she now had to read aloud,’ Mallory plunges into an affair with her. The woman ends it when her professor husband returns at the end of the semester, leaving Mallory floundering as she attempts to date a male student and later drifts through postgraduation life in New York City. A flashback to Mallory’s youth traces her close friendship with a neighbor girl, saturated with frustrated desire. The professor’s reappearance four years after graduation, just as Mallory is settling into a new relationship, opens old wounds. Mallory’s intense interiority and self-consciousness will remind readers of Sally Rooney’s work, and Hart’s prose is delicate and piercing. This is auspicious and breathtaking.”

Also out this week: Patience is a Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Patel, Brown, Williams, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Vaishnavi Patel, Janelle Brown, Lara Williams, 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.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kaikeyi: “Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana. As the only girl of eight royal siblings, Kaikeyi grows up knowing her value as a person is determined by her eventual marriage. When her mother is banished, Kaikeyi is forced to take up her duties in the royal court. In between all her new work, she turns to the palace’s scrolls on magic and learns how to enter the Binding Plane, where she can exert a magical influence over others using the invisible strings that connect her to them. Then Kaikeyi is unwillingly married off to the Raja of Kosala, where her lack of friends and allies means the bonds of the Binding Plane operate differently. Still, Kaikeyi earns her place at her husband’s side, wins the love of her subjects, and raises a son, Rama. Throughout her life, Kaikeyi often recalls a story her mother told of a woman who could not avoid the punishment of man, even when the fault of her actions fell upon a god himself—but the tale’s true message is lost on her until it’s too late. Readers familiar with the source text will be wowed by Patel’s reimagining, while those new to the story will be won over by its powerful, multilayered heroine and epic scope. This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.”

I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I’ll Be You: “Bestseller Brown (Pretty Things) infuses this twist-packed mystery with an intense story of creating one’s identity, rife with deep family trauma and a low-key, creepy depiction of the dark side of twin intimacy. Samantha Logan’s dream-worthy stint as a child TV star depended highly on her identical twin Elli’s initially grudging participation, which eventually created deep bonds between them. In adulthood, Sam’s alcohol addiction and Elli’s traditional lifestyle in Santa Barbara, Calif., has left the two women estranged. So when Elli disappears after going to a mysterious spa in Ojai, with her husband having left her and their parents calling Sam in to help with the toddler Elli has recently adopted without informing her family, Sam feels sure that something is profoundly wrong in her sister’s life. Brown seamlessly uses Sam’s retrospection into the twins’ childhood experiences impersonating and protecting each other both as character development and plot device, letting the latter flow naturally while never feeling cheesy. The perfectly paced emotional reveals of the twins’ shared history pull the reader toward fierce investment in Elli’s safety and the sisters’ reconnection. Brown has upped her game with this one.”

Search by Michelle Huneven

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Search: “Huneven frames her bloated latest (following Off Course) as the second edition of restaurant critic and food writer Dana Potowski’s latest book, also titled Search, which documents a Southern California Unitarian Universalist church’s search for a new minister. The search committee is a motley crew of eight, ranging in age from 20-something Jennie Kanematsu-Ross, a feisty former goth girl; to long time member and former church president Belinda Bauer, 82. There’s also 50-something Dana, who joins in order to write the book, sensing an opportunity to describe the meals that take place during the meetings. Along the way, she chronicles her own spiritual development, which involved her enrollment in a seminary two decades earlier. Huneven’s descriptions of the committee’s machinations are engaging, as are the group’s internecine struggles—the younger members favoring showmanship and originality in a minister, while the older set values more traditional qualities. Huneven injects humor and tension, but the endless cataloging of minutiae (meetings, ‘packets,’ surveys, more meetings called ‘cottage groups’) wears thin, and the denouement may leave some cold. Readers will need to be patient and generous to get the most out of the insights buried in this slow-going affair.”

The Odyssey by Lara Williams

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Odyssey: “A young British woman employed on a surreal cruise ship is at the center of Williams’s stylish if cold latest (after Supper Club). The protagonist, Ingrid, is devoted to her work aboard the WA, a gargantuan vessel with a ‘surf simulator, ice-skating rink, outdoor zip line,’ and floating restaurant, helmed by the mysterious Keith, a guru-like figure preoccupied by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Ingrid shuffles through many onboard jobs, from working in a gift shop to the ship’s nail salon, and, in the book’s final third, to lifeguarding (ironic, since she can’t swim). Early on she is inducted into a shadowy inner circle called ‘the program’ in which she meets periodically with Keith to discuss wabi-sabi and recall traumatic memories from her past. Soon, she is promoted to a managerial role, a development that alienates her two closest friends. The prose is generally excellent and occasionally razor-sharp (describing Ingrid’s pre-WA void, ‘The getting never really felt as good as the wanting, but the not-getting felt fucking catastrophic’); unfortunately, the plot is meagre and overly self-conscious. Ingrid belongs to a particular breed of disaffected, Moshfeghian narrator, but here there’s more affect than substance. In the end, this feels eccentric for eccentricity’s sake.”

Also on shelves this week: Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black by Cookie Mueller and When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Ditlevsen, Lim, Simon, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Tove Ditlevsen, Louisa Lim, our own Ed Simon, 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 Trouble with Happiness by Tove Ditlevsen (translated by Michael Favala Goldman)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Trouble with Happiness: “This quiet and devastating collection of vignettes from Ditlevsen (1917–1976) follows Goldman’s recent translation of the last entry in Ditlevsen’s memoir cycle The Copenhagen Trilogy. The stories mainly turn on domestic dramas, revealing all the simmering, explosive tensions found in marriage, family, and parenthood. In ‘The Little Shoes,’ a middle-aged mother is consumed by envy for her housekeeper’s youth. In ‘A Fine Business,’ a woman is pained with sympathy for a single mother who, desperate for cash, accepts a cruelly low offer on her house. Often, characters imbue mundane, household objects with intense psychological meaning, as in ‘The Umbrella,’ as a husband expresses his unreasonable contempt for his wife by breaking her umbrella. The stories are simple; the characters ordinary and immensely human. Their motivations are mysterious and subtle, and Ditlevsen is acutely sensitive to the way normal life can wear at their hearts. Readers will recognize the themes of anger, disappointment, and frustration that recur within the author’s universe. Alongside this discomfort, though, is the opportunity for deep transformation. Already renowned for her memoirs, Ditlevsen is now poised to win acclaim as a master of short fiction.”

Indelible City by Louisa Lim

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Indelible City: “Journalist Lim (The People’s Republic of Amnesia) mixes memoir and reportage in this riveting portrait of Hong Kong. Interweaving an up-close view of recent protests against Chinese rule with evocative details about Hong Kong’s colonial past, Lim contends that the 50-year term for ‘One Country, Two Systems’—the policy that was supposed to govern its 1997 transition from a British possession to a sovereign territory of China—has ended well ahead of schedule. She explains that Hong Kong officials were excluded in all but ‘an advisory capacity’ from negotiations between Britain and China setting the rules for the handover, and documents how the steady erosion of freedoms led to the ‘Umbrella Movement’ of 2014 (‘an explosion of discontent, desire, and, above all, hope’) and widespread anti-government protests in 2019. Lim also explores Hong Kong’s multifaceted identity through profiles of residents including Tsang Tsou-choi, the ‘King of Kowloon,’ a ‘toothless, often shirtless, disabled trash collector’ who in the 1950s began covering government property with ‘misshapen, childlike calligraphy’ claiming the British stole his family’s land: the entire Kowloon Peninsula. Conversations with protestors, many of whom were not yet born in 1997, convey their burning idealism as well as their growing sense of futility. The result is a vivid and vital contribution to postcolonial history.”

End of the World House by Adrienne Celt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about End of the World House: “Celt (Invitation to a Bonfire) returns with a confounding fun house that plays with the nature of time and existence to diminishing returns. In a near future, a restless California cartoonist named Bertie travels to Paris with her best friend, Kate. Things turn dark when Kate accepts an offer from a man named Javier to take a private tour of the Louvre. The moment they set foot in the museum, Kate disappears, and Celt introduces Dylan, a past (or future?) boyfriend of Bertie’s. Nothing makes sense after that, and with Kate gone, Bertie and Dylan return home (or do they?). When Dylan reacts strangely to Bertie’s idea for a graphic novel, Bertie realizes something is very wrong. Dylan seems to know everything about her, but he’s keeping something big a secret. She takes another trip to Paris and begins to sketch out her novel (which turns out to be picture after picture of Kate), and returns to the Louvre to look for her friend and confront the upside-down world she’s discovered. Some readers may be initially hooked by the ambitious premise, but storytelling pyrotechnics aside, neither the narrative nor the characters are fully realized. It’s intriguing, but more so frustrating.”

Benefit by Siobhan Phillips

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Benefit: “In Phillips’s incisive if plodding debut, a stalled literature scholar pulls back the veil on university hierarchies and social privilege. Laura Graham, after a long history of rejection, is an adjunct professor with a CV that includes a Weatherfield fellowship at Oxford University. After she loses her job and watches a peer rise in the ranks, Laura second-guesses the value of life in academia. She reconnects with Heather, a friend from Weatherfield who encourages her to write a commemorative essay explaining the history of Ennis Weatherfield to be distributed to guests at a centennial gala. Laura accepts, and the job fuels her investigations of the Weatherfield foundation, which uncovers previously unknown histories of its founders, one of whom floundered at Oxford and paid others to do his work. Though there is too much backstory on Laura’s own life, with long chapters on her childhood and friendship with a colleague, Phillips succeeds at capturing the paranoia and peculiarities of academic politics, which tend to favor those already at an advantage. It’s a little bumpy, but devotees of the campus novel may want to take a look.”

The Lonely Stories edited by Natalie Eve Garrett

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lonely Stories: “Solitude gets the spotlight in this illuminating anthology, brought together by writer Garrett (Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food from 31 Celebrated Writers). In ‘At the Horizon,’ Maggie Shipstead isolates herself in order to write a novel; while spending eight months alone on Nantucket, she wonders whether she is turning solitude into contentment or armor. In ‘Letting Go,’ Maya Shanbhag Lang recounts the loneliness she felt after taking in her mother, who was suffering from dementia, while Emily Raboteau writes in ‘Exodus, 2020’ of the ‘particular loneliness’ wrought by the pandemic in New York City, astutely pointing out that ‘there are many ways to be lonely. Even in a crowd.’ Megan Giddings describes in ‘Brief Important Moments Where I Was the Only Person on Earth’ instances of joy that can be found solo, like being the only person in a movie theater. In bringing together the wide range of perspectives, Garrett has made a subject often feared into something uplifting: ‘While loneliness can be devastating, I find it deeply moving that it can also function as a portal to beauty and discovery,’ she writes in the introduction. Fans of the personal essay will want to check this out.”

Also on shelves this week: New to Liberty by DeMisty D. Bellinger, A Revolution of the Mind by MV Perry, and Binding the Ghost by our own Ed Simon.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Oduor, Chen, Newman, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Okwiri Oduor, Lisa Hsiao Chen, Leigh Newman, 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.
Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Things They Lost: “A haunting bond between mother and daughter is examined in Oduor’s ambitious debut. In Mapeli Town, somewhere in East Africa, Ayosa Brown grows up with the ability to see the memories of her mother, Nabumbo Promise, from before she was born. She also witnessed Nabumbo Promise being attacked by a man with a knife, followed by her mother’s act of retaliation. Now, at 13, Ayosa is often left alone for weeks or months by Nabumbo Promise as she travels for work as a photographer. Nabumbo Promise is tortured by painful secrets from her childhood involving her dead brother and estranged twin sister, which Ayosa knows about but keeps to herself. Ayosa and her mother have an intense, intoxicating relationship; Ayosa’s love is ever replenishing and full of forgiveness, even though her mother’s kisses sometimes repulse her, “like roaches crawling across [her] face,” and her mother’s love is “lukewarm at best.” On her own, Ayosa bonds with Sindano, a woman who owns a café that no one visits, and with Mbiu, a girl who stands outside various windows, sometimes for hours at a time. In their company, Ayosa comes to understand unconditional love. Oduor makes loss and familial disappointment palpable through her potent and visceral prose. This keeps the reader holding their breath.”

Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bomb Shelter: “Philpott (I Miss You When I Blink) explores life’s pleasures and uncertainties in this wry if meandering collection of essays. She searches for meaning in the noteworthy and the mundane, sleekly juxtaposing lamentations about her herniated discs (an injury caused by ‘too many years hunched over a laptop’) with deeply affecting reflections on such life-altering experiences as her son’s first seizure. She also humorously investigates her own contradictory nature, as a person who’s both immensely anxious and overly cheerful: ‘Am I here to tell you we’re all going to die? Yes. Am I here to give you a pep talk along the way? Also yes!’ Occasionally, though, she wanders down a winding path of tangential thoughts and unrelated asides; for instance, the surprising news that her dad worked at Raven Rock, a secret underground military bunker, zigzags her to the moment when she learned, after two decades of living with her husband, that he could juggle. While the scattershot narration can distract, Philpott draws readers back in with her philosophical and witty musings—from wondering about her place in the universe to remembering a family dog that would only eat to the music of Kanye West. Rambling tendencies aside, this quirky work has a lot of heart.”

Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Activities of Daily Living: “Chen wows in this tender debut novel (after the poetry collection Mouth) about an Asian American woman caring for her ailing white stepfather while working on a study of Tehching Hsieh, the Taiwanese performance artist best known for his durational performances. Alice, a 39-year-old video editor, pushes pause on the Hsieh project after her unnamed stepfather—a retired carpenter and Vietnam vet with a passion for Chinese furniture—begins to exhibit signs of dementia. She and her sister Amy prepare to put his house up for sale so he can afford a care facility near Amy’s home in San Jose, Calif., which involves selling off and hauling away his treasured belongings and enduring heartbreaking bouts of his illness-fueled rage. To cope, Alice returns to Hsieh’s transgressive work, such as the Rope Piece (1983–1984), a collaboration with Linda Montano in which the artists spent a year tied together by an eight-foot rope. She reads his interviews and the philosophical texts that inspired him until the project becomes as much about her stepfather as it is about Hsieh. While switching between Alice’s stepfather’s decline in the late 2010s and Hsieh’s works in the 1980s, Chen develops an intelligent and deeply empathic portrayal of Alice witnessing her stepfather disappearing inside himself, and in doing so offers careful and illuminating observations on issues of cultural difference, productivity, family, and freedom. Chen’s own project is masterly and memorable.”

A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Tiny Upward Shove: “In Chadburn’s astonishing debut, the story of a Filipino woman’s short life is told by an aswang spirit. In 1994, after 18-year-old Marina Salles is murdered by serial killer Willie Pickton, the folkloric and omniscient aswang enters her body and recounts Marina’s harrowing coming-of-age. As a little girl, she moves with her mother, Mutya, to Westwood after Mutya is accepted at UCLA. While at a party thrown by Mutya’s boyfriend, Marina is raped at 13, then placed by child services in a group home in the San Fernando Valley. The environment hardens Marina, though she develops a loving relationship with her new girlfriend, Alex, who is also a victim of child abuse. Marina is emancipated at 16 and moves to a rough South Los Angeles apartment complex where she gets hooked on heroin. Strung out, she goes to Vancouver to help Alex find her mother. She ends up doing sex work to pay for drugs and meets Willie, who preys on young women with drug problems. The author’s poetic language enthralls, whether in relating the hardships of past generations of Salles women (“we broadcast them—each conversation a carnival of agonies”), or describing the bleak land of death (‘There’s no numbing dope, no dick wows, no kitty kitty yum yum, just a floodlight on all the world’s needs’). This is electrifying.”

The Caretakers by Amanda Bestior-Segal

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Caretakers: “Bestor-Siegal explores the isolating world of au pairs in her introspective debut set in Maisons-Larue, France. The quiet, predominantly white town is rattled by the arrest of Alena, an American au pair charged with the murder of Julian Chauvet, an eight-year-old boy she had in her care. The mystery of what happened to Julien unravels through the perspectives of a neglected daughter and a number of caretakers‚ from au pairs to the mothers who sometimes feel inadequate, and their shame is only heightened by the community’s class-based judgment (Bestor-Siegal sums up the collective attitude among the working mothers: ‘This is what happens when you don’t raise your own children’). The whodunit plotline, though, is entirely eclipsed by a series of powerful narratives from Alena as well as fellow au pairs Holly and Lou, all of whom deal with homesickness and struggle to adapt in France; and from their host families who keep disrespecting their boundaries. While it takes a while to understand how each story and character connects to Julien’s murder due to the slow progression of the plot, Bestor-Siegal excels at character development. Once the author gets going, she cracks open an intriguing world.”

Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nobody Gets Out Alive: “Newman’s electric debut collection (after the memoir Still Points North) follows hardscrabble women in Alaska whose rough exteriors conceal myriad vulnerabilities. In ‘Howl Palace,’ a 67-year-old woman who goes by ‘Dutch’ has gone through five husbands and grieved the loss of one too many of the black Labs she’s cared for over the years in place of having children. Now, she’s forced to put her beloved house up for sale. Though she knows any buyer will tear it down, she starts preparations for an elaborate open house feast, during which longtime crush Carl arrives to drop off a sick dog. In the captivating title story, newlywed Katrina avoids husband Carter at a party thrown by her best friend, Neil, where guests vault over the massive skull of a mastodon. Searching for Katrina, Carter reflects on how she ‘shot into his life like a blond, carnivorous meteor’ when they met in New York City, and considers how she left behind her past life. Here and throughout, Newman’s prose is both distinctive and efficient. In the dark and poignant ‘Slide and Glide,’ unemployed Bobby thinks his wife is cheating and suggests they take their family to a cabin in winter, a desperate and dangerous move that serves as a summation of how he’s moved through life. The author’s crisp portrayal of the Alaskan landscape and rugged culture holds the collection—and its magnetic characters—together. Newman firmly establishes herself as a talent with these stunning stories.”

Also on shelves this week: How to Adjust to the Dark by Rebecca van Laer.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Egan, Mandel, Vuong, Stuart, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Jennifer Egan, our own Emily St. John Mandel, Ocean Vuong, Douglas Stuart, 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 Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Candy House: “Egan returns to the fertile territory and characters of A Visit from the Goon Squad with an electrifying and shape-shifting story that one-ups its Pulitzer-winning predecessor. I’ll see your PowerPoint chapter, Egan seems to say, and raise you a chapter in tweets, and another in emails and texts. In the near future, a platform called Own Your Unconscious allows memories to be uploaded to the cloud and accessed by anyone. ‘Counters’ seek to ferret out ‘proxies’ that help hide ‘eluders’ who resist merging their ‘gray grabs’ to the collective in order to leave their online personae behind. Not everyone sees this as panacea, and a countermovement called Mondrian arises. Appearances from music producer Bennie Salazar, his mentor Lou Kline, and their lovers and children provide sharp pleasures for Goon Squad fans, and Egan cleverly echoes the ambitious, savvy marketing schemes of real-world tech barons with Own Your Unconscious. It casts its spell on Bennie, whose punk rock days with the Flaming Dildos are long past: ‘Tongue-in-cheek nostalgia is merely the portal, the candy house, if you will, through which we hope to lure in a new generation and bewitch them,’ he writes in an email. Twisting through myriad points of view, narrative styles, and divergent voices, Egan proves herself as perceptive an interpreter of the necessity of human connection as ever, and her vision is as irresistible as the tech she describes. This is Egan’s best yet.”

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sea of Tranquility: “In Mandel’s stunning latest, people find themselves inhabiting different places and times, from early 20th-century Canada to a 23rd-century moon colony. Edwin St. Andrew’s wealthy British family banishes him to Canada after his unpatriotic opinions disrupt a dinner party. Walking in the dense forest near tiny Caiette, B.C., in 1912, he suddenly hears haunting violin music and a human bustle. In 2020 Brooklyn, avant-garde composer Paul James Smith shapes a composition around a fragmentary video shot by his late half sister Vincent (both characters appeared in Mandel’s The Glass Hotel). Its footage of the forest outside Caiette, where Vincent was raised, is abruptly interrupted by a black screen and a collage of sounds including violin notes, a ‘dim cacophony’ reminiscent of a train station, and ‘a strange kind of whoosh.’ Author Olive Llewellyn leaves her home on the moon’s second colony in 2203 to promote her bestselling ‘pandemic novel’ on Earth. As a new virus spreads through Australia, she fields questions about a scene in the book, based on personal experience, in which a character listening to violin music in an Oklahoma City airship terminal feels briefly transported to a forest. In 2401, the secretive, powerful Time Institute is concerned by the glitch that Edwin, Vincent, and Olive have all experienced. When they send investigator Gaspery-Jacques Roberts back in time to discover more, the novel’s narratives crystallize flawlessly. Brilliantly combining imagery from science fiction and the current pandemic, Mandel grounds her rich metaphysical speculation in small, beautifully observed human moments. By turns playful, tragic, and tender, this should not be missed.”

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Time Is a Mother: “Vuong’s powerful follow-up to Night Sky with Exit Wounds does more than demonstrate poetic growth: it deepens and extends an overarching project with 27 new poems that reckon with loss and impermanence. Braiding past and present, Vuong’s speakers contextualize personal traumas within larger systems of dehumanization. Gold becomes a key visual motif for capitalist tendencies: ‘There is sunlight here, golden enough to take to the bank’ and ‘Because everyone knows yellow pain, pressed into American letters, turns to gold.’ His skillful technique is evident in elegies such as ‘Dear Rose,’ which describes a mother’s life punctuated by poignant asides (‘are you reading this dear/ reader are you my mom yet/ I cannot find her without you’). ‘Dear T’ offers a meditation on the artistic process: ‘look—a bit of ink on the pad/ & we’re running down the street again/ after the thunderstorm/ platelets still plenty// in veins beneath your cheek.’ Yet there’s a new, biting insouciance and self-awareness in Vuong’s voice, ‘Oh no. The sadness is intensifying. How rude,’ turning his trademark epigrammatic flair to darkly humorous effect: ‘Because when a man & a man/ walk hand in hand into a bar/ the joke’s on us.’ This fantastic book will reward fans while winning this distinctive poet new ones.”

Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Let’s Not Do That Again: “Ginder (The People We Hate at the Wedding), a former congressional intern and speechwriter for White House chief of staff John Podesta, delivers an effervescent family drama about a man’s attempts to salvage his mother’s Senate run after a PR disaster. In Paris, Greta Harrison hurls a bottle through a restaurant window during a political protest. In Manhattan, Greta’s congresswoman mother, Nancy, attempts to deflect the fallout of her daughter’s headline-grabbing behavior as the story jeopardizes her Senate campaign. She’s the kind of politician who spouts unapologetic lines like ‘America is disappointing… that’s why we do what we do,’ and until Greta’s stunt, that approach has worked. Nancy feverishly appeals to her perpetually single gay son Nick, urging him to put aside his work writing a Joan Didion musical to bring Greta home from Paris. The task is tougher than it looks, but in Ginder’s hands, it yields devilish hilarity. Greta is under the spell of swarthy, seductive Xavier, a celebrity-seeking fascist troll, but he’s no match for Nick and Nancy, who swoop in to settle some unfinished family business. Ginder dexterously describes the machinations of his caffeine-fueled lead and lights up the pages with bubbly, rapid-fire dialogue among such supporting characters as Nancy’s assistant, Cate, and Xavier’s other gal pal, Colette. Politics and blood loyalty can become a slippery slope, but here they’re a perfect combination. This smart and seamless comedy is nonstop fun.”

The Sign for Home by Blair Fell

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sign for Home: “A man sets out to find the one who got away in Fell’s sweet debut. Arlo Dilly, a 23-year-old deaf and blind Jehovah’s Witness, has been sheltered and isolated under the guardianship of his uncle, Brother Birch, and longtime interpreter, Molly. After he enrolls in a summer writing course, he searches for another interpreter to assist Molly in class. Cyril Brewster takes the gig and alerts Arlo to the extent that Molly had been derelict in her interpreting duties, making decisions on Arlo’s behalf without consulting him. Meanwhile, a school assignment stirs up Arlo’s memories of Shri, the girl he fell in love with at a boarding school for the deaf, and the events that led to his expulsion. Then, a reunion with an old friend reveals that Shri might still be alive, contrary to what Molly and Brother Birch had told Arlo, so he enlists Cyril’s help to find her. But after Brother Birch catches wind of the plan, he fires Cyril and restricts Arlo’s limited independence, prompting Arlo to strike out for New York City alone and leaving Cyril and Molly to team up to find him and then reunite him with Shri. Fell writes with a deep compassion and keen attention to the experiences of living with deafness and blindness. This heartfelt romance is hard to resist.”

The Age of Astonishment: John Morris in the Extraordinary Century―From the Civil War to the Cold War by Bill Morris

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Age of Astonishment: “Novelist Morris (Motor City Burning), a staff writer at The Millions, delivers a poignant biography of his grandfather, John Morris, a University of Georgia philologist. Though Morris touches on the technological and political upheavals of his grandfather’s lifetime, he pays the greatest attention to racial issues, noting that John was born on a Virginia plantation in 1863 and died in 1955, the same year Emmett Till was murdered. While some of his peers in Virginia and Georgia dove into Lost Cause fanaticism, John saw slavery as evil and once drove his daughter to a farmhouse where a Black man had been lynched because ‘he wanted her to know about [it] and think about [it] and never forget.’ Elsewhere, Morris discusses John’s support for women’s suffrage and surmises that he sympathized with striking laborers. Though Morris does an admirable job contextualizing his grandfather’s life, he often veers into speculation, as when he imagines that John would have seen nationwide racial violence during the Red Summer of 1919 as ‘a perverse vindication of his decision to remain in the South.’ Still, this is an immersive and moving portrait of a quietly decent man and his monumental era.”

The Unwritten Book by Samantha Hunt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Unwritten Book: “Novelist Hunt (The Dark Dark) scours literature for ‘alphabets and signs’ of the dead in her stirring nonfiction debut. As she writes, ‘The dead leave clues, and life is a puzzle of trying to read and understand these mysterious hints before the game is over.’ Her investigation centers on an unfinished novel written by her late father, Walter, parts of which (as well as her annotations of it) are mixed in with her thoughts on what it means to be human. As she considers the novel (about a magazine editor confronted by a society of people who believe dreams can spill over into reality), Hunt reflects on her relationship with her father, including his alcoholism and the love of stories they shared. Like her father, Hunt thinks of books as waypoints: ‘In books we can find our ways back to the worlds we thought were lost, the world of childhood, the world of the dead.’ Hunt writes in touching detail and with heartfelt prose: ‘There is exquisite beauty and storytelling in the smallness. Reading life and death like a book.’ Both intimate and incisive, this genre-melding collection will make readers want to hold their loved ones close.”

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Young Mungo: “The astonishing sophomore effort from Booker Prize winner Stuart (Shuggie Bain) details a teen’s hard life in north Glasgow in the post-Thatcher years. Mungo is 15, the youngest of three Protestant siblings growing up in one of the city’s poverty-stricken ‘schemes.’ The children’s alcoholic mother leaves them periodically for a married man with children of his own. Mungo’s father is long gone, and Mungo’s sister, Jodie, looks after their household as best she can. Hamish, Mungo’s hooligan brother and ringleader of a gang of Protestant Billy Boys, is a constant threat to Mungo, who, tender of heart and profoundly lonely, is at the mercy of his violent moods. Even after Mungo meets the kindred James, a Catholic boy who keeps pigeons, he is overwhelmed by his self-loathing, assuming all the calamity around him is somehow his fault. He doesn’t have a clue what it is he wants. All he knows is that amid the blood and alcohol and spittle-sprayed violence of his daily existence, James is a gentle, calming respite. Their friendship is the center of this touching novel, but it also leads to a terrifying and tragic intervention. Stuart’s writing is stellar—a man’s voice sounds ‘like he had a throatful of dry toast’; a boy has ‘ribs like the hull of an upturned boat.’ He’s too fine a storyteller to go for a sentimental ending, and the final act leaves the reader gutted. This is unbearably sad, more so because the reader comes to cherish the characters their creator has brought to life. It’s a sucker punch to the heart.”

Also on shelves this week: Burning Butch by R/B Mertz and When Women Kill by Alia Trabucco Zerán (translated by Sophie Hughes).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Newton, Bergman, Folk, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Maud Newton, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Kate Folk, 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.
Ancestor Trouble by Maud Newton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ancestor Trouble: “Newton debuts with a masterful mix of memoir and cultural criticism that wrestles with America’s ancestry through her own family’s complex past. While it’s often ‘cast as a narcissistic Western peculiarity,’ she argues that ‘ancestor hunger circles the globe’ as people have increasingly begun to search for ‘a deeper sense of community, less ‘I’ and more ‘we.” Newton, though, was raised on fanciful stories of her relatives—including a grandfather with 13 ex-wives, and her great-aunt Maude (the inspiration behind Newton’s writing pseudonym), who died young in an institution—and tales of murder, witchcraft, and spiritual superstition, all of which she interrogates here with a shrewd eye. As she ‘search[es] backward’ through her family’s history in an effort to find redemption and healing, she contextualizes their stories within the nation’s history of white supremacy and religious fundamentalism (her mother was a fervent evangelical who believed their ‘forebears had sinned in such a way as to open the door to a generational curse’). Most affecting is her rendering of her complicated relationship with her father and his own ‘racist bloodline,” likening her existence to ‘a kind of homegrown eugenics project.’ The result is a transfixing meditation on the inextricable ways the past informs the present.”

How Strange a Season by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How Strange a Season: “Bergman (Almost Famous Women) assembles an alluring collection centered on women grappling with their circumstances. In the opener, ‘Workhorse,’ a florist procures lavish installations of endangered plants to console herself over a tyrannical father and the heartbreak of a marriage on the rocks. In ‘Wife Days,’ a competitive swimmer measures her alone time against her time as a spouse. The daughter of a second-wave feminist in ‘The Heirloom’ covers costs on her ranch by allowing groups of hedge funders to crush cars with her bucket loader, while in ‘Peaches, 1979,’ a peach farmer desperately prays for rain. The novella-length ‘Indigo Run’ involves a God-fearing Southern family and their restless daughter who looks back on her childhood in the 1920s and ’30s, when she became embroiled in the revival ritual of a local preacher. Bergman emboldens her characters with wit and a shimmering sense of self-awareness. Her attention to details is often uncanny, such as the ‘Workhorse’ narrator’s description of her estranged husband after his return home from rehab: ‘his eyes were wider these days, like he was waiting for his addiction to meet him around the next corner.’ Though alienated from the lives they either once enjoyed or from the futures they yearn for, the characters demonstrate immense mettle. Bergman’s fans will savor each story.”

A House Between Earth and the Moon by Rebecca Scherm

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A House Between Earth and the Moon: “Thriller author Scherm (Unbecoming) pivots to literary science fiction in this polished but hollow big data parable centered on exposure, privacy, and lies in a near-future Earth plagued by climate disaster and frequent pandemics where smartphones are directly wired into people’s brains and data privacy is only for the rich. Michigan scientist Alex Welch-Peters’s life’s work—bioengineering carbon-capturing algae to slow global warming—succeeded only once. Now he’s on contract to replicate the discovery on the unfinished private luxury space station Parallaxis, a haven-to-be for 10 billionaires 220 miles above Earth. Meanwhile, socially inept researcher Tess is hired to train a behavior-prediction algorithm—with the Parallaxis team as test subjects. As the algorithm becomes increasingly coercive and drags in all those aboard Parallaxis, the researchers and their families get caught in a web of conflict and lies. Scherm’s crisp prose smooths over complex interpersonal machinations and tends to overexplain its own allegories, leaving character motivations and themes feeling obvious. The broad range of issues, meanwhile, all get the same scant treatment; rape culture, for example, becomes mere window dressing. Fans of Emily St. John Mandel or Liz Harmer will appreciate Scherm’s burning world, but miss the emotional intelligence.”

The Temps by Andrew DeYoung

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Temps: “DeYoung’s diverting apocalyptic adult debut (after the YA novel The Exo Project) delivers a smart critique of modern life. Mail room temp Jacob Elliot gets lost on his first day at Delphi Enterprises. He has no idea what the company does, and overhears cryptic conversations from higher-ups (‘We’ve got a scope-creep issue on the variable data extraction project and I need to force a decision,’ one says). There’s a big meeting with Delphi’s founder, but temps aren’t allowed. During the meeting, a strange yellow gas suffuses the room and turns people into ‘rage monsters,’ who all kill each other or themselves. The only survivors are Delphi’s 350 temps, all of whom are trapped inside the sealed building. Among them are Swati Sidana, who lumps Jacob in with her ex-boyfriend from college as ‘angry white boys’ but gives Jacob points for ‘seem[ing] gentler, less sure of himself’; and Morgan, a young woman who beta-tested video games for Delphi and offers clues as to what the company is up to. But by the time the group finds answers in the company’s computers, it might be too late to save themselves. DeYoung cleverly deconstructs academia, video game culture, and capitalism from the perspectives of the temps. The author has a lot to say, and has crafted a fine vehicle for doing so.”

Out There by Kate Folk

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Out There: “Folk debuts with a wonderful absurdist collection that explores the vagaries of human connections. In the title story, the narrator can’t tell if her new boyfriend is an especially refined ‘blot,’ one of the legions of catfishing androids who recently invaded internet dating, or just a tech bro who’s emotionally stunted. Shorter stories act as well-timed interludes, such as ‘The House’s Beating Heart,’ in which a house has a beating heart in a closet, a brain in the roof, and a stomach in the basement. Folk soars in ‘A Scale Model of Gull Point,’ in which a tourist island’s inhabitants—oppressed in ways simultaneously bonkers and viciously realistic—enact a reign of terror, and the crisis prompts a burst of maturity for the narrator, an art teacher whose sculpture career never took off after her MFA. ‘Big Sur,’ another highlight, follows the life of a blot who bunks in an SRO and attempts to get a girlfriend with messages like, ‘I love dogs… I would never hurt one deliberately.’ The story risks a sentimentality anathema to the previous stories’ cynicism, and pulls it off with aplomb. The whole perfectly balances compassion and caustics, and the author has an easy hand blending everyday terror with the humor that helps people swallow it. Folk impresses with her imagination as well as her insights.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Chou, Lippmann, Gainza, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Elaine Hsieh Chou, Sara Lippmann, María Gainza, 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.
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Disorientation: “Chou debuts with a zany if uneven romp through American academia and cultural assimilation. PhD student Ingrid Yang is desperate to write a dissertation that will impress her committee and earn her a postdoc fellowship that will put off her student loan payments. Her subject, the late canonical Chinese American poet Xiao-Wen Chou, once taught at her school, the mid-range Barnes University in Massachusetts, and Chou’s legacy is a crucial source of Barnes’s prestige. As Ingrid doggedly investigates a mysterious note found in Chou’s archives, she wrestles with estrangement from her ancestral Chinese culture, anxiety over the male gaze—she wonders if her white fiancé merely has a fetish for Asian women—and frets about her own attraction to white men. There’s also her friend Eunice Kim, a hyper-gorgeous Korean girl; Eunice’s younger brother, Alex, Eunice’s tough yet insecure male counterpart; and Michael Bartholomew, the orientalizing professor in Barnes’s primarily white East Asian Studies department. Sometimes the portraits feel a bit too cartoonish—there is a moment, for instance, when Eunice is described as ‘impeccable, ready to guest star in a music video’—but overall Chou effectively skewers a world that takes itself all too seriously, particularly after Ingrid makes an explosive discovery about Chou that could compromise Barnes. This will charm a wide set of readers, not just those pursuing PhDs.”

Jerks by Sara Lippmann

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Jerks: “Lippmann’s tantalizing collection (after Doll Palace) offers a set of character studies fraught with longing. The bittersweet ‘Wolf or Deer’ depicts young girls at summer camp playing Would You Rather. A question offering the choice of cannibalism or starvation earns the reply, ‘I’d totally eat you,’ leading to explicit sexual questions and expressions of desire. ‘Har-Tru’ depicts a group of moms watching their kids fumble through tennis lessons while gossiping about a reality-television series, polyamory, and their own fantasies. In ‘Charity Case,’ a woman pines for her music teacher, a former soap opera star who barely notices her. ‘There’s a Joke Here Somewhere and It’s on Me’ utilizes flash fiction to encapsulate the confusing rush of adolescence. In the title story, a married couple runs a side hustle making beef jerky to stave off, among other things, their depression and midlife crises. Just as it goes for many characters here, the unexpected outcome leaves them with bitter resignation. Lippmann packs a great deal into a single turn of phrase, balancing vulnerability and humor with luminescent prose. The compression and bursts of poignancy will remind readers of Kathy Fish and Amy Hempel.”

Hammer by Joe Mungo Reed

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Hammer: “Following We Begin Our Ascent, a story of a Tour de France rider, Reed casts his appraising eye on the equally cutthroat worlds of modern art and Russian politics in this well-observed if uneven outing. It opens with a bang, as Martin, an auction house employee, watches Russian oligarch Oleg Gorelov win a Basquiat painting after driving the bidding up to nearly $9 million. Oleg’s wife, Marina, an old college friend of Martin’s, secures Martin an invitation to the Russian’s art bunker, which houses a lost painting by the Ukrainian avant-garde painter Kazimir Malevich, who ran afoul of the Stalin regime. Martin, who would like nothing more than to secure a sale of Oleg’s art collection for his auction house, is an unassuming, almost purposely bland ‘puppy’ figure who wins Oleg’s trust even as he begins an affair with Marina. Oleg, meanwhile, considers selling his art to fund a quixotic campaign to unseat Vladimir Putin. The plot simmers too long, muting the impact of the characters’ betrayals and machinations, but Reed is consistently excellent in his takes on art, money, and the ruthlessness of the auction house business: ‘We’re like vampires. We’re well-dressed. We’re polite. But in the end, we’ll need to feed,’ says Martin’s boss. In the end this cool, restrained work doesn’t quite reach the heat of the art market it depicts.”

You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about You Sound Like a White Girl: “In this persuasive polemic, journalist Arce (Someone Like Me) draws on her experiences as an undocumented Mexican immigrant to encourage Latinx people to ‘dismantl[e] the lie of assimilation to reclaim the most essential and beautiful parts of ourselves, our history, and our culture.’ Noting that she used ‘fake papers’ to obtain a job at Goldman Sachs and became a citizen 20 years after she first arrived in the U.S., Arce contends that ‘assimilating to ‘American’ culture really mean[s] imitating white America,’ and that ‘even after I learned English, became a citizen, got my coins, I still wasn’t welcomed.’ She cites many historical examples of discrimination against Mexican Americans, including the segregation of Latinx students in public schools, the banning of bilingual education programs, and the denial of birth certificates to the children of undocumented parents. Arce also contends that the blame for the decline in blue-collar jobs in America lies not with undocumented workers but with ‘corporate greed,’ and details the lack of Latinx representation in U.S. politics and popular culture. She urges Latinx people to promote their own culture, history, and identities as fully American, and to support other communities of color in the fight for equality. This impassioned call for change rings true.”

Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza (translated by Thomas Bunstead)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Portrait of an Unknown Lady: “Gainza (Optic Nerve) returns with a ruminative account of the pursuit of a master forger who has gone off the grid in a dreamy Buenos Aires. The unnamed narrator, a young woman, works for art authenticator Enriqueta Macedo, who for decades has been fraudulently authenticating paintings forged by a woman named Renée, who specialized in passing off works of Mariette Lydis, one of the country’s greatest portraitists (‘They resemble women about to turn into animals, or animals not since long made human,’ the narrator says of Lydis’s subjects). Gainza paints an impressionistic group portrait of artist, authenticator, and forger: Lydis’s flight from Nazi-occupied Vienna to Argentina, recounted through an auction catalog (‘Painting is worth more if there’s a story behind it’); Enriqueta’s initiation as a young woman into a group called the Melancholical Forgers, Inc.; and Renée’s reign during the ‘golden age of art forgery.’ The narrator, who after Enriqueta’s death becomes an art critic, is intrigued by Renée as a biographical subject, and embarks on a quest to track down the long-since-disappeared counterfeiter. Digressions, aphorisms, and dead ends pile up along the way in a hypnotic search defined by ‘Sehnsucht… the German term denoting a melancholic desire for some intangible thing.’ The characters’ incertitude and the narrative’s lack of resolution only intensify the mysterious communion Gainza evokes between like-minded souls. This captivating work is one to savor.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Abu-Jaber, Shepherd, Ferrante, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Diana Abu-Jaber, Peng Shepherd, Elena Ferrante, 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.
Fencing with the King by Diana Abu-Jaber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Fencing with the King: “Abu-Jaber (Crescent) places a family in the crosshairs of Jordanian political intrigue in this nicely layered story. In 1995, recently divorced poet Amani Hamdan encourages her father Gabe to accept an invitation to return to his native Jordan for a fencing demonstration alongside the king. Amani, intrigued to learn more about a mysterious poem written by her deceased grandmother, accompanies him on her first trip there. They stay with Gabe’s older brother, Hafez, an influential government official who has schemed to lure Gabe and recover an ancient knife from him that belonged to their late father. Hafez views Amani as a potential protege but is unsettled by her questions about the family’s past, and while he plots to claim a lucrative swath of land near the Israeli border, which is ripe for settlement by Palestinian refugees, Amani tries to locate the places mentioned in her grandmother’s poem. She also uncovers a lost relative and catches the eye of a fencing instructor. Their romance takes up a good chunk of the final act, but it’s less gripping than the plot involving Hafez. Still, Abu-Jaber ably captures the tenuous role of Jordan in the mid-1990s Middle East peace process while unearthing a family’s buried secrets. It adds up to an engrossing family drama.”

When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (translated by Mara Faye Lethem)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about When I Sing, Mountains Dance: “Solà’s vivid and magical tale, winner of the European Union Prize, brings to life a small Pyrenees village. The story begins when a farmer is killed by a lightning strike during a storm, leaving his wife, Sió, a widowed mother to a daughter, Mia, and a two-month-old son, Hilari. When Mia grows up, she falls in love with Jaume, the son of ‘Giants,’ who are stigmatized for their size as well as lack of education and rough manner. After Jaume accidentally kills Hilari in a hunting accident, he’s jailed while he awaits his trial for murder, and Mia is left alone to live her life in the mountains with her dog. Woven throughout are the voices of a roe deer, witches, a bear (‘tremble in fear, men who killed us’), and Mia’s dog. The mountains are heard from as well, alongside geological sketches, creating a multilayered and lush array of perspectives (‘My slumber is so deep that it slips beneath the seas,’ says a mountain). In language at turns poetic and stark, Solà offers a fresh and mythic work that fully reckons with the beauty and savagery of a landscape. It’s a fine achievement.”

Chevy in the Hole by Kelsey Ronan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Chevy in the Hole: “Ronan debuts with a tender and hardscrabble story of love and pain. After 26-year-old Gus Molloy is saved from an opioid overdose in 2014, he drifts through the factory ruins of Flint, Mich., with an aimless and heavy heart. Intrigued by a new project in town called Frontier Farms, he volunteers and meets Monae, who studies environmental science and dreams of making Flint better by turning empty lots into gardens. Braided with Gus and Monae’s burgeoning love story is the rough and tumble history of the city (a worker strike in 1937, the rise of the local music scene in 1953, Keith Moon crashing a car into the Holiday Inn in 1967) as told through the experiences of their ancestors—and the secrets they kept. As the couple dreams of a future together, the water crisis looms on the horizon. Ronan’s characters brim with resilience, and their survival reflects the highs and lows of the site referenced in the title, a Chevrolet factory left to ruin and later reclaimed as a park. Ronan ably humanizes a city known for the pity it’s elicited for many decades.”

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cartographers: “Disgraced cartographer Nell Young, the protagonist of this extraordinary mystery from Shepherd (The Book of M), was fired by her father, Daniel Young, a cartographic scholar in the New York Public Library’s map division, after they argued over a map. Seven years later, Daniel dies in his office, apparently of natural causes. In a hidden compartment in his desk, Nell finds the map they argued over, a decades-old gas station road map of New York. She suspects the map is somehow related to his death, which she’s sure is a case of foul play. She seeks help from her ex, who now works for the tech giant Haberson, whose eccentric leader, William Haberson, wishes to map the entire world and all knowledge within it. Gradually, Nell connects with the talented cartographers who were friends of her father and long-dead mother years before. They tell her of their last summer together and warn her of the threat from a member of their group obsessed with Nell’s mother, who died in a house fire. Possessed of a questing intellect and a determined stubbornness, Nell proves smart enough to solve the various riddles she faces. Shepherd’s convincing blend of magic from old maps with the modern online world both delights and thrills.”

In the Margins by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Margins: “Four essays illuminate the mind of Ferrante (The Lying Life of Adults) in this dazzling collection. In ‘Pain and Pen’ she recalls writing ‘neat’ and ‘orderly’ stories in elementary school notebooks, and explains that the ‘discordant clamor’ in her head led to her novels of ‘love and betrayal, dangerous investigations, horrific discoveries, corrupted youth, [and] miserable lives that have a stroke of luck.’ ‘Aquamarine’ explores the ‘passion for realism’ that she’s ‘stubbornly pursued since adolescence,’ and recounts the ‘small discoveries’ she found after drafting a cover letter for an ‘unsatisfying’ novel she wrote. ‘Histories, I’ sheds light on the particularly ‘arduous journey’ shared by women writers, and acknowledges how the craft of writing builds on the work of those who came before—Ferrante counts among her influences Ingeborg Bachmann, Emily Dickinson, María Guerra, and Gertrude Stein. In ‘Dante’s Rib,’ Ferrante responds to Dante’s work: ‘I loved and love Dante’s words but am exhausted by their force.’ The collection’s strength comes from Ferrante’s beautiful prose, as well as the fascinating look at where she finds inspiration. The author’s legions of fans are in for a treat.”