May 8, 2021
The books this week all have strong primary voices and points of view, in fiction, essay, and memoir. Some must overcome loss, some must struggle to survive, and some observe the human condition through art in ways that inspire and enrich our lives.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By RIVERS SOLOMON
Published by MCD
Solomon has a seriously fierce voice and this story touches on many issues, front and center: race and gender. Is it Gothic fiction? Sci-fi? Queer fantasy? Vern, the main character, escapes her remote religious commune and takes to the forest where she gives birth to twins. Now she must fight to protect her family. Solomon joins writers like Octavia Butler and Marlon James (and a bit of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale) in the dystopian/speculative genre, already a force to be reckoned with.
By MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD
Published by KNOPF
It’s been a while since I’ve read a piece of sweeping epic fiction, and I fell effortlessly into Shipstead’s worthy hands. Inspired by a trip to New Zealand, she bases the novel on two strong women living in the world of men: one a midcentury female aviator and the other, the actress cast to play her in a major Hollywood biopic 60-some years later. This is a terrific, old-fashioned novel that explores both the constraints of gender and the excitement of independence and adventure, as her characters search for their singular paths to greatness..
Notes on Grief
By CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Published by KNOPF
Adichie’s new book resonates with the times. Expanded from a New Yorker essay, she writes of the death of her beloved father in Nigeria. And what a rich and honorable life he had: as a survivor of war, as a professor, and as a parent. It is a powerful reminder of the strength and endurance of family bonds, and a beautiful gift for anyone dealing with the loss of a family member. Adichie’s specific experience of bereavement, but also the general trauma so many have experienced in the last year will speak to many, many readers.
By GEOFF DYER
Published by GRAYWOLF PRESS
Geoff Dyer has one of the most curious minds today and his cultural essays always provoke and inspire readers to run to other books, films, or works of art to dig deeper into his fascinating subjects. This time he trains his brilliant eye on photography (as he did 16 years ago in The Ongoing Moment)—from Eugene Atget to Vivian Maier, to street photographer Alex Webb. Always a captivating observer, he appeared on the virtual panel for our Shirley Hazzard event..
The Vanishing Point
By ELIZABETH BRUNDAGE
Published by LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
A perfect pairing with Dyer’s book is Brundage’s just published novel—she even recognizes a debt to him in her acknowledgments. It stars two couples, including a celebrated photographer, Rye, with intertwined relationships, both emotional and artistic. Brundage observes their lives and habits, motivations and mannerisms like a photographer herself, bringing them to full visual life. It is a story of the bonds of love and work and success and failure that is vibrant and not a little suspenseful. The title of her last novel, All Things Cease to Appear could also be used for this new one–clearly a metaphor for much of her work.
By SACHA NASPINI
Published by EUROPA EDITIONS
Translated by Clarissa Botsford
I was inspired to read Naspini’s new novel after hearing a spectacular review from Maureen Corrigan on NPR. The story reminded me of a recent favorite, Brood, as they are both about women, dealing with extreme personal loss by having a chicken as a companion! Nives, a widow who lives on a Tuscan farm, reaches out by telephone to the local vet when her beloved chicken falls ill, with surprising results. The blend of humor and grief and pathos is wonderfully compacted into a novella that speaks volumes about the human heart..