New Books: December 2019
Welcome to the final 2019 roundup of new fiction we can’t wait to read!
Howard Fast, The General Zapped an Angel, with a new introduction by Mark Harris
“Fantastical, oddly endearing stories rescued from the ravages of time…A collection of delightful and still relevant stories that certainly earns its resurrection.” —Kirkus Reviews
In The General Zapped an Angel, featuring nine supremely entertaining fantasy and science fiction tales, a Vietnam general shoots down what appears to be an angel; a man sells his soul to the devil for a copy of the next day’s Wall Street Journal; and a group of alien beings bestow a mouse with human thought and emotion
Fast, one of the best-selling authors of the twentieth century whose career spanned decades and genres, skewers war hawks, oil speculators, and profit-at-all-costs capitalism with wit and empathy, making these stories as relevant today as when they were first published in 1970. (From Ecco | December 3)
“In these stories, it is possible to be both dignified and kind of a mess, to make terrible mistakes for the noblest of reasons, to find yourself in troubles whose causes you know you should barely let yourself understand. These stories are deeply human, keen to the everyday wonders of romance, family, and work.”
A strongman grapples with his shrinking body; a couple recalls the metamorphic stages of their love; a deck salesman makes a long-winded sales pitch; a magician guards a deadly secret. These are the lives that populate the stories of Dustin M. Hoffman—a vibrant, eccentric dream of America, one that deconstructs the blue-collar experience, and expands the possibilities of short fiction itself. Satirical and heartfelt, poignant and loopily funny, No Good for Digging cements the arrival of a singular literary talent. (From Word West | December 3)
John L’Heureux, The Heart Is a Full-Wild Beast
“One can find every aspect of life here: ambition and disappointment, franticness and triumph. But these stories are more than just a chronicle of life. At a time when we are increasingly waylaid by the transient and discardable, this collection of a writer’s lifework feels like an essential and heroic act; and restores a true faith in life.” —Yiyun Li
A nun crashes her car; an unborn child sings to its mother; a troubled priest is in the market for a London apartment. In The Heart Is a Full-Wild Beast, John L’Heureux explores head-on life’s biggest questions, and the moments—of joy, doubt, transcendence—that alter the course of life. Compiled as he neared the end of his life, and conceived as the legacy of a life’s work, The Heart Is a Full-Wild Beast brims with elegance, humor, and compassion, welcoming both the ordinary and the rapturous. L’Heureux is a writer of astonishing vision—a master of storytelling and the sentence. (From A Public Space | December 3)
Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age
“Kiley Reid has written a timely novel that asks what we owe to those we care for in this complicated world. With intimate, touching observations, Reid details the lives of two complicated, loving women who are trying to figure out how to live their best lives in a world that does not always make space for them to do so.”
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. (From G.P. Putnam’s Sons | December 31)
Margarita García Robayo, Fish Soup, translated by Charlotte Coombe
“At first glance, the two novellas and seven short stories of this collection might appear to be quiet slices of everyday life. García Robayo’s thoughtful prose, however, which expertly combines playful wit with careful restraint, infuses each story with a powerful undercurrent of desire that can turn ordinary events like skipping school, chatting with neighbors, or stomaching an unexpected layover into surreal, often unnerving, encounters.” —Kirkus Reviews
From internationally acclaimed author Margarita García Robayo comes Fish Soup, a unique collection comprising two novellas plus the book of short stories Worse Things (winner of the prestigious Casa de las Américas Prize).
Set on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Waiting for a Hurricane follows a girl obsessed with escaping both her life and her country. Emotionally detached from her family, and disillusioned with what the future holds if she remains, she takes ever more drastic steps in order to achieve her goal, seemingly oblivious to the damage she is causing both to herself and to those around her.
The tales of Worse Things provide snapshots of lives in turmoil, frayed relationships, dreams of escape, family taboos, and rejection both of and by society. Skilfully painting just enough detail, García Robayo explores these themes and invites the reader to unravel the true significance of the events depicted.
The previously unpublished Sexual Education examines the attempts of a student to tally the strict doctrine of abstinence taught at her school with the very different moral norms that prevail in her social circles. Semi-autobiographical, the frank depiction of these opposing pressures makes it impossible to remain a dispassionate observer.
Throughout the collection, García Robayo’s signature style blends cynicism and beauty with an undercurrent of dark humour. The prose is at once blunt and poetic as she delves into the lives of her characters, who simultaneously evoke sympathy and revulsion, challenging the reader’s loyalties as they immerse themselves in the unparalleled universe that is Fish Soup. (From Charco Press | December 3)
S.P. Tenhoff, The Involuntary Sojourner: Stories
In this striking debut, S. P. Tenhoff takes us to real and imagined countries around the globe, where characters find themselves passengers on voyages beyond the boundaries of their familiar world and their understanding of themselves. A town is split in two, a line painted down the middle, when two warring governments decide, arbitrarily, to redraw borders. A man hits a boy in a car accident that he begins to suspect might not have been an accident after all. An aging puppeteer in Edo-period Japan struggles to choose a successor before dementia overtakes him. And in the title story, a mysterious illness causes its victims to travel like sleepwalkers to distant countries, where they wake to discover that they are now fluent in languages and cultures they previously didn’t know at all. Uncanny and profound, these ten stories capture those pivotal moments when our sense of place and self is forever shaken, and we must chart a new course. (From Seven Stories Press | December 10)
Jeff VanderMeer, Dead Astronauts
“VanderMeer is a master of literary science fiction, and this may be his best book yet.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
A messianic blue fox who slips through warrens of time and space on a mysterious mission. A homeless woman haunted by a demon who finds the key to all things in a strange journal. A giant leviathan of a fish, centuries old, who hides a secret, remembering a past that may not be its own. Three ragtag rebels waging an endless war for the fate of the world against an all-powerful corporation. A raving madman who wanders the desert lost in the past, haunted by his own creation: an invisible monster whose name he has forgotten and whose purpose remains hidden.
Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts presents a City with no name of its own where, in the shadow of the all-powerful Company, lives human and otherwise converge in terrifying and miraculous ways. At stake: the fate of the future, the fate of Earth—all the Earths. (From MCD x FSG | December 3)