Bonert, Kenneth. The Lion Seeker. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2013. 576p. ISBN 9780547898049. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780547898414. LITERARY
The grandson of Lithuanian immigrants, South African Bonert was inspired to write this work by the photo of an uncle with Nadine Gordimer. This portrait of South Africa’s small Jewish community doubles as the portrait of a mother-son relationship, with Isaac Helger growing up poor but ambitious in Johannesburg, constantly urged by his mother to make something of himself so that he can bring the rest of the family from Lithuania and then move everyone to the suburbs. Isaac must battle not only social forces but his own impulsive nature, which makes for a psychological portrait as well. Of interest to anyone intrigued by the immigrant story; with a 30,000-copy first printing.
Chapman, Emma J. How To Be a Good Wife. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250018199. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018205. LITERARY SUSPENSE
Like McFarlane’s Night Guest (previewed below), Chapman’s debut concerns a present haunted (in every sense of the word) by the past. Good wife Marta has been married for so long that she can hardly remember a past without Hector. But now strange visions flit at the corner of her eye, including that of a blonde girl no one else can see. Is she losing her mind, or is she starting to remember something important? And what does the blonde girl want? Lots of push behind this first novel, including promotion at BEA.
Duffy, P.S. The Cartographer of No Man’s Land. Liveright: Norton. Oct. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780871403766. $25.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
In a book that turned out to be a real contender for this year’s Editors Buzz panel at BookExpo America, Duffy draws on deep roots in Nova Scotia to make her debut at age 65. She’s also drawing on current interest in World War I as the centenary looms. Raised as a pacifist, Angus joins up as a cartographer when his brother-in-law goes missing at the front but instead finds himself thrust into battle. Back home, son Simon Peter has battles of his own; he walks a fine line in a village increasingly rent by grief as the carnage mounts. Don’t miss.
McFarlane, Fiona. Night Guest. Faber & Faber. Oct. 20213. 256p. ISBN 9780865477735. $26. LITERARY SUSPENSE
Widowed Ruth lives a quiet life by the sea until a woman claiming to be a government case worker comes to her door one wet night and stays. Frida’s presence subtly changes the environment, as Ruth suddenly starts recalling her childhood in Fiji and seems to hear a tiger roaming outside her window. Yes, there’s a dark secret in the past, but this novel is more concerned with creeping fear, the long road of aging, and the inviolable presence of the colonial past. Former Michener Fellow McFarlane’s literary chiller is the publisher’s important fiction debut author for the fall.
Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project. S. & S. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781476729084. $24. POP FICTION
It’s not every debut author whose work gets sold in more than 30 territories, but Simsion manages it with this funny, touching story about genetics professor Don Tillman, a socially challenged guy who sets out to find a wife. Don has drawn up a precise, deeply detailed list of requirements for the Wife Project, which gets thrown aside when he meets perpetually unpunctual, smoke-like-a-chimney barmaid Rosie. Not his type, but she’s hunting for her biological father and seeks out Don for professional advice. A relationship is born that radically alters his perceptions—and his goals. Huge in-house excitement, so watch this especially.