Louisa Hall’s fascinating cautionary tale is about the role artificial intelligence can and should play in our society.
British novelist Amanda Coe’s The Love She Left Behind is a tart family drama that examines how a selfish act of adultery mars the lives of adult children a generation after its occurrence. In this, her second novel, Coe demonstrates a keen eye for the intricate dynamics of family life and an even sharper ear for the language we use both to conceal and to wound.
Kate Walbert has always been a keen transmitter of women’s voices, from conforming suburban wives in the 1950s to British suffragettes during World War I. In her most recent novel, The Sunken Cathedral, Walbert tunes in to a complex chorus of female characters in contemporary Manhattan, a city recently altered by climate change, tragedy and new wealth.
There is a scene in Stephanie Kallos’ new novel in which protagonist Charles Marlow is describing all the clichés associated with an archetypal film on autism. It feels like a wink at the reader, as this book contains many of these same clichés. Yet Language Arts takes enough of a fresh approach to its subject to make it a riveting read.
When an author begins a novel with “And then there was the day”—as Kent Haruf begins Our Souls at Night, a brief, final testament completed shortly before his death last November—you know he knows we know what he’s talking about. This is Holt, Colorado.
The Rocks, the second novel by Peter Nichols, has everything you’d hope for in a great beach read: a vivid Mediterranean setting, complicated entanglements, adventures at sea, some hanky-panky and a little heartbreak. But its sunny exterior conceals some sharp observations on human vulnerability and how easily self-preservation can calcify into mere selfishness.
The central characters in The Daylight Marriage, Hannah and Lovell Hall, married young. She wanted stability; He wanted a chance at love. But as the years passed, resentments and unmet desires festered below the surface of their neat facade, creating a rift between the husband and wife that seemed insurmountable.
An aspiring writer from an affluent Chicago suburb who never finishes anything he starts, Joshua Levin has never had to suffer much. His life is “a warm blanket,” in contrast to the lives of the immigrants he teaches as an ESL instructor, and his creative endeavors have been as futile and disheartening as the Cubs at nearby Wrigley Field. That is, until Joshua comes up with an idea for a script called Zombie Wars that could be his big break, and the sad but beautiful Bosnian woman in his class, Ana, starts to seduce him.
The latest work from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison is puzzling until you realize that it’s actually a fairy tale. How else to describe a story about a woman who is so bereft without the man in her life that the lack of him causes her to regress back to childhood—literally. Bride, the book’s beautiful, very young cosmetics tycoon, slowly loses all the physical signifiers of womanhood. Even the holes in her pierced ears close up.
Pity the quiet novel about family life. In an era when novelists are taught to write killer openings and the line between literary and genre fiction is increasingly blurred, it seems as if there’s no room for a contemplative novel that finds drama in quiet moments. Fortunately, such books are still being published, and one of the better examples is The Children’s Crusade, the new novel by Ann Packer (The Dive from Clausen’s Pier).