Fiction Previews, Jul. 2013, Pt. 1: Nine Debuts from Butler’s Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love to Zambrano’s Lotería

Butler, Sarah. Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781594205330. $26.95. LITERARY
Unconventional Alice, the youngest of three sisters and a frequent traveler to far-off climes, returns home just in time to say good-bye to her dying father, with whom she’s never been close. Daniel, who’s been homeless for three decades and enjoys building sculptures out of found materials, knows he has a daughter somewhere and is desperate to find her before his health fails. The London-based Butler must do something wondrous with the fraught emotions (and perhaps crisscrossing) of these two characters, as the book will shortly be available in 12 languages worldwide.

Guinn, Matthew. The Resurrectionist. Norton. Jul. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780393239317. $25.95. SUSPENSE
A young medical resident serving out his probation for Xanax abuse by handling public relations for his medical school dean has a choice to make when some campus digging uncovers the bones of dissected African American slaves. Evidently, they had been snatched in the pre–Civil War era by “resurrectionists” paid by the school to find fresh corpses for anatomy training. Intent moral and historical issues, then, but note that the book is labeled suspense; there’s tingly Southern gothic here, too. Guinn, once a personal assistant to the late James Dickey, rates reading group promotions, a regional tour, and some good blurbs.

Handey, Jack. The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure. Grand Central. Jul. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781455522385. $18.99. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION
Not surprisingly, Emmy Award winner Handey, famed for his New Yorker humor and offbeat philosophizing in his “Deep Thoughts” series, has turned out a first novel that goes for the funny bone. Desperate to escape Honolulu, here reimagined as anything but paradise, the untrustworthy narrator and his sidekick, Don, link up with a travel agent who may also be a witch and soon find themselves on a hunt for the Golden Monkey. You were warned!

Hill, Katherine. The Violet Hour. Scribner. Jul. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781476710327. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476710327. LITERARY
The violet hour is that dusky moment between daylight and nightfall when everything is in transition, as are the Greens. As Abe, a rheumatologist, guides his new boat across San Francisco Bay with sculptress wife Cassandra and Harvard-bound daughter Elizabeth. he ends up in a bitter battle with the relentlessly unfaithful Cassandra and leaps overboard, swimming away from his marriage. With a 50,000-copy first printing, book club promotion, and a four-city tour to Boston, Madison, CT, New York, and Washington, DC; Hill has published in places like n + 1 and AGNI, so the cognoscenti will be anticipating this first book.

Lott, Jessica. The Rest of Us. S. & S. Jul. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781451645873. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451645897. LITERARY
After college—and the wild love affair with her poetry professor—Terry finds herself stuck in a dead-end job, her artistic ambitions perpetually on hold. Then she reads the professor’s obituary in the papers and starts rethinking her life. And then she runs into him, happily alive and shopping at Bloomingdale’s, which precipitates a real friendship that gets Terry back on track. Lott showed promise by winning Low Fidelity Press’s Novella Award for Osin, so let’s see what she does with a full-length novel.

Rich, Frederic C. Christian Nation. Norton. Jul. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780393240115. $25.95. ALTERNATE HISTORY
Distinguished lawyer Rich skips the briefs and uses fiction to consider what Christian fundamentalists really mean when they say they want a Christian nation. Here, President McCain has died, and Sarah Palin rules the nation, moving it toward theocracy as constitutional rights are summarily abandoned. Not escapist reading, though there will be tension.

Shah, Saira. The Mouse-Proof Kitchen. Emily Bestler Bk: Atria. Jul. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781476705644. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476705682. POP FICTION
Delighted to be pregnant, Anna determines that she will move to glorious Provence with her partner, Tobias, a laidback musician. But the farmhouse they acquire is full of pesky little rodents, and then their daughter, Freya, is born severely disabled. Kitchens aren’t mouse-proof, and life isn’t foolproof after all. As a three-time Emmy winner, Shah obviously has writing skills—and connections.

Sidorova, J.M. The Age of Ice. Scribner. Jul. 2013. 388p. ISBN 9781451692716. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451692730. HISTORICAL
Moscow-born Sidorova, now a professor of cellular biology at the University of Washington, opens her novel in 1740s St. Petersburg as the Empress Anna Ioanovna orders another of her cruel and crazy divertissements. A disgraced nobleman and a humpback are forced to consummate a marriage of sorts in a palace made of ice. Of the twin boys born nine months later, one, Prince Alexander Velitsyn, discovers that he has the frightening gift (or curse) of longevity and immunity to the cold. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the breadth (the narrative ranges over three continents and two centuries) and the appearance of real-life figures, including Mary Shelley.

Zambrano, Mario Alberto. Lotería. Harper: HarperCollins. Jul. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780062268549. $21.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062268563. POP FICTION
Here’s perhaps the big-news debut of this group of debuts, with a 75,000-copy first printing and a big publicity push. Former professional ballet dancer Zambrano (e.g., Nederlands Dans Theater) has protagonist Luz Castillo use lotería, the Mexican version of bingo, to tell the story of her life. With her father in jail and her sister hospitalized, 11-year-old Luz is in state custody and refusing to speak. But as she writes in her journal, she sifts through the vivid lotería cards (featuring mermaids, stars, and spiders, for instance) and uses them for inspiration. A very good bet.

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.


  1. Marion Webb says:

    Enjoy your reviews! (Is that a corgi?)