One of the most promising short-story collections in recent years hit bookstores in September 2006. Karen Russell's St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves was as creepy and magical as the title implies, collecting 10 eerie tales set in South Florida swampland. Russell, who is 29, was included in the New Yorker's Top Writers Under 40 list, and her debut novel, Swamplandia!, will be published by Knopf in February 2011.
According to Russell, the novel picks up where the story "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" left off and follows the Bigtree Family Wrestling Dynasty, who have fallen on hard times. There's a new alligator wrestling theme park in town, and Ava's brother has started working there; Ava's big sister is having an affair with a ghost; and no one knows where to find Ava's father.
You can read an excerpt of "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" from St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves here.
Audrey Niffenegger's The Time-Traveler's Wife has become a modern book club classic. Our book club columnist Julie Hale thinks Niffenegger's follow up, the creepy Gothic tale Her Fearful Symmetry, which has just been released in paperback, will prove just as appealing: "Niffenegger writes with persuasiveness and originality about matters of the heart and matters of the afterlife."
What is your book club reading this month?
Some of you were pretty psyched when we posted about Jan Karon's In the Company of Others back in April. So when the galley came in today's mailbag, I felt like I had to share the opening lines with you:
Sheets of rain lashed the windshield; the high beams of their hired car barely penetrated a summer twilight grown black as pitch. It was a classic Irish downpour.
The road had narrowed to a single lane scarcely wider than a sheep track and was bordered by dense hedges. He took Cynthia's hand; his wife's fear of being hemmed in was only slightly greater than his. Crammed into the rain-hammered Volvo with a carton of books and a testy driver and pressed on either side by the sullen hedges, he counted this very moment as the reason he was no traveler.
The flight from Atlanta to Dublin had lived up to his worst expectations. Following a delay of seven hours due to storms in the Atlanta area, the trip across the Pond had been an unnerving piece of business which shortened his temper and swelled his feet to ridiculous proportions. Then, onto a commuter flight to Sligo airport at Strandhill, where—and this was the final straw, or so he hoped—they met the antiquated vehicle that would take them to the lodge on Lough Arrow. When he located an online Sligo car service a month back and figured out how to dial the country code, hadn't he plainly said the trip would celebrate his wife's birthday as well as her first time in Ireland? Hadn't he specified a nice car?
Excerpt from In the Company of Others by Jan Karon, published October 19, 2010 by Viking Books.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown • $24.99 • September 13, 2010
As a longtime fan of Emma Donoghue, I was eager to read Room the moment I heard about it. I took a copy home over the weekend, but didn't have a chance to pick it up until Sunday night. My plan was to read "just a few pages" before bed. An hour and a half later I had to force myself to put it down. Not since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time have I been so compelled by a child narrator: just-turned-five Jack's account of his life as a captive in an 11 x 11-foot room with his mother is especially powerful because for him, it is not a nightmare. Thanks to his imaginative and loving mother, he is as close to normal as a child raised without other contact can be.
"Can they come here sometime for real?"
"I wish they could," she says. "I pray for it so hard, every night."
"I don't hear you."
"Just in my head," says Ma.
I didn't know she prays things in her head where I can't hear.
"They're wishing it too," she says, "but they don't know where I am."
"You're in Room with me."
"But they don't know where it is, and they don't know about you at all."
That's weird. "They could look on Dora's Map, and when they come I could pop out at them for a surprise."
Ma nearly laughs but not quite. "Room's not on any map."
"We could tell them on a telephone, Bob the Builder has one."
"But we don't."
"We could ask for one for Sundaytreat." I remember. "If Old Nick stops being mad."
"Jack. He'd never give us a phone, or a window." Ma takes my thumbs and squeezes them. "We're like people in a book, and he won't let anybody else read it."
Kiera Cass, who has sold three books in a YA series pitched "as The Hunger Games meets "The Bachelor," following a 17-year-old, one of the eligible young women selected to compete to become the next queen, who finds herself falling in love despite only wanting to break her family out of the lower castes and leaving her boyfriend at home." The book will be called The Selection and will be released early in 2012.
As a Hunger Games fan (who recently met Suzanne Collins!), and a fascinated follower of the train wreck commonly known as "The Bachelor" franchise, this announcement pretty much blew my mind and inspired me to create the following graphic. Kiera, if you need a cover artist, call me! We'll have to wait until 2012 to see if the reality measures up to my imagination.
Another author with a Nashville connection made news today: Ann Patchett has completed and sold a new novel to Harper for publication in 2011.
The new book is described as "Conradian" and is set in the Amazon jungle, where two female physicians make "hitherto unimaginable discoveries on both a personal and global scale."
South America was also the setting of Patchett's biggest hit (and one of my favorite novels ever), Bel Canto. [Read Patchett's behind-the-book story on that novel here.] Will the new novel and its similar blend of the personal and the global strike the same chord with readers? As Patchett fans, we can't wait to find out.
The trailer for Never Let Me Go (based on Kazuo Ishiguro's latest novel) is live, and we have to agree with the Wall Street Journal: This is pure Oscar-bait. Starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling and Andrew Garfield (Red Riding, 1974), the performances should live up to the nuanced source material and compelling story.
In fact, after watching the trailer, it looks like the transition to film will help ameliorate what was, to me, the novel's major flaw--its detatched narration. Sure, it was a reflection of the way the students at Hailsham were conditioned to think of themselves, and it added to the chilling aspects of the novel's premise (which, on the off chance the movie keeps it quieter than the book, I won't reveal here), but it ultimately left me not caring as much about the students' fates as I might otherwise.
Did you read Never Let Me Go? Will you see the movie?
Related in BookPage: our review of Never Let Me Go.
(The Orange Prize is a British award given to the best novel written by a woman in English and published in the UK in a given year.)
Daisy Goodwin, chair of judges, commented on the prize selection: "We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy."
For more on The Lacuna, read this excerpt from BookPage's November interview with Kingsolver:
It’s the epic story of Harrison William Shepherd, a young boy whose Mexican mother takes him back to her home country in the 1930s after splitting with his father, a Washington, D.C., bureaucrat ... The novel is a brilliant mix of truth and fiction, history and imagination, presented as a compilation of Harrison’s journals, along with newspaper clippings and other notes that make for a compelling and utterly believable read ... For Kingsolver, this book was her exploration of that “in between” space where pieces are missing and the truth is hidden. She also set out to probe the question:
Do artists have a responsibility to address social issues and express their opinions?
Kingsolver was up against some stiff competition: Lorrie Moore, Hilary Mantel . . . Do you agree that The Lacuna was the best novel written by a woman (and published in the UK) this year?
If you’re an avid Glee fan like me, last night’s season finale was more bitter than sweet. Sure, the kids from New Directions sang their hearts out at regionals, several romantic entanglements got even more complicated and Quinn finally had her baby girl. But with our favorite show on hiatus, what’s a Gleek to do? Well, it turns out you don’t have to watch endless reruns of season one or listen to the cast recordings over and over on your iPod . . . because Glee is hitting bookstores this fall!
Glee: The Beginning: An Original Novel by Sophia Lowell goes on sale September 1 from Poppy, a young adult publishing division of Hachette. And while this first book is a prequel to the TV show, multiple book projects are in the works—and all are authorized by Twentieth Century Fox. Now that’s music to our ears.
Are you a fan of Glee? Will you read the books?
Learning to Lose by David Trueba
Other Press, $16.95, June 22, 2010
With the World Cup kicking off this weekend, it seems like the right time to read a novel from an international talent. David Trueba's latest work, Learning to Lose, even features a young Brazilian soccer player, whose romance with a 16-going-on-30 girl in Madrid is just one of the many threads that make up this multidimensional tapestry of a novel. The two meet in an unconventional manner:
Sylvia, alone on the street, walks quickly to release her rage. Mai's happiness is a betrayal, her tiredness a personal affront. She steps down into the street to avoid any unpleasant encounters on the sidewalk. . . . The ground is dry and the streetlights barely reverberate on the asphalt. the laces on one of her black-rubber-soled boots have come untied, but Sylvia doesn't want to stop to retie it. She takes aggressive strides, as if kicking the air. She is oblivious to the fact that, crossing the street she now walks along, she will be hit by an oncoming car. And that while she is feeling the pain of just having turned sixteen, she will soon be feeling a different pain, in some ways a more accessible one: that of her right leg breaking in three places.
What are you reading this week?