Forna, Aminatta. The Hired Man. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780802121912. $24; ebk. 9780802193100. LITERARY
Named one of Africa’s most promising new writers by Vanity Fair, Commonwealth Writer’s Prize winner Forna wrote affectingly about war-scarred Africa in her two previous novels and her memoir of her father, The Devil That Danced on the Water. Now she writes affectingly about the Croatian city of Gost after the War of Independence. When a British woman and her two children arrive in town for the summer, a man named Duro helps them ready their cottage. Eventually, though, his real job is protecting them from the townspeople’s deep-seated dislike and his own shady connection to the cottage. I’m eager to see what insights the unnervingly calm, clear-eyed Forna brings to the shattered Balkans. With a reading group guide and a seven-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Jiles, Paulette. Lighthouse Island. Morrow. Oct. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780062232502. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062232526. lrg. prnt. LITERARY
A tough-minded author of some emotional depth, Jiles has had New York Times best sellers with Stormy Weather and Enemy Women but should be better known. She’s typically set her novels in the past but here heads to a future world with too many people, hardly any animals or water, and no borders, maps, or numbered years. The orphaned Nadia Stepan escapes by listening to readings of classic books beamed down by an abandoned satellite and dreaming of Lighthouse Island, a gauzy place somewhere in the Northwest. And that’s where she heads when she breaks from her foster family. With a 50,000-copy first printing and a reading group guide.
McFarland, Dennis. Nostalgia. Pantheon. Oct. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780307908346. $25.95. LITERARY
An eloquent storyteller whose The Music Room is a personal favorite, McFarland has always been a best-selling author but is being positioned for a breakout with this Civil War novel. In winter 1864, 19-year-old Summerfield Hayes leaves Brooklyn and his schoolteacher sister (for whom he harbors perhaps untoward feelings) and signs up to fight. Devastated by the slaughter and temporarily deafened by an exploding shell, he finds himself deserted by his comrades during the Wilderness Campaign, then battling his own suspicious captain at a military hospital in Washington. Fortunately, Walt Whitman, a daily visitor, becomes his advocate. With a New England regional tour and a reading group guide.
O’Flynn, Catherine. Mr. Lynch’s Holiday. Holt. Oct. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780805091816. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781429947305. LITERARY
O’Flynn’s first novel, What Was Lost, won the Costa First Novel Award and was longlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. Her second novel, The News Where You Are, was shortlisted for the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. Now here she is in hardcover, poised to go beyond first novel awards and shortlists with what sounds like an ambitious new effort. Her protagonist is Dermot Lynch, a retired bus driver and recent widower visiting son Eamonn in Spain. When he arrives in Lomaverde, now virtually a ghost town, he finds that Eamonn has gone a bit cockeyed. Soon, though, he’s become the toast of the town’s wine-guzzling, goat-hunting, paranoia-mongering handful of expats and getting closer to Eamonn. Then the town’s dark secret is revealed.