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New Books: November 2019

The end is near! (The end of the year.) Here is our penultimate 2019 roundup of new fiction releases we can’t wait to read. They basically all come out on the 5th, so you have plenty of time to collect before the holidays.

 

Johannes Anyuru, They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears (translated by Saskia Vogel)

“There is an inventive and emotionally devastating beauty about this book. That Johannes Anyuru has managed to so precisely capture the metastasis of hatred across time and space shows he is a writer in possession of a ferocious magic.”
—Omar El Akkad

In the midst of a terrorist attack on a bookstore reading by Göran Loberg, a comic book artist famous for his demeaning drawings of the prophet Mohammed, one of the attackers, a young woman, has a sudden premonition that something is wrong, changing the course of history. Two years later, this unnamed woman invites an acclaimed writer to visit her in the criminal psychiatric clinic where she lives. She then shares with him an incredible story—she is a visitor from an alternate future where any so-called “anti-Swedish” citizens are forced into a horrific ghetto called The Rabbit Yard. As events begin to spiral and the author becomes more and more implicated in this woman’s tale, he comes to believe the unbelievable: she’s telling the truth.

A remarkably intense, beautifully wrought tale that combines the ingenuity of speculative fiction with today’s harsh political realities, They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears catapults Anyuru to the front ranks of world writers. (From Two Lines Press | November 5)


Rilla Askew, guest editor & Nathan Leslie, series editor, The Best Small Fictions 2019

“This newest volume of Best Small Fictions demonstrates once and for all that flash fiction writers are the Ginger Rogers of the literary world, accomplishing all that novelists and short story writers do, only backwards and in high heels.”
—Kathy Fish

The Best Small Fictions anthology, now in its fifth year, presents one hundred and forty-­six pristinely crafted pieces from an array of authors representing twenty-six nations and six continents. These short, elliptical works are varied and edgy, sorrowful and triumphant, provocative and visionary. The small fictions enclosed within this volume are always vibrant. They scintillate. They linger. With each story brief enough to savor at a stoplight or quick coffee break, the tales contained within 2019’s The Best Small Fictions promise to leave a mark. (From Sonder Press | November 5)

Featuring Brenda Peynado’s “Fire,” first published in CRAFT!


Larry Brown, Tiny Love: The Complete Stories

“That man could write. He moved through life with a discerning eye and a capacity for language that I wanted. How did he do that? Story makes sense of what cannot make sense just by showing you the broken tragic heart that goes on beating. Which he did so beautifully.”
—Dorothy Allison

A career-spanning collection, Tiny Love brings together for the first time the stories of Larry Brown’s previous collections along with those never before gathered. The self-taught Brown has long had a cult following, and this collection comes with an intimate and heartfelt appreciation by novelist Jonathan Miles. We see Brown’s early forays into genre fiction and the horror story, then [see him] develop his fictional gaze closer to home, on the people and landscapes of Lafayette County, Mississippi. And what’s astonishing here is the odyssey these stories chart: Brown’s self-education as a writer and the incredible artistic journey he navigated from “Plant Growin’ Problems” to “A Roadside Resurrection.” This is the whole of Larry Brown, the arc laid bare, both an amazing story collection and the fullest portrait we’ll see of one of the South’s most singular artists. (From Workman | November 26)


Paulina Flores, Humiliation: Stories (translated by Megan McDowell)

Humiliation is a brilliant book that captures the volatility of misunderstandings, the moment when failures matter less than the need to share them.”
—Alejandro Zambra

The nine mesmerizing stories in Humiliation, translated from the Spanish by Man Booker International Prize finalist Megan McDowell, present us with a Chile we seldom see in fiction: port cities marked by poverty and brimming with plans of rebellion; apartment buildings populated by dominant mothers and voyeuristic neighbors; library steps that lead students to literature, but also into encounters with other arts—those of seduction, self-delusion, sabotage.

In these pages, a father walks through the scorching heat of Santiago’s streets with his two daughters in tow. Jobless and ashamed, he takes them into a stranger’s house, a place that will become the site of the greatest humiliation of his life. In an impoverished fishing town, four teenage boys try to allay their boredom during an endless summer by translating lyrics from the Smiths into Spanish using a stolen dictionary. Their dreams of fame and glory twist into a plan to steal musical instruments from a church, an obsession that prevents one of them from anticipating a devastating ending. Meanwhile a young woman goes home with a charismatic man after finding his daughter wandering lost in a public place. She soon discovers, like so many characters in this book, that fortuitous encounters can be deceptions in disguise.

Themes of pride, shame, and disgrace—small and large, personal and public—tie the stories in this collection together. Humiliation becomes revelation as we watch Paulina Flores’s characters move from an age of innocence into a world of conflicting sensations. (From Catapult | November 5)


Claire Rudy Foster, Shine of the Ever

“For those of us who have made mixtapes on actual tape, the metaphor is apt—there’s so much in this collection that’s about trying to time things perfectly—including the white space. Written in prose that’s both understated and urgent, Shine of the Ever captures the feeling you get when you’ve chosen the perfect next song.”
Wendy J. Fox in BuzzFeed

Shine of the Ever is a literary mix tape of queer voices out of 1990s Portland. By turns tender and punk-tough, fierce and loving, this collection of short stories explores what binds a community of queer and trans people as they negotiate love, screwing up, and learning to forgive themselves for being young and sometimes foolish. (From Interlude | November 5)


Mary Gaitskill, This Is Pleasure: A Story

“This insightful fictional take on a #MeToo scandal offers fresh perspectives and avoids easy answers…Gaitskill’s willingness to ignore common wisdom and consider controversial and complex questions from different viewpoints is a true literary pleasure.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Starting with Bad Behavior in the 1980s, Mary Gaitskill has been writing about gender relations with searing, even prophetic honesty. In This Is Pleasure, she considers our present moment through the lens of a particular #MeToo incident.

The effervescent, well-dressed Quin, a successful book editor and fixture on the New York arts scene, has been accused of repeated unforgivable transgressions toward women in his orbit. But are they unforgivable? And who has the right to forgive him? To Quin’s friend Margot, the wrongdoing is less clear. Alternating Quin’s and Margot’s voices and perspectives, Gaitskill creates a nuanced tragicomedy, one that reveals her characters as whole persons—hurtful and hurting, infuriating and touching, and always deeply recognizable.

Gaitskill has said that fiction is the only way that she could approach this subject because it is too emotionally faceted to treat in the more rational essay form. Her compliment to her characters—and to her readers—is that they are unvarnished and real. Her belief in our ability to understand them, even when we don’t always admire them, is a gesture of humanity from one of our greatest contemporary writers. (From Pantheon | November 5)


JP Gritton, Wyoming

“This is a compassionate novel, for all its violence and despair, an authentic, pitch-perfect portrait of an America too often caricatured or ignored. There are hard truths here, grit and cruelty, but JP Gritton’s fine prose is nuanced enough, generous enough, to keep his troubled narrator’s humanity, his beating heart, apparent at every turn.”
—Alice McDermott

It’s 1988 and Shelley Cooper is in trouble. He’s broke, he’s been fired from his construction job, and his ex-wife has left him for their next door neighbor and a new life in Kansas City. The only opportunity on his horizon is fifty pounds of his brother’s high-grade marijuana, which needs to be driven from Colorado to Houston and exchanged for a lockbox full of cash. The delivery goes off without a hitch, but getting home with the money proves to be a different challenge altogether. Fueled by a grab bag of resentments and self punishment, Shelley becomes a case study in the question of whether it’s possible to live without accepting yourself, and the dope money is the key to a lock he might never find. JP Gritton’s portrait of a hapless aspirant at odds with himself and everyone around him is both tender and ruthless, and Wyoming considers the possibility of redemption in a world that grants forgiveness grudgingly, if at all. (From Tin House | November 19)


Rosa Liksom, The Colonel’s Wife (translated by Lola Rogers)

“An astonishingly fearless, bold, and visceral exploration of the heart and life of a woman on the wrong side of history…. A tour de force.”
—Stacey D’Erasmo

In the final twilit moments of her life, an elderly woman looks back on her years in the thrall of fascism and Nazism. Both her authoritarian tendencies and her ecstatic engagement with the natural world are vividly and terrifyingly evoked in The Colonel’s Wife, an astonishing and brave novel that resonates painfully with our own strained political moment.

At once complex and hideous, sexually liberated and sympathetic to the darkest of political movements, the narrator describes her childhood as the daughter of a member of the right-wing Finnish Whites before World War II, and the way she became involved with and eventually married the much older Colonel, who was thirty years her senior. During the war, he came and went as they fraternized with the Nazi elite and retreated together into the deepest northern wilds. As both the marriage and the war turn increasingly dark and destructive, Rosa Liksom renders a complex and unsavory character in a prose style that is striking in its paradoxical beauty. The Colonel’s Wife is both a brilliant portrayal of an individual psychology and a stark warning about the perils of nationalism. (From Graywolf | November 5)


Daniel José Older, The Book of Lost Saints

“A lyrical, beautiful, devastating, literally haunting journey of assimilation, resistance, and family. Older just gets better and better.”
—N.K. Jemisin

Marisol vanished during the Cuban Revolution, disappearing with hardly a trace. Now, shaped by atrocities long-forgotten, her tenacious spirit visits her nephew, Ramón, in modern-day New Jersey. Her hope: that her presence will prompt him to unearth their painful family history.

Ramón launches a haphazard investigation into the story of his ancestor, unaware of the forces driving him on his search. Along the way, he falls in love, faces a run-in with a murderous gangster, and uncovers the lives of the lost saints who helped Marisol during her imprisonment.

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older is a haunting meditation on family, forgiveness, and the violent struggle to be free. (From Imprint| November 5)


Daniel Oz, Further Up the Path: Flash Fables (translated by Jessica Cohen)

“In these tales—these flashes of recognition—Daniel Oz joins the tradition that begins with the Old Testament and goes all the way to Kafka and Borges to our days. It is a tradition in which a moment enters and we briefly see the lyric flame inside it.”
—Ilya Kaminsky

Presented bilingually with a new English translation by Man Booker Prize-winning translator Jessica Cohen, these brief fables by Israeli author Daniel Oz engage with vast concepts about human nature. Full of timeless, open-ended parables, Further Up the Path offers no answers, moralizing, or conclusion: only an uneasy bewilderment with the paradoxes of the human—and animal—condition. (From BOA Editions | November 5)


Dale Peck, What Burns: Stories

“Peck is a brave, bold writer who disallows a safe, predictable reading experience. The final line of a story often cracks it open in unanticipated ways.”
—Booklist

The stories in What Burns examine the extremes of desire against a backdrop of family, class, and mortality.

In “Bliss,” a young man befriends the convicted felon who murdered his mother when he was only a child. In “Not Even Camping Is Like Camping Anymore,” a teenage boy fends off the advances of a five-year-old his mother babysits. And in “Dues,” a man discovers that everything he owns is borrowed from someone else—including his time on earth.

Walking the tightrope between tenderness and violence that has defined Peck’s work since the publication of his first novel, Martin and John, through his most recent, Night SoilWhat Burns reveals Peck’s mastery of the short form. (From Soho Press | November 5)


Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, The Revisioners

“I read this wonderful novel nearly in a single sitting, carried along by its exemplary pacing and structure, its rich cast of characters, and its deft explorations of trauma, cruelty, survival, and love. Written in a haunted present and a past that’s not past, The Revisioners honors the living and the lost in a painful, tender testament to the power of fiction.”
—Lydia Kiesling

In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between mothers and their children, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom. (From Counterpoint | November 5)


Nadeem Zaman, Up in the Main House & Other Stories

“Modern-day Dhaka and its residents are generously represented in this powerful collection. Meticulously constructed in both language and emotion, Zaman’s stories sneak up on the reader and consistently deliver.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

Up in the main house, servants have worked for decades watching the city rise around it, feeling like part of the family but knowing they aren’t.

Nadeem Zaman’s new collection of eight stories set in contemporary Dhaka explore the inner lives of the cooks and butlers, night watchmen and peons—people who have spent decades working for the same family, in the same house. Arranged marriages are negotiated, favors asked, the social cues a subtle dance. The daily itineraries must run like clockwork for the rich and well off who have their own problems, but in Nadeem’s stories they appear thin and forever insecure, a byproduct of the real lives being lived around them. There are digressions, too, big ones like the interlopers and prowlers, petty thieves, and calculated con men, and small ones, like the servant woman who locks herself in the master bedroom while the family is away and the night guard who wonders, if there is always “the family,” does he have one of his own? (From Unnamed Press | November 5)