New Books: November 2018
Here’s a quick look at some of the great fiction out this November. Happy pub day to all! What a great month for us readers…
Laura Adamczyk, Hardly Children: Stories
“In Hardly Children, characters make bad but not irredeemable choices, and everywhere children are imperiled. It’s a bold vision that doesn’t hold back. These stories are funny and dark and ache for family.” —Sara Majka
A man hangs from the ceiling of an art gallery. A woman spells out messages to her sister using her own hair. Children deemed “bad” are stolen from their homes. In Hardly Children, Laura Adamczyk’s rich and eccentric debut collection, familiar worlds—bars, hotel rooms, cities that could very well be our own—hum with uncanny dread.
The characters in Hardly Children are keyed up, on the verge, full of desire. They’re lost, they’re in love with someone they shouldn’t be, they’re denying uncomfortable truths using sex or humor. They are children waking up to the threats of adulthood, and adults living with childlike abandon.
With command, caution, and subtle terror, Adamczyk shapes a world where death and the possibility of loss always emerge. Yet the shape of this loss is never fully revealed. Instead, it looms in the periphery of these stories, like an uncomfortable scene viewed out of the corner of one’s eye. (From FSG Originals November 20)
Gina Apostol, Insurrecto
From Publishers Weekly (starred review): “This is a complex and aptly vertiginous novel that deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered… Apostol’s layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines.”
Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher.
Within the spiraling voices and narrative layers of Insurrecto are stories of women—artists, lovers, revolutionaries, daughters—finding their way to their own truths and histories. Using interlocking voices and a kaleidoscopic structure, the novel is startlingly innovative, meditative, and playful. Insurrecto masterfully questions and twists narrative in the manner of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity in Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history. (From Soho Press November 13)
Lucia Berlin, Evening in Paradise
“Thank god for the posthumous revival of Lucia Berlin — how sad it would be to have never experienced her distinctive, vibrant voice. Her characters are utterly captivating… and her scenery envelops you. But it’s the early stories, those that follow the meandering adventures of kids just trying to fill their days, that are most alive.” —Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed (Best Books of Fall 2018)
In 2015, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published A Manual for Cleaning Women, a posthumous story collection by a relatively unknown writer, to wild, widespread acclaim. It was a New York Times bestseller; the paper’s Book Review named it one of the Ten Best Books of 2015; and NPR, Time, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and other outlets gave the book rave reviews.
The book’s author, Lucia Berlin, earned comparisons to Raymond Carver, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, and Anton Chekhov. Evening in Paradise is a careful selection from Berlin’s remaining stories—twenty-two gems that showcase the gritty glamour that made readers fall in love with her. From Texas to Chile, Mexico to New York City, Berlin finds beauty in the darkest places and darkness in the seemingly pristine. Evening in Paradise is an essential piece of Berlin’s oeuvre, a jewel-box follow-up for new and old fans. (From Farrar, Straus and Giroux November 6)
Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, the Serial Killer
From Publishers Weekly (starred review): “Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as a knife…bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.”
Katrina Carrasco, The Best Bad Things
From Publisher’s Weekly (starred review): “Breath-catching pacing, tantalizingly rough-and-tumble characters who are somehow both distasteful and deeply relatable, palpable erotic energy, and powerful storytelling make this a standout.”
It is 1887, and Alma Rosales is on the hunt for stolen opium. Trained in espionage by the Pinkerton Detective Agency—but dismissed for bad behavior and a penchant for going undercover as a man—Alma now works for Delphine Beaumond, the seductive mastermind of a West Coast smuggling ring.
When product goes missing at their Washington Territory outpost, Alma is tasked with tracking the thief and recovering the drugs. In disguise as the scrappy dockworker Jack Camp, this should be easy—once she muscles her way into the local organization, wins the trust of the magnetic local boss and his boys, discovers the turncoat, and keeps them all from uncovering her secrets. All this, while sending coded dispatches to the circling Pinkerton agents to keep them from closing in.
Alma’s enjoying her dangerous game of shifting identities and double crosses as she fights for a promotion and an invitation back into Delphine’s bed. But it’s getting harder and harder to keep her cover stories straight and to know whom to trust. One wrong move and she could be unmasked: as a woman, as a traitor, or as a spy.
A propulsive, sensual tour de force, The Best Bad Things introduces Katrina Carrasco, a bold new voice in crime fiction. (From MCDxFSG November 6)
Jaclyn Gilbert, Late Air
“In this mesmerizing debut, Jaclyn Gilbert has given us a deep and nuanced study of the ways that loss can ravage a marriage, how passion becomes obsession, and the body as a site of devastation and healing. Gilbert’s prose is luminous and hypnotic, so finely wrought it cuts.This book riveted me, broke my heart, and revived me.” —Melissa Febos
Look for CRAFT’s two-part interview with Jaclyn Gilbert: Part I on November 12
In the shadows of a predawn run, Murray tries to escape what he can’t control: his failed marriage. Grief. Even his own weakness. Murray is a college running coach insistent on his relentless training regimen and obsessed with his star athlete, until he finds her crumpled and unresponsive during a routine practice one morning.
Unable to avoid or outrun reality, Murray is forced to face the consequences of his own increasingly tenuous grip on life—exacerbated by the dangers of his perfectionistic, singular focus as a former athlete and survivor of an unspeakable loss from his past.
In her debut novel, author Jaclyn Gilbert weaves together the strands of two lives that form a union as finely nuanced and delicate as a spider’s web. Following the relationship of Murray and his wife, Nancy, in alternating narratives, we experience their early moments of hope and desire as well as their fears and failings. With poignancy and grace, Late Air traces the collapse of a marriage, exhausted by time and trauma, and one couple’s journey to regain their footing. (From Little A November 13)
Jonathan Lethem, The Feral Detective
“The Feral Detective investigates our haunted America in all its contemporary guises — at the edge of the city, beyond the blank desert, in the apartment next door. It’s a nimble and uncanny performance, brimming with Lethem’s trademark verve and wit.” —Colson Whitehead
Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe’s trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but it was never supposed to be dangerous. …
Jonathan Lethem’s first detective novel since Motherless Brooklyn, The Feral Detective is a singular achievement by one of our greatest writers. (From Ecco November 6)
Adam Nemmett, We Can Save Us All
From Booklist (starred review): “Nemett’s wondrously fresh novel positively bursts with charm, heart, and invention.”
Welcome to The Egg, an off-campus geodesic dome where David Fuffman and his crew of alienated Princeton students train for what might be the end of days: America is in a perpetual state of war, climate disasters create a global state of emergency, and scientists believe time itself may be collapsing.
Funded by the charismatic Mathias Blue and fueled by performance enhancers and psychedelic drugs, a student revolution incubates at The Egg, inspired by the superheroes that dominate American culture. The arrival of Haley Roth—an impassioned heroine with a dark secret—propels David and Mathias to expand their movement across college campuses nationwide, inspiring a cult-like following. As the final superstorm arrives, they toe the line between good and evil, deliverance and demagogues, the damned and the saved.
In this sprawling, ambitious debut, Adam Nemett delves into contemporary life in all of its chaos and unknowing. We Can Save Us All is a brave, ribald, and multi-layered examination of what may be the fundamental question of our time: just who is responsible for fixing all of this? (From Unnamed Press November 13)
Idra Novey, Those Who Knew
From Kirkus (starred review): “Novey’s writing is so singularly vibrant… Dreamy and jarring and exceedingly topical.”