Colm Tóibín’s new novel, Nora Webster, never strays from the quiet, deceptive simplicity of its storytelling, and yet this persuasive portrait of a compelling woman blossoms into something greater than the sum of its parts. Set in a small town in County Wexford, Ireland, in the early 1970s, it is the story of a mother navigating the first, tentative days and months of a premature widowhood.
A Kafkaesque premise rests at the center of Jesse Ball’s intriguing fourth novel, Silence Once Begun. Oda Sotatsu, a 29-year-old man, is arrested in Osaka for his involvement in the disappearance of eight elderly people. The police have a signed confession from Oda, and he refuses to speak in his own defense. Indeed, he refuses to speak at all. But, as readers, we know that Oda did not commit the crime: He has signed the confession having lost a wager made with another man, Sato Kakuzo, and the man’s girlfriend, Jito Joo. Why has Oda admitted to something he didn’t do, and why is he willing to die for it?