Stories by Shriver & Sittenfeld & More Upmarket Fiction | Fiction Previews, Apr. 2018

Allnutt, Luke. We Own the Sky. Park Row: Harlequin. Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780778314738. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488078712. LITERARY/FAMILY LIFE
In this debut, a man struggles with the consequences of his son’s devastating illness, downing alcohol and surveying the wreck of his marriage as he posts stunning scenes of places he and his son visited on a website he calls We Own the Sky. There’s an affecting backstory, albeit with a better ending; journalist Allnutt began writing this book when hospitalized after being diagnosed with colon cancer. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

Callanan, Liam. Paris by the Book. Dutton. Apr. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781101986271. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101986288. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/WOMEN’S
Plane tickets left behind by Leah’s vanished husband, offbeat novelist Robert Eady, send Leah and her daughters to Paris, where an unfinished manuscript points them to an English-language bookstore that the luckless owner wants to sell. Leah impulsively buys it, then picks up clues from Paris-based classics—even children’s books like the immortal Madeline!–as she tries to sort out what happened to Robert. But does she really want to know? From award-winning journalist and Edgar finalist Callanan.

Couto, Mia. Woman of the Ashes. Farrar. Apr. 2018. 272p. tr. from Portuguese by David Brookshaw. ISBN 9780374292270. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374715663. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Set in southern Mozambique in 1894, this first in a trilogy features a Portuguese sergeant charged with leading the conquest of one of African’s largest empires and a 15-year-old girl named Imani who acts as his interpreter and whose two brothers are on opposite sides of the battle to come. From one of Africa’s leading writers, winner of the Neustadt International Prize and a Man Booker International Prize finalist.

Davies, Carys. West. Scribner. Apr. 2018. 160p. ISBN 9781501179341. $22; ebk. ISBN 9781501179365. LITERARY
Davies offers a slender but capaciously conceived debut novel about a recently widowed mule breeder who buries his grief by departing Pennsylvania for the great frontier, where the discovery of mammoth animal bones is sparking imaginations. Alas, he leaves behind young daughter Bess to tend the farm. I’m betting on Davies, whose multiple awards include an NYPL Cullman fellowship and the 2015 Frank O’Connor Short Story Award.

Evison, Jonathan. Lawn Boy. Algonquin. Apr. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781616202620. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616208257. LITERARY
Evison has collected a bunch of honors along the way to being admired by those in the know, including a Washington State Book Award, two Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, best-of-year laurels, and movie options (see The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving). Here, Mike Muñoz, out of high school for some time and still getting nowhere—he’s just lost his job on a landscaping crew—tries to figure out how to grab the American dream. With a ten-city tour to Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, San Diego, Houston, and Austin.

Harrison, DeSales. The Waters & the Wild. Random. Apr. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780812989540. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812989564. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/THRILLER
Oberlin professor Harrison debuts with a literary chiller about New York psychoanalyst Daniel Abend, a single parent with a thriving practice who has just lost a young patient to suicide. A suspicious note makes him wonder whether she really died by her own hand, and then his teenage daughter disappears. Mystery, secret love, and a trip to Paris; watch this one.

Juska, Elise. If We Had Known. Grand Central. Apr. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781455561773. ebk. ISBN 9781455561759. LITERARY
When a small Maine town is terrorized by a mass shooting, English professor Maggie Daley is shocked to learn that the gunman is a former student. What’s worse, she realizes that an old essay of his carries hints of the violence to come, and her dismay begins to affect her relationships with her daughter, her boss, and a secret new love. Juska (The Blessings) won the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction from Ploughshares.

McAllister, Tom. How To Be Safe. Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781631494130. $25.95. LITERARY
Author of The Young Widower’s Handbook, a Discover Great New Writers pick, McAllister jumps to a big house for his second novel. High school English teacher Anna, bitter over what she considers an unjust suspension for venting her feelings, turns on the television to find that she’s blamed in a shooting at the school. Though immediately absolved, she is regarded with suspicion in a town spinning into fear and anxiety. A critique of both sexism and media madness.

Murnane, Gerald. Border Districts: A Fiction. 144p. ISBN 9780374115753. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780374717278. LITERARY
Murnane, Gerald. Stream System: The Collected Short Fiction of Gerald Murnane. 560p. ISBN 9780374126001. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780374717285. SHORT STORIES
ea.vol: Farrar. Apr. 2018.
Winner of the Patrick White Literary Award, among other honors, leading Australian author Murnane here gets a two-for-one breakout opportunity. Border Districts tells the story of a man in his later years who moves from the capital city to an isolated border town so that he can put his mental landscape together, deciding what has been most important in life. Published from 1985 to 2012, the stories in Stream System deal with war and misogyny, colonialism and racism in envelope-pushing format. Go for them, smart readers.

Offutt, Chris. Country Dark. Grove. Apr. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780802127792. $24. LITERARY/NOIR
Named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists in 1996, Offut has lately been writing memoir (e.g., My Father, the Pornographer) but here cheers up literati everywhere by returning to fiction. Set in rural Kentucky from the 1950s to the 1970s, this novel stars Tucker, who begins working for a bootlegger when he returns from the Korean War and starts a family. Threats to his loved one compels him toward violence in a violent and tightly structured world.

Sharp, Adrienne. The Magnificent Esme Wells. Harper. Apr. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062684837. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062684813. COMING OF AGE
Real-life figures like Judy Garland and Bugsy Siegel vivify this story of a young woman’s coming-of-age, starting in 1930s Hollywood as Esme cheerfully tends to her no-count gangster father and aspiring film actress mother. But she catches a break of her own when her father moves the family to Vegas, eager to make it big by helping to open the grand and garish Flamingo Hotel. From the author of the nationally best-selling The True Memoirs of Little K and the excellent story collection White Swan, Black Swan; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

Shriver, Lionel. Property: Stories Between Two Novellas. Harper. Apr. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062697936. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062697950. SHORT STORIES
Best known for the internationally best-selling We Need to Talk About Kevin, National Book Award finalist Shriver offers her first volume of short fiction, which includes two novellas. As the title suggests, the pieces here concern the impact of possessions, even one’s home, on personal relationships. In “Vermin,” for instance, two artists watch their passion flame out after they purchase a rundown house, while “The Standing Chandelier” features a woman who carefully crafts a wedding gift for a friend and his fiancée only to learn that the woman wants nothing to do with her. With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Sittenfeld Curtis. You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories. Random. Apr. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780399592867. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399592874. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. SHORT STORIES
The New York Times best-selling author everyone loves for Prep offers a story collection comprising both original and previously published work (including two that appeared in The New Yorker). Not surprisingly, she captures our missteps and misperceptions, including those we boldly present to the world. A demure Ivy Leaguer learns that a classmate’s life is not so golden, a honeymooning lawyer spots the girl who once taunted her in high school, and the mother of two has few good thoughts for an old friend whose cheery lifestyle-brand empire is likely built on a lie.

Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. Heads of the Colored People: Stories. Atria. Apr. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9781501167997. $23; ebk. ISBN 9781501168017. SHORT STORIES
Promising new writer Thompson-Spires, a 2016 fellow of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, offers stories dealing with African American identity. The stories range from darkly funny—two mothers needle each other through notes exchanged in their children’s backpacks—to just plain dark, as when a new mother and funeral singer mourns boys lost to gun violence and an upper middle-class girl tries to understand her relationship with black culture.

 

 

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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.

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