It has been almost seven years since the publication of Kaui Hart Hemmings' promising debut, The Descendants, which became an Alexander Payne film starring George Clooney. But! On May 13, 2014, the wait is over for Hemmings fans with the release of The Possibilities (Simon & Schuster). This time out, Hemmings is eschewing 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.
Single parent Sarah St. John lost her son, Cully, in an avalanche just three months ago. Consumed by grief, Sarah is just going through the motions despite the urgings of her friends and family to move on. Then a girl shows up on her doorstep with a surprising connection her dead son.
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list. Marisha Pessl’s sophomore effort avoids the dreaded slump with a shadowy, tightly wound thriller. Readers follow Scott McGrath, a journalist who watched his career crumble after leveling a threat against Stanislas Cordova—an elusive cult filmmaker reminiscent of early horror visionaries like Alfred Hitchcock and Dario Argento. But when Cordova’s 24-year-old daughter Ashley is found dead in a warehouse, McGrath sees a chance to salvage his own name while perhaps exposing Cordova’s dark side. Pessl writes with power and authority in Night Film while inviting readers to “explore their darker selves.” Read our review. View our complete Best Books of 2013 list, and find more Best Books of 2013 coverage on the blog.
Ruth Reichl, the former NYT restaurant reviewer, final editor of Gourmet magazine and author of several best-selling memoirs, will be turning to fiction with her next book. Random House will publish Delicious! in May 2014, "a novel of sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must let go of the past to embrace her own gifts." The aforementioned heroine is Billie Breslin, who has moved to New York City to take a job at the food magazine Delicious!. But after Delicious! is abruptly shuttered, Billie discovers of WWII-era letters between a 12-year-old girl and famous chef and cookbook writer James Beard—a correspondence that ends up changing her own life. Readers can count on evocative descriptions of NYC and an authentic depiction of the foodie magazine scene—and yes, even a recipe for Billie's famous gingerbread. Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Ruth Reichl and other coverage of her previous books.
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
Crown • $24 • ISBN 9780385348997
Published January 14, 2014
New York Times Magazine editor Adam Sternbergh’s debut novel, Shovel Ready, follows a garbage man turned assassin-for-hire known simply as Spademan, and he makes for quite an intriguing anti-hero. As one of the few remaining residents in a near-future, post-bomb New York City, Spademan finds himself at a crossroads when he decides not to follow through with the assassination of a wealthy evangelist's young daughter.
Here, Spademan introduces himself in the first pages of this edgy, noir-soaked thriller:
I kill men. I kill women because I don’t discriminate. I don’t kill children because that’s a different kind of psycho.
I do it for money. Sometimes for other forms of payment. But always for the same reason. Because someone asked me to.
And that’s it.
A reporter buddy once told me that in newspapers, when you leave out some important piece of information at the beginning of a story, they call it burying the lede.
So I just want to make sure I don’t bury the lede.
Though it wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve buried.
It might sound hard but it’s all too easy now. This isn’t the same city anymore. Half-asleep and half-emptied-out, especially this time of morning. Light up over the Hudson. The cobblestones. At least I have it to myself.
These buildings used to be warehouses. Now they’re castles. Tribeca, a made-up name for a made-up kingdom. Full of sleeping princes and princesses, holed up on the highest floors. Arms full of tubes. Heads full of who knows. And they’re not about to come down here, not at this hour, on the streets, with the carcasses, with the last of the hoi polloi.
What are you reading this week?
The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart
Little, Brown • $26 • ISBN 9780316228114
On sale January 14, 2014
Rachel Urquhart's debut novel takes place in a Shaker community in the 1840s—the place where 15-year-old Polly and her younger brother flee after burning her house down to conceal the murder of her abusive father. But she finds that safety comes at something of a price in this harsh and restrictive community.
"Why must I pretend my brother is not my brother?" she asked. She no longer felt afraid of this stranger. Nothing moved her anymore, not love, not worry, not even sadness. She had become as hard and dry as a winter seed. "Mama said she had business to attend to," Polly said, not intending to speak her doubts out loud. "Perhaps. And yet, how could she have left us in a place where there can be no love?"
The girl let out a sigh. "There is love here, you will see. Brother for brother, sister for sister. But flesh bonds are forged in the fires of carnal sin. Your Ben, like you, was born of a filthy act. Here, that filth will be lifted. You shall see for yourself, if you are willing to renounce your blood ties and confess. Should you refuse, then you do not belong among us."
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
His 50-something unnamed narrator finds himself back in his childhood home of Sussex, yet the trip takes a strange turn as he becomes entangled in the memories of his childhood past—the catalyst for his magical adventure. For a novel just under 200 pages, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a philosophical and emotional heavyweight you won’t easily shake.
Read our review.
Emma Donoghue became a household name for readers after the her 2010 novel, Room, sold more than 1.5 million copies. But Room was actually an anomaly for Donoghue, who was known as a historical fiction writer—or, as she puts it, a "fact-based historical writer." She returns to the past on April 1 with Frog Music (Little, Brown), a story set in 1876 San Francisco that's based on a real-life crime. A heatwave is sweeping the city—and so is a deadly smallpox epidemic. But French burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon has even bigger problems: Her friend, Jenny Bonnet, has been shot dead, and Blanche is determined to bring her killer to justice.
As Blanche pieces together Jenny's past for clues, she discovers that her frog-hunting friend had more than a few secrets. Will she be able to solve the mystery of Jenny's death before the killer catches up with her?
Australian author Graeme Simsion’s debut novel, The Rosie Project, is an endearing, unconventional love story filled with off-kilter humor. Don Tillman is a 39-year-old genetics professor and scientist obsessed with life’s little details. All meals are pre-planned and perfectly portioned, each day is precisely scheduled and logic always comes first.
When he decides it’s time to start looking for “the one,” he draws up a hilariously rigid 16-page questionnaire and sets off to find his most compatible match. Instead, he meets Rosie Jarman, a beautiful bartender who chain smokes and never seems to arrive anywhere on time. She needs to find her biological father, and when Don agrees to help, he suddenly finds himself breaking his own rules and developing a very illogical attraction.
Watch the quirky trailer here:
What do you think readers? Will you be picking up a copy of The Rosie Project?
If you're worried about being starved for good fiction once this fall ends—fear not. We're already hearing about plenty of intriguing early 2014 releases. The latest: Anna Quindlen's new novel—her first since 2010's Every Last One—coming from Random House in February.
Still Life with Bread Crumbs is billed as "a love story," and centers on a New York City photographer who hits rock bottom and strikes out for an isolated country cabin. There, with the help of a charismatic younger man, she manages to pick herself back up.
Her main character's self-exile from NYC is likely complete fantasy for Quindlen, who told us in a recent interview that she and her husband couldn't see life outside the Big Apple. “My metabolism and the metabolism of New York City are the same,” she laughed. Overall, the novel sounds like a change of pace for Quindlen, who often writes about more serious issues in her fiction. Are you looking forward to this one?
As her trilogy concludes, Margaret Atwood takes readers through the months after the Waterless Flood. Gene splicing has resulted in new animal species, while humans have become nearly extinct. The characters from Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are struggling among themselves and others as war threatens. In a world full of danger, MaddAddam is a dystopian story of community and love.
Ten years after Oryx and Crake began the MaddAddam trilogy, readers will finally have answers. With characters revealing truths and coming together as never before, Atwood builds a creative world with MaddAddam.
Be sure to read our full review and watch the book trailer from Knopf Doubleday below.
Are you ready for the end? Will you find answers in MaddAddam?