Eng, Tan Twan. The Garden of Evening Mists. Weinstein: Perseus Book Group. Sept. 2012. 350p. ISBN 9781602861800. pap. $15. LITERARY
Eng captured an audience with his first novel, The Gift of Rain, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, translated into six language, and chosen as an Indie Next pick. Like that book, his second work draws on the terrible Japanese occupation of Malaysia. Having just retired from the Supreme Court in Kuala Lumpur, Teoh Yun Ling travels to Northern Malaya, where she and her sister were interned by the Japanese in a slave-labor camp duirng World War II. After the war, as the camp’s only survivor, Yun Ling met Aritomo, the exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan, and seeks his help in creating a memorial garden for her sister. Grief and beauty, then (Aritomo’s garden is called Yugiri, the garden of evening mist), and a delicate rapprochement between two would-be enemies. I’m expecting a lovely book.
Gartner, Zsuzsi. Better Living Through Plastic Explosives. Pintail: Penguin Group (USA). Nov. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780670066926. pap. $16. SHORT STORIES
In 2007, Gartner won a National Magazine Award for fiction, and this story collection was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. So it’s well worth checking out these stories. They range broadly, from terrorists and earthbound angels to art and science to the movie industry and the trials of international adoption, limning the daily fears and anxiety of 21st-century living. Try it.
Høeg, Peter. The Elephant Keepers’ Children. Other. Oct. 2012. 512p. ISBN 9781590514900. $27.95. LITERARY
Høeg leaves behind the thrillers for which he is best known to tell the story of 14-year-old Peter and his siblings, smart and sassy older sister Tilde and Hans, a carriage driver who lives in a dream world. All’s well until the disappearance of their parents, a vicar father and artisan mother who might fight but hold firm to their particular beliefs and seem to have upset the establishment on the tiny, fictional island of Finø where the family lives. What follows is a picaresque tale that probes society’s little hypocrisies while offering an original array of characters. At first glance, an utterly fun, absorbing read.
Moehringer, J.R. Sutton. Hyperion. Sept. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781401323141. $27.99. HISTORICAL
Born at the turn of the 20th century, Willie Sutton robbed 100 banks between 1925 and 1950, absconding with two million dollars, and famously broke out of supposedly escape-proof prisons three times. Yet he never fired a shot, and he became a legendary figure beloved by the little people who felt oppressed by wheeling-dealing banks and grasping bankers. (Contemporary parallels here?) A Pulitzer Prize‚ winning journalist and author of the highly regarded memoir, The Tender Bar, Moehringer has both the reportorial skills and that touch of good language to write a first novel about Sutton’s life that should have broad appeal.