Top Debut Novels | Fiction Previews, May 2017, Pt. 2

Alyan, Hala. Salt Houses. Houghton Harcourt. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780544912588. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780544912380. LITERARY/SAGA
This embracing and salt-sharp tale by Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist salthousesAlyan magnifies the problem of displacement in the Middle East by chronicling the fate of one family continually uprooted after the Six-Day War of 1967. After her family is forced out of Jaffa, Salma sees trouble in the coffee dregs she reads before daughter Alia’s wedding, then finds they must leave Nablus (on the West Bank) as well. Meanwhile, Alia and her new husband abandon Kuwait after Saddam Hussein’s invasion, and the family is scattered across the globe. With a 50,000-copy first printing; the author has a vivid presence, so the tour to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland makes sense.

Chancellor, Bryn. Sycamore. Harper. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780062661098. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062661111. LITERARY
Out on a hike, a new resident of Sycamore, AZ, discovers what look to be human remains sunk deep in the wall of a bone-dry ravine, and townsfolk start spilling stories and recollections, assuming that the remains belong to a troubled teenager named Jess Winters who disappeared 18 years ago. chancellorChancellor won the 2014 Prairie Schooner Book Prize for her story collection When Are You Coming Home? and also grabbed the 2014 Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award in fiction; this book was bought in a preempt shortly after receipt of the submission. All of which explains the 75,000-copy first printing.

Cocozza, Paula. How To Be Human. Metropolitan: Holt: May 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781250129253. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250129260. LITERARY/WOMEN’S
Out of love, on leave from work, and at odds with her neighbors, Mary finds comfort in the presence of a gorgeous red fox that has taken to visiting the back garden of her home in the London suburbs. Soon he’s bringing her gifts, and she invites him indoors. Now what will the neighbors think? From a staff feature writer at the Guardian who won the 2013 David Higham Award, given to an MA student in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Emmich, Val. The Reminders. Little, Brown. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780316316996. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316317016. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316500951. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY
A singer-songwriter and actor you’ll know from 30 Rock, Ugly Betty, and the current HBO hit Vinyl, emmichEmmich offers a first novel about Gavin Winters, who’s so distraught over the death of his beloved partner, Sydney, that he burns up everything they owned and leaves Los Angeles for the New Jersey home of an old friend. Joan, the friend’s ten-year-old daughter, has a savant-level photographic memory and agrees that if Gavin helps her win a local songwriting contest, she’ll spill forth everything she recalls about Sydney. But is that what Gavin really needs to hear? With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Firmani, B.G. Time’s a Thief. Doubleday. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780385541862. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385541879. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/WOMEN’S
Scary smart but never at ease, working-class Barnard student Francesca “Chess” Varani is entranced by supremely self-confident and self-involved classmate Kendra Marr-Löwenstein, whose fancy West Village family home she settles into after graduation. A job with chic intellectual Clarice Marr proves to be a roller-coaster ride, as related by Chess from the forlorn perspective of the 2008 financial downturn. Firmani has published in Bomb, the Kenyon Review, and the Bellevue Literary Review, but what will really sell you is just opening the book; it’s written in propulsive, you-are-there prose.

Heiny, Katherine. Standard Deviation. Knopf. May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780385353816. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353823. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. WOMEN’S/LITERARY
Heiny made waves with her debut story collection, Single, Carefree, Mellow, but the protagonists in heinyher brightly funny first novel aren’t single, carefree, or mellow at all. Relentlessly energized and full of life, love, and projects, Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is the polar opposite of first wife Elspeth. So when Graham and Audra agree that strengthening ties with Elspeth will help them manage the rough patches that come with raising a child with Asperger’s, you know a lot of issues will be raised.

Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Pamela Dorman: Viking. May 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780735220683. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735220706. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. WOMEN’S
Socially maladroit and prone to wearing the same clothing day after day, Eleanor Oliphant manages to forge a bond with bumbly, stumbly, but bighearted Raymond, the office IT guy. Then they become friends with Sammy, an older gentleman they rescue from a sidewalk fall, and all three start to heal. Short-listed for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress and bought with a second novel in a multi-day auction, this work has been sold to 26 countries.

Ko, Lisa. The Leavers. Algonquin. May 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781616206888. $25.95. COMING OF AGE/CULTURAL HERITAGE
When an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly vanishes after leaving home for her job at the nail salon, two white professors adopt her 11-year-old son, Deming Guo, and move him from the Bronx to small-town New York. That’s not necessarily what he needs. Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction and an Indies Introduce Selection for Winter/Spring 2017 as well.

 

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.