The latest novel from the bestselling author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel, is a story told in three parts, featuring three men, each dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Good on Paper, Rachel Cantor’s ingenious follow-up to 2014’s A Highly Unlikely Scenario, is set in the final months of 1999. Single mother Shira Greene is 44 and works as a temp at a company that makes prosthetic legs. She hates the job, and why wouldn’t she? Her dream is to be a writer and translator, a vocation life has forced her to put aside. Employment notwithstanding, Shira has a comfortable life. She and her 7-year-old daughter, Andi, share a Manhattan apartment with Shira’s friend Ahmad, an economics professor whom Andi thinks of as her real father.
The story of an aging poet transplanted from Ireland to America as a young man, Thomas Murphy is itself pure poetry. Roger Rosenblatt’s return to fiction after several memoirs, including two moving books dealing with the aftermath of his daughter’s sudden death, is a brief but lovely rumination on one man’s irresistible impulse to savor life’s riches, even as losses mount and the ravages of age take their relentless toll.
It is impossible to explain fully the beautiful, haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Magic? Genius? Certainly much of its power arises from the mesmerizing voice of Lucy Barton, teller of this tale. And much of it comes from the details of the story she slowly unfolds.
Tessa Hadley is an alchemist, transforming everyday life into the stuff of brilliant fiction. In previous stories and novels, like 2014’s Clever Girl, the British writer has captured the beauty, messiness and irony of family life, especially marriages. Her new novel, The Past, keeps to the domestic sphere, examining the lives of four adult siblings who gather at a country house for the summer.
Paradise City, which opens with a quote from the Guns N’ Roses song praising the virtues of a place full of possibilities, is a compassionate but upbeat look at four interlocking lives in contemporary London. The novel is both thoughtful and witty, unafraid of tackling big subjects (sexual assault, political asylum) even as it finds joy in small human connections.
Brief encounters can have as great an impact as a lifelong relationship. Similarly, a short work of fiction can resonate more deeply than longer volumes. That’s the case with Like Family, the elegiac new novella by Paolo Giordano. In this deceptively simple tale of a widowed nanny who, we learn on the first page, has died, Giordano shows us how lives can intersect in profound and unexpected ways.
It takes a bold author to write about an event which is so historically hazy that even the novel’s narrator wonders, “How many people even remember it?”
In lesser hands, the story told in Mary Gaitskill’s The Mare would be sentimental or even clichéd. An emotionally needy white woman takes in a tough inner-city girl whose life is transformed when she learns to ride horses at the neighboring stables. Cue the swelling music as the girl and horse ride into the sunset. But Gaitskill, whose novels and short stories have always delved full force into the most uncomfortable of situations, has instead produced a complex and nuanced look at love, loss and limitations.
David Mitchell’s novel Slade House first came to life as a short story delivered in 140-character bursts on Twitter. That story, “The Right Sort,” is now the first entry in a chilling novel in stories that’s an intriguing companion piece to Mitchell’s 2014 novel, The Bone Clocks, an intricate saga of a war between two groups of time travelers.