Hypochondria, Political Activism, and a Giant Crow: Summer 2016 Fiction Preview

Hypochondria, Political Activism, and a Giant Crow: Summer 2016 Fiction Preview

‘Tis the season for summer travel, but airfare is expensive. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to squeeze between strangers hogging the armrest in a flying metal tube, why not wander into the world of a new book instead? This season’s fiction releases promise to take the reader everywhere from Chernobyl to Jamaica, from Spain to Brooklyn. Along the way, you’ll encounter unforgettable characters created by an impressive stable of established writers and exciting debut authors. Forget about flying, and dive into a novel. Snack peanuts not included, unfortunately.

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Big bird

When a family loses a member, everything can feel strange and wrong. Author Max Porter captures these feelings in his new novel, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. In this case, the title is literal—when a mother dies suddenly, her husband and sons grieve in the company of a large crow with whom they develop an unusual relationship. The prose style here veers into poetic territory, and is highly evocative. This tale is told in multiple perspectives, and gradually tells the story of what happened to the mother leading up to her death. This is a slim volume, but it packs an emotional wallop and will leave readers marveling at how few pages Porter needs to tell a nuanced and beautiful story.

On shelves: June 7

Barkskins

I speak for the trees

Annie Proulx has achieved the kind of renown for her work that most writers only dream of, and for good reason. As a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, Proulx’s best-known books are Brokeback Mountain (which became an Oscar-winning film) and The Shipping News. Now, she’s back with Barkskins, her highly-anticipated new novel about explorers in New France in Canada. The various plotlines span hundreds of years and are thematically concerned with what happens to trees in colonized lands. Weighing in at over 700 pages, this doorstop of a book is hefty, but various rave reviews have promised that it’s well worth the time readers will need to invest in it. Within the pages of Barkskins, readers will travel the world, and they couldn’t ask for a better tour guide.

On shelves: June 14

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty

The missing nest-egg

For readers who loved The Nest this spring, Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty is sure to please. We’ve all reached absentmindedly into our wallets for a 10 or 20 only to discover we’ve already spent it, but what happens when this occurs on a larger scale? What happens when a family’s fortune disappears, and no one is prepared? Ramona Ausubel tackles these questions in her latest novel, which Kirkus describes as a “modern fairy tale.” Set in the 1960s and 1970s, this book follows the two parents in the Keating family, Fern and Edgar, who discover one Labor Day weekend that their inheritance is gone. In a tizzy, they strike out separately to cope with the news, and leave their three children to fend for themselves for a few days. Readers of this book will chuckle, shake their heads, and check their bank accounts.

On shelves: June 14

Grace

Amazing grace

Naomi’s life on the Hilden plantation in Alabama was nothing short of horrific. She was born into slavery, and ran away when she was just 15 after a brutal incident involving the sexual advances of the plantation’s owner. On her own, Naomi must find a new place to start her life and eventually settles at a brothel in Georgia. Then, the unexpected happens: Naomi falls in love, and that love results in a pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, Josey. Tragically, Naomi will not live to see her daughter grow up. During her own lifetime, Josey will see the day when the Emancipation Proclamation is signed. But change isn’t always peaceful, and Josey will witness unspeakable things as the news spreads through the South. This is a violent but important story about mothers and daughters, and a dark chapter in American history.

On shelves: June 14

Hot Milk

In pain

For much of Sofia’s life, her mother, Rose, has been sick. Rose’s illness has been mysterious, and after years of unexplained symptoms, Sofia’s patience is wearing thin. Desperate for help, Rose and Sofia set off for Spain, where they have found a clinic that they hope will cure Rose of whatever is ailing her. The clinic’s doctor has unusual ideas about treating Rose, and Sofia’s confusion and concern for her mother grow. Is Rose a hypochondriac? It’s a hard question to ask, and one that Sofia will examine from all sides as she tries to understand what is wrong. At the same time, Sofia will forge a stronger connection to her own sexuality and undergo changes of her own at the clinic.

On shelves: July 12

Here Comes the Sun

Island in the sun

Thandi must have a better life. This is what Margot tells herself, and it is the reason she goes into sex work in addition to her job at the desk of a hotel in Jamaica. At 15, Thandi is young, and can take a different path than her big sister had to. Margot obsesses over making enough money to send Thandi to school, but Thandi is preoccupied with her appearance rather than her education. Meanwhile, both sisters maintain sometimes-strained relationships with their mother, Delores. Two generations and three women’s stories mingle in this debut set in Jamaica, and readers will get a glimpse of the darker and more complicated side of tourism. As one Goodreads reviewer aptly pointed out, you might not want to take this book on vacation with you.

On shelves: July 19

Harmony

Into the woods

You probably know Carolyn Parkhurst’s name from her buzzed-about book, The Dogs of Babel, back in 2003. Now Parkhurst is back with Harmony, a new novel about an autism specialist and a family desperate to find help for their child, Tilly, who is on the autism spectrum. The Hammonds are a family of four with two daughters, Tilly and Iris. They pack up their lives and bid farewell to their friends in Washington D.C. in order to relocate to Camp Harmony, which is run by a man named Scott Bean who claims that he can cure Tilly’s autism. But what the Hammonds find in the woods isn’t what they were expecting. Parkhurst gets at something very real in this book: Members of a family don’t just grow up individually—their relationships with one another are constantly being recast. Readers interested in autism spectrum disorders and how they play into family dynamics will love this novel.

On shelves: August 2

Bright, Precious Days

Bright lights, big novel

Jay McInerney is back with the third installment in his series about Russell Calloway and his wife, Corrine. Russell and Corrine are living in New York City, and appear to have it all. Their lives are glamorous and comfortable, but beneath the surface, plenty of problems are simmering and threatening to boil over. Someone from Corrine’s past appears suddenly, and this, coupled with with the fallout from the financial collapse, puts incredible strain on the Calloways’ union. Newcomers to McInerney might want to start elsewhere in his oeuvre (we suggest Bright Lights, Big City) rather than diving into this series midway, but for readers who are already fans, this book won’t disappoint.

On shelves: August 2

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

First love

First, there was Chernobyl. Then, there was Ivan Isaenko. Born just a year and a half after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ivan came into the world with no legs and three fingers instead of ten. As a result, he has spent his life in a hospital in Belarus, with many other children with severe health problems. It’s a lonely life, especially since many of the other children are unable to talk and no one ever comes to visit Ivan. Then, something wonderful happens: Ivan falls in love. The object of his affection is Polina, a teenager who has leukemia. Ivan’s life changes dramatically: Before, he just wanted the days in the hospital to pass as quickly as possible, but now, he is consumed with thoughts of Polina and the desire for her to survive.

On shelves: August 9

Another Brooklyn

A girl grows (up) in Brooklyn

Jacqueline Woodson (perhaps best known for Brown Girl Dreaming) has a National Book Award under her belt, but it’s been two decades since she’s written for adults. This makes it particularly exciting that Another Brooklyn is coming out this summer, and we bet her fans both old and new will rejoice. August has so many memories of Brooklyn—she and her friends grew up there and had big dreams for where their lives would take them. But some of those memories are darker and more painful, and in this novel, a grown-up August recounts them all in pitch-perfect prose when she goes home after her father dies. This is a coming-of-age story that will touch readers and leave them hoping it won’t take 20 more years for Jacqueline Woodson to write a follow-up.

On shelves: August 9

Behold the Dreamers

A tale of two families

The year is 2007, and two families of New Yorkers are dealing with the impending financial collapse in very different ways. The Jonga family has immigrated from Cameroon, and is struggling to make ends meet. Their fate crosses paths with that of the Edwards family when husband and father Jende Jonga takes a job as a driver for Clark, the husband and father in the Edwards clan. Clark Edwards works at Lehman Brothers, a name that will ring a bell for those familiar with the events of 2008. As their lives become more interconnected, both families must deal with their rapidly-changing circumstances. This, understandably, puts great pressure on their relationships with one another. This novel is bound to be one of the summer’s biggest titles.

On shelves: August 23

The Nix

Read all about it

Samuel Andresen-Anderson (yep, that’s his name) is headed somewhere… He just doesn’t know where, and he isn’t getting there very quickly. He’s writing a book, but it isn’t going very well. He’s a teacher, but he’s not very excited about it. So when his estranged mother makes the news by going after a politician with a rock, he gets an idea: Write the authoritative biography of her, and publish that. The catch, of course, is that Samuel needs to find her first. Samuel’s journey to uncover his mother’s past and to finally make good on promises to his publisher will take him places he never expected to go. He will be shocked by what he uncovers, but maybe, just maybe, a little bit inspired, too. Nathan Hill writes a gripping tale about what happens when our loved ones have secrets.

On shelves: August 30

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