Few debut novels get the kind of attention—and the multi-million dollar advance—that Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire has. But to say that this book deserves the buzz understates what is hardly an understated accomplishment.
As you’d imagine from the title, bats are a key element in Zachary Thomas Dodson’s intricately constructed and elaborately illustrated debut. But the book’s real spirit animal is the ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail. Built as a novel within a novel, with supporting material in the form of letters and journal pages and drawings (all reproduced here as if photocopied from an archive), Bats of the Republic follows a pair of adventurous young men, several generations apart, on similar missions.
Sloane Crosley is a familiar name to many readers of nonfiction, both for her self-deprecating essay collections and her contributions to the New York Times. Now she lends her insight and sense of humor to the world of fiction in a debut novel, The Clasp.
Given the title of C.A. Higgins’ debut novel, Lightless, it’s fitting that so much of the tale’s enjoyment stems from how well and how long it keeps the reader in the dark.
In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins burst onto the literary landscape with her prize-winning short story collection, Battleborn. In Gold Fame Citrus, Watkins follows through on her literary promise with an excellent novel, set in a drought-ridden California in a future that feels alarmingly near.
The challenge for an author who writes about a lonely character is to make that character interesting—and keep him that way. Happily, this is what Lori Ostlund has done in After the Parade, her sensitive and realistic tale of the excruciatingly lonely Aaron Englund. What’s intriguing about him is that he seems not to mind his loneliness. This may seem odd, for the difference between loneliness and solitude is that a person minds the former and doesn’t mind the latter. But Aaron holds his pain like a shield against a world that never had much use for him.
Life looks bleak for Mattie Wallace. Penniless and three months pregnant, she has just walked out on her deadbeat boyfriend with six trash bags in the trunk of her ’78 Malibu.
Memoirist and literary agent Bill Clegg (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man) has now conquered the world of literary fiction with his searing debut, Did You Ever Have a Family. As a boy “wakes to the sound of sirens,” we learn that an explosion has taken the life of a bride and groom just before their wedding day. Clegg then slowly, intricately reveals the wider ramifications of this unthinkable tragedy through the eyes of more than a dozen characters.
Constance Kopp has never quite fit in: She is tall and broad-shouldered, and she doesn’t care much for keeping house—a rarity for women in 1914. She sticks close to her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, and together they form an odd but functional trio. Norma is stoic and reserved; Constance is bold and proud; and Fleurette, the youngest, is wide-eyed and excitable. Since the death of their mother, the sisters have become closer than ever, living in the countryside after the need to keep secrets forced their move from the city more than 15 years prior.
They say that with every loss comes a gain, but in Charlie Cates’ case, that seems unimaginable. Her 5-year-old son’s sudden death from a brain aneurysm has turned her world upside down. A divorced single parent, Charlie put Keegan at the center of her world. Well-intentioned attempts from neighbors and colleagues to help Charlie get back on her feet only remind her of her dreaded new normal. When her old editor at Cold Crimes magazine calls with an unusual opportunity, Charlie—ready for a change—boldly seizes it, heading to Chicory, Louisiana, to write about a long-cold missing-persons case.