Fiction Previews, Mar. 2013, Pt. 5: For Sharp Readers, Steve Amsterdam, Rebecca Miller, Stuart Nadler, and More

Alderman, Naomi. The Liar’s Gospel. Little, Brown. Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780316232784. $25.99. HISTORICAL
As Mary mourns, the High Priest of the Temple tries to calm roiled waters, a rebel named Bar-Avo hopes to stir things further, and Yehoshuah’s old friend Iehuda abandons God. As told by these four people, this reimagining of Jesus’s life and death isn’t strictly for the devout; Alderman, who won the Orange Prize, has been mentored by Margaret Atwood.

Amsterdam, Steve. What the Family Needed. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781594486395. $26.95. LITERARY
Amsterdam, who launched his career brilliantly in 2010 with Things We Didn’t See Coming, winner of The Age Book of the Year Award and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, returns with the story of a family whose supernatural powers emerge at times of personal crisis—and in a way that reflects the very problem. For instance, Giordana, overlooked as her parents divorce vindictively, can will herself to become invisible. With a reading group guide; readers in the know will want.

Bezos, MacKenzie. Traps. Knopf. Mar. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780307959737. $24.95. POP FICTION
Security guard Dana is brave about bombs but not about relationships, Academy Award–winning actress Jessica runs relentlessly from the press, teenaged prostitute Vivian loves her twin babies, and Lynn is a recovering alcoholic tucked away in the Nevada desert. What they have in common is this novel, which brings them together explosively for a few fateful moments. Billed as high-end women’s fiction that fans of Sue Miller, Anita Shreve, Anna Quindlen, and Elizabeth Strout will appreciate; with a reading group guide.

Domingue, Ronlyn. The Mapmaker’s War. Atria: S. & S. Mar. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781451688887. $23; eISBN 9781451688900. POP FICTION
Like Domingue’s debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air (which LJ called “amazing”), this new work has a slightly mystical edge. Mapmaker of her kingdom, a young woman named Aoife discovers people on the border living in peace and prosperity as they guard a treasure connected (so they claim) to the creation of the world. When she reveals their existence, they are immediately threatened, and she ends up taking refuge with them after warning them of the danger.

Miller, Rebecca. Jacob’s Folly. Farrar. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780374178543. $26. LITERARY
Author of the sharply etched Personal Velocity, a Washington Post Best Book of 2001 and the basis for Miller’s Sundance Festival award-winning film by the same name, Miller here broadens her reach. Jacob, an 18th-century Jewish peddler, is connected to the contemporary American couple Leslie and Deirdre Senzatimore and a young, seriously ill Ultra-Orthodox Jew named Masha in a surprising way. He’s reincarnated as a fly and wings his way to Long Island. No horror-movie shenanigans here; this is an imaginative meditation on the connection of past to present and the conflict of free will and fate.

Nadler, Stuart. Wise Men. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780316126489. $25.99. LITERARY
I’m stepping back a month here, but it’s worth it. Nadler did nicely enough last year with the genial story collection, The Book of Life. But pay attention; he’s just been picked as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 by Edith Pearlman, National Book Award fiction finalist last year and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. And his new novel certainly sounds promising. Son of a powerful lawyer, Hilly Wise befriends a black girl named Samantha on a Cape Cod beach in 1952, which sets in motion a series of events that end badly indeed. Years later, Willy searches for Samantha, wondering if he can make ever amends.

Willett, Sabin. Abide with Me. S. & S. Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781451667028. pap. $16. POP FICTION
A lawyer whose accomplishments include defending Uighur captives at the Guantánamo Bay detainment camp, Willett has written a number of novels (e.g., Present Value) that have been glowingly if quietly received. Things might change with this story of a bad boy who has returned to his backwater Vermont town after fighting in Afghanistan, as it is both immediately relevant and classically grounded; it’s billed as a Wuthering Heights for today. Try it.


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.