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 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.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross, a psychologically acute tale that weaves together three different storylines together to chart the darkest depths of love and marriage. Though this isn't an easy read, it's a completely absorbing and rewarding one—if you enjoyed Gone Girl for its portrait of a twisted relationship, Mr. Peanut is for you.
To say this is a thematically rich book is hardly to do Mr. Peanut justice. For with every theme Ross presents—the Hitchcockian fallen hero, the classic “wrong man” trope, the Möbius strips and Escher imagery that emerge again and again, lest we forget the unending nature of marriage, love and murder—there is a way in which this too-clever-to-be-neat story resists such thematics, indeed calls into question the expectation/fulfillment nature of storytelling itself. And yet Ross cleaves closely to all the pleasures of the genre: mystery, suspense, romance, surprise. And in this sense, Mr. Peanut is highly unique—a disturbingly funny and remarkably poignant novel from one of the year’s most promising new voices.
Read the full review from our July 2010 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is a Southern charmer. Susan Gregg Gilmore's Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is set in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, where Catherine Grace Cline dreams of moving to the big city. But how much would she miss the ones she leaves behind?
The tight-knit Cline clan lives in a home of Baptist values and Georgia football, but the most significant component of this family is their confidence in one another's dreams. That kind of love and support is even more appealing than a diet of Dilly Bars, and Gilmore's novel is a meal well worth the consumption.
Read the full review from our June 2009 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is a "cabinet of wonders" of a book that is both a touching coming-of-age story and an unusual multimedia work. Author Reid Larsen is a filmmaker as well as an author, and his visual talents are brought to life through the drawings included in his unconventional 2009 debut, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.
One day, T.S. Spivet gets a phone call from the Smithsonian Institution, informing him that he has won a national award for his mapmaking and will be the keynote speaker at an upcoming celebration in Washington. What the Smithsonian doesn't know is that T.S. is only 12 years old. What T.S. doesn't know is how he's going to get to Washington. What his rancher father and scientist mother don't know is that he will get there, making the crossing from the family ranch in Divide, Montana, to the Mall in D.C. all on his own. He will run away from home, from the unbearable memory of his little brother Layton's accidental death, which—unaccountably—he had a hand in.
So begins Reif Larsen's miraculous The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a debut novel narrated by the pre-pubescent cartographer, filled to the very edges of each page with his hundreds of drawings and other assorted marginalia.
Read the entire interview from our May 2009 issue here.
Today's Debut of the Day pick is The Spellman Files, the 2007 debut of Lisa Lutz, a former screenwriter. Wacky and irreverent, this is a quirky first novel that will appeal to fans of "Arrested Development" and the works of Maria Semple.
The first in a series, The Spellman Files tells the story of Isabelle Spellman, a tough-talking 28-year-old (described by another character as "Dirty Harry meets Nancy Drew") who works for her eccentric family's P.I. business. Investigating others is their formal objective, but the family including alcoholic gambler Uncle Ray and Izzy's 14-year-old sister Rae (who is known to snap incriminating photos of family members to use as blackmail) regularly probe each other's lives as well. This comes to a head when Izzy starts dating nice-guy dentist Daniel and can't go on a date without turning around to find her mother hot on her tail.
Click here to read the entire interview from our April 2007 issue.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is Jennifer duBois' A Partial History of Lost Causes—one of our favorite books of 2012 and a personal favorite of mine. Set mainly in St. Petersburg, Russia, the story follows the converging lives of two very different characters who are trying to face their own personal lost causes with courage.
In a novel that conjures the Russian literary tradition, duBois weaves an intricate web of relationships among characters forced to confront difficult existential choices. Irina, with her “inability to invest in lost causes,” struggles with the private suffering brought on by the knowledge that her life will be truncated by disease, while Aleksander fights against what seems an equally inevitable public destiny.
Read the full review from our April 2012 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is A Reliable Wife, the 2009 first novel from Robert Goolrick. Set in small-town Wisconsin in the early 1900s, this Gothic, ominous story is full of dark twists and turns.
In its best moments, A Reliable Wife calls to mind the chilling tales of Poe and Stephen King, and at its core this is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. It melds a plot drenched in suspense with expertly realized characters and psychological realism. The fate of those characters is in doubt right up to this relentless story’s intense final pages, and Goolrick’s ability to sustain that tension is a tribute to his craftsmanship and one of the true pleasures of a fine first novel.
Read the entire review from our April 2009 issue here.
Today’s Debut of the Day pick is You Came Back by Christopher Coake, a wrenching journey through grief that is also a suspenseful page-turner. Is Mark Fife's son really haunting the home where he died? Can people move on after tragedy? These questions and more are answered in this thoughtful first novel.
In You Came Back, the compelling debut novel by award-winning writer Christopher Coake, there is no shortage of love. There is the love Mark Fife has for his fiancée, Allison. There is his stubborn, somewhat obsessive love for his ex-wife, Chloe, the college sweetheart who left him. And there is the mountain of love he and Chloe both shoulder for their young son, Brendan, whose death in terrifyingly mundane circumstances will send chills down the spine of every parent.
Read the full review from our March 2012 issue here. And look for a new debut of the day all month long!