5 New Novels on My Wish List

5 New Novels on My Wish List

Pew by Catherine Lacey In a small town in the American South, a genderless figure suddenly appears in a church pew, racially ambiguous, small, and refusing to speak. One family takes in the stranger, and nicknames them Pew. Pew is shuttled from household to household as the town readies itself for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, and Pew takes in many one-sided conversations, alert but silent, and eventually Pew’s ever-present eyes and lack of speech begin to wear on the townspeople, turning their generosity to menace and suspicion. Is Pew an Angel or Devil? Who they might really be comes to an earth-shattering climax at the Forgiveness Festival, and is overshadowed by even larger truths. This would be a good book for someone who liked Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, or if you like books that have a high climax near the end of the book; Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour comes to mind, or Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell The incomparable David Mitchell is back with his long-awaited follow-up to Slade House; here we have the strangest and most famous British rock that you’ve never heard of, and supplied Mitchell’s prose with the ride through a wave of psychedelic, late ‘60s genre of rock’n’roll, this book feels sublime as it flows through us. Utopia Avenue—the book—is about truth and lies, music madness, and idealism: everything the 60’s was all at once, all the time, like a giant kaleidoscope constantly turning, unable to pull yourself free. Can they change the world, or does the world change us? David Mitchell fans will of course love this, and it doesn’t appear to be connected to his other books. Fans of Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid will like this, or perhaps Emma Cline’s The Girls.

Luster by Raven Leilani This author so deeply observed her characters’ personalities and lives with dark comedy and complex insight we often forget Leliani is a debut writer. The main character, Edie, seems to be lurching along in the dark when we meet her, alone and making questionable choices in sex and at work. She meets Eric and is invited in by his wife into their open marriage, and suddenly becomes a role model to their daughter Akila, who may not know any other black people except her. Edie haltingly churns out art in a burning desire to be noticed, to make sense of what is happening in her life and all around her. But this novel is more than that: it is also a haunting description of how difficult it can be to believe in your own abilities and the influences that help us become who we truly are in the end. You may also enjoy Writers and Lovers, by Lily King.

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan A story about a complicated friendship between two women, who share neither the same background nor the same stage of life, Sullivan reveals these characters’ flaws and shortcomings with no compunction, while also focusing on the broader story issues of money, privilege, class, marriage, and family. Elisabeth, an accomplished journalist and new mother, is adjusting to life in small-town American after 20 years in NYC. She hires Sam to babysit for her so that she can do her work, though she is doing more internet-surfing than actual writing. Sam is in her last year at the local women’s college, and trying to make a decision between her future plans and a current romance. Her student loans worry her, and she’s concerned about what may await her in the years ahead. It’s seems inevitable that a friendship would develop between the two women, but eventually the difference between them jars them apart and a betrayal has devastating consequences. A wonderful exploration of motherhood, power, and what privilege can both afford and cost us, this novel shows us how one year can shape the course of our lives. If you enjoy this, you may also like Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, or Lynn Steger Strong’s Want.

Natural History by Carlos Fonesca, translated by Megan McDowell For those of you who richly enjoyed The Goldfinch and lovers of any complex literary tale, comes a new novel set in New Jersey, Israel, and in Latin America. A puzzle that unfolds over the course of the novel, like a treasure map with clues spread thoughout the art world, politics, and the hidden realities of the mind, this is a thickly layered narrative that continues to unwind even after the story is over; you can go back and re-read it again and again and continue to find things you missed because that is how deeply entrenched this author has pitched himself into the world he has created and his characters’ lives. Those are always my favorite books—books that can be picked up over and over, like dear friends you can open up and visit any time you want.

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