Fiction Reviews, July 2012

starred review starAmis, Martin. Lionel Asbo: State of England. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780307958082. $25.95. F

Amis’s latest novel is really two stories, a satirical take on the rise and fall of Lionel Abso, small-time criminal, and the coming-of-age story of Desmond Des Pepperdine. Back when he was still a Pepperdine, at the tender age of two, Lionel started living the thug life by bullying his older brothers. By the age of three, he had been cited by the cops for smashing car windows. Des is Lionel’s nephew. He is gifted, the book-smart kid in a school famous for low standards, college-bound among the prison-bound. When Lionel’s not in jail the two live in a high-rise housing estate in the London borough of Diston. In jail for starting a brawl at a wedding, Lionel wins the lottery, becomes a multimillionaire and starts living the celebrity life. Cue the hijinks. VERDICT Despite the distractions of the Lionel’s shenanigans (ridiculous, over the top, and, yes, funny) readers will be drawn to Des. He may be the straight man in the piece but he adds depth to the novel. It’s a fun read all around, but fans of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle will want to look for this. [See Prepub Alert, 1/13/12.]‚ Pamela Mann, St. Mary’s Coll. of Maryland, St. Mary’s City

starred review starHeller, Peter. The Dog Stars. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307959942. $24.95. F

In the near future, a flu pandemic has decimated civilization, leaving only scattered pockets of survivors to fend for themselves. Hig is one of the healthy ones. For the past nine years, he has coexisted with a loner named Bangley at an abandoned airport in eastern Colorado. Trying not to think of his former life, Hig finds sanity in fishing, staring at the constellations, and flying his plane. With his dog, Jasper, Hig flies the perimeter of their safety zone in his 1956 Cessna. Bangley has a well-stocked arsenal, and between them, they keep a watchful eye for unfriendly invaders. On one of his forays, through broken static, Hig hears another pilot over the radio, an incident that haunts him until he goes in search of this other human being. Packing enough supplies to get him there and back, he takes off for western Colorado in search of the voice. During his six-week journey, he discovers more than he bargained for. VERDICT After an award-winning career as an adventure writer and NPR contributor, Heller has written a stunning debut novel. In spare, poetic prose, he portrays a soaring spirit of hope that triumphs over heartbreak, trauma, and insurmountable struggles. A timely must-read. [See Prepub Alert, 1/30/12.]‚ Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO

starred review starJosefson, Dan. That’s Not a Feeling. Soho, dist. by Random House. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9781616951887. pap. $15.95. F

This remarkable first novel focuses on an autumn spent by 16-year-old Benjamin at an unorthodox upstate New York school for troubled teens. Suddenly on his own, Benjamin has to learn quickly to navigate the unfamiliar environment of the school. Aubrey, the headmaster, preaches a philosophy of taking responsibility, but exactly what this means and how it is to be implemented is as much a mystery to the teachers as to the students. Both groups are mostly biding their time and making do in a difficult and unpredictable environment, an environment held together mostly by the sheer force of Aubrey’s personality. But when Aubrey is diagnosed with cancer things begin to change. Meanwhile, Ben finds an ally in Tidbit, an equally troubled young woman, and they make plans to run away. VERDICT Funny at times, and more than a little sad, the book’s form perfectly mirrors Benjamin’s profound sense of dislocation and uncertainty. This is a powerful, haunting look at the alternate universe of an unusual therapeutic community.‚ Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MA

The following titles are reviewed in the July print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Abrams, David. Fobbit. Black Cat: Grove. Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780802120328. pap. $15. F

Amirrezvani, Anita. Equal of the Sun. Scribner. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9781451660463. $26. F

Arsenault, Emily. Miss Me When I’m Gone. Morrow. Aug. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780062103109. pap. $14.99. F

Attenberg, Jami. The Middlesteins. Grand Central. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781455507214. $24.99. F

Berman, Sabina. Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World. Holt. Aug. 2012. c.240p. tr. from Spanish by Lisa Dillman. ISBN 9780805093254. $23. F

Black, Elizabeth. The Drowning House. Doubleday. Jan. 2013. c.288p. ISBN 9780385535861. $25. F

Brookmyre, Christopher. Where the Bodies Are Buried. Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780802120250. $25. F

Cook, Thomas H. The Crime of Julian Wells. Mysterious Pr: Grove/Atlantic. Aug. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780802126030. $24. F

De La Pava, Sergio. A Naked Singularity. Univ. of Chicago. 2012. c.696p. ISBN 9780226141794. pap. $18. F

Dean, Debra. The Mirrored World. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780061231452. $25.99. F

Doig, Ivan. The Bartender’s Tale. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781594487354. $27.95. F

Dowlatabadi, Mahmoud. The Colonel. Melville House. 2012. c.256p. tr. from Persian by Tom Patterdale. ISBN 9781612191324. pap. $17.95. F

Edwards, Yvvette. A Cupboard Full of Coats. Amistad: HarperCollins. Aug. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780062183736. pap. $14.99. F

Evison, Jonathan. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. Algonquin. Sept. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781616200398. $24.95. F

Fuentes, Carlos. Vlad. Dalkey Archive. Jul. 2012. c.125p. tr. from Spanish by E. Shaskan Bumas & Alejandro Branger. ISBN 9781564787798. $17.95. F

Geraci, Maria. A Girl Like You. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780425247808. pap. $15. F

starred review starHruska, Bronwen. Accelerated. Pegasus. Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781605983790. $25. F

Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse. Bantam. Aug. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780553807745. $28. F

starred review starLam, Vincent. The Headmaster’s Wager. Hogarth: Crown. Aug. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780307986467. $25. F

Maxwell, Robin. Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan. Tor. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780765333582. $25.99. F

May, Stephen. Life! Death! Prizes! Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Dec. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781620400012. pap. $15. F

Miller, Stephen. The Messenger. Delacorte. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780345528476. $26. F

Morgan, Deborah. Disappearing Home. Tindal Street, dist. by Trafalgar Square. Aug. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781906994327. pap. $19.95. F

Ndiaye, Marie. Three Strong Women. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.304p. tr. from French by John Fletcher. ISBN 9780307594693. $25.95. F

Neill, Fiona. What the Nanny Saw. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9781594487163. $26.95. F

Norfolk, Lawrence. John Saturnall’s Feast. Grove. Sept. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780802120519. $25. F

Park, David. The Light of Amsterdam: A Novel. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781608197026. $26. F

Porter, Andrew. In Between Days. Knopf. Sept. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307273512. $24.95. F

starred review starPylväinen, Hanna. We Sinners. Holt. Aug. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9780805095333. $23. F

Ryan, Hank Phillippi. The Other Woman. Forge: Tor. Sept. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780765332578. $24.99. F

Semple, Maria. Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Little, Brown. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780316204279. $25.99. F

Shomer, Enid. The Twelve Rooms of the Nile. S & S. Aug. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9781451642964. $26. F

Shreve, Susan Richards. You Are the Love of My Life. Norton. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780393082807. $25.95. F

Straub, Emma. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781594488450. $26.95. F

Tan, Sandi. The Black Isle. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. c.480p. ISBN 9780446563925. $24.99. F

Tracy, P.J. Off the Grid: A Monkeewrench Novel. Putnam. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780399158049. $25.95. F

starred review starTropper, Jonathan. One Last Thing Before I Go. Dutton. Aug. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780525952367. $26.95. F

Vincent, Norah. Thy Neighbor. Viking. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780670023745. $25.95. F

Wiesel, Elie. Hostage. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.224p. tr. from French by Catherine Temerson. ISBN 9780307599582. $25.95. F

Woodruff, Lee. Those We Love Most. Voice: Hyperion. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781401341787. $26.99. F

Short stories

starred review starDíaz, Junot. This Is How You Lose Her. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781594487361. $26.95. F

Pilch, Jerzy. My First Suicide. Open Letter. 2012. c.276p. tr. from Polish by David Frick. ISBN 9781934824405. pap. $15.95. F

Stamm, Peter. We’re Flying. Other. Aug. 2012. c.384p. tr. from German by Michael Hofmann. ISBN 9781590513248. pap. $15.95. F

Yu, Charles. Sorry Please Thank You Stories. Pantheon. Jul. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780307907172. $24.95. F