Summer Debuts | Fiction Previews, Jul. 2018

Arthurs, Alexia. How To Love a Jamaican: Stories. Ballantine. Jul. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781524799205. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524799212. Downloadable. SHORT STORIES
In 11 stories, 2017 Plimpton Prize winner Arthurs captures the lives of Jamaican immigrants in America and the families they’ve left behind. Among the scenarios: a teenager is reunited with his mother in New York, despairing parents leave their wild daughter with her strict grandmother in Jamaica, and an NYU student is surprised to find a privileged fellow Jamaican oblivious to issues of race. There’s a debut novel coming soon.

Borman, Tracy. The King’s Witch. Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9780802127884. $27. HISTORICAL
Having turned out numerous history titles (e.g., The Private Lives of the Tudors), the joint chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces in the UK launches an historical fiction trilogy. Frances Gorges wants to return home after tending the dying Queen Elizabeth, but she’s forced back to the palace of the newly crowned King James by an ambitious uncle and soon senses the scheming around her that will culminate in the Gunpowder Plot. Can she trust charming courtier Tom Wintour? And what if folks find out that she’s a gifted healer, which could mark her, dangerously, as a witch?

Chen, Katherine J. Mary B: A Novel: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice. Random. Jul. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780399592218. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399592232. lrg. prnt. Downloadable. HISTORICAL FICTION
Though Mary Bennet lays claim to only a few lines of dialog in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she’s the character with whom recent Princeton graduate Chen identifies. In a debut that encompasses events before, during, and after Austen’s novel, introverted Mary knows she’ll have to marry, escapes the pressure through a love of reading and writing, and bears witness to a scandal that brings out her strong-minded independence. Janeites, don’t miss.

Franqui, Leah. America for Beginners. Morrow. Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780062668752. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062668776. lrg. prnt. WOMEN’S
Award-winning playwright Franqui unfolds the story of Pival Sengupta, who flies from Kolkata to New York, then travels cross-country to California, to discover what happened to her son, Rahi. A year ago, he had shocked his traditional parents by calling to say that he was gay, and Pival refuses to believe her husband when he reports that Rahi is dead. Now her husband is also dead, and whatever happens at trip’s end, her growing understanding of America lets her see her son differently.

Freiman, Lexi. Inappropriation. Ecco. Jul. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062699732. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062699756. LITERARY
A 2013 Center for Fiction Writing Fellow and fiction editor at George Braziller, Australian-born Freiman introduces us to 15-year-old Ziggy Klein, struggling with family at home and hierarchy at her swanky private Australian girls’ school. She’s equally unsettled by her parents’ sexual excesses and the radical feminism of her new friends, which bend her views of race, gender, and sexual politics way past recognition. A Mean Girls for this century.

Giordano, Raphaëlle. Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. Putnam. Jul. 2018. 192p. tr. from French. ISBN 9780525535591. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780525535614. lrg. prnt. Downloadable. WOMEN’S
Though Giordano has published nonfiction like Self-Assertion and Stress Management, here she makes her fiction debut with a go-find-yourself title that was a blockbuster best seller in her native France, with rights sold to 31 territories. In her late thirties and content with husband, job, and motherhood, Paris native Camille nevertheless feels she’s missed her chance at happiness. Here’s how she finds it.

Heng, Rachel. Suicide Club. Holt. Jul. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781250185341. $27; ebk. ISBN 978125018535. LITERARY
Featured in extract in the Huffington Post’s “15 Stellar Short Stories You Can Read Online,” this debut from a Pushcart and Prairie Schooner honoree is set in a near-future where the genetically blessed can live for 300 years—or maybe forever. That’s lucky “Lifer” Lea Kirino’s plan, which calls for furious juicing and the right kind of exercise. But then her renegade father draws her into the Suicide Club, whose members resist the quest for immortality.

Hughes, Caoilinn. Orchid and the Wasp. Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781524761103. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781524761127. Downloadable. LITERARY
In this first work of fiction from an award-winning Irish poet, edgy and intrepid young Gael Foess endures her self-absorbed parents until her financier father walks out, then travels from Dublin to London to New York to find a way to heal the family and help ailing younger brother Guthrie. Acquired in a heated five-house auction at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair; Hughes has just won a scholarship from the Tin House Writers Workshop.

Kilalea, Katharine. OK, Mr. Field. Tim Duggan: Crown. Jul. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780525573630. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780525573654. Downloadable.LITERARY
A Costa Poetry Award short-listed poet, South African–born, London-based Kilalea dreams up a novel about concert pianist Mr. Field, who suffers a career-threatening injury and retreats with wife Mim to a Cape Town villa he buys with his compensation check. The house has a disturbing effect on the couple, and Mim soon leaves without a word, as Mr. Field slowly starts going mad. Serialized in the Paris Review.

Klehfoth, Elizabeth. All These Beautiful Strangers. Morrow. Jul. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062796707. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062796721. PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER
Optioned for television by Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories (e.g., Big Little Lies), this white knuckler from a Glimmer Train and AWP Intro Award finalist features teenage Charlie, still haunted by her mother’s disappearance when she was seven. Now a secret society at her elite New England school wants her to join their fun, but doing so entails a creepy, semester-long scavenger hunt that could wreck her life. YA crossover potential.

Kwon, R.O. The Incendiaries. Riverhead. Jul. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780735213890. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735213913. Downloadable. LITERARY/COMING OF AGE
Having won numerous awards (Yaddo, Breadloaf), Kwon gets a chance at full-scale fiction with this campus-set story about love, belief, and terrorism. Will, a Bible school transfer to a prestigious university, loves glamorous Phoebe, guilty over her mother’s death and attracted to a cult whose leader has an obscure connection to North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean American family. Then the cult bombs several buildings.

Mirza, Fatima Farheen. A Place for Us. SJP: Hogarth. Jun. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781524763558. $27; ekb. ISBN 9781524763572. Downloadable. LITERARY
Hadia is marrying for love, and the story of her California-based Indian Muslim family unfolds on the eve of her wedding from the varied perspectives of mother, father, and three siblings, including estranged son Amar. From a debuting Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad, this inaugural acquisition in Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint negotiates the rough terrain between traditional belief and contemporary mores.

Parker, Miriam. The Shortest Way Home. Dutton. Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781524741860. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781524741877. Downloadable. WOMEN’S
Hannah is about to have it all, including a high-profile job in Manhattan and a sure-to-happen proposal from her boyfriend, all of which she jettisons on a presumably romantic getaway in Sonoma when she leaps at a job offer from a stumbling winery. The good news: she finds what she really wants. From the associate publisher of Ecco.

Rojas Contreras, Ingrid. Fruit of the Drunken Tree. Doubleday. Jul. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780385542722. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542739. Downloadable. LITERARY/COMING OF AGE
Already the winner of several honors (e.g., a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellowship), Bogotá-born Rojas Contreras draws on her own life to chronicle seven-year-old Chula, sheltered within her gated community from the violence of 1990s Colombia, and the family’s new teenage maid. From the city’s roiling slums, Petrona is caught between supporting her family and following her true love, and she and Chula get caught up in some dangerous secrets.

Steadman, Catherine. Something in the Water. Ballantine. Jul. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781524797188. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524797195. CD/downloadable. THRILLER
Documentary filmmaker Erin and banker Mark are on a glorious Bora Bora honeymoon when they discover a bag stuffed with glittering valuables, which changes their lives in a way that’s not so good. A writing debut from the actress who played Mabel Lane Fox in Downton Abbey.

Tamblyn, Amber. Any Man. Harper Perennial. Jul. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780062688927. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062688934. POLITICAL FICTION
An English teacher, a floundering stand-up comedian, a web designer, a high school student—all are men, and all have been assaulted by a serial rapist using the name Maude. Multi-award-nominated actress Tamblyn looks at sexual violence from a whole new angle in this first novel following two attention-getting poetry collections.

Tan, Lucy. What We Were Promised. Little, Brown. Jul. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780316437189. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316437219. LITERARY
Among the Chinese-born, Western-educated professionals flocking back to rapidly modernizing Shanghai are Zhen Wei, who wishes he had a higher calling than marketing strategist, and his family. It’s a tough adjustment made worse when Wei’s bad-boy brother Qiang arrives in town. With a 40,000-copy first printing; from the 2015 winner of Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest.

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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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