Crummey, Michael. Sweetland. Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780871407900. $24.95. LITERARY
Winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Canada for his most recent work, Galore, Crummey sets his new work on an isolated Canadian island—so isolated, in fact, that the government has offered to resettle folks from the island’s one town, the ever-diminishing Sweetland, provided that everyone agrees to leave. The holdout is strong-minded Moses Sweetland, whose ancestors settled the town, and the narrative unfolds both Sweetland’s past and its present. The publisher is raving about this one.
Cusk, Rachel. Outline. Farrar. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780374228347. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374712365. LITERARY
One of Granta’s 2003 Best of Young British Novelists and winner of both the Whitbread First Novel and the Somerset Maugham awards, Cusk offers a narrative constructed as ten conversations, thus teaching us something about the art of writing even as she tells her tale. A novelist teaching in Athens one sizzling summer imparts writing techniques to her students, visits with other authors, and goes swimming with someone she met on the plane over, always listening to the stories people weave about their lives. Meanwhile, she discloses her own story of unbearable loss.
Morrow, James. Galapagos Regained. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2015. 496p. ISBN 9781250054012. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466880924. HISTORICAL
The winner of numerous awards in speculative fiction (e.g., the Nebula), Morrow offers something a little different with this story of the fictional Chloe Bathurst, an unemployed actress tending the exotic menagerie on Charles Darwin’s estate. When she hears about the Percy Bysshe Shelley Society’s Great God Contest, which will award £10,000 to the first person who can prove or disprove the existence of God, Chloe seizes on the idea of making a case with Darwin’s theory of speciation. Soon she’s off to the Galápagos to discover her own specimens. Seen as Morrow’s breakout book for a larger audience.
Yu Hua. The Seventh Day. Pantheon. Jan. 2015. 224p. tr. from Chinese by Allan H. Barr. ISBN 9780804197861. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804197878. LITERARY
Winner of multiple international awards (e.g., James Joyce Award, Prix Courrier International), author of the novel To Live (made into an internationally acclaimed film by Zhang Yimou that was banned in China), a regular contributor to the New York Times Opinion page, and a popular blogger with 14 million followers, Yu caught readers’ attention last year when Boy in the Twilight was excerpted in The New Yorker. Here, protagonist Yang Fei is lost by his mother after being born on a train, is adopted by a switchman, then spends his life not quite prepared for the upheaval of modern China. Since there is no money for a burial plot when he dies at age 41, he must wander the afterlife for seven days, meeting the souls of people he lost in life.