October 8, 2022
Often, getting out of your comfort zone enhances the pleasures of reading. This week two oversized creatures are featured, as well as (possibly) autobiographical fiction about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, plus an extraordinary new novel we will be launching at The Center about an unexpected friendship.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Hero of This Book
By Elizabeth McCracken
Published by Ecco
I thought I preferred McCracken’s stories, but her new novel is a knock-out. The title hero is the narrator’s mother, described impeccably from her child-sized feet that won’t fit comfortably into any shoes to her cantankerous nature balanced by a sense of fun. The narrator revisits London a decade after her mother’s death to recall their trip together at the end of her mother’s life. It makes no difference if this is autobiographical, a conundrum the narrator wrestles with, because this is a universal story of a daughter’s effort to make sense of her relationship with her mother. As Yiyun Li says, “[McCracken’s] specialty is the interior.” It’s an exhilarating, big-hearted book.
The Mountain in the Sea
By Ray Nayler
Published by MCD
This debut science fiction showcases that endlessly fascinating cephalopod, the octopus. Not since Mrs. Caliban has a sea creature stolen the show in a novel. Nayler, an international advisor to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, has a big imagination and an incredible talent for description. He builds a near-future world in which a Vietnamese archipelago has been taken over by an AI tech company. There, a female scientist is studying the brains of octopuses (go down the rabbit hole to see how amazing they are in real life) and their culture, with the assistance of an android. I can’t wait for the movie version..
By Lydia Millet
Published by W.W. Norton
Millet (A Children’s Bible) delivers a life-affirming story about a man who has fled New York for Arizona after a devastating breakup. Reinventing himself is his way of healing. “He went to new places because they weren’t the same as the old ones.” He makes new friends in Phoenix, mostly kind and gentle ones whom he fears could be doomed to extinction like the dinosaurs. But Millet’s lovely novel illustrates the ways in which one adapts and grows, even from trauma, and sends a positive message about the intrinsically good nature of people despite their potential for cruelty to mankind and the natural world.
Before All the World
By Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Published by FSG
Sadness Is a White Bird, Rothman-Zecher’s 2018 debut, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. In his striking new fiction, Leyb and ‘Lion,’ two Jewish refugees, and Charles, a Black man who can speak broken Yiddish, find comfort (see Millet above) when they come to understand they are not so different from one another. Leyb, who survived the almost full massacre of his Eastern European Jewish village, and Charles meet and bond at a speakeasy in the 1930s. Joined by another survivor of the Holocaust, the three become an intrepid trio of souls reclaiming their lives in post-Prohibition Philadelphia. It’s a great story..