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.
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.
Helene Wecker's first novel announces the arrival of a formidable imagination. The Golem and the Jinni expertly blends Jewish and Arabic folklore against the vivid backdrop of 1899 New York City, where her title characters—golem Chava and jinni Ahmed—meet. Chava and Ahmed at first clash due to their opposite natures, but are drawn to one another by their shared experience as supernatural beings in a city of humans—not to mention their shared experience of being at the beck and call of various "masters." It soon becomes clear that combining their powers is the only chance for freedom . . . and perhaps even for survival.
Suspenseful, creative and entertaining, this book should delight fans of both fantasy and historical fiction. (And one of the best debuts of 2013!) Don't miss it.
Watch for our full list next week!
The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale
Mulholland Books • $26 • ISBN 9780316188456
Published September 10
If you finished The Son hungry for more tales from Texas, we have the next great read for you. Versatile novelist Joe R. Lansdale's latest is a turn-of-the-century coming-of-age story set in hardscrabble East Texas. Recently orphaned Jack Parker must grow up fast when his sister, Lula, is kidnapped by bandits. Teaming up with a bounty hunter, a dwarf and a grave-digger, Jack sets out on a quest to find and rescue Lula.
Told in Jack's straightforward, plainspoken voice, The Thicket brings to mind Western classics like True Grit or Joe David Brown's Paper Moon or even Huckleberry Finn.
Now, it may seem I was taking all this damn well, the death of my parents, but I assure you I was not. I had sort of seen it coming for a few days, and there had been so much death about I guess I had embraced thew hole thing better than I might had I just got up and found them dead without any sign of sickness. . . .
Still, down deep in my bones, and I'm sure it was the same with Lula, and even Grandpa for that patter, I was trying to get my heart and head wrapped around the idea that they had been taken so brutally and so quickly from us. It was like I was too dry to cry. I wanted to, but couldn't. Lula was the same way. That's how we Parkers were. We took what came the way it came. Least it was that was on the surface. You scratched us a little, though, you could find some jelly there pretty quick. We were the kind that found it hard to cry, but once we got started you best be ready for high water and the loading of animals two by two.
What are you reading this week?
If you've already purchased and devoured Alice McDermott's recently released novel, Someone, I have good news for you: She has another book in the works, to be published by FSG in the fall of 2016.
According to the deal announcement, the new book "follows the intertwined lives of three Long Island men over the course of fifty years, their affections, their mistakes, and the stories that have shaped them." Sounds a little bit like the masculine version of Someone, no?
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is The Submission, Amy Waldman's thought-provoking novel about the controversy that involves when a Muslim is chosen to design a (fictional) monument to the 9/11 World Trade Center victims. This noteworthy debut raises crucial questions about faith and humanity that are increasingly relevant in today's culture wars.
What is most rewarding about Waldman’s novel is her deftness in shunning stereotypes, offering an array of characters both appealing and frustrating in all their human complexity. She skillfully manages multiple points of view to tell the story, among them Claire Burwell, jury member and widow of a wealthy investment banker killed on 9/11; Sean Gallagher, the brother of a firefighter victim, who becomes an angry spokesman for survivor families; and Asma Anwar, a Bangladeshi immigrant, widowed herself on that terrible day, whose dignified appearance at a climactic public hearing provides the story’s moral anchor. These characters and others are buffeted by the emotions, some genuine and others stoked by the media and special interest groups pursuing their own agendas, that swirl around the memorial.
Read the full review from our September 2011 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is Dear American Airlines, a comic novel from Jonathan Miles that blends humor with heart. Stranded at a New York airport, Bennie Ford pens an increasingly desperate letter to the airline whose change in schedule just might deny him the opportunity to change his life. Miles, a journalist who has studied fiction with Larry Brown, has a second novel, Want Not, coming in November.
This gritty, hilarious, heartbreaking novel illustrates a life gone awry, the regret of years lived without notice and the hope of finally being able to make a change. Readers will root for Bennie to get on his plane and start making up for the lost years when he gets off. A perfect read for summer airport delays, Dear American Airlines just might get readers thinking differently about that idle time.
Read the full review from our June 2008 issue here.
Middle-aged death-metal rock star Jude Coyne doesn't know what he's in for when he buys a Floridian ghost from an online auction site to add to his collection of ghoulish curiosities, which includes a 16th-century skull and a snuff film that effectively ended his marriage. The ghost arrives in the form of a black suit folded into a black heart-shaped box, but it doesn't stay there. As soon as the suit emerges from the box, Jude's life is invaded by Craddock, a dead man with a deadly plan. And in facing this very real ghost in the present, Jude is forced to face many ghosts from his past, including his terrifyingly abusive father, a girlfriend who died tragically and his fallen band mates.
Read the full review from our February 2007 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward. Set in the women's prison in Gatestown, Texas, this heartfelt and challenging novel is a true literary page-turner that intertwines the lives of three women: a murderer waiting to be executed on death row—who is at the same time desperately ill with AIDS—the widow of the man she murdered and the physician responsible for the inmate's care.
In lean, luminous prose, Ward taps into her own chilling experiences visiting one of the state's women's prisons. Her sharply drawn characters ponder life's capital-letter concepts: Guilt, Vengeance, Forgiveness. As Mills says, while driving to witness Lowens' execution, "The fact is that in the abstract, I do believe in mercy. . . . I believe people make mistakes, and that they should be given a chance to atone. But I also feel that something was taken away from me . . . and that I deserve something back."
Read the full review from our July 2003 issue here.
It's been a long wait for fans of The Passage, but The Twelve is finally here. And for you Cronin fans, we have not just a review for you (don't worry, there are zero spoilers), but also a handwritten "Meet the Author" Q&A from Cronin himself.
The personable author (I had the pleasure of interviewing him in 2010) did a series of videos for Waterstones about The Twelve—here's his introduction of the book.
Are you excited about The Twelve?