Bill, Frank. Donnybrook. Farrar. Mar. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780374532895. pap. $15. LITERARY FICTION
Bill’s debut story collection, Crimes in Southern Indiana, raised a collective gasp, so this first novel has been greatly anticipated. The subject is a bloody, three-day, bare-knuckle fight called the Donnybrook, held on a 1000-acre plot in isolated southern Indiana. As bettors clamor drunkenly, 20 fighters open the fray, but only one is left unbowed. Among the contestants: Jarhead, desperate to earn one last big bundle of cash so that he can support his family, and the undefeated Chainsaw Angus, who’s been cooking meth with his sister. Tough characters in what promises to be a brilliant, in-your-face novel.
Hall, Louisa. The Carriage House. Scribner. Mar. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451688634. $25. LITERARY FICTION
Patriarch of an old-line family, William Adair cherishes the carriage house built by his grandfather on the family estate and the belief that his three daughters are exceptional. Alas, a zoning error places the carriage house on a neighbor’s property, where it slowly decays, and William awakens after a stroke to the realization that his daughters aren’t so special. Time for those young ladies to prove themselves by taking on the challenge of saving the carriage house. From poet and formerly ranked squash player Hall; this book could not differ more in mood and place from Bill’s Donnybrook, previewed above.
Hesketh, Peggy. Telling the Bees. Putnam. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780399159053. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
Like his father and his grandfather, unmarried octogenarian Albert Honig keeps bees, getting along with them much better than he does humans. But when his friend Claire is killed in a burglary gone awry, Albert starts to ponder her past and their tentative relationship. Hesketh, a longtime journalist who has published work in venues like the Antietam Review, has written a work that’s lovely for book clubs. The publisher hints that this is for Remains of the Day fans. Watch.
King, Owen. Double Feature. Scribner. Mar. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781451676891. $26; eISBN 9781451676914. POP FICTION
Filmmaker Sam Dolan has a problem: his sleazy, duplicitous B-movie actor father, Booth Dolan, big on the screen and small at home. In this debut, we watch their contentious dance even as we meet Sam’s late, insanely loyal mom; over-the-top half-sister; and Internet-happy roommate—not to mention a retired Yankees catcher, a cranky producer, a sex maniac, and more. It’s all about art, life, and relationships and how we learn to survive; since King is also a screenwriter, the cinematic details should be involving and exact. And note that seven-city tour.
Leganski, Rita. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. HarperPerennial: HarperCollins. Mar. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780062113764. pap. $14.99. POP FICTION
As a baby, Bonaventure is silent because he’s listening to the flowers grow. But he also hears the voice of his father, murdered before Bonaventure was born. When he gets older, Bonaventure starts hearing voices that originated with a letter written by his mother and a mysterious artifact owned by Grand-mère Letice, which eventually lead him to family secrets and Vodou lore. The New Orleans setting makes the magic realism seem perfectly viable, and the 75,000-copy first printing makes this paperback original seem special. Substantial publicity, a reading group guide, and a regional tour.
Moore, Edward Kelsey. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. Knopf. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780307959928. $24.95; eISBN 9780307959935. Downloadable: Random Audio. POP FICTION
In the mid-Sixties, three black teenage friends—Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean—start meeting at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, the first black-owned business in Plainview, IN. Watched over by Earl, they keep meeting there for 40 years, sitting at the same table as they share joys and sorrows, family events and gossip. This debut by cellist Moore is being compared to The Help, Waiting To Exhale, and Fried Green Tomatoes, with a pointed reminder that the characters represent the growing black middle class from the Sixties onward. Also recommending the book: a big tour, a reading group guide, and multiple foreign rights sales.
Reyl, Hilary. Lessons in French. S. & S. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781451655032. $24. POP FICTION
In 1989, aspiring painter and newly minted Yalie Kate is thrilled to secure a job as assistant to famed photographer Lydia Schell—in glorious Paris, no less. Kate had spent time there as a child, but she’s still overwhelmed by the fancy Sixth Arrondissement and the imperious Schells. What follows is both a bittersweet tale of personal growth and a paean (well deserved!) to Paris. Having lived there, Reyl should light up the City of Light.