Bacharach, Jacob. The Bend of the World. Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780871406828. $25.95. LITERARY
No quite 30 and drifting amiably along in Pittsburgh, Peter Morrison suddenly finds himself drawn to the somewhat ominous couple Mark and Helen while also tolerating addicted friend Johnny’s obsession with conspiracy theories—except that people really are spotting UFOs. Soon nasty corporations and mind-altering drugs enter the mix, and Peter encounters a well-spoken sasquatch. Clearly quirky and billed as Michael Chabon for the 21st century, which surely got my attention.
Bond, Cynthia. Ruby. Hogarth: Crown. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780804139090. $25. CD: Random Audio. LITERARY
Ineffably pretty Ruby kicks aside small-town Liberty, TX, to head for 1950s New York, then returns for a funeral and contemplates a painful childhood linked to the town’s suspect past. Meanwhile, Ephram might betray his devoted sister to pursue Ruby, the love of his life. As a PEN USA Rosenthal Fellow, Bond was mentored by Janet Fitch, and she drew on years of stage experience when working with Ellen DeGeneres on an ongoing writer/theater workshop for at-risk LGBT youth in Los Angeles. Powerful connections, and look for lots of reading group and egalley promotions.
Burke, Marcus. Team Seven. Doubleday. Apr. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780385537797. $25.95. LITERARY/COMING OF AGE
In a debut that has the staff bouncing off the rafters, Burke draws on personal experience to illuminate inner-city African American realities. Teenage Andre Battel, from a Jamaican family that has settled in downbeat Milton, a town south of Boston, finds himself by playing basketball but then loses himself by dealing drugs. Burke himself hails from Milton but was able to attend prep school and Susquehanna University as a star athlete, then wrecked his knee and turned to writing. The MacArthur Fellowship says it all.
Kupersmith, Violet. The Frangipani Hotel: Stories. Spiegel & Grau. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780812993318. $25. SHORT STORIES
Fresh out of Mt. Holyoke, Kupersmith draws on stories told by her Vietnamese grandmother to offer these thematically linked pieces, which illuminate the consequences of the Vietnam War. The scenarios range from a young woman’s mysteriously reappearing at Saigon’s Frangipani Hotel (in a bathtub, no less) to efforts by another young woman, this time in Houston, to befriend a destitute Vietnamese man she finds behind a dumpster. Kupersmith hasn’t even been published yet—she first appears this fall in the Massachusetts Review with “The Red Veil”—so this amount of publishing excitement is noteworthy. A big push to the Vietnamese community, with Kupersmith’s grandmother on hand to help.
Marciano, Francesca. The Other Language. Pantheon. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780307908360. $24.95. SHORT STORIES
I’d heard good things about this collection by Italian author Marciano, a novelist and screenwriter whose work includes Don’t Tell, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. Checking it out, I found the stories ingratiating and poignantly detailed. The settings range widely, from Venice during film festival season to a classical dance community in India, and they generally feature women on the brink. My favorite: a woman flush with success buys a Chanel dress she cannot quite afford. Since Marciano is coming from Rome, the five-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle really says something.
Rahman, Zia Haider. In the Light of What We Know. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 544p. ISBN 9780374175627. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780374710088. LITERARY
Farrar has a bunch of exciting novels coming in April but puts this debut at the head of the list. In West London, a middle-aged investment banker facing a life in free fall encounters a long-lost friend on his doorstep—a South Asian man who was once a mathematics prodigy but suddenly disappeared, reemerging now to offer a shattering confession. Bangladeshi-born Rahman, a former banker and human rights lawyer, was educated at Balliol College at Oxford, as well as Cambridge, Munich, and Yale universities. Altogether smart stuff.
Sharma, Akhil. Family Life. Norton. Apr. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780393060058. $23.95. LITERARY
Here’s another book regarded as top of its April heap by its publisher despite strong competition from both fiction and nonfiction. PEN/Hemingway Award winner Sharma, who made Granta’s Best Young American Novelists 2 list, crafts the story of the newly immigrated Mishras, in thrall to America until their son suffers a terrible accident in a swimming pool.
Wyld, Evie. All the Birds, Singing. Pantheon. Apr. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780307907769. $24.95. LITERARY
This author made Granta’s list of Best Young British Novelists, and rightly so; her haunting page-turner, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won both John Llewellyn Rhys and the Betty Trask honors. This new work sounds just as harshly, edgily beautiful. A woman living in an isolated farmhouse on a craggy speck of a British island, with only her dog and her sheep for companionship, suddenly finds that her sheep are vanishing one by one. Is this bloody complication caused by man or beast? With a reading group guide and a national tour.