July 17, 2021
This week features mad housewives, animal behavior, distanced families, solitude, and some much-needed poetry. Many of these books star an isolated protagonist and each explores how we fit into our world (or in some cases, don’t). Excellent writing and vivid imagination abounds.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By KATIE KITAMURA
Published by RIVERHEAD
Kitamura’s main characters always seem like islands unto themselves—very coolly contained. Her follow-up to the brilliant novel A Separation, about a wife looking for her missing husband in Greece, is called Intimacies. It’s a perfect title for the matters within. It concerns an interpreter in The Hague whose emotionally complex work translating for victims and perpetrators of war crimes keeps her somewhat detached, even in her closest relationships, though not for long. . . . Kitamura always creates a visceral tension and suspense from seemingly ordinary people and events. Please read both novels!
By RACHEL YODER
Published by DOUBLEDAY
A modern take on The Metamorphosis, Nightbitch follows a new mother left alone by her always-traveling husband. As the former artist rises to the challenge of caring for her young son, something odd begins to happen. Symptoms include longer teeth and hair on her back. Suddenly she is channeling her inner canine. Seeking answers from a metaphysical book and a support group of other mothers, she is plunged into a world that has her questioning reality. Nightbitch is bursting with energy and humor—a dynamic combination of the domestic and fantastic..
A Boring Wife Settles the Score
By MARIE-RENÉE LAVOIE
Published by ARACHNIDE EDITIONS
Translated by Arielle Aaronson
In the mood for a hilarious book about life post-divorce? Lavoie is a French-Canadian writer and the author of Autopsy of a Boring Housewife. She continues that heroine’s story here, but you don’t have to read the first to utterly enjoy the second. Diane, whose husband had announced he was in love with someone else, is now ready for romance, but it’s hard for a woman to get back out there in her 50s. The story is recognizable and always very fertile territory, and in Lavoie’s able hands Diane’s raucous escapades are equally funny, touching and resonant.
By PIK-SHUEN FUNG
Published by ONE WORLD
Fung (another Canadian writer) now lives in New York City, but her family originally emigrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Her debut novel about family and grief is structured as a series of (sometimes very) brief, poetic vignettes as the narrator reconsiders childhood memories, her grandparents’ experiences in the war and in a new country, and the death of her absent father. I especially loved the first image of being visited by a bird on her balcony after he died and knowing with certainty that it was him. Many of us have had just that experience..
To Walk Alone in the Crowd
By ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA
Published by FSG
Translated by Guillermo Bleichmar
Molina, an Argentinian writer, won the Medici Prize for the Foreign Novel for his newly translated effort. Don’t overlook this little gem that is part memoir and part fiction. I always enjoy viewing New York City through the eyes of an expat (or an American’s observations of a foreign city as in Edmund White’s wonderful The Flâneur about Paris). Molina’s lovely ode to the city fashions a surprisingly pleasing assemblage from the dirt, the noise, the politics and the mess of the Metropolis. It is like a piece of found art itself, transforming seeming chaos into something quite beautiful.
Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night
By MORGAN PARKER
Published by TIN HOUSE
Parker’s 2019 collection, Magical Negro, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Now Tin House has reissued her first collection with a new introduction by Danez Smith and quotes from Tracy K. Smith and Eileen Myles. Rooted in the 2010s, it’s a terrific look back on the pop cultural landmarks of the era like Jay Z and Miss Black America. Parker may be a more formidable and well-known writer almost a decade later, but this reprint shows why her earlier work is still so relevant today. Her confrontational passion as a Black feminist artist shines through..