Author Tony Earley's 2000 debut novel, Jim the Boy, was a national bestseller, but he is also known for his short stories, which serve up satisfying slices of life. On August 26, he'll release his third short story collection—and his first in 20 years—Mr. Tall (Little, Brown).
The seven tales—one of which is novella length—have varied Southern settings, from the Outer Banks to contemporary Nashville (Earley is an English professor at Vanderbilt University).
From the publisher:
Earley indelibly maps previously undiscovered territories of the human heart in these melancholy, comic, and occasionally strange stories. Along the way he leads us on a journey from contemporary Nashville to a fantastical land of talking dogs and flying trees, teaching us at every step that, even in the most familiar locales, the ordinary is never just that.
Will you read it?
March is Women's History Month—which means it's time for our third annual "women to watch" list. We've pored over galleys to come up with 14 women writers whose ambitious debuts—or accomplished breakthrough books—are sure to make waves among book lovers this spring and summer.
The Weight of Blood (Spiegel & Grau, March)
There's a new face on the literary suspense beat: Missouri author Laura McHugh, who drew on her experience of moving to the rural Ozarks as a preteen for her astonishing debut, The Weight of Blood. Two generations of disappearances haunt the small town of Henbane, but only 17-year-old Lucy seems interested in solving the mysteries. Will she learn that some secrets are better left buried?
Astonish Me (Knopf, April)
Iowa Writer's Workshop graduate Shipstead saw her 2012 debut, Seating Arrangements, become a national bestseller, but this accomplished second novel is certain to secure her place as a major literary voice. Spanning decades in less than 300 pages, this is the polished story of a ballerina whose passion for dance—and for her Russian instructor—shapes her life in surprising ways. Full of insight into the artistic mind and the human condition, this is a story that readers will embrace.
KAUI HART HEMMINGS
The Possibilities (Simon & Schuster, May)
It has been seven years since the publication of Kaui Hart Hemmings' debut, The Descendants, which became an Alexander Payne film starring George Clooney. In her second novel, Hemmings eschews the lush setting of her native Hawaii for the ski resort town of Breckenridge, but she's continuing her exploration of family bonds and the weight of grief. We expect readers will be just as enthralled by this honest, heart-tugging story about parents and children, about growing up and letting go.
The Untold (Amy Einhorn, June)
Fans of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang and Gil Adamson's The Outlander will thrill to Collins' debut, which introduces a bold new voice in Australian fiction. Inspired by the true story of Jessie Hickman, a notorious Australian outlaw, The Untold is set in the 1921 Outback, where Jessie is attempting to escape her past and atone for her crimes, all amid the terrible beauty of the landscape.
The Book of Unknown Americans (Knopf, June)
Chicago author Henríquez has earned praise from the likes of Sandra Cisneros and Ben Fountain for her previous novel and short story collection, but she's yet to become as well known to readers. She's poised for a breakthrough with The Book of Unknown Americans, the tale of two immigrant families in Delaware. The Toros, from Panama, are relatively established in the neighborhood when the Riveras arrive from Mexico. When the Toros' son falls in love with the Riveras' beautiful daughter, Maribel, their fates become intertwined.
Everything I Never Told You (Penguin, June)
Ng is a winner of the Pushcart Prize—and of the University of Michigan's Hopwood Award, which counts Mary Gaitskill, Frank O'Hara and Elizabeth Kostova among the past winners. Her elegant first novel follows the Lee family in 1970s Ohio after their favored daughter, Lydia, is found drowned.
The Quick (Random House, June)
Owen is just 28 years old and in the middle of pursuing her Ph.D. in English literature—but her first novel could be one of the biggest hits of the summer. Set in 1892 London, it has the same balance of historical/literary/supernatural that marked past bestsellers like Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Siblings James and Charlotte Norbury drift apart after James leaves their moldering Yorkshire estate to become a poet in London. But when James disappears without a trace, Charlotte must travel to the city to find him, and she uncovers a supernatural conspiracy in the process.
My Salinger Year (Knopf, June)
Poet Rakoff follows up her 2009 novel, A Fortunate Age, with a memoir of the mid-1990s year she worked as an assistant at one of the most storied literary agencies in NYC. After learning how to turn on her decades-old Selectric typewriter and adjust the playback speed on her boss' Dictaphone, Rakoff learns that she'll be in charge of answering the fan mail of the agency's top client: the reclusive J.D. Salinger. While it may be the Salinger cameo that initially draws readers in, it's Rakoff's effortlessly elegant, unhyperbolic prose and poignant coming-of-age story that will keep them engrossed through the very last word.
Life Drawing (Random House, July)
Mature marriages don't get a lot of play in fiction, but Robin Black brings one vividly to life in Life Drawing, the debut that follows her acclaimed 2010 story collection, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. Authors like Karen Russell and Alice Sebold have already praised this tale of an artistic couple—Augusta ("Gus") is a painter, while Owen is a writer—who find that the secrets and betrayals of their decades-long marriage are stirred up by the beautiful divorcée who moves in next door.
Friendship (FSG, July)
Former Gawker editor Emily Gould (who now is the co-proprietor of Emily Books) is known for her frank-to-a-fault writing—and the much-written-about (by Gould as well as others) flop of her 2010 memoir/essay collection, And the Heart Says Whatever. Fans and foes alike will be waiting to see what happens with her first novel, Friendship, the sharply observed story of Bev and Amy, longtime best friends who have just hit their 30s. When Bev becomes pregnant, the divide that had been gradually opening between their two lifestyles suddenly seems stark and unbridgeable.
The Queen of the Tearling (Harper, July)
The female George R.R. Martin? That's the buzz on newcomer Erika Johansen, a graduate of, you guessed it, the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The 36-year-old writer sold her trilogy for seven figures early last year, and Warner Brothers has optioned the film rights. It's the story of Kelsea Glynn, heir to the throne of Tearling, who, after years living in hiding, must return and challenge the Red Queen for her rightful place as leader. Though the setting feels medieval, The Queen of the Tearling is actually set 300 years in the future, in a world where technological advancement has been destroyed.
Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead, July)
One of the "5 Under 35" authors chosen by the National Book Foundation, Yanique draws from the rich history of her native Virgin Islands for this multigenerational saga that begins in the early 1900s. Two sisters are orphaned after a shipwreck and must make their way from rags to riches with only their wits—and their remarkable ability to make men fall at their feet.
CARRIE LA SEUR
The Home Place (Morrow, August)
A Montana environmental attorney might seem like an unlikely novelist, but La Seur, who has studied at Oxford and Yale, draws on her seven-generations-deep Montana background to create the immersive setting of her first novel. Alma Terrebonne thinks she has escaped her small-town past, but finds herself called back to Montana when her sister dies in what appears to be an accident. Once Alma returns, however, she finds that there may be more to the story.
Small Blessings (St. Martin's, August)
Described as "one part Maeve Binchy, one part Woody Allen," this debut from a 66-year-old NPR feature reporter is set in a Southern academic community, where professor Tom Putnam and his wife, Marjorie, are going through a marital rough patch. Things get more complicated when Tom gets introduced to the 10-year-old son he never knew he had.
Photo of Maggie Shipstead by Michelle Legro
Photo of Courtney Collins by Lisa Madden
Photo of Celeste Ng by Kevin Day Photography
Photo of Joanna Rakoff by Elena Seibert
Photo of Robin Black by Nina Subin
Today readers learned that John Darnielle, the man behind the indie group The Mountain Goats, will become the author of more than some memorable songs: FSG announced that they will publish his first novel on September 30.
The Wolf in the White Van is the story of video game artist Sean Phillips, whose RPG "Trace Italian" has captured the imaginations of people worldwide. But when two fans find their obsession has real-world consequences, Sean must deal with the reality of his fictional creation.
Darnielle joins such indie greats as Josh Ritter, John Wesley Harding and Willy Vlautin in making the transition from song to page. On his tumblr, Darnielle wrote that "I'm currently writing a novel for the same house that publishes Frank Bidart, which I totally cannot even believe, I mean honestly."
And his editor and publisher Sean MacDonald, is even more effusive, saying of the novel "the greatest and perhaps most unexpected satisfaction is the quality that encompasses all these things, that this is simply a magnificent novel, weird and dark and wonderful, adventurous and spellbinding in the way of any great piece of literary art."
Here's the full publisher description:
Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of “Trace Italian”—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.
Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, and are explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tracing back toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.
Book jacket designed by Rodrigo Corral
House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield
MIRA • $14.95 • ISBN 9780778314783
Published on February 25, 2014
Jen Glass lives with her husband and two children in a beautiful home in a suburb of Minneapolis. From the outside, the family couldn't look better. But on the inside, things are falling apart: Jen and her husband, Ted, are barely speaking; their teen daughter is sullen and distant and their young son has developmental delays. Just when Jen thinks things can't get any worse, they do. One night, two men break into the Glass home, but the routine robbery becomes something much worse when the family is held hostage in their own basement. Jen and Ted must overcome their differences in order to make sure their family survives the days to come.
Jen put her hand on the brass knob. Later, she would remember this detail, the warmth of the old brass to her touch, the way she had to tug to clear the slight jam.
Standing in the hallway was her beautiful daughter, her face exquisitely frozen, her lips parted and her long-lashed eyes wide with terror.
On her left, a man Jen had never seen before held Teddy in his arms, her little boy flailing ineffectively against his grip.
On her right, a man who looked unnervingly like Orlando Bloom pressed a gun to Livvy's head.
What are you reading this week?
Good news, Stephen King fans: There'll be double the thrills from the best-selling author this year. We've already told you about Mr. Mercedes, the noir detective story scheduled for June 3—yesterday, the author announced that 2014 would also bring Revival, the story of a charismatic preacher who takes a small New England town by storm in the mid-20th century. Reverend Jacobs creates a special bond with Jamie Morton, a young boy who shares the pastor's "secret obsession." Here's more from King's site:
When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
Sounds appropriately ominous to me. Look for the book on November 11.
Last week, the New York Times published a piece in the Sunday Review from Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld based on their new book, The Triple Package, a study of why different immigrant groups succeed or fail in America. Though the book has been criticized for being "soft science" and/or measuring things that are very difficult to quantify (something the authors point out themselves in the Times piece) one statistic stood out to me:
Immigrants from many West Indian and African countries, such as Jamaica, Ghana, and Haiti, are climbing America’s higher education ladder, but perhaps the most prominent are Nigerians. Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry; over a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as compared with only about 11 percent of whites.
Those are some astonishing numbers…but perhaps they're less so if you've been paying attention to literature lately. Although writers of African origin have been having a moment in recent years, it's not an exaggeration to say that Nigerian emigré authors are taking center stage. Don't believe it? How about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Chris Abani, Okey Ndibie, Uzodinma Iweala,* Helen Oyeyemi, and Taiye Selasie,* most of whom are now based mainly in the U.S. or U.K.
Anyone looking for more perspective on the Nigerian immigrant path should pick up Adichie's most recent novel, Americanah, which comes out in paperback next month—its heroine, Ifemelu, goes from cash-strapped immigrant student to an acclaimed academic.
*not Nigerian-born, but of Nigerian descent.
Today's guest post is from author M.D. Waters, whose debut novel, Archetype, goes on sale today. Set in the near future, it's the thrilling tale of a woman who wakes up after a horrible accident with no memory of who she is. Luckily, Emma has a handsome and loving husband, Declan, by her bedside to fill in the blanks. But as Emma recovers, she begins to have strange dreams that contradict what Declan is telling her—dreams that feature another handsome man who claims to love Emma as well. We asked Waters, who lives in Maryland, to share the secret of how she constructed such a suspenseful love triangle.
I’ve been dubious about love triangles since the creation of Edward-Bella-Jacob. Not that I didn’t love the idea. My issue was this: I didn’t believe it. The doubts about guy #2 were right there in the heroine’s thoughts, and you just can’t turn doubt into reality. If she’s in doubt, well, so am I.
As a writer, I understand the difficulty for the author. To resolve a love triangle, there has to be a clear winner, and the reader must be completely satisfied with the heroine’s choice. I even attempted and failed at writing one in an early novel. Why was it a big, fat fail? Because, like Bella, my heroine liked guy #2, but she loved guy #1. Where’s the conflict in that? I gave up attempting to write the triangle after that and didn’t look back.
I’ve only come across two triangles I believed, and to this day I’m envious they pulled it off so seamlessly. The first happens to be a popular TV show, “The Vampire Diaries,” and the second is Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter spinoff series, The Infernal Devices.
To resolve a love triangle, there has to be a clear winner, and the reader must be completely satisfied with the heroine’s choice.
I once heard Cassandra Clare speak on this very subject at a conference in New York City, and what she said about love triangles really made sense. No triangle is complete unless a conflict exists between the boys. (Or girls?) Making them friends, or in the case of “The Vampire Diaries,” brothers. What was missing from all these triangles I’d been reading, and what she managed to show in her Will-Tessa-Jem triangle, was a three-way connection.
It was, in a word, brilliant. But now that I understood, I still faced an industry sick of love triangles, so why bother writing one? Little did I know that I’d already done it. Oy, the horror!
That’s right. It wasn’t until Archetype was in the hands of my Dutton editor that I heard the words “love triangle” applied to my story. Someone even said it was “the best love triangle in years.”
I was in shock. Yes, I’d written about two men in love with the same woman. And yes, she loved them both in return. But for some insane reason I never saw it as a triangle. Probably because I never had the intention of writing one. It was just another accident in a long line of accidents in the history of Archetype. (That’s another story for another day.)
So upon hearing these words, I had to analyze what the heck I’d done. I never set out to make the reader fall in love with both men. All I’d wanted was to mask my real villain and hero from the reader. How? By giving them equal parts good and bad qualities, from personality to lifestyle.
Ultimately, what I’d done was write two men that, as a reader, I wanted to win the girl. I had to stomp on the fact that one of them was destined from the start to be Emma’s #1. I made sure to write scenes with both men that made even me second-guess my plans. I had to—had to—believe every word, because any doubts I had would show in Emma. (Ah, the dilemma of writing first person, present tense!)
Ultimately, what I’d done was write two men that, as a reader, I wanted to win the girl. I had to stomp on the fact that one of them was destined from the start to be Emma’s #1.
This worked really well for me until it came to revealing the entire truth to Emma. She (and I) suddenly had to hate a man she (and I) loved. I couldn’t just point to him and call him “Bad Guy” and let things play out. Motivations played such a huge part in this story. Just about every square inch of this novel hinged on them, quite literally right to the very last page.
I came away from all of this seeing the love triangle in a whole new light. Cassandra Clare was absolutely right about the three-way connection, but I think too that, as the creator of these characters, we have to fall in love with all angles of the triangle or it won’t work. I’m already seeing a ton of Team Declan fans, as well as Team Noah fans. But then there are some, like me, who are Team Both, and I can’t fault them one bit.
Author photo by Crystal Bingham.
British novelist Jacqueline Winspear made a name for herself with a best-selling series starring an unconventional detective. Maisie Dobbs, a former maid who served as a nurse in the Great War, returned home to England to deal with her nation's troubled post-war psyche—and the resulting crimes.
But this year, Winspear is trying something new: She's written a novel set during World War I instead of after it, one that doesn't star her now-famous detective. The Care and Management of Lies (Harper) will be published in June. Its heroine, Kezia Marchant marries her best friend Thea's brother Tom just before the war breaks out. While Tom heads off to war, Kezia and Thea are caught up in the women's rights movement and struggle to hold onto the family farm.
Winspear is a perceptive writer with a historian's knowledge of the era she writes about. Even minus Maisie, her work should take readers on a fascinating ride. Will you read it?
RELATED IN BOOKPAGE
Read our 2005 interview with Jacqueline Winspear.
Kids These Days by Drew Perry
Algonquin • $14.95 • ISBN 9781616201715
Published January 14
Like many parents these days, Walter and Alice wanted to pick the perfect moment to have their first child. They'd be homeowners, established in their careers, ready to pay for private schools and SAT tutors. But instead, Alice's first pregnancy is ushered in just as Walter is ushered out of his job and the couple is forced to turn to Alice's family for help. They move 500 miles south to Florida, into the condo of Alice's deceased aunt and into the crazy world of her somewhat shady brother, Mid, who offers Walter a job. A series of comical capers follow, set against a zany Florida backdrop that should appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen or Tim Dorsey.
"We have to bring them something," Alice said. We were riding up A1A [on the way to Alice's brother's house], the only real road on the island. She had the shoulder part of the seat belt hooked behind her, convinced that if we rear-ended an ice-cream truck, the baby would be safer without it.
"Flowers? Or a plant?"
We came up on a guy selling shrimp out of a cooler by the side of the road. The sign hanging off his tent said FRESH, LOCAL. I put the blinker on.
"No," she said. "Please, no."
"Because we can't show up with something we have to cook. Or peel. Also, you'd eat shrimp you bought from some random stranger?"
"I think that's how it goes every time I eat shrimp."
What are you reading this week?
The fuss and bother about the Super Bowl is impossible to ignore, even for non-NFL fans and dedicated readers like myself. If you're looking for reading that is in the spirit of the event, or simply something you can read beween commercial breaks without too much shame (hey, it's about football!), might I recommend Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk? This hilarious first novel is set in 2004, at the height of the Iraq War, and finds a troop of war heroes teaming up with the Dallas Cowboys for one surreal 24-hour period.
As we say in our review:
Ben Fountain’s sly, raucous, occasionally bawdy first novel . . . recounts the wildly improbable Thanksgiving Day that eight members of Bravo squad, including Texas native Specialist Billy Lynn, spend as guests of the Dallas Cowboys. Fountain employs his ample satiric gifts to depict how flag-waving patriotism merges with our worship of professional football in a single manic event.
"I thought it was the nuttiest thing I’d ever seen, but maybe that was because I’d had a couple of martinis. Or maybe the martinis had peeled the scales from my eyes and I was seeing the show for what it was, this surreal blowup of pop music, softcore porn choreography, five or six marching bands, a hundred or so flag girls, a company’s worth of ROTCs, a U.S. Army drill team doing close-order drill—and flags, lots and lots and lots of American flags."
Want to read more? Check out the full interview with Ben Fountain here.