Rebecca Makkai’s second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is an appealing mix of archival mystery, ghost story and historical novel. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt set in a former artist’s colony, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place. I was able to catch up with Rebecca at Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books.
In 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert to promote political unity, armed gunmen walked into reggae star Bob Marley’s house at 56 Hope Road in Kingston and began shooting in what was a failed assassination attempt. In prize-winning author Marlon James’ groundbreaking new novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, the attack becomes a centerpiece of a blistering commentary on Jamaican society in the 1970s and its inextricable links both to Cold War politics and to the drug wars of the 1980s.
In Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel envisions the world after a major flu pandemic has wiped out most of the population, though the themes in the book feel more timeless than typical for the post-apocalyptic genre. (What makes a fulfilling life? Is art worth saving when there’s so little left on earth?) We caught up with St. John Mandel about her suspenseful and intelligent new book.
Given his tendency to experiment with form (in novels such as Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten), it’s probably no surprise that when we spoke with David Mitchell about his enthralling new book, The Bone Clocks, he had just written a short story to be published 140 characters at a time on Twitter.
Hawaiian author Kaui Hart Hemmings returns with The Possibilities, the story of Sarah St. John, a woman struggling to return to life after the death of her adult son in an avalanche. We asked her a few questions about the new book and what she’s working on next.
California-born author Maggie Shipstead returns to fiction with a dazzling second novel, Astonish Me. The story of a ballerina that spans decades, it's as sharply observed as it is entertaining—and was our April 2014 Top Pick in Fiction. We asked Shipstead a few questions about the book.
As a investigator who specializes in death penalty cases, Rene Denfeld had a wealth of real-life material to draw on when she wrote her first novel, The Enchanted, which is set on death row in a crumbling prison. A mute inmate narrates this mesmerizing story in which love and unimaginable horror coincide, making for a uniquely powerful page-turner.
Here’s the first thing you should know about Helen Oyeyemi: She’s got a soft spot for twisted fairy tales. Her widely acclaimed first novel, The Icarus Girl, drew from both African and Western mythology to tell the story of a biracial 8-year-old and her wicked secret friend.
The surprising source of Bich Minh Nguyen’s enthralling second novel, Pioneer Girl, was her discovery that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose had traveled to Vietnam as a journalist in 1965.
Nguyen (pronounced New-win), whose family fled Vietnam in 1975 when she was 8 months old and settled eventually in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says she “had read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid, and I loved them. And I would reread them as an adult as comfort literature."
The Last Days of California centers on a family preparing for the end of world. If you knew you had one week left on earth, how (and where) would you spend it?
I would need more details. Am I sick? Is a meteor about to crash into the earth, i.e. are there a bunch of really great parties going on? I wouldn’t want to spend any of that precious time hungover, though. I’d stay close to home, maybe take a quick trip down to New Orleans. I’d eat whatever I wanted, see the people I love most in the world and tell them how much I love them. Things I would not do: worry, read, watch TV, remain a vegetarian. If the world’s going to end, I’d definitely want a cheeseburger.