Once in a while, a reader needs to dive into a book that makes her feel just a bit unclean. The book doesn’t have to be trashy—and Chris Bohjalian’s latest, The Guest Room, is much too well-written and psychologically astute to be close to trashy—but the author must have no compunction about dropping the reader into the muck and leaving her there. This Bohjalian certainly does, with glee.
“I'm in a swamp in County Sligo,” Kevin Barry tells me over the phone. The Irish author has lived in at least a dozen places, from his childhood home of Limerick to Spain to Santa Barbara, but he’s settled now in an old police station built in the 1840s, known as the Barracks. Sadly, he says, it doesn’t appear to be haunted.
As you’d imagine from the title, bats are a key element in Zachary Thomas Dodson’s intricately constructed and elaborately illustrated debut. But the book’s real spirit animal is the ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail. Built as a novel within a novel, with supporting material in the form of letters and journal pages and drawings (all reproduced here as if photocopied from an archive), Bats of the Republic follows a pair of adventurous young men, several generations apart, on similar missions.
The creepy motel is a staple of the horror genre—think the Overlook or the Bates. In her chilling seventh novel, The Night Sister, Jennifer McMahon has created a worthy addition to that roster: the Tower Motel.
After 11 years, seven national best-selling books and a hit television series that became something of a pop culture phenomenon, author and Dexter series creator Jeff Lindsay closes out the series with his eighth and aptly titled final novel, Dexter Is Dead. Lindsay talks candidly about Dexter’s surprising success, ending his own decade-long relationship with the iconic character and his own uncertain future as a novelist and playwright.
Kevin Kwan is not where one might expect to find a best-selling, New York City-dwelling author. “I’m taking a little break before the craziness of three solid months of touring,” Kwan says from an undisclosed southwestern location far, far away from Manhattan. “I thought I’d look at rabbits frolicking in a field for a while first.”
The first thing that is immediately apparent about Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel, A Little Life, is that it has been incorrectly named: There is nothing little about this novel—not the lives depicted within it or the size of its author’s ambitions and talents. And not the page count, either. It is a hulking doorstop of a book, perfect for the reader who likes to burrow into a book for weeks at a time.
If you think you’ve read the story of four friends trying to make it in New York City already, think again. Hanya Yanagihara’s transcendent second novel is much more than its plot summary suggests. A Little Life may be the best book you read this year; it certainly will be the most heartbreaking.
There’s something irresistible about a boarding school novel: the picturesque grounds; the tight-knit community of teachers and students and staff; the routine of seminars, lacrosse games and chapel; the inevitable romances that bud in such an insular world. In The Half Brother, her second novel after 2010’s sensual The Swimming Pool, Holly LeCraw has created an appealing setting in the Abbott School, a campus at the top of a ridge in north Massachusetts where azaleas and cherry blossoms surround the stone and clapboard buildings, and the grass almost shimmers with mist.
In the summer of 1976, 19-year-old David Barwise takes a job at a holiday resort in the seaside town of Skegness, England, hoping to avoid spending the summer with his mother and stepfather. But there is something more sinister underlying David’s reasoning: The beach resort is where his biological father died 15 years earlier, and David feels strangely drawn to the area, despite the tension it causes within his family.