April 30, 2022
Happy Independent Bookstore Day!
The four works of fiction this week, including two debuts, are character-driven stories. Their authors have created memorable protagonists that both hark back to past classics and to the near future. Two of them show the rise to power of unlikely candidates, both immigrants to America, and Puget Sound figures in both debuts. All are completely original. Plus, a book of poems to feed your spirit.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Hernan Diaz
Published by Riverhead
Diaz won high praise with his beautiful first novel about a lonely Swedish immigrant, In the Distance. Trust works on an even broader canvas with the subjects of capitalism and corruption. Benjamin Rask’s father was a very successful tobacco farmer. Benjamin inherited his position and wealth, and with his marriage to a rich, beautiful aristocrat this scion landed in the center of 1920 New York’s most powerful. Trust could have easily been titled Truth, as the lies that haunt the story create an ingeniously structured narrative that keeps the pages turning as the real stories come to light.
By Monica Ali
Published by Scribner
Like a contemporary Jane Austen, Ali writes superb domestic fiction. As in her wonderful debut two decades ago, Brick Lane, her two main characters—successful, conservative Yasmin, born of Bengali immigrants, and high-profile feminist Harriet, her potential mother-in-law—live in London, and come up against the expectations of two very different families. Ali’s editor, Center board member Nan Graham, calls the novel “part rom-com . . . [yet] scathing and incisive regarding race.” What it’s always about is sex: infidelity, revenge, addiction and identity. And secrets. It is a novel of self-discovery that is laced with a generous portion of wit..
The Immortal King Rao
By Vauhini Vara
Published by W. W. Norton
A very different story about Indian immigrants. Vara’s timely dystopian story spans nearly a century starting in the 1950s with coconut farmers in Andhra Pradesh. King Rao was born to a Dalit family there, attended university in the Pacific Northwest on scholarship, became the world’s greatest tech innovator, created a capitalistic corporate-run government and ended his days exiled on an island in Puget Sound. King’s rise and fall is a thrilling trip told by his daughter from a prison cell, from a remarkable new writer whose talent for imagining both the historical and the future is in full flower.
Remarkably Bright Creatures
By Shelby Van Pelt
Published by Ecco
The memorable character in Van Pelt’s utterly captivating debut has eight legs. Tova encounters this octopus, a wise being called Marcellus, in a Pacific Northwest aquarium where she works as a night cleaner. A lonely widow whose teenage son disappeared on a boat three decades before, she finds solace and a surprising yet extraordinary friendship with the creature. Could it help her find her son? The book is a hopeful and appealing first fiction that will bring a (possibly tearful) smile to your face. Octopi are irresistible and this heartwarming, richly resonant novel is as well..
The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy
By John Brehm (Editor)
Published by Wisdom Publications
As the last entry celebrating National Poetry Month, we offer a 2017 anthology that presents 129 poems with a wide range of style, period and provenance—from Bashō, Czeslaw Milosz and Shakespeare (Impermanence) to Wallace Stevens and Wislawa Szymborska (Mindfulness) to Pablo Neruda and Tracy K. Smith (Joy). There is an essay on sound from the editor as well. It’s the sort of book you place at the bookstore counter and watch the stack shrink immediately, demonstrating that the spiritual theme touches a chord with people in today’s troubled times.