The stories we consume in youth—whether through books, television, film or song—often become the defining narrative of our lives. A shared affection draws people together, and a mention of a character or a trace of a lyric can immediately transport us to another place and time.
Mr. Heming, the narrator of A Pleasure and a Calling, is more than an uninvited guest: He’s the guest you never knew you had. Channeling the socially detached and unnerving personality of Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, Phil Hogan creates a character that will inspire intrigue as well as ire.
A moment can change everything. Nat Weary learns that in a hurry. One minute, he was a World War II veteran on bended knee, proposing to his sweetheart during a concert in their hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. The next, Weary spots several men armed with pipes heading toward the performer, his childhood friend Nat “King” Cole.
Greek mythology and Bulgarian fairy tales have never felt as modern as they do in Wildalone, Krassi Zourkova’s debut novel. Building on the momentum established by Stephenie Meyer’s ever-popular Twilight franchise, the Bulgarian-born Zourkova introduces fans of supernatural romance to a dark and heady new love triangle involving a gifted musician and two bewitching brothers.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James is at once alluring and unexpected. The novel opens with a letter from 83-year-old Etta to her husband, Otto. Etta has left the couple’s farm in Saskatchewan to walk more than 3,000 kilometers to see the ocean. In the letter, Etta tells Otto that she will try to remember to come back, a hint at her failing memory. Otto, hands trembling, decides not to follow.
“Beginnings are crystal clear. Endings are too, once they’re final. It’s difficult to tell what part of the middle you’re in, though.”
In her first collection of stories, Birds of a Lesser Paradise (2012), Megan Mayhew Bergman focused on the relationships between humans and animals. In her new collection, Almost Famous Women, Bergman focuses on the lives of real women who have been marginalized (or mythologized) in history. They include Violet and Daisy Hilton, conjoined twins at odds in life but not in body; Marion “Joe” Carstairs, a womanizing power boat racer; Allegra Byron, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont; and many other women whose stories are as captivating as they are obscure.
It’s easy to forget that by the time he was 41, F. Scott Fitzgerald was washed up. His books were out of print, magazines weren’t interested in his stories and his monthly royalties were down to pocket change. In 1937, he went to Hollywood, where he struggled to make a living writing screenplays, barely staying one step ahead of his creditors. It is these lean years that Stewart O’Nan examines in his brilliant biographical novel West of Sunset.
Two-time Man Booker Prize winner (Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang) Peter Carey’s 13th novel is a darkly satiric tale of cyber activism, modern Australian history and the exhilaration and perils of advocacy journalism.
Kevin Gillooly, the teenage protagonist of Christopher Scotton’s debut novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, returns with his mother to her Eastern Kentucky hometown of Medgar after the horrific accidental death of his 3-year-old brother. Kevin’s father hopes a summer under the care of Pops, the family’s cantankerous patriarch and the town veterinarian, will restore the devastated Anne. For Kevin, his time in Medgar is not a retreat, but an introduction to the thorny issues of adulthood, as well as the healing power of nature, thanks to his friendship with Buzzy Fink, a local boy who instructs Kevin in the ways of wilderness.