June 18, 2021
Books about narcissism, illness, violence, loneliness, longing, misery, displacement, and catastrophic weather events—sounds like a description for a depressing reading list, correct? Not really. These six books are all uplifting, insightful, thrilling, and deeply satisfying. That is a testament to the art and skill of these writers, who stir up our emotions in the most exciting fashion in their stories and novels.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By BRANDON TAYLOR
Published by RIVERHEAD
Real Life, Taylor’s 2020 debut, brought him high critical praise and was longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. His follow-up is a stellar group of interconnected stories that find his Midwestern characters dealing with desire and menace in numerous uncomfortable situations. Taylor’s uncanny ability to make them jump off the page (as in the excellent “Potluck”) reminds us of our own sometimes-excruciating memories of early post-college life. With the added attractions of a dry wit, poetic prose, and perfect pitch, I highly recommend you savor them all.
The Portrait of a Mirror
By A. NATASHA JOUKOVSKY
Published by THE OVERLOOK PRESS
Two golden couples’ lives intertwine in Joukovsky’s clever take on the Narcissus myth. They come from the sort of East Coast privilege that’s easy to satirize, but you know you are in good hands when you read lines like, “There is no greater compliment in this world than being the uncooperative catalyst of another person’s misery, if not all-out self-destruction.” The author mixes elements of both the art and the business worlds (from personal experience) in this very delectable exploration of contemporary relationships..
By ALEX DiFRANCESCO
Published by SEVEN STORIES PRESS
More stories, more Midwestern settings here by DiFrancesco, the trans author of the apocalyptic sci-fi story collection All City. They return with their new collection in which the focus is on trans lives and the fine line between love and hate. The stories feature monsters, vampires, gypsies and magic, but also just simple human beings living on the edge, trying to remain visible to the world. This is a great addition to the growing body of literature by and about transgender people.
By JOSHUA HENKIN
Published by PANTHEON
Henkin has beautifully captured the journey of a fractured family and the strong reverberations that affect each member when a devastating diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s strikes. Pru is a young Ohio girl who comes East for college and marries her older Shakespeare professor. Their marriage and his illness form the heart of the book, but we also come to understand how each part of the extended family (a son from a previous relationship, a possible new love interest) deals with the shattering situation of a beloved man in decline. It is a tender, honest story with big emotions, exquisitely told..
Things We Lost to the Water
By ERIC NGUYEN
Published by KNOPF
Nguyen sets his debut in New Orleans over thirty years and allows his characters’ different points of view to tell the story of Vietnamese refugees. This is a family not only displaced from their homeland during the war, but also displaced again when Hurricane Katrina rendered so many residents homeless. We meet Huong who waits futilely for her husband to come to America while she tries to provide for her two sons as they come of age in very different ways. It’s a stunning novel that gets to the heart of loss.
By LAURA LIPPMAN
Published by WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY
Lippman’s recent and terrific Lady in the Lake was one of the most successful novels of her career and will be seen shortly as a TV series starring Natalie Portman and Lupito Nyong’o (can’t wait). Her new novel, more psychological suspense á la Stephen King than procedural, finds a novelist bed-ridden after an accident, recuperating alone in his apartment. But reality comes into question when an ex-girlfriend appears, odd phone calls persist relating to a fictional character in one of his novels, and then . . . a dead body. Signed copies available while they last..