Fiction Previews, November 2012, Pt. 2: Millet, Easterbrook, and Madame Butterfly’s Son

Easterbrook, Gregg. The Leading Indicators. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250011732. $24.99; eISBN 9781250011749. POP FICTION
It’s the usual have-it-all situation: Margo and Tom Helot boast a gorgeous home, super-achieving kids, and satisfied goals. What upends them is not violence or a secret from the past, as in most fiction with that setup, but the economy. Tom’s company goes bankrupt, and as he flails about, landing repeatedly at companies going under, the family collapses into a financially unsettled heap. A prolific journalist and contributing editor (at the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Monthly, and the New Republic, no less), Easterbrook here writes a novel for the times.

Millet, Lydia. Magnificence. Norton. Nov. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780393081701. $25.95. LITERARY
Still mourning the death of her husband, Susan Findley is given a chance at reclamation when she inherits her grand-uncle’s rambly, enchanting Pasadena mansion. Symbolically, she immediately sets about to restore the mansion’s taxidermy collection to pristine perfection. Alas, a few less than pristine relations drop in to stay. More eerily incisive work from Pulitzer Prize finalist Millet.

Rain, David. The Heat of the Sun. Holt. Nov. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780805096705. $26; eISBN 9780805096712. HISTORICAL
Like Angela Davis-Gardner’s Butterfly’s Child, Australian-born, London-based author Rain imagines what happened to the child left behind when the heroine of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly kills herself after discovering Lt. Benjamin Pinkerton’s perfidy. Davis-Gardner’s Benji, passed off as an orphan, suffers intolerance; Rain’s Ben Trouble Pinkerton is a charismatic young man worshiped by his private-school classmates‚ especially narrator Woodley Sharpless, a crippled orphan‚ who eventually finds himself in the midst of world-defining events from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression to the bombing of Nagasaki. So, a dramatic rather than meditative work, billed as genre-bending and an in-house favorite.

Thúy, Kim. Ru. Bloomsbury USA dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781608198986. pap. $14. LITERARY
Thúy was ten in 1978 when her family fled lotus-scented Saigon for Quebec, trading a large house for flea-infested mattresses. She picked vegetables and sewed clothes to put herself through school, married, and worked variously as a lawyer, translator, and restaurateur. Then she got the urge to write. The result is not a memoir, however, but this fictionalized account of Thúy’s immigrant experiences‚ and it won Canada’s Governor General Award. Good for discussion, especially as we are still not settled about the Vietnam War and its consequences; the early buzz campaign should draw in readers.

Trasandes, Monica. Broken Like This. St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781250006837. $24. POP FICTION
The fiery and inspiring beloved of both Louis Reed and Angela Agnelli for 15 years, Kate Harrington now lies broken, comatose after a car accident in Ibiza. Her two paramours having flown in to be by her side, one might expect a story of seesawing tight and tender emotions, but it gets really dramatic when Kate’s dark-force stepfather arrives. Director of Spanish-Language Media for GLAAD, Uruguayan-born Transandes offers a first novel that’s getting some push.

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.