Fiction Previews, September 2012, Pt. 1: Oates Gives Us Monroe as a White Rose

Dean, Debra. The Mirrored World. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780061231452. $25.99; lrg. prnt. HISTORICAL
Author of the affecting The Madonnas of Leningrad, an ALA Notable Book and a No. 1 BookSense Pick, Dean returns to her favorite city but in an earlier era. In 1700s St. Petersburg, fervent daydreamer Xenia is happily married to Andrei, but when tragedy strikes she withdraws from friends and family to dedicate herself to the poor, eventually vanishing‚ into a mirrored world? Sounds like a Russian novel indeed! With a 75,000-copy first printing and a reading group guide; good for book groups.

Follett, Ken. Winter of the World. Dutton. Sept. 2012. 1008p. ISBN 9780525952923. $36. HISTORICAL
In 2010, Follett launched The Century Trilogy with the No. 1 New York Times best seller, Fall of Giants, which traced the lives of five interrelated families‚ American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh‚ through the early years of the 20th century. Encompassing World War I and the Russian Revolution, that lusciously detailed 1000-pager did daunt a few readers. But most will be back for this follow-up (just as big), featuring the same families but moving them along to the rise of the Third Reich and World War II.

Harman, Patricia. The Midwife of Hope River. Morrow. Sept. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780062198891. pap. $14.99. HISTORICAL
A practicing midwife who has authored two memoirs, The Blue Cotton Gown and Arms Wide Open‚ both small-press publications that found an appreciative audience‚ Harman turns to fiction with a heroine appropriately named Patience Murphy. Patience, a midwife just getting started in 1930s Appalachia, willingly takes on hard-luck cases even as she carefully guards her own secrets. The 75,000-copy first printing, five-city tour (Atlanta, Birmingham, Charleston, WV, Knoxville, and Nashville), and reading group guide bespeak hope for this book; watch closely, especially in Appalachia.

Kadrey, Richard. Devil Said Bang. Harper Voyageur: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780062094575. $24.99. FANTASY
If you’ve been following the Sandman Slim novels (Amazon Top Tenner Kill the Dead; Sandman Slim, among’s best paranormal fantasies of the decade; and Indie Next Pick Aloha from Hell), you’ll know that James Starker, aka Sandman Slim, managed to break out of hell to revenge his girlfriend’s murder and has since done time in a very unlovely Los Angeles. Aloha sent him back to Hell, where he’s now the new Lucifer, ready for another breakout and with everyone in Heaven and Hell lining up to take shots at him. When Cory Doctorow calls this movie-bound series wryer-than-wry and violenter-than-violent, you know the audience. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Oates, Joyce Carol. Black Dahlia & White Rose: Stories. Ecco: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780062195692. $24.99.
Deluxe author Oates offers a collection of 11 previously uncollected stories, whose borderland scenarios range from a well-off wife’s eloping with a spotted hyena to visitors surprised by what they discover at a maximum security prison. The title story is most significant, however, as it tracks the friendship between Elizabeth Short, famously known as the Black Dahlia, the victim of a markedly brutal murder in 1940s Los Angeles that remains unsolved, and her roommate, Norma Jeane Baker‚ who of course became Marilyn Monroe. The 25,000-copy first printing seems a bit low for this master; as Monroe fever hits, starting in August, this could be part of the mix.

Santo, Courtney Miller. The Roots of the Olive Tree. Morrow. Sept. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780062130518. $24.99; eISBN 9780062130532. lrg. prnt. POP FICTION
Multigenerational sagas featuring indomitable women are the stuff of contemporary fiction, but this debut is noteworthy because it represents a full five generations, still living together in a house surrounded by an olive grove in Sacramento Valley. Family matriarch Anna is in fact 112, and great-great-granddaughter Erin has just returned home pregnant after singing opera for two years; now a geneticist wants to study all the women to determine the secret of the family’s longevity. But as Anna worries, that might mean revealing secrets about the family’s origins that she’s hidden for over a century. One of those big-push debuts with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Thilliez, Franck. Syndrome E. Viking. Sept. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780670025787. $26.95. THRILLER
Subliminal images packed into a little-known film from the 1950s are so truly horrifying that a friend of Det. Lucie Hennebelle has gone blind after watching it. Meanwhile, Inspector Franck Sharko is investigating five murders that seem to be related to the film. As terror escalates worldwide, it appears that in its early stages neuroscience was used not for good but for evil. Trust the French to go for a thoughty thriller; this one was a big best seller in France, with rights sold to 11 countries.

Tropper, Jonathan. One Last Thing Before I Go. Dutton. Sept. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780525952367. $26.95; CD: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
No wonder Silver is feeling slightly desperate; his ex-wife is about to marry a terrific guy, his Princeton-bound daughter announces that she’s pregnant, and if he doesn’t acquiesce to an operation, he will soon drop dead. Having broken out in 2009 with This Is Where I Leave You, a New York Times best seller, Tropper returns with another darkly funny, queasily heartwarming tale.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.