September 3, 2022
Four of this week’s writers are at the peak of their powers. Shimmering stories full of pain and loss and introspection; fat cat Republicans plotting an overthrow; the retelling of the tragic life of Lucrezia de’ Medici; and the cutthroat world of professional tennis are the subjects. In addition, there is a harrowing memoir recounting the dangerous journey from El Salvador to California. If these are just a few of the fall literary season offerings, we’re in for a treat.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Marriage Portrait
By Maggie O'Farrell
Published by Knopf
Irish writer O’Farrell has been writing superb novels for years and Hamnet, which was a NBCC Award winner, expanded her American audience. Her new novel is set in 1500s Italy—a vivid reimagining of the brief, tumultuous life of Lucrezia de’ Medici. A child bride, she is whisked away from Florence to Ferrara for life at the Duke’s forbidding castello as a replacement for her older sister who has died. The Duke is determined to acquire an heir. When he slips up during Lucrezia’s official portrait sitting, calling her fondly his ‘first Duchess,’ we know there is trouble to come. This is luscious, suspenseful historical fiction with a heartbreaking heroine.
By A.M. Homes
Published by Viking
Homes turns her razor-sharp gaze on the months between John McCain’s failure to gain the presidency through Barack Obama’s unprecedented move into the White House. A group of powerful Republicans—conservative, old school, hard-drinking animal hunters—are beckoned by “Big Guy” to create a 15-year plan to return to their version of the American Dream. The Big Guy’s alcoholic wife is sent to the Betty Ford Center for Christmas, his daughter is in boarding school and his best friend is a closeted gay man. Savory details of food, dress and behavior fill each satirical scene from Palm Springs to D.C. Homes’s all-too-realistic scenario suggests we should look over our shoulders for the unfolding of that plan today..
Two Nurses, Smoking
By David Means
Published by FSG
Means inevitably delivers the kind of human stories that sneak up on you. His new collection is his best yet. The selection here includes a story about a dachshund from the dog’s point of view and an exploration of writing prompts that evinces his interest in process and language. But the title story is one I will never forget. (How does he do it?) It is a simple setup—a conversation between two nurses pausing outside the hospital on a smoke break, but infinitely worth the price of the book. Listen to the author read it on the New Yorker podcast.
Carrie Soto Is Back
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Ballantine Books
We can’t keep Reid’s previous fiction in stock, so a new novel is highly anticipated. From worlds as different as old Hollywood, rock stardom and ’80s Malibu, she focuses her powers of observation this time on the milieu of competitive tennis. Carrie is a child star in the field, but her career is cut short after an injury at the height of her fame. The novel traces her attempt to rise again, with the help of her instructor father, fueled by an ambition that has its costs. She is a terrific character, vulnerable and determined, and it’s a delight to read this Rocky-like story from a woman’s point of view..
By Javier Zamora
Published by Hogarth
Hogarth, known for their fiction, has launched a nonfiction list with the searing memoir, Solito. “‘We are saving, we are almost there, you’ll be with us soon,’ my parents have said over the phone or in letters…” It is a story usually heard from reporters on the news or in print, but Zamora’s beautiful use of prose (he’s a poet, too) helps us viscerally experience his journey to the U.S. during the civil war in El Salvador in 1999. It is a nail-biting read, from unreliable ‘coyotes’ assuring a short trip to his miraculous survival and reunion with his family in America, and it will take your breath away.