Ron Rash may not have invented the “Appalachian Noir” genre, but he’s certainly perfected it over the past 15 years with modern classics like Serena and The World Made Straight. His new novel, Above the Waterfall, is another contemporary take on the Southern Gothic tradition, featuring a slow-burn mystery that’s light on plot but thick with atmosphere, lyrical prose and a visceral sense of place.
Patrick deWitt’s novels don’t sneak up on you; they’re the kind you love instantly. His latest, Undermajordomo Minor (a follow-up to his Booker-shortlisted The Sisters Brothers), is no exception. From the moment you tumble into its strange world, there is no other world. In that sense, and in its slightly mannered language, it’s like a fairy tale, although one with plenty of room inside for thoroughly modern, adult complications.
“The sleep of reason produces monsters.” These words can be found in an etching by Francisco Goya, reproduced at the beginning of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1,001 nights, that magical number). It’s a nightmarish image of a young man asleep, slumped over a table as a horde of wide-eyed and shadowy creatures bear down upon him.
Lauren Groff explored the strengths of community in her first two novels, The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia. In Fates and Furies, she narrows her focus to the ultimate microcosm: a marriage. Told in two parts, first by a husband and then a wife, this unsettling novel looks at the myriad ways even the most devoted of couples keep secrets, betray one another and risk deceiving themselves.
Jonathan Franzen is a writer who swings for the fences, an ambition that attracts terabytes of online derision. Hold the derision. Franzen’s fifth novel, Purity, is quite simply his best, most textured, most plot-driven and, oddly enough, most optimistic novel to date.
“The one percent” has entered the lexicon to describe those lucky and/or greedy few for whom money is literally no object, recalling Fitzgerald’s adage that they are effectively superhuman. Robert Goolrick’s electric third novel, The Fall of Princes, instead points to Hemingway’s rejoinder: The only thing separating the rich from others is that they have more money.
Julianna Baggot’s latest novel refuses to be confined to only one genre. Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders is a captivating multigenerational family saga, a love story and a mystery—tinged with a bit of fantasy.
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.