It’s 7 a.m. on December 23, and Madeleine Altimari is shimmying. In 30-second intervals, the girl attempts to perfect her moves, pausing in between for a quick drag from a cigarette. After each interval, she rates her work on a school-letter scale. She has yet to check off the day’s other rehearsal tasks: singing, scales, guitar.
Much like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, best-selling author Haruki Murakami is the type of writer whose fans queue up at bookstores at midnight, clamoring to be the first to get their hands on his latest book. Unfortunately, people who do not read Japanese have had to wait quite some time to read Murakami’s latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which was published to acclaim in Japan in April 2013.
Though the “overnight success” story tends to make headlines, debut novels are more often the result of years of hard work and dedication. This month, we’re highlighting four debuts that deserve some time in the spotlight.
Rene Steinke, a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award for her novel Holy Skirts, makes an awaited return with Friendswood. Located outside of Houston, the town of Friendswood, Texas, is definitely all-American. The citizens are high on religion, high school football and the oil business. But then a hurricane uncovers not just buried toxic chemicals, but secrets and moral ambiguities that are crippling the town.
Once you find true love, life is supposed to lead into a happily ever after—at least that’s what the fairy tales promise. But real life and love come with the risk of real loss, as Holly Jefferson learns just six months after her wedding. Since You’ve Been Gone is a truly bittersweet story about a second chance at love, a debut novel by turns charming, funny, inexpressibly sad, and finally, hopeful.
If a writer should follow Ernest Hemingway’s well-known dictum to write what he knows, then first-time novelist Jess Row just might be in the wrong business.
British author Nick Harkaway is known for his ability to fearlessly blend genres in novels like The Gone-Away World. In his third novel, Tigerman, he mixes parenting, superheroes and geopolitics in the story of Lester Ferris, a British Army sergeant sent to a remote island outpost on what is supposed to be a simple assignment. But Lester refuses to ignore the shady goings-on in Mancreau, and his growing relationship with a native street kid complicates things further. We asked Harkaway a few questions about superheroes and being a dad.
Nick Harkaway has a strange way of making us feel at home as readers even when we are in a decidedly strange place, of immersing us in something new and somehow making it feel familiar at the same time. With Tigerman, he again spellbinds with witty prose and inviting characters while taking us into a world that needs an unexpected hero.
Lawyer Carrie La Seur makes her debut as a novelist this month with The Home Place, a searing novel about the power of family bonds that is also a compelling whodunit. Set against the stark backdrop of rural Montana, a place that big-city lawyer Alma Terrebonne thought she’d escaped forever, the novel follows Alma’s search for the reasons behind her estranged sister’s untimely death. We asked La Seur a few questions about writing, Montana and the draw of family.
Nobody has ever taken care of Mia Dennett. Her upwardly mobile parents didn’t do it. Her uptight older sister didn’t do it. So the talented inner-city art teacher has learned to take care of herself. Or so she thinks, until an impulsive one-night stand turns into a nightmare far beyond Mia’s control. But why does her abductor seem so uncertain about his plans for her? Why did he choose to hide her in a remote Minnesota cabin rather than turn her over to the man who hired him? Was it an act of mercy, or something else entirely?