February 19, 2022
The following works explore attachments in many forms—to family, country, lovers and spouses. To their great credit, these six writers, whose fictions delve into every aspect of relationships, all bring something fresh and revealing to their stories and uncover the universality of connections.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By PERUMAL MURUGAN
Published by GROVE PRESS
Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
The Story of a Goat from 2019 helped expand this celebrated Tamil writer’s work to English-speaking audiences. Murugan’s newly translated novel concerns forbidden love and its tenacity in the face of sometimes violence-producing societal norms. The taboo here is that the two young lovers living in a small Indian village come from different castes. Well-loved and prolific in his native India and a VP at PEN International, Murugan has captured many nominations and prizes. With good reason. He manages to put into simple effective prose the universal injustice of intolerance—made even more powerful by the gentleness of the two young lovers.
The Berlin Exchange
By JOSEPH KANON
Published by SCRIBNER
I have followed Kanon’s successful career (he’s a former publishing executive) for decades. He just gets better and better, particularly at steamy, clever spy stories set abroad. This novel takes place in Cold War Berlin with a divorced couple reuniting during a precarious exchange of prisoners between Germany and Russia. The ex-husband, an American physicist, has questions about why and who arranged his passage. The perilous plan has surprising turns, while the underlying love story adds an urgent dimension to the moody atmosphere driving the suspense..
The Selfless Act of Breathing
By JJ BOLA
Published by ATRIA BOOKS
The intriguing premise of Bola’s lyrical new novel finds a Congolese-born teacher, Michael, boarding a plane in London with little more than $10,000 in his pocket, intending to travel and spend it down until it is gone. Then he will end it all. Bola, a poet, refugee worker and global speaker, explores the meaning of freedom, embodied by America, as well as the passionate attachments he accrues as he takes the journey of his life. Critics’ comparisons to both Ralph Ellison and Virginia Woolf are not off-base. Bola has captured both the existential dread and the tenacious hope in modern life.
By JULIE OTSUKA
Published by KNOPF
The locale is an underground swimming pool where a group of rather broken people come each day, doing laps, finding comfort, safety and camaraderie in a world where it is hard to have control. When cracks begin to appear in the bottom of the pool it mirrors the fissures in the characters’ stability, especially a woman whose memory is fading. In this way Otsuka builds a beautiful story of a mother and daughter as they attempt to rescue their relationship before it is too late. It is perhaps Otsuka’s (The Buddha in the Attic) most powerful and resonant work to date..
The Paris Apartment
By LUCY FOLEY
Published by WILLIAM MORROW
Like a good bingeable television series, Foley’s (The Guest List) fourth novel has all the elements of a winner. It’s set in an elegant Paris apartment with a cast of characters as suspicious as those in Rosemary’s Baby. Jess, a Londoner, is down on her luck as usual and arrives in Paris where her successful, charming brother Ben has been living. But Ben is nowhere to be found. The residents seem to be hiding something, from the top floor wealthy and arrogant couple to the nosy concierge downstairs. Jess rises to the challenge of locating her brother in a taut plot full of smart twists and turns.
Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them
By MAEVE HIGGINS
Published by PENGUIN BOOKS
One of the great things about Higgins’s new book is reading about America from an outsider’s perspective. A comedienne and podcaster from a big Irish family and an observer of human behavior extraordinaire, she probes this country’s divergences—border crossings, Southern monuments, etc.—as she traipses across America to genuinely understand how one country can hold such diametrically opposed views. With the humor of a Sedaris, these essays combine both an earnestness and acerbic wit. The collection reveals our own complicated history to one another by a transplanted writer who as a child thought “No man is an island” was really, “No man is in Ireland.”.