Exploring the art of prose


New books: week of August 20

Here’s a quick look at some of the great books out this week. Happy pub day to all!


John Larison, Whiskey When We’re Dry

From Publishers Weekly: “True Grit meets Yentl in Larison’s evocative debut. In the post-Civil War West, 17-year-old Jessilyn Harney’s father dies, leaving their financially strapped homestead in her hands. She decides that the only way of saving it is to track down her errant older brother, Noah—who left several years back and has since become a notorious outlaw—and convince him to return home. Since it’s dangerous to be a woman traveling alone, she chooses to masquerade as a boy… Larison has developed a pitch-perfect voice for his intrepid heroine and populated the story with a lively crew of frontier types. Although overlong and sluggish in places, this is a winning tale of sexual identity in the Old West.”

Read about the journey from book to film in The Hollywood Reporter.
Warch a video of Larison at the ALA in June.


Stephen Markley, Ohio
Simon & Schuster

From Publishers Weekly: “In Markley’s standout debut novel (following nonfiction works Publish This Book and Tales of Iceland), four former high school classmates return to their Ohio hometown to make amends. Once a bastion of steel-mill industry, New Canaan has been corroded by economic downturn and opiates; it’s pervaded by a sense of disillusionment shared by the four, whose rudderless adult lives pale alongside the blinding lights of their adolescence. Over the course of one night—interlaced with high school flashbacks—the four settle old scores and uncover some of the town’s nefarious secrets… Markley’s novel is alternately disturbing and gorgeous, providing a broad view of the anxieties of a post-9/11 Middle America and the complexities of the humans who navigate them.”

Learn more about Markley’s writing life in this video, via Audible.


D. Wystan Owen, Other People’s Love Affairs
Algonquin Books

From Publishers Weekly: “Owen’s debut gathers lonely hearts from a town called Glass on England’s southern coast and dissects their melancholy across 10 stories. Among those characters “who’d never managed to disguise their disappointment with life” is Eleanor. She’s a kind nurse who, in “Lovers of a Kind,” becomes fond of a local vagrant she suspects was in love with her missing, deranged mother. Tony, an orphan, spends a troubling afternoon at the circus with his only friend, Mr. Avery, in “At the Circus.”… Owen populates his stories with those who drift, unmoored or lost—folk who believe themselves invisible, obsessed with memories and paths not taken. Though readers may wish for some light to balance the sadness, his is a lovely work of quiet, heart-wrenching prose.

Read a piece by Owen on William Trevor, up at Literary Hub.
Read our interview with Owen.