When an author begins a novel with “And then there was the day”—as Kent Haruf begins Our Souls at Night, a brief, final testament completed shortly before his death last November—you know he knows we know what he’s talking about. This is Holt, Colorado.
The Rocks, the second novel by Peter Nichols, has everything you’d hope for in a great beach read: a vivid Mediterranean setting, complicated entanglements, adventures at sea, some hanky-panky and a little heartbreak. But its sunny exterior conceals some sharp observations on human vulnerability and how easily self-preservation can calcify into mere selfishness.
The central characters in The Daylight Marriage, Hannah and Lovell Hall, married young. She wanted stability; He wanted a chance at love. But as the years passed, resentments and unmet desires festered below the surface of their neat facade, creating a rift between the husband and wife that seemed insurmountable.
An aspiring writer from an affluent Chicago suburb who never finishes anything he starts, Joshua Levin has never had to suffer much. His life is “a warm blanket,” in contrast to the lives of the immigrants he teaches as an ESL instructor, and his creative endeavors have been as futile and disheartening as the Cubs at nearby Wrigley Field. That is, until Joshua comes up with an idea for a script called Zombie Wars that could be his big break, and the sad but beautiful Bosnian woman in his class, Ana, starts to seduce him.
The latest work from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison is puzzling until you realize that it’s actually a fairy tale. How else to describe a story about a woman who is so bereft without the man in her life that the lack of him causes her to regress back to childhood—literally. Bride, the book’s beautiful, very young cosmetics tycoon, slowly loses all the physical signifiers of womanhood. Even the holes in her pierced ears close up.
Pity the quiet novel about family life. In an era when novelists are taught to write killer openings and the line between literary and genre fiction is increasingly blurred, it seems as if there’s no room for a contemplative novel that finds drama in quiet moments. Fortunately, such books are still being published, and one of the better examples is The Children’s Crusade, the new novel by Ann Packer (The Dive from Clausen’s Pier).
Admirers of Norwegian Per Petterson’s melancholy, atmospheric novels like Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia will welcome this story of two boyhood friends from a small town outside Oslo and the unexpected paths their lives trace after those early days. Featuring the same deep attention to character and introspective style of his earlier works, I Refuse confirms Petterson’s status as a standout among contemporary novelists.
A beautifully written tale that is a blend of mystery, ghost story and very real human tragedy, The World Before Us is a story about what is missing—and also about what is always present.
The men of the American Wild West called it the “shining times,” when the law held no sway over any place beyond the Mississippi. This was the last true American independence, and though it died out a long time ago, the new novel from T.C. Boyle takes this tradition of renegades and turns it into something violent.
The first thing that is immediately apparent about Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel, A Little Life, is that it has been incorrectly named: There is nothing little about this novel—not the lives depicted within it or the size of its author’s ambitions and talents. And not the page count, either. It is a hulking doorstop of a book, perfect for the reader who likes to burrow into a book for weeks at a time.