Fiction Previews, Apr. 2013, Pt. 3: Jennifer Gilmore, James Salter, Jean Thompson, and More

Campbell, Drusilla. When She Came Home. Grand Central. Apr. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781455510351. pap. $14.99. POP FICTION
The author of satisfying human dramas like Blood Orange and Little Girl Gone, Campbell returns with a deeply relevant story. Back from Iraq, Frankie Byrne must confront her daughter’s trouble with school bullies, her husband’s contentiousness, her career soldier dad’s belief that as a woman she never should have gone to war, and, finally, demands that she testify about what she witnessed in battle. Can she heal herself before she cracks completely?

Fforde, Katie. Proposal. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781250024299. $25.99. ROMANCE
A London Times best-selling author, Fforde isn’t as big a name here but is well enough received to bear watching. Escaping her too presumptuous family, Sophie Apperly flees England for the Big Apple, where she’s befriended by a generous high-society type with a handsome but decidedly distant grandson named Luke. Once Sophie is back in England, however, Luke does look her up while he’s passing through. Sparks?

Gilmore, Jennifer. The Mothers. Scribner. Apr. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451697254. $25; eISBN 9781451697889. LITERARY
In her fiction, Gilmore has tended to look back—Golden Country focused on immigrant families from the 1920s to the 1960s, while Something Red was set at the end of the Cold War. But here she goes contemporary, following a couple as they desperately work their way through the adoption system. Since Golden Country was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and Something Red a New York Times Notable Book, expect good, glowy writing.

Kline, Christina Baker. Orphan Train. Morrow. Apr. 2013. 228p. ISBN 9780061950728. pap. $14.99; eISBN 9780062101204. LITERARY
Between 1854 and 1929, orphaned or abandoned children from the East Coast were often placed on so-called orphan trains and sent west, possibly for adoption and possibly for a hellish life of virtual servitude. Irish immigrant Vivian Daly was one such child. Now 91, she’s blotted out the experience. But then welfare teen Molly, who’s helping Vivian clean out her house, finds evidence of Vivian’s experiences in the attic, and the two have reason to bond. Kline (Bird in Hand) knows the settings, Maine and Minnesota (where the orphan-train legacy remains strong), and typically presents affecting characters. She’s extending her grasp, and the publisher is enthusiastic. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Leskov, Nikolai. The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories. Knopf. Apr. 2013. 560p. ISBN 9780307268822. $35. eISBN 9780307962362. SHORT STORIES
A convention-bending 19th-century Russian author, Leskov is not well known here. But his translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, certainly are. They’re two-time PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize winners who have rendered anew works by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and others, most famously Anna Karenina, which got an Oprah blessing. Sophisticated readers will be intrigued.

Ma Jian. The Dark Road. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781594205026. $25.95. LITERARY
In 1987, the Chinese government banned Ma’s grittily forthright Stick Out Your Tongue, which led him to leave for Hong Kong and eventually London, though he has continued to travel throughout China in support of dissident activity. Visiting rural Guangxi Province to learn how the government enforced the one-child policy, he encountered women forced to undergo abortions or sterilizations and couples who became fugitives in order to have more children. One such couple appears at the heart of his latest novel, which will attract serious readers—and debate.

Nicholson, William. Motherland. S. & S. Apr. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781451687132. $25; eISBN 9781451687149. HISTORICAL
Buddies Ed and Larry both love Kitty, but she chooses to marry hunky World War II hero Ed. Bad choice, since Ed isn’t husband material and Larry’s the real sweetheart, but when Kitty finally acknowledges her mistake and tries to correct it, the result is tragedy. Standard set-up, but multi-threat writer Nicholson received Academy Award nominations for his Shadowlands and Gladiator screenplays, so one might reasonably expect fresh, fired-up writing.

Joseph, Sheri. Where You Can Find Me. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781250012852. $24.99. LITERARY
Joseph has proven herself by winning the Grub Street National Book Prize, not to mention a half-dozen fellowships and residencies. The publisher is hoping that this book will break her out, and the intriguing plot would seem to have broad appeal. After being kidnapped and living for three years with a man he learned to call father, a rescued Caleb is back with his family. But the stress of rebuilding old ties has convinced his mother to move Caleb and his sister to Costa Rica, where they live with her estranged husband’s expat mother and disarmingly charming older brother. Finally, what really happened to Caleb can emerge. Great reading group potential.

Salter, James. All That Is. Knopf. Apr. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781400043132. $25.95; eISBN 9780307961099. LITERARY
PEN/Faulkner winner Salter publishes rarely (this is his first fiction in eight years, postponed from October 2012), but when he does it’s choice. This novel features World War II veteran Philip Bowman, now a book editor, who enjoys the charged and intimate environment of the era’s publishing world yet suffers in his emotional life, enduring a failed marriage and relentless betrayal. The publisher is enthusiastic enough to call it a literary event, so pay attention.

Schwarz, Christina. The Edge of the Earth. Atria: S. & S. Apr. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451683677. $25. LITERARY SUSPENSE
The edge of the earth, off California’s coast—as in T.C. Boyle’s current San Miguel. In a lighthouse—as in M.L. Stedman’s current The Light Between Oceans. That’s where college-educated, upper-middle-class Trudy comes to live at the turn of the 20th century, having left staid Milwaukee and the man she was expected to marry for her true love, Oskar. The light station’s only inhabitants are the seemingly innocuous Crawleys, but soon after arriving Trudy starts getting the shivers; extreme isolation is the ideal backdrop for elemental human drama. Schwarz launched blazingly over a decade ago with Drowning Ruth, an Oprah pick; she’s done nicely since then but looks to do some more blazing here.

Thompson, Jean. The Humanity Project. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780399158711. $26.95. LITERARY
A National Book Award finalist for City Boy, Thompson continues delivering category-defying work. Having survived a high school shootout, Linnea has been sent off to live with her estranged father, whose neighbor Christie, a nurse, is charged with tending the Humanity Project—a charity organization funded by Christie’s dotty patient, Mrs. Foster. Linnea smokes marijuana with her dad but talks out her worries to Conner, the Fosters’ mysterious handyman. On the edge literary/commercial appeal.

West, Michael Lee. A Teeny Taste of Scandal. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780312571245. $25.99. POP FICTION
Popular author West follows up A Teeny Bit of Trouble with another fun fest starring Charleston pastry chef Teeny Templeton, whose mother, Ruby, arrives the night before Teeny’s wedding (and just as Teeny is popping a cheesecake in the oven) with a dead hooker named Sugar in her car trunk. Seems that Sugar knew about Ruby’s involvement with the death of a South Carolina senator, whose family is accusing of Ruby of stealing of an antique necklace. It also seems that Sugar isn’t quite dead. Mayhem and recipes, with a Southern touch.

Wilder, Gene. Something To Remember You By: A Perilous Romance. St. Martins. Apr. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9780312598914. $19.99. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Injured in the fighting during World War II, Cpl. Tom Cole recuperates in London, where he falls for a young Danish woman named Anna who works at the War Office. Or so she says, but she’s not there when he pays a surprise visit. This little mystery eventually sends him parachuting behind enemy lines as a newly anointed intelligence officer. The Academy Award–nominated actor has done nicely in his new career as author, and this haunting little tale (billed as a novella) should please readers.


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.