August 7, 2021
This week highlights two mysteries: an impressive contemporary debut that seems as though it was written in another era and one from a tried and true bestselling author. There is also some terrific fiction from Asian and Asian American writers publishing this month—voices from China, Japan, Iran, and Korea. I’ve pulled out just a few of my favorites.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By VIRGINIA FEITO
Published by LIVERIGHT
A literary thriller with aspects of Rosemary’s Baby, Mrs. March is set during an unspecified time in a wealthy zip code on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Mrs. March is married to a successful novelist who leaves her alone much of the time as he attends parties and tours for his publications. Her solitary life leads increasingly to a sort of urban paranoia and little by little she becomes more and more unhinged. Actress Elisabeth Moss fell in love with this novel and will star in a film adaptation. Highsmith and Shirley Jackson fans will devour this. What’s not to like?
By MEGAN ABBOTT
Published by PUTNAM
Abbott’s new mystery takes place in the claustrophobic world of ballet. When a tragic car crash claims the lives of Dara and Marie Durant’s parents, they inherit the dance school their mother famously founded. The sisters now run the studio together with Dara’s husband. During one especially fraught Nutcracker season, their lives begin to parallel the sinister fairy tale, starting with a fire that ravages the studio. Abbott, a favorite of ours at the Center, is such a reliably clever plotter that her commercial success might overshadow her literary chops, but the aptly titled The Turnout attests to her great flair with prose..
By ETO MORI
Published by COUNTERPOINT
Translated by Jocelyne Allen
A literary sensation in Japan for two decades, Colorful is now available to an English-speaking audience. A dead soul is offered a last chance at rebirth when he is sent by an angel to inhabit the body of a recent suicide victim. As he comes to a deeper understanding of the hardships and disappointments the young man endured, this wandering soul is given a chance to atone for his own past mistakes. Far from being a grim exploration of mental health matters, this hopeful fiction is a perceptive inquiry into the nature of human connection.
Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost
By DAVID HOON KIM
Published by FSG
Haunting and haunted, Kim’s novel creates an unsettled atmosphere in a Paris transformed into an eerie city filled with discomfiting events and specters. His protagonist was born in Japan, adopted by Danish parents and aspires to be a translator. (Kim, Korean-born, was raised in France.) The disappearance or possible death of his girlfriend sends him into a dreamlike state to discover what may have happened to her. As in Deborah Levy’s engrossing The Man Who Saw Everything, reality is fluid, past and present unclear, death hovering above it all. It’s a fascinating approach to a portrayal of grief and displacement..
By SHENG KEYI
Published by RESTLESS BOOKS
Translated by Shelly Bryant
Despite being banned in her native China, Sheng’s work has won many prizes. In her new novel, controversial in subject matter, hordes of demonstrators disappear during a Tiananmen Square-like protest, prompted by a nine-story tower of feces. In search of the woman he has fallen in love with, Mengliu finds himself in a future dystopian society where the once-silenced voices have turned up. In her nonfiction writing as well as in her fiction, Sheng addresses the provocative political subjects of government censorship and mandates.
By AZAREEN VAN DER VLIET OLOOMI
Published by MARINER BOOKS
A spellbinding story about trauma, friendship and coming to terms with a violent past. Arezu, born in Iran, returns to the house she inherited in Marbella, Spain with her Israeli best friend, Ellie. She is seeking answers to a brutal love affair with an older man. Together they attempt to rid the city of these persistent ghosts by facing Arezu’s demons. As she says of cataloguing her pain, “writing is a record of the unspeakable.” Iranian American Oloomi also explores “how patterns of migration have shaped literature,” as her poetic and political new novel draws you into its milieu..