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.
The most common advice to aspiring authors is “Write what you know.” Clearly Elisabeth Egan took this advice to heart when penning her debut novel, A Window Opens, a literary anthem for 21st-century working mothers.
Parnaz Foroutan’s debut, The Girl from the Garden, explores the fortunes of the Malacoutis, a wealthy Jewish family in Iran at the turn of the 20th century, as remembered by the family’s only surviving daughter, Mahboubeh. Now elderly and living in Los Angeles, Mahboubeh wanders her garden, awash in memories that seem more real than her California home.
This surreal and entertaining debut is a concise, imaginative novel that explores life and death, work and home, personality and professionalism in an almost Orwellian fashion.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s doomed Puritans and Flannery O’Connor’s cursed freaks, right up to Marilynne Robinson’s devout, reserved Midwesterners, there is a rich tradition of religious novels in American literature. Val Brelinski explores similar themes in her provocatively titled debut novel The Girl Who Slept With God.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is every adult’s worst nightmare. In her debut novel, Ware rips off the Band-Aids binding her characters’ adolescent scars in order to reopen unforgettable, unforgivable wounds.
Stanley and Vera reunite at each year’s National Spelling Bee, forming a bond over their shared victory and their mothers’ quirks and ambitious goals for their lives. They seem destined for success, sure to cross paths again at Harvard—until Stanley proposes a deal.
Robin Kirman’s first novel, Bradstreet Gate, is set amidst the hallowed halls of Harvard, peopled mostly by elite young scholars and their erudite professors and mentors. Her story revolves around three of these students, whose lives become entwined over the course of their undergraduate years—and remain so over the next decade.