Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Washington, Amis, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Bryan Washington, Martin Amis, 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.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Memorial: “In Washington’s debut novel (after the collection Lot), the fractures in a couple’s relationship span from Houston, Tex., to Osaka, Japan. Ben, a day care teacher, lives with his cook boyfriend, Mike, in Houston’s slowly gentrifying Third Ward. When Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Houston from Japan with plans to stay at Ben and Mike’s place, awkwardness ensues. Mike has just left for Osaka, to reconnect with his absent and now terminally ill father, and put Ben in charge of entertaining Mitsuko until he gets back. Ben eventually adjusts to having her around, just as he must navigate his changing relationship with his black middle-class family, who have always shied away from Ben’s HIV-positive status and talked around his father’s drinking. Meanwhile, in Osaka, Mike has found his father, Eiju, at the bar he owns, where Eiju has a dedicated assistant and crowd of regulars who have no idea Eiju’s dying or that he has a son. Mike starts working at the bar so he can spend Eiju’s final days with him. Though Mike still grapples with how to feel about Eiju, who made his biggest impact on Mike’s life by abandoning the family, father and son are able to build a tentative relationship. Tender, funny, and heartbreaking, this tale of family, food (Mike cooks for their Venezuelan neighbors; Mitsuko makes Ben congee), and growing apart feels intimate and expansive at the same time. Washington shows readers more of the unforgettable Houston he introduced in his stories, and comfortably expands his range into the setting of Osaka, applying nuance in equal measure to his characters and the places they’re tied to.”

Bonus Links:
Bryan Washington’s Houston Is a City of Multitudes
A Year in Reading: Bryan Washington

Inside Story by Martin Amis

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Inside Story: “Amis (The Zone of Interest) frames his consistently intelligent and compulsively readable ‘novelized autobiography,’ as he calls it, as a guide to writers. Along the way, the author crafts a dynamic series of paeans to three of his heroes—Saul Bellow, who became a kind of father figure; Christopher Hitchens, one of his best friends; and Philip Larkin, his father, Kingsley’s, lifelong friend—amid a wide-ranging survey of his own life. The book opens in 2016 with Amis living in Brooklyn with his wife, writer Isabel Fonseca, contemplating his own mortality, with a meta introduction to his reader (whom he imagines as an aspiring writer), but quickly turns to the lives of Bellow, Hitchens, and Larkin, and, eventually, their deaths: Bellow slips into dementia. Hitchens fights a losing battle with cancer. Larkin dies of cancer as well. Amis also relates the fascinating story of an early love of his, Phoebe Phelps, an enigmatic figure whom he admits was the inspiration for his first novel, The Rachel Papers, and whom he remained obsessed with for decades. There is much else on offer: critical aperçus and insightful digressions on Austen, Conrad, Nabokov, and other writers; an elegant gloss on the history of the modern novel; and opinions on Hitler, the Soviet Union, 9/11, the refugee crisis, and President Trump (‘the high-end bingo caller who occupies pole position in the GOP’). Amis again proves himself to be as savvy a thinker as he is a writer as he applies his insight and curiosity as a novelist to this stylish and genuine account of his development as a writer. The result reaches the heights of his finest work.”

Bonus Links:
Fiction Is Freedom: On Martin Amis
The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’s Guide to Classic Video Games

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cold Millions: “Walter (Beautiful Ruins) reconstructs the free speech riots of 1909–1910 in Spokane, Wash., in this superb tale of orphaned, train-hopping brothers Gig and Rye Dolan. After their mother dies from tuberculosis, Rye, 16, leaves their childhood home in Montana to join Gig. The brothers spend a year looking for seasonal work, then settle in Spokane, the ‘old Klondike town [that] had grown into a proper city,’ where ‘money flowed straight uphill’ and a $10 pair of gloves is a class-defining luxury. Rye is arrested during a riot and charged with disorderly conduct, and his lawyer introduces him to the sympathetic Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a New Yorker and union organizer who has come to Spokane to advocate for ‘the cold millions with no chance in this world.’ Gig and Rye also meet Ursula the Great, a bawdy vaudevillian who cavorts in corset and stockings with a caged cougar and wins Gig’s heart despite her romantic involvement with a mining boss. The novel’s cast mixes fictional characters and historical figures such as labor lawyer Fred Moore, police chief John Sullivan, and organizers John Walsh and Frank Little, and adds a literary layer to Gig’s self-determination (he travels with a library including White Fang and two volumes of War and Peace, ‘always on the lookout for the rest’). The sum is a splendid postmodern rendition of the social realist novels of the 1930s by Henry Roth, John Steinbeck, and John Dos Passos, updated with strong female characters and executed with pristine prose. This could well be Walter’s best work yet.”

Bonus Links:
Politics Is in Its DNA: On Jess Walter’s ‘The Cold Millions’
A Year in Reading: Jess Walter

The Collected Breece D’J Pancake by Breece D’J Pancake

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Collected Breece D’J Pancake: “In this vibrant collection, Pancake’s quirky, indelible prose is shadowed by the poignancy of his personal history. An intense, artistic misfit from rural West Virginia, Pancake died by suicide in 1979 at age 26, four years before The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake was published. In the front matter, Jayne Ann Phillips claims Pancake produced ‘some of the best short stories written anywhere, at any time,’ and James Alan McPherson notes how Pancake synthesized a Hemingway style with themes and characters inspired by his home state. And, indeed, the stories live up to the hype. Pancake balances muscular precision and economy with rich, evocative detail. In ‘The Mark,’ a struggling couple brushes aside the difficulties of the wife’s pregnancy to take their prize bull, Pride and Promise, to a fair. ‘Fox Hunters’ offers a bracing slice of West Virginia life, complete with junk cars in various stages of repair and an opossum or two. The successful protagonist of ‘The Salvation of Me’ learns that you can’t go home again. In addition to the stories and five fragments, the book includes a lengthy section of Pancake’s letters, which reads like a memoir. With its impressive quantity of annotation and tribute, this omnibus offers Pancake fans a deeper look at the artist and will go a long way to inviting others to join this legion.”

Bonus Link:
American Myth: The Short, Beautiful Life of Breece D’J Pancake

Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano (translated by Mark Polizzotti)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Invisible Ink: “Nobel laureate Modiano delivers a mesmerizing, enigmatic novel in the vein of many of his best-known works. Like Missing Person, the book is about a private eye—albeit a shabby and halfhearted one—who once briefly worked for the Hutte Detective Agency in Paris, and like Dora Bruder, it centers on the investigation of an unsolved disappearance. But Modiano eschews the political overtones that drove those books, telling instead a story about growing old and the gaps and omissions that make up a life. Jean Eyben looks back on his 20s, when he was assigned to investigate the disappearance of Noëlle Lefebvre. As he searched, he had a series of phantomlike encounters with people whose lives each briefly intersected with Lefebvre’s in the 1960s. Her fate becomes a lifelong obsession, and Eyben recounts the story circuitously, as if remembering it as he writes, which casts an irresistible spell. As Eyben’s search deepens, he wonders whether Lefebvre has some connection to his own life. All of Modiano’s works are variations on a theme, and his newest is no different, but its dreamlike prose and a beguiling structural twist make it a worthy and satisfying addition to his accomplished oeuvre.”

Bonus Links:
Past Imperfect: On Patrick Modiano’s ‘Little Jewel’ and ‘The Black Notebook’
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mutt: On Patrick Modiano

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Delillo, Danforth, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Don DeLillo, Emily M. Danforth, 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 Silence by Don DeLillo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Silence: “DeLillo (Zero K) applies his mastery of dialogue to a spare, contemplative story of a group of New Yorkers and their response to a catastrophic shutdown of the world’s computer systems on the night of the Super Bowl in 2022. While flying back to New York from vacation in Paris, Jim Kripps reads out the plane’s altitude and speed from a screen while his poet wife, Tessa Berens, plumbs her memory for trivial facts and marvels at her ability to recover information without the assistance of a phone. Jim, an everyman whom the author describes as ‘nondescript,’ assumes the worst when the screens suddenly go blank. Their friend Max Stenner, who, with his professor wife, Diane Lucas, and her former student Martin Dekker, anticipate Jim and Tessa’s arrival at their Manhattan apartment to watch the game, is deeply shaken when his own screen goes blank before halftime. Martin entertains Diane by reciting passages from Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity, which lead to alternately profound and tepid discussions of the shutdown, the cause of which remains unexplained even after Tessa and Jim report to the group on surviving their crash landing and a ride through eerie, dark city streets. In the end, readers gain the timely insight that some were born ready for disaster while others remain unequipped. While the work stands out among DeLillo’s short fiction, it feels underpowered when compared to his novels.”
[Bonus Link: Read our own Nick Ripatrazone’s review and Mark O’Connell’s interview with DeLillo.]

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Where the Wild Ladies Are: “Matsuda’s groundbreaking collection (after the novella The Girl Who Is Getting Married) turns traditional Japanese ghost and yōkai stories on their heads by championing wild, complex women. In ‘The Peony Lanterns,’ recently unemployed Shinzaburō gets an eerie visit from two women, Tsuyoko and Yoneko, who try to sell him peony lanterns. Yoneko, the elder of the two, tells Shinzaburō of 30-something Tsuyoko’s tragic life: a motherless daughter with a cruel father, she was forced to leave home before completing high school. Shinzaburō refuses the lanterns, though he gains an epiphany from the women’s unusual sales tactics: ‘nothing terrible would happen if you broke the rules.’ In ‘Quite a Catch,’ a young woman named Shigemi carries on a sexual relationship with the ghost of a woman who was killed by the man she refused to marry. Not all of Matsuda’s stories captivate. ‘Team Sarashina’ is about a group of women who are assigned to various departments in their company and offer their support to flailing coworkers, but it’s too obtuse to get a handle on. Most of Matsuda’s stories, though, hit their mark, particularly her queer, feminist fables, including ‘A Fox’s Life,’ about a woman who passively internalizes sexism in her workplace (‘I’m a girl. I’m just a girl, after all’) until she realizes in middle age that she might be a fox. Matsuda’s subversive revisionist tales are consistently exciting.”

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Plain Bad Heroines: “Danforth’s sumptuous sophomore novel (after The Miseducation of Cameron Post) chronicles the allegedly cursed 1902 memoir The Story of Mary MacLane and its link to the shuttered Brookhants School for Girls in Little Compton, R.I. In the present, Merritt Emmons is reviewing the screenplay adaptation of her book about three students who died at Brookhants in 1902, two of whom were attacked by a swarm of wasps under the watch of principal Libbie Brookhants and her partner Alex Trills, who also met eerie, premature deaths. The dead students had been obsessed with MacLane’s memoir, in which the author invokes the devil to satisfy her desire for women. Merritt has been asked to consult on the film, which features lesbian superstar Harper Harper and subpar but earnest Audrey Wells, who is told by the film’s director that the shoot, on location at Brookhants, will be rigged with spooky events to elicit genuine responses. On set, though, there is very real evidence of haunting. Danforth creates a fantastic sense of dread and champions queer female relationships throughout, delving into Libbie and Alex’s history and how their circumstances doomed them to their fate. Even readers who aren’t fans of horror will appreciate this bighearted story.”

Also on shelves this week: Fugitive Atlas by Khaled Mattawa.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Messud, Boland, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Claire Messud, Eavan Boland, 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.

Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write by Claire Messud

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: “In this moving and evocative essay collection, novelist Messud (The Burning Girl) reflects on family, art, and why she writes. Her essays conjure up an itinerant 1970s childhood—moving from the U.S. to Sydney, Australia; visits with her maternal grandmother in Toronto; and summers with her paternal grandparents in Toulon, France. She illuminates the two women who shaped her—her fiercely traditional French Catholic ‘spinster aunt,’ and her mother, discontented with having given up career for family. Reflecting on family vacation trips to the world’s incipient hot spots—in Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Sri Lanka, among others—she discovers that regardless of differing ideas or ‘strangenesses of culture… always at the heart are the ordinary people, and there is just life, being lived’—good preparation for becoming a novelist, she says. Art, she writes, has the power ‘to alter our interior selves,’ and she offers nuanced appreciations of, among others, Camus, like her father a Frenchman born in colonial Algeria; Valeria Luiselli, who tries to find new ways to ‘document’ the present; and Marlene Dumas, a figurative painter ‘driven by gesture, and serendipity… and by the confluence of diverse inspirations.’ These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud’s rich inner life and generosity of spirit.”

Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París (translated by Christina MacSweeney)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ramifications: “In Mexican writer París’s strange and elegant latest (after Among Strange Victims), the unnamed narrator toggles between past and present from the confines of his bed, contemplating his childhood, his father’s death, his relationship with his older sister, and the disappearance of their mother. The despondent narrator claims to never leave his bed and holds onto the self-absorption of his childhood, when he cultivated an ‘egocentric theocracy’ and felt he was god’s ‘favorite human being.’ He was 10 when his mother, Teresa, walked out on the family in 1994, and afterward the narrator grew closer to his sister, Mariana, while obsessively searching for the letter Teresa had left their father. As an adult, the narrator finally discovers the letter, along with another sent from Chiapas, each of which only brings him more angst and confusion, as he remembers the rumors about her activity that circulated when he was a child (did his mother join the Zapatistas in the jungles of Chiapas? Was she a murderer?), causing his social life to crumble as he spent hours in a closet he calls his ‘Zero Luminosity Capsule.’ Along the way, París brilliantly explores memory, masculinity, and familial drama in equal measure. The result is an affecting account of arrested development.”

The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Shtetl: “Gross’s lively and imaginative debut novel (after the memoir The Mensch Handbook) portrays a Jewish village in eastern Poland that’s been isolated throughout the 20th century. The residents of Kreskol survive pogroms and the hateful superstitions of Christian neighbors (‘For generations the priests had said that we poisoned drinking wells…. Or, alternatively, that we used the blood of Christian children in our matzahs, depending on which priest you consulted’), and remain unaware of modern technology and culture. Outside contact is limited to occasional visits from a Roma caravan until a recently divorced Kreskol woman runs away, her ex-husband follows, and baker’s apprentice Yankel Lewinkopf is sent by the rabbi to find them. Traveling with the Roma, Yankel reaches the city of Smolskie, where his confusion and strange behavior land him in a mental ward. Doctors think Yankel may be delusional when he talks about his village, while Yankel has an equally hard time believing the doctors who tell him about the Holocaust. Finally, Yankel is helicoptered back home, accompanied by officials and reporters, and Kreskol must contend with its new fame and all the attendant complications. The narrator, a present-day villager, is well versed in Jewish traditions and human foibles, alternately reminiscent of early Isaac Bashevis Singer and a Catskills comedian. Gross’s entertaining, sometimes disquieting tale delivers laugh-out-loud moments and deep insight on human foolishness, resilience, and faith.”

The Blind Light by Stuart Evers

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Blind Light: “This engrossing tale from Evers (Your Father Sends His Love) revolves around two men, Drum Moore and Jim Carter, who meet in 1959 at a civil defense base known as Doom Town, where they work on nuclear war simulations. The men’s friendship begins during a game of cards and extends over five decades as they each marry and have children. In the 1970s, they arrange to live on adjacent properties and share a bunker in event of nuclear war. Over the course of this long setup in which the families are brought together, Evers explores the lives of Drum’s wife, Gwen, and their children, Nate and Anneka. Gwen’s ache is palpable on the page as she considers an affair with a writer. Anneka, meanwhile, leaves home in her late teens in 1980, following an incident involving James’s son in the bunker, which Drum tries to make her believe was a dream. Later, Nate, now in his 20s, has relationships with men and women. Evers’s narrative strategy often asks readers to recalibrate and fill in the gaps—divorces and other pivotal events happen off-page—but the effort is worthwhile. With its slow burn, Evers’s vivid, perceptive chronicle of secrets and desperation satisfies.”

Also on shelves this week: Fractures by Carlos Andrés Gómez and The Historians by Eavan Boland.

Bonus Links:
A Year in Reading: Claire Messud (2015)
A Year in Reading: Claire Messud (2013)

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Alam, Klay, French, Kafka, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Rumaan Alam, Phil Klay, Tana French, 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.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Leave the World Behind: “In Alam’s spectacular and ominous latest (after That Kind of Mother), a family’s idyllic summer retreat coincides with global catastrophe. Amanda and Clay, married white Brooklynites with two children, rent a secluded house in the Hamptons for a summer vacation. Their ‘illusion of ownership’ is shattered when the house’s proprietors, G.H. and Ruth, an African American couple in their 60s, show up unannounced from New York City. Widespread blackouts have hit the East Coast, and G.H. and Ruth are seeking refuge in the beach house they’ve rented out. The returned owners are greeted with polite suspicion and simmering resentment: ‘It was torture, a home invasion without rape or guns,’ thinks Amanda. G.H. and Ruth, in turn, can’t help but wish their renters gone (‘G. H.’s familiar old fridge yielded nothing but surprise. He’d not have filled it with such things’). But over a couple days, they form an uneasy collective as a series of strange and increasingly menacing events herald cataclysmic change, from migrating herds of deer to the thunder of military jets roaring overhead. The omniscient narrator occasionally zooms out to provide snapshots of the wider chaotic world that are effective in their brevity. Though information is scarce, the signs of impending collapse—ecological and geopolitical—have been glaringly visible to the characters all along: ‘No one could plead ignorance that was not willful.’ This illuminating social novel offers piercing commentary on race, class and the luxurious mirage of safety, adding up to an all-too-plausible apocalyptic vision.”
The Lost Writings by Franz Kafka (translated by Michael Hofmann)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lost Writings: “This delightful collection features dozens of untitled fragments, false starts, and unfinished work by Kafka, found and chosen by biographer Stach. In mostly untitled pieces, ranging from a few lines to a couple of pages, readers will find aphorisms (‘to a real angler no fish is ever really lost’), meditations on the myth of Prometheus and the eighth wonder of the world, fables about a loaf of bread that can’t be cut, a description of a shop without a front door, a mysterious chess game, an egg containing a misbegotten bird, and short works that anticipate some of Kafka’s masterpieces, including The Metamorphosis. Also on view are the kind of bureaucratic fever dreams associated with Kafka, along with mordant statements on mortality (‘You are forever speaking of death, and not dying’). Opening sentences such as ‘I was allowed to set foot in a strange garden’ and ‘The city resembles the sun,’ make the reader’s pulse heighten with the thrill of entering the space of great literature. This offers precisely the kind of fare Kafka enthusiasts would hope for from the legendary writer’s archives.”
Missionaries by Phil Klay

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Missionaries: “Klay’s ambitious debut novel (after the National Book Award–winning collection Redeployment) plunges the reader into war-torn Colombia, where allegiances are uncertain and tremendous violence is an everyday reality. The story follows the four characters: there is Abelito, a Colombian forcibly conscripted into a militia commanded by the infamous terrorist Jefferson, and who hopes to save the woman he loves from his murderous commandants. American journalist Lisette Marigny, meanwhile, is embedded in Afghanistan until she is dispatched to Bógota to report on gang activity, only to be kidnapped by guerrillas. En route from the Middle East is Mason, an Iraq War veteran and Special Forces medic reassigned to fight paramilitary narcos in Colombia, which he naively imagines will be a ‘good war.’ He befriends Juan Pablo, a weary commando who frets at being little more than a common mercenary and reflects on his early ambition to join the priesthood. Through these four protagonists, Klay unravels the complexity of interventionist American operations abroad, from Kabul to Medellín. While the novel suffers from a surfeit of tedious subplots and can feel overwhelmed by Klay’s exhaustive research, the prose is consistently staggering, whether in the characters’ moments of self-reflection or unflinching descriptions of brutality (‘A chainsaw appeared, and suddenly everyone who had watched, confused and amazed… knew what was about to happen’). Even though the whole thing doesn’t quite tie together, it’s quite a ride.”

Bright and Dangerous Objects by Anneliese Mackintosh

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bright and Dangerous Objects: “British writer Mackintosh’s powerful U.S. debut explores a woman’s struggle between her desire to join a Mars resettlement program and stay on Earth to start a family. At the start of the novel, Solvig Dean, 37, is out stargazing with her boyfriend, James, on a scenic cliff in Cornwall. The opening line of dialogue (‘‘It’s incredible,’ I tell James. ‘I’m sitting here with you, but I’m looking light-years away’’) sets the tone for what follows: Solvig is an ambitious dreamer, while the plans of James, a tattoo artist, extend to nurturing a sourdough starter for the rest of his life. Solvig, a deep-sea diver for the oil industry, working 10-hour shifts on the ocean floor and away from home for months at a time, loves James, but she’s restless on land and in their relationship. After James tells Solvig about the Mars Project, Solvig is captivated by the prospect, but conflicted. With graceful prose and elegant metaphors, Mackintosh connects Solvig’s search for herself and desire for balance with her process of coming to terms with the loss of her mother. Solvig’s difficult choice is further informed by Mackintosh’s brilliant weaving in of a history of women in space. When Solvig finally makes her choice, the reader is left breathless, astounded by her courage. This is a deeply moving story about love, loss, and the strength it takes for women to realize their dreams.”

Cuyahoga by Pete Beatty

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Cuyahoga: “Beatty’s inspired debut is an American tall tale in the 19th-century oral tradition. Living legend Big Son has wrestled forests and rivers into submission. But in Ohio City in 1837, he meets his greatest challenge to date when his true love, Cloe Inches, refuses to be his bride until he proves himself as a provider. He finds work building a bridge across the Cuyahoga River that will connect Cleveland with its rival, Ohio City. But after the bridge collapses, so, too, do Big Son’s fortunes. It is up to his brother, Medium Son, called Meed, to restore his reputation by creating an almanac of Big Son’s legendary feats. Meed, however, covets Cloe and is secretly jealous of the attention his older brother receives. Throw in a dandyish rival for Cloe’s affection and a gunpowder-toting demonstrator, and the stage is set for the biggest Big Son tale of all time. Narrated by Meed in a colloquial voice (about Big: ‘I do believe I could make a decent merchant for him as a foremost spirit of the times’), Beatty’s novel has echoes of Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown and Hugh Nissenson’s The Tree of Life, employing language that thrusts the reader fully into the tumult of life on the American frontier. Like Big Son himself, this novel is an American original.”

The Searcher by Tana French

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Searcher: “After 25 years as a Chicago cop, Cal Hooper, the protagonist of this superb standalone from Edgar winner French (The Witch Elm), decided he needed a change. So he moved to a village in the West of Ireland, ‘no bigger than the little end of nothing,’ where people leave their doors unlocked. After three months, his prosaic new life ends when he’s sought out by 12-year-old Trey Reddy, who has learned of Hooper’s former profession. Trey fears something bad has happened to his 19-year-old brother, Brendan, who hasn’t been seen in about six months. Because their mother, Sheila, is convinced Brendan took off on his own, Trey hasn’t gone to the police, though the boy’s certain his brother wouldn’t have done that. Despite Hooper’s cynicism (‘Anyone could do anything,’ he thinks), he agrees to look into the matter, starting with questioning Sheila. The more Hooper digs, the more he finds that his new community conceals dark secrets. Insightful characterizations, even of minor figures, and a devastating reveal help make this a standout. Crime fiction fans won’t want to miss this one.”

Also on shelves this week: The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada (translated by David Boyd).

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Robinson, Machado, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Marilynne Robinson, Carmen Maria Machado, 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.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Jack: “Robinson’s stellar, revelatory fourth entry in her Gilead cycle (after Lila) focuses on Jack Boughton, the prodigal son of a Gilead, Iowa, minister, and the beginnings of his romance with Della Miles before his 1957 return to Gilead in Home. Jack, who disparagingly styles himself ‘the Prince of Darkness,’ finds his life spiraling out of control in St. Louis, where, after dodging the draft during WWII, he spends several years increasingly prone to bouts of heavy drinking, petty theft, and vagrancy. His tailspin is interrupted when he meets Della Miles, an English teacher from a prominent Black family in Memphis. Despite a disastrous first date, the details of which are hinted at in the beginning, and over the numerous objections of Della’s family and white strangers, Jack and Della fall in love, bound by a natural intimacy and mutual love of poetry. Robinson’s masterly prose and musings on faith are on display as usual, and the dialogue is keen and indelible. (‘Once in a lifetime, maybe, you look at a stranger and you see a soul, a glorious presence out of place in the world. And if you love God, every choice is made for you,’ Della tells Jack.) This is a beautiful, superbly crafted meditation on the redemption and transcendence that love affords.”

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Bestiary: “In Chang’s vivid, fabulist debut, three generations of women contend with the mythology of their Taiwanese heritage. Chang opens in 1980, with Mother as a young girl searching for the gold her father brought from mainland China to Taiwan to Arkansas, then flashes forward to present-day California, where Mother raises Daughter on a steady stream of legends, such as that of Hu Gu Po, a tiger spirit who wants to be human but must consume the toes of children to keep her form. (Some of Mother’s toes are missing.) Daughter takes the story of Hu Gu Po as her own when she grows a tiger tail from a wound on her back, the result of a whipping Mother gave her and her brother for digging holes in their front yard. When Daughter befriends a classmate from China, the girls explore their desire for each other, as the holes in her front yard spit up letters that seem to be written by Daughter’s grandmother, leaving it up to Daughter to make sense of her lineage. The narrative arc meanders through the characters’ various relationships, but the prose is full of imagery. Chang’s wild story of a family’s tenuous grasp on belonging in the U.S. stands out with a deep commitment to exploring discomfort with the body and its transformations.”

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Midnight Library: Haig (How to Stop Time) draws on quantum wave theory in this charming if sometimes laborious account of the many possible lives of a depressed woman. Nora, in her mid-30s and living in the small English town of Bedford, suffers from ‘situational depression’—though, as she wryly observes, ‘It’s just that I keep on having new… situations.’ After she gets fired from her job and her cat dies, she attempts suicide, only to wake up in a book-lined liminal zone, where she is guided by a librarian: ‘Between life and death there is a library… Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.’ There, Nora discovers what would have happened had she not abandoned her promising swimming career, called off her engagement, or left the rock band she started with her brother. Each time an alternate life disappoints or doesn’t feel quite right, Nora exits, reappearing in the library to continue browsing for the perfect story. While the formula grows repetitive, the set changes provide novelty, as Haig whisks Nora from Australian beaches to a South American rock concert tour to an Arctic encounter with a polar bear. Haig’s agreeable narrative voice and imagination will reward readers who take this book off the shelf.”

Whale Day by Billy Collins

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Whale Day: “The playful 13th collection from Collins (The Rain in Portugal) is packed with his signature quirky humor and small epiphanies grounded in the everyday. Between poems about the correct way to peel a banana and the imagined embarrassment of an English rose expiring ‘by degrees of corruption/ in plain sight of all the neighbors passing by’ are light meditations on mortality. For Collins, ‘death is the magnetic north of poetry,’ giving his work direction and substance while remaining infused with an inventive lightheartedness. In ‘My Funeral,’ he imagines the attendees of his funeral as animals gathering at the pub after the ceremony, and ‘it’s even okay/ that the bartender turns out to be a horse.’ Moments that are simultaneously ordinary and tender appear throughout the collection, as he confesses that he has already sailed ‘some time ago/ into the quiet cardigan harbor’ of his life. Fans of the former poet laureate of the U.S. will be delighted with this latest, but those new to Collins’s work may find the collection does not dig deeply enough into complex emotion or pain.”

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado and Dani

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Low, Low Woods: “Machado (In the Dream House) makes her graphic novel debut with a gloriously unnerving tale of monsters, sinkholes, witches, and yearning teenage dreams. Shudder-to-Think is a town where men died ‘hacking up pieces of lung or crushed beneath ten tons of rock’ in the mines and women lost their memories, or just went missing, regularly. That’s what happened to El and Vee, two best friends who at some point in the 1990s wake up in a movie theater with no recollection of the film and decide to investigate the mystery behind that gap in time and the strange happenings around the community. As they dig deeper, they realize Shudder-to-Think’s cruelties and erasures—and the grotesque creatures in its woods—share a nefarious connection. As it happens, in this place where a fire has burned for years underground, humans can be the worst monsters. Within the horror plot lives a touching tale of friendship, choices, grief, and empowering rage, with a female-centered queer and diverse cast of characters. Machado also offers a rare look at magic as karma: ‘Magic is, among other things, a metaphor. It’s a kind of sacrifice. What I do to others I do to myself,’ intones one of the mystical, ageless forest dwellers. The eerie, sketchy art by Dani suits the mood: her brooding figures skirt the edge of disappearance. This will surely call out to fans of Machado’s searing prose, and it will also hit the spot for comics fans who like their horror heartfelt.”

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Just Like You: “Hornby (State of the Union) lives up to his reputation as bard of the everyday in this thoughtful romance that crosses lines of race, age, and class. Lucy, a white, not-quite-divorced schoolteacher, first notices Joseph, a part-time butcher, soccer coach, and aspiring DJ who is black and 20 years her junior, while listening to her friend flirt with him across the counter at the butcher shop. Lucy hires Joseph to babysit her two precocious boys, who adore him, and soon Lucy and Joseph’s relationship becomes romantic. Each takes a turn trying to end the affair (‘you and me are like something between brackets,’ she tells him), but their connection persists as Lucy juggles parenting and teaching and Joseph determines to expand his DJ career. Hornby is good company on the page and offers insights on his characters with aplomb, demonstrating an investment in each of their voices and an interest in the forces that draw people to one another. This is great fun.”

Bonus Links:
Up on the Roof: A Review of Nick Hornby’s ‘A Long Way Down’
Our World Is Straight-Up Surreal: The Millions Interviews Carmen Maria Machado
A Year in Reading: Carmen Maria Machado
On Carmen Maria Machado’s Body Horrors
Thinking Again: Marilynne Robinson’s ‘When I Was a Child I Read Books’
Marilynne Robinson’s Singular Vision

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Lalami, Petersen, Chiasson, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Laila Lalami, Anne Helen Petersen, Dan Chiasson, 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.
Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Conditional Citizens: “In this eloquent and troubling account, novelist and National Book Award–finalist Lalami (The Other Americans) draws on her personal history as ‘an immigrant, a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim’ to argue that becoming a U.S. citizen does not necessarily mean becoming ‘an equal member of the American family.’ Recalling that the first time a U.S. customs agent examined her American passport, he wanted to know how many camels her husband had to trade in for her, Lalami critically assesses political rhetoric from 9/11 through President Trump’s border wall; skillfully unpacks charged words such as ‘allegiance’ and ‘assimilation’; reflects on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the lens of her own experience calling out workplace sexual harassment; and examines the erasure of Muslims from American history. ‘Conditional citizenship,’ she writes, ‘is characterized by the burden of having to educate white Americans about all the ways in which one is different from them.’ Lalami offers essential insights into how racism and sexism function in American society, and makes a persuasive case for preserving the ‘gray zones’ between religious, ethnic, and national identities as a way to push back against tribalism and sectarianism. This profound inquiry into the American immigrant experience deserves to be widely read.”
Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Can’t Even: “BuzzFeed writer Peterson (Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud) explores how low-paying jobs, overstimulation, and unattainable expectations have contributed to millennial malaise in this trenchant and well-researched account. Young people who once received participation trophies now seek ‘cool’ jobs, Petersen writes, only to fall into the ‘trap’ of long hours and inadequate pay. Though older generations mischaracterize America’s largest demographic group as lazy and selfish, millennials are actually working multiple jobs to pay bills in the modern gig economy as they watch the American dream slip away, Petersen contends. She weaves together personal reflections, profiles of other millennials, and a plethora of demographic information to addresses issues such as parenting, social media, college debt, and health care. Though she recommends finding ‘solace’ in hobbies and notes that one family reduced their stress by moving from the East Coast to Idaho, Petersen is more focused on bluntly describing her generation’s many obstacles than offering solutions to burnout. By turns exasperated, indignant, and empathetic, she supports her claims with strong evidence and calls on millennials to be a force for widespread social change. The result is
The Math Campers by Dan Chiasson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Math Campers: “The meditative fifth collection from poet and critic Chiasson (Bicentennial) invites the reader to witness the poet’s processes of creation, retrieval, and revision as a writer and dreamer, father and son. Framed by ekphrastic poems that gloss murals by David Teng Olsen adorning the walls of the poet’s home, the book works by a loose Russian-doll principle: just as the murals reflect and refract details from the lives of the poet and his immediate family, so do these nested poems. As a teenager, the poet prays ‘that art/ would sometime send a ladder from the sky,’ and that he might ‘become the love child/ of Sylvia Plath, Ozzy, and Alex DeLarge.’ Years later, he finds himself ‘almost Ozzy, mansplaining/ to my eleven-year-old son the photo/ of a Louis Quatorze gilt dildo he found in our cloud.’ Intimations of social crisis and environmental disaster glow on the horizon, ‘Caskets line up for the slip-n-slide./ A collarbone surfboards down the alley./ Through the mudslide we humans wade,’ but the book centers on intimate dramas of adolescence, middle age, masculinity, and literary genealogy (poetic allusions from Milton and Eliot to Merrill and Bidart abound). These beautifully crafted poems are a memorable addition to Chiasson’s singular oeuvre.”
Also on shelves this week: Horsepower by Joy Priest.
Bonus Links: —American Inequality: On Laila Lalami’s ‘Conditional Citizens’A Year in Reading: Laila LalamiShip of Fools: On Laila Lalami’s ‘The Moor’s Account’Must-Read Poetry: September 2020

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Clarke, Akhtar, Nemerever, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Susannah Clarke, Ayad Akhtar, Micah Nemerever, 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.

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about These Violent Delights: “Nemerever’s dark, inspired debut depicts a Leopold and Loeb–like thrill killing committed by two gay Jewish college students in 1970s Pittsburgh. Sensitive Paul Fleischer, an artist, comes from a working-class family and is grieving his father’s recent suicide. He easily falls under the spell of Julian Fromme, a rich psychology student who exudes wit and energy. As the young men become lovers, Paul’s family worries about the amount of time he spends with Julian, and his mother pleads with him to hang out with girls, while Paul resigns himself to taking what he can get from the withholding Julian (‘If Julian were to love him, it would feel like something he deigned to do. It meant more to be needed’). Julian’s power over Paul becomes more intense after he uses Paul to break free of his own overbearing family. Soon the young men are imagining violent deaths (‘How about a Helter Skelter kind of thing, wouldn’t that be fun? We could paint gibberish in blood on the walls,’ Julian says), and they work their way up to kidnapping a stranger. The buildup digs into the why as much as the how, allowing Nemerever to chart an enthralling exploration of what drives these young men to violence. Fans of Patricia Highsmith will definitely want to take note of this promising writer.”

Bonus Link: Writers to Watch: Fall 2020

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Homeland Elegies: “Akhtar (American Dervish) reckons with the promises and deceptions of the American dream in this wrenching work of autofiction. The narrator, Ayad, was, like the author, born in Staten Island to Pakistani immigrant parents and raised in Wisconsin, and wrote a Pulitzer-winning play. In eight well-developed chapters structured as musical movements, starting with an overture and ending with a coda, Ayad traces his often complicated personal, philosophical, and political stance toward an America in which he sees himself as ‘other.’ In the process, Ayad responds to criticism of his past writings for rationalizing violence committed by Muslims; critiques capitalism while acknowledging how it benefits him; and confronts his own internalized conflation of race and sex. Most often, these issues are viewed through the lens of family, especially his parents. His mother is chronically homesick not only for her native Pakistan but also for her first love. By contrast, his father, a doctor slammed with a malpractice suit, finds his shortsighted optimism and eventual disillusionment with the American promise play out against the backdrop of the first two years of Trump’s presidency in a pair of stories—one broadly humorous, one heartbreaking—that open and close the book. Akhtar’s work is a provocative and urgent examination of the political and economic conditions that shape personal identity, especially for immigrants and communities of color. With an audacious channeling of Philip Roth’s warts-and-all approach to the story of an American writer and his family, this tragicomedy is a revelation.”

Bonus Link: Ayad Akhtar’s Flesh and Blood 

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Meryem Alaoui (translated by Emma Ramadan)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: “Moroccan writer Alaoui’s mesmerizing debut introduces the resourceful, foul-mouthed, and spirited Jmiaa Bent Larbi. In the mid 1990s, Jmiaa’s husband, Hamid, takes her to Casablanca to pimp her out to men to raise money for his many fruitless business schemes. Almost 15 years later, 34-year-old Jmiaa is still working as a prostitute to support herself, her seven-year-old daughter, Samia, and the parasitic Hamid, who has illegally migrated to Spain. After Jmiaa meets Chadlia, a Moroccan Dutch film director she nicknames “Horse Mouth” for his toothy grin, Jmiaa agrees to consult on a script Horse Mouth plans to shoot in Morocco. Many remarkable characters people the novel in addition to Jmiaa: Halima, a sullen, Quran-studying prostitute; Samira, a loyal friend and colleague of Jmiaa’s; Houcine, the intimidating pimp who keeps them all safe; Jmiaa’s mother, with whom Jmiaa leaves her daughter; and the clients who come and go. Jmiaa’s Casablanca is full of corrupt cops and exploitative men who take advantage of the prostitutes’ vulnerability, but it is also full of friendship, laughter, and triumph, as Jmiaa’s association with Horse Mouth leads her to dream of a new life as a film star. Alaoui’s shimmering prose is funny and original; one of Jmiaa’s neighbors looks like an ‘armoire’; a client has ‘the breath of a corpse’; and Jmiaa, noting Horse Mouth’s Arabic is unusually fluent for an immigrant, says, ‘Normally it’s like their tongue is in physical therapy: it needs crutches to get to the end of a phrase.’ Alaoui’s tale is one to savor for its language and its verve.”

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Piranesi: “Clarke wraps a twisty mystery inside a metaphysical fantasy in her extraordinary new novel, her first since 2004’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. The story unfolds as journal entries written by the eponymous narrator, who, along with an enigmatic master known as the Other (and 13 skeletons whom Piranesi regards as persons) inhabits the House, a vast, labyrinthine structure of statue-adorned halls and vestibules. So immense is the House that its many parts support their own internal climates, all of which Piranesi vividly describes (‘I squeezed myself into the Woman’s Niche and waited until I heard the Tides roaring in the Lower Halls and felt the Walls vibrating with the force of what was about to happen’). Meanwhile, the Other is pursuing the ‘Great and Secret Knowledge’ of the ancients. After the Other worriedly asks Piranesi if he’s seen in the house a person they refer to as 16, Piranesi’s curiosity is piqued, and all the more so after the Other instructs him to hide. In their discussions about 16, it becomes increasingly clear the Other is gaslighting Piranesi about his memory, their relationship, and the reality they share. With great subtlety, Clarke gradually elaborates an explanatory backstory to her tale’s events and reveals sinister occult machinations that build to a crescendo of genuine horror. This superbly told tale is sure to be recognized as one of the year’s most inventive novels.”

Also on shelves this week: Glossary for the End of Days by Ian Stansel.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Nunez, Rankine, Bhatt, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Sigrid Nunez, Claudia Rankine, Jenny Bhatt, 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.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about What Are You Going Through: “Nunez’s deceptively casual and ultimately fierce work (after the National Book Award-winning The Friend) ambles through a range of digressions toward a plot involving euthanasia. At the beginning, the unnamed narrator has traveled to visit her unnamed old friend in a hospital, where the friend is being treated for cancer. But before the narrator describes the visit, she details her experience at a depressing lecture by a pretentious journalist—who turns out to be her ex. This side trip involved an Airbnb, where ‘a cat had been promised,’ but after she checked out, having never seen the cat, she learned it had died. Eventually, she reaches the hospital, and the tension picks up. Her friend is planning to kill herself before she’s too debilitated, and two other friends have refused to help. Will the narrator? As the two women make and implement their plan, Nunez studies the intersection of friendship and morality. Much of the novel’s action is internal, as the attention of its judgmental, withholding narrator flicks from books to movies to sharp-edged thoughts about the people she encounters, offering plenty of surprises. Those willing to jump along with her should be tantalized by the provocative questions she raises.”

Bonus Link: A Year in Reading: Sigrid Nunez

Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Just Us: “MacArthur Fellowship recipient Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric) combines poetry, prose, and imagery in this unique and powerful meditation on the challenges of communicating across the racial divide in America. Drawing on her own experience as a Black woman married to a white man, Rankine highlights the necessity of having uncomfortable conversations in order to understand both the experiences of other people and one’s own needs and beliefs. In the essay ‘liminal spaces i,’ she recounts asking a white stranger about his understanding of white male privilege after he complained that his son couldn’t use ‘the diversity card’ to gain early admission to Yale, where Rankine teaches. In another essay, she contemplates asking her mixed-race daughter’s white teachers about their ‘unconscious inevitable racism and implicit bias’ at a parent-teacher conference. ‘José martí’ features Rankine grappling with the limits of her own knowledge as she talks with a new friend about anti-Latinx racism. The discussion hits several snags, yet Rankine persists: ‘I still have questions, and the way to get answers is to bear her corrections.’ Other pieces incorporate commentary from Rankine’s conversational partners and ‘fact checks’ of her own assertions. The result is an incisive, anguished, and very frank call for Americans of all races to cultivate their ’empathetic imagination’ in order to build a better future.”

Bonus Link: An Imagined Possibility: The Millions Interviews Claudia Rankine

Each of Us Killers by Jenny Bhatt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Each of Us Killers: “The stories in Bhatt’s rich debut collection mine the complicated experiences of Indians and immigrants. As one character notes in ‘Journey to a Stepwell,’ destiny ‘is simply a dagger thrown at you, which you must catch either by the blade or the handle. If you can figure out which end is which.’ In ‘Return to India,’ Bhatt gives voice to a group of employees at a U.S. engineering firm who piece together the details of an Indian American coworker’s murder while revealing their history of microagressions and racial bias. ‘Life Spring’ explores a divorced baker’s life in Mumbai and the inspiration she takes from a one-night stand (‘I think, sometimes, of what happened that night with Charlie as a kind of oven spring for my life’). In ‘Neeru’s New World,’ a live-in maid in Ahmedabad is propositioned and blackmailed by another servant, causing her to feel trapped not only by the class divide but by her limited power as a woman. Bhatt is skilled at locating her characters’ suffering and desires, and her blunt prose captures their matter-of-fact worldviews. These stories are memorable on their own, and they add up to a powerful expression of the hunger for success on ones own terms.”

Bonus Link: But Let Us Cultivate Our Garden

Be Holding by Ross Gay

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Be Holding: “The brilliant fourth book from Gay, his first since winning the National Book Critics Circle Award with 2015’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, continues his now-signature inquiry into feeling. Shaped as a single poem in a long sentence of center-justified couplets, the drama of this unfolding sentence is impeccable, a suspension that mirrors its subject: basketball Hall-of-Famer Julius Erving’s midair ‘baseline scoop’ in the 1980 NBA finals. An invocation of a video of Erving opens the poem’s investigation into flight, falling, and Black genius: ‘[H]ave you ever decided anything/ in the air?’ Gay asks in an interjection. In the space of that air, he crafts a book of associative digression, exploring photography, his own upbringing, and the afterlife of slavery in the U.S. ‘[T]he cotton, the unshared crop,/ let’s hereon call it what it is,’ he writes, ‘loot, plain and simple,/ which, too,// my great grandfather’s body was,/ loot, and his life, loot.’ When, in interjections and asides to the reader, a period does appear, it is not as a halt or a command but a gesture of care: ‘But let’s breathe first./ We’re always holding our breath.// Let’s stop and breathe, you and me.’ This extraordinary book offers an unforgettable flight from the conventional boundaries of the sentence.”

Three Rings by Daniel Mendelsohn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Rings: “Bringing together memoir, history, and literary analysis, critic Mendelsohn (An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic) delivers a fine study of digression, exile, and circularity. Mendelsohn approaches his themes primarily through the lens of Homer’s The Odyssey, in terms of its story line of a long-delayed arrival home, and of Homer’s narrative technique of ‘ring composition,’ in which flashbacks and digressions are layered ‘in the manner of Chinese boxes or Russian dolls.’ He explains how this technique led him to a breakthrough with his previous book, and illustrates the technique here with digressions into the lives and work of other authors. These include German scholar Erich Auerbach, who wrote his masterpiece of literary analysis, Mimesis, which includes a chapter on ring composition, while fleeing Nazism; and 17th-century author François Fénelon, whose Odyssey adaptation The Adventures of Telemachus won him fame but also, thanks to its veiled criticisms of King Louis XIV, the loss of his post as royal tutor at Versailles. Mendelsohn’s talent with descriptive detail brings his work alive, such as repeated descriptions of Auerbach, while exiled in Istanbul, gazing through a palace window over the turquoise Sea of Marmara. Mendelsohn never fails to entertain as he takes the reader across thousands of years’ worth of literature and lives.”

Bonus Link: The Story Is Never the Whole Story: The Millions Interviews Daniel Mendelsohn

Also on shelves this week: Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen, Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty, and Red Stilts by Ted Kooser.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Cline, Gyasi, Biss, Ferrante, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Emma Cline, Yaa Gyasi, Eula Biss, 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.
Daddy by Emma Cline
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Daddy: “Cline follows up her bestselling The Girls with a probing, low-key collection that speaks to the raw nerves of everyday people as they struggle against pressures both personal and perennial. Families torn apart by secrecy and regret feature in ‘What Can You Do with a General,’ in which a family’s Christmas Eve is darkened by the prospect of euthanizing their dog, and ‘Northeast Regional,’ where a father facing his missteps in life is summoned to the boarding school where his son was expelled after a violent incident. A woman caring for a child of celebrities becomes thrust into a scandal in ‘The Nanny,’ and retreats to a family friend’s house in the canyons north of Los Angeles. Two adolescent girls undertake a disastrous attempt to get the attention of a near-stranger in ‘Marion.’ Cline’s ability to peer into the darker corners of her characters’ lives and discern desolation is also on display in ‘A/S/L,’ which follows a young girl in and out of rehab, while a son living in his film producer father’s shadow debuts his terrible movie in ‘Son of Friedman.’ The subtlety of these 10 stories may surprise readers expecting the same luridness Cline brought to The Girls, but the payoffs are as gratifying as they are shattering.”
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Transcendent Kingdom: “Gyasi’s meticulous, psychologically complex second novel (after Homegoing) examines the consequences of a Ghanian family’s immigration to Huntsville, Ala. Gifty, the only member of the family born in the United States, is six years into a doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford, where she is attempting to see if she can alter the neural pathways leading to addiction and depression. Her project is motivated by the fate of her beloved older brother who died from a heroin overdose when she was in high school, and by the condition of her depressed mother, who is staying at Gifty’s apartment. Though she now determinedly puts her faith in science, Gifty still feels the pull of her evangelical upbringing, and she struggles to reconcile the two opposing belief systems while juggling her dissertation and care for her mother, plus a growing attraction to her awkward lab mate. The narrative moves smoothly between the present and Gifty’s childhood, with episodes such as a summer spent in Ghana with her aunt during a previous phase of her mother’s depression rising in the background while Gifty works her way up in her field. Gyasi’s constraint renders the emotional impact of the novel all the more powerful: her descriptions of the casual racism endured by the family, particularly at the hands of their nearly all-white church in Alabama, is more chilling for being so matter-of-fact. At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts.”


Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas by Roberto Lovato
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Unforgetting: “Salvadoran-American journalist Lovato recounts in this anguished memoir his 2015 trip to El Salvador to investigate the country’s horrific gang wars. Along the way, he visits mass graves, and speaks with a gang chieftain enamored of the Hunger Games novels and a police official who hints at extrajudicial executions of gang suspects. In Lovato’s telling, the carnage is an American tragedy: El Salvador’s current gangs were founded in California by refugees from the country’s civil war in the 1980s, in which thousands of civilians were killed by the U.S.-backed military and right-wing death squads battling FMLN insurgents. It’s also a personal story as he revisits his work with the FMLN and a love affair with a traveling companion. He weaves in the troubled saga of his father, who as a boy in 1932 witnessed La Matanza, a massacre of thousands of Salvadoran peasants and Indigenous people by an earlier generation of death squads. Mixing fraught reminiscence with vivid reportage—his driver, a Salvadoran Army veteran, recalls a mission to recover the corpses of comrades: ‘When we started picking them up, we yanked the meat right off them, like when you have a fried fish and the skin and meat fall right off’—Lovato delivers an intimate, gripping portrait of El Salvador’s agony.”
Ruthie Fear by Maxim Loskutoff
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ruthie Fear: “Loskutoff’s superb debut novel (after the collection Come West and See) sets a revisionist contemporary western in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. Ruthie Fear is abandoned as a toddler by her mother and raised by her father, Rutherford, a man ‘angry at the rich, the government, and Ruthie’s departed mother in varying order and intensity.’ One night, on the outskirts of No-Medicine Canyon, six-year-old Ruthie and her dog, Moses, see a terrifying headless creature. She and her friend Pip then spend years searching for this ‘wrongness in the woods.’ As earthquakes, mudslides, and droughts make Ruthie feel ‘shadowed by violence,’ mill jobs dry up, and developments and mansions are constructed, creating brutal divides among the rich and poor, the whites and Salish natives, and the ‘arrogant’ scientists who work at a local lab and look down on the ‘uneducated rednecks’ who live in trailers and spend their money on machine guns. At 15, Ruthie, still obsessed with the headless creature, attends a protest at the lab, where she imagines evil, unnatural deeds taking place. Loskutoff captures the vast and lonely land along with its beauty with breathtaking descriptions of violence and empathy, and ends with a shocking and poignant surprise. With its humor and heart, Loskutoff’s harrowing tale offers a heroine to root for. This one hits hard.”
Having and Being Had by Eula Biss
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Having and Being Had: “Biss (On Immunity) delivers a stylish, meditative inquiry into the function and meaning of 21st-century capitalism, inspired by becoming a homeowner for the first time. In essay-length ruminations divided into four sections (‘Consumption,’ ‘Work,’ ‘Investment,’ and ‘Accounting’), Biss draws from incidents in her own life as an upper-middle-class Chicagoan and engages with works of literature, history, sociology, economics, and psychology. Disillusionment with items in a furniture store prompts a consideration of cultural critic Lewis Hyde and “the strange unspecific desire” of consumerism. Biss also reflects on her young son’s education in the difference between cost and value as he earns the money to purchase and trade Pokémon cards with his friends. She examines women’s labor through the works of Marxist social scientist Silvia Federici, novelist Virginia Woolf, and authors Joan Didion and Gertrude Stein, and analyzes popular culture, including the contract dispute behind Donna Summer’s song ‘She Works Hard for the Money’ and the anti-capitalist messages of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Biss doesn’t shy away from acknowledging her own privilege, and laces her reflections with unexpected insights and a sharp yet ingratiating sense of humor, though she doesn’t push too hard for change, either in her own life or her readers’. Still, this eloquent, well-informed account recasts the everyday world in a sharp new light.”
Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Mill Town: “In this powerful investigative memoir, book critic Arsenault examines her relationship with Mexico, Maine, her now-downtrodden hometown. In 2009, Arsenault returned there from Connecticut after her grandfather died; while in this town (pop. 2,600) that owes its existence to a nearby 118-year-old paper mill, she decided to resume research on the Arsenault family’s French-Canadian lineage. She quickly learns of the environmental havoc wrought by the mill, which earned Mexico the nickname of ‘Cancer Alley,’ and uncovers the many obituaries citing people who ‘died after a battle with cancer’ believed to be caused by ash emitted by the mill (dubbed ‘mill snow’) that also crept into her family’s home. From there, Arsenault embarks on a decade-long probe into the environmental abuses of a company that supported her family for three generations. ‘The legacies powerful men construct almost always emerge from the debris of other people’s lives,’ she writes, yet her inquiry only deepened her bond with Mexico (‘We can and probably should go back to confront what made us leave, what made us fall in and out of love with the places that create us, or to see what we left behind’). Arsenault paints a soul-crushing portrait of a place that’s suffered ‘the smell of death and suffering’ almost since its creation. This moving and insightful memoir reminds readers that returning home—’the heart of human identity’—is capable of causing great joy and profound disappointment.”
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Lying Life of Adults: “A single comment can change a life, or for Giovanna, the adolescent only child of a middle-class Neapolitan couple in the early 1990s and narrator of Ferrante’s sumptuous latest (after The Story of the Lost Child), it can set it in motion. ‘She’s getting the face of Vittoria,’ Giovanna’s father, Andrea, says about her, referring to Giovanna’s estranged aunt Vittoria, whom Andrea disdains and calls ugly. The comment provokes Giovanna into seeking out Vittoria on the other side of Naples, where she finds a beautiful, fiery woman, consumed by bitterness over a lover’s death and resentful of Andrea’s arrogance at having climbed the social ladder. Andrea can’t save Giovanna from Vittoria’s influence, and their relationship will affect those closest to Giovanna as family secrets unravel and disrupt the harmony of her quiet life. Giovanna’s parents’ devastating marital collapse, meanwhile, causes her to be distracted at school and held back a year, and prompts Giovanna into a steely self-awareness as she has her first sexual experiences along a bumpy ride toward adulthood. Themes of class disparity and women’s coming-of-age are at play much as they were in Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, but the depictions of inequality serve primarily as a backdrop to Giovanna’s coming-of-age trials that buttress the gripping, plot-heavy tale. While this feels minor in comparison to Ferrante’s previous work, Giovanna is the kind of winning character readers wouldn’t mind seeing more of.”
Bonus Links from Our Archive:—Occupy Author Photo: On Elena Ferrante, Privacy, and Women WritersElena Ferrante Names the Devil and Slays the MinotaurOutside the Neighborhood: Reading Italy Through Elena FerranteLook at Your Game, Girl: On Emma Cline’s ‘The Girls’A Year in Reading: Roberto LovatoA Year in Reading: Eula BissAn Inoculation Against Mistrust: Eula Biss’s ‘On Immunity’

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Flynn, Johnson, Diamond, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Nick Flynn, Daisy Johnson, Jason Diamond, 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.
This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire: “In this outstanding work, poet and playwright Flynn bookends his first memoir, 2004’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with this unsparing look at his early childhood and his mother, who died by suicide when Flynn was 22 years old. He makes a series of visits to his hometown of Scituate, Mass., with his young daughter and describes his solitary childhood spent living with his mother in a small, ‘ugly’ house that she bought after she left Flynn’s father. When Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to the house, an event he is still trying to understand: ‘Maybe my mother set our house on fire not merely to collect the insurance money, but simply to see what it was that she was losing.’ His return trips are not only a chance to tell his daughter ‘where your father came from’ but also to deal with his own unhappiness that led him to cheat on his wife. He comes to a realization that ‘we are so lost inside ourselves sometimes that it is impossible to think of other people, even those we love.’ Readers will devour this powerful memoir of letting go.”
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sisters: “Johnson (Everything Under) returns with a well-crafted, consistently surprising psychological thriller. September and July are teenage sisters, born 10 months apart. After an incident at their Oxford school, its dark details hinted at as the story unfolds, their mother, Sheela, whisks them away to the dilapidated house where September was born, on the desolate coast of the North York Moors, and holes up in her room, ill-advisedly leaving July at the mercy of her sister. September bullies, intimidates, and cruelly manipulates the passive, compliant July, daring her to perform increasingly dangerous acts in the form of games like ‘September Says.’ September taunts a man who comes to set up their internet, and when the girls get online, they seduce men on dating sites and pretend to have entrapped them as part of a police sting. Sheela, meanwhile, writes and illustrates children’s picture books, and her deep depression contributes to her neglectful parenting (‘I will always love you, she says. And if you need me you come get me. But I need some time,’ July narrates). The sisters share an eerie, symbiotic relationship; they seem at times to share a single consciousness, and even a single body. In achingly lyrical prose, Johnson employs alternating narratives, divulging and withholding information by turns, keeping the reader unsure of what to believe. When the revelations hit, they are intensely powerful. Readers of classic gothic fiction will find a contemporary master of the craft here.”
The Sprawl by Jason Diamond
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sprawl: “In this insightful work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Diamond (Searching for John Hughes) draws from personal experience, history, and media to consider the significance of the suburbs in American culture. Revisiting the Chicago-area towns in which he grew up in the 1980s, Diamond finds signs of economic decline in the familiar big-box stores and movie theaters that are now shuttered. He considers suburban conformity through stories of new arrivals who received unfriendly receptions, and describes incidents in which violence upended the presumption of the suburbs as a safe haven, recounting a 1977 murder in Long Grove, Ill., where he once lived. Throughout, he engages with writers like John Cheever, who ‘shaped so many of our ideas of what the suburbs were like’ in the post-WWII era, and Shirley Jackson, who ‘explained the suburban condition better than nearly any other writer before or after,’ as well as suburban-set movies—he deems the villains of the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street horror series as particularly suburban bogeymen. Though Diamond occasionally strays into repetition with his personal reflections—such as repeated observations that he now lives in New York City and views the suburbs as an outsider—his cultural criticism is consistently astute. This is a smart, enjoyable study that will be particularly appreciated by other suburban expats.”
An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (translated by Jackie Smith)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about An Inventory of Losses: “Schalansky’s inspired latest (after Atlas of Remote Islands) melds history, memoir, and fiction into something new and extraordinary: a museum of the extinct, the missing, and the forgotten. Chronicled in 12 short pieces, each based on a ‘lost’ object—among them an early-20th-century film, fragments of Sappho’s poetry, destroyed Italian villas, demolished East German government buildings—the narratives are distinct, memorable, and, at their best, spellbinding. Some are highly researched, meticulously reconstructing historical places such as the the Villa Sacchetti at Castelfusano in Rome and figures such as 18th-century British explorer James Cook, who, in search of a then-mythical southern continent, “had ploughed the southern seas in huge, sweeping zigzags and discovered nothing but mountains of ice.” Other tales take on the flavor of impressionistic, contemporary memoirs, rooted in the narrative of a Schalansky-like writer-researcher as she explores the topic at hand. Still others have the feel of speculative fiction, so detailed in their histories that they feel like memories. In one, wild animals are brought to fight one another before the massive audiences of Rome; another follows the moments, both dramatic and mundane, of a day in the life of an East German couple. With this collection of illuminating meditations on fact and fiction, Schalansky cements her reputation as a peerless chronicler of the fabulous, the faraway, and the forgotten.”


Count Luna by Alexander Lernet-Holenia (translated by Jane B. Greene)
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Count Luna: “Austrian writer Lernet-Holenia (Mona Lisa, 1897–1976) addresses guilt over WWII in this masterly novel, originally published in 1955. Nearly a decade after the war, Alexander Jessiersky, the head of an Austrian transport business, travels to Rome, enters the catacomb beneath a church, and disappears. Lernet-Holenia then rewinds to the beginning of Jessiersky’s fateful journey. WWII has erupted, and his company’s board of directors encourages anti-Nazi Jessiersky to purchase a parcel of railroad-adjacent property from the reluctant Count Luna, an aristocratic heir. Jessiersky refuses, and the board, determined to satisfy wartime demand, has Luna shipped to a concentration camp for alleged anti-Germanness. Jessiersky sends care packages to Luna, and by war’s end, Luna is assumed dead. Years later, Jessiersky’s children claim to have seen Luna alive, and after one falls mysteriously ill, Jessiersky convinces himself Luna has survived the war and is out for revenge. While waiting for Luna to resurface, he retreats into his library to read about Luna’s family. A series of strange happenings, such as the sound of footsteps in the attic, stoke Jessiersky’s paranoia, and he goes on a disastrously quixotic offensive before going into hiding. Lernet-Holenia’s dark humor propels the narrative, and Jessiersky’s obsession is expertly handled, leading to a wholly unexpected conclusion. Driven by intense psychological descriptions, this tale of inaction against injustice has aged quite well.”
Also on shelves this week: Summer by Ali Smith.
Bonus Links:—I Didn’t Have a Plan: The Millions Interviews Nick FlynnThe Space Between Silence & Enough: Featured Poetry by Nick FlynnA Year in Reading: Nick FlynnThe Dark Side of Daisy JohnsonRethinking Suburbia: The Millions Interviews Jason DiamondA Year in Reading: Jason DiamondRites of Spring: Does the Latest in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet Satisfy?Things Fall Apart: On Ali Smith’s ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’Wordsmith: The Beguiling Gifts of Ali Smith