Fiction Reviews | November 15, 2013

redstar Theroux, Marcel. Strange Bodies. Farrar. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780374270650. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374709518. F

National Book Award finalist Theroux (The Far North) opens this new novel with protagonist and scholar Nicholas Slopen—recently deceased, who is paradoxically now living in another body. The book then unspools into a fascinating tale about how this transformation came about. Revealed is the concept that original text can be used to re-create the consciousness of the author in another body. The person does not even have to be alive if enough information, such as letters or opinions, written by the author exists; thus, writers from the past can even be reanimated. The way in which the narrator deals with the ethical, mechanical, and psychological problems that arise makes this reading experience truly enthralling. The detailed renderings of Slopen’s emotions, especially with regard to family and literature, provide an intense and nuanced examination of the plight of being. ­VERDICT The particulars of the science aside, this work is essentially asking a compelling question about identity: What makes us who we are? Here Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer meets Stephenie Meyer’s The Host in this very highly recommended work. [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/13.]—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA

redstar Minot, Susan. Thirty Girls. Knopf. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780307266385. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350525. F

In 1996, 30 girls were abducted from a school in Uganda by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Minot (Monkeys) takes this event as the starting point for her new novel, which then diverges into two narratives. The first follows the plight of the girls in captivity, focusing primarily on Esther, a wise and sensitive teenager. The second concerns Jane, an American writer and aspiring journalist who has come to Africa both to write a story about the abducted girls and to escape her own unhappy memories. Minot’s style of rendering dialog without quotation marks gives the book a hazy, dreamlike quality, jumbling speech and description. Though the shifting narratives start out highlighting the stark contrasts between the two worlds, they eventually collide as violence enters the privileged white enclave. Near the end, there are times when the author seems to intentionally obscure which narrative is being recounted. VERDICT Though not easy to read, this is a deeply affecting title that manages to express weighty sentiments and horrific events with subtlety and poetry and also marks Minot’s first major work since her 1997 novel Evening. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/13.]—Lauren Gilbert, ­Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY

redstar Antopol, Molly. The UnAmericans. Norton. Jan. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780393241136. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393241976. F

In her debut story collection, Antopol looks deeply into the lives of people whose geographies are not easy to define, such as the Israeli journalist who only feels alive when on assignment in Kiev and the California actor who claims more Russian heritage than he actually has, having lived in the United States since he was two years old. Within these compelling narratives, Antopol conveys not only the inner lives of her characters but also the political and social history they carry with them from the sewers of Eastern Europe (an escape route from imminent capture by Nazis) to the Israeli kibbutz to the streets of New York, among other places in the diaspora. VERDICT These rich stories, in many ways reminiscent of the work of Grace Paley (The Little Disturbances of Man), are often sharply funny and always intelligent, and readers will find them immediately appealing. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/13.]—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
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redstar Alcott, Kate. The Daring Ladies of Lowell. Doubleday. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780385536493. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385536509. F

Allen, Sarah Addison. Lost Lake. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781250019806. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250019813. F

Allende, Isabel. Ripper. Harper. Jan. 2014. 400p. tr. from Spanish by Oliver Bock & Frank Wynne. ISBN 9780062291400. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062291417. F

Buckley, Carla. The Deepest Secret. Bantam. Feb. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780345535245. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345539663. F

Cartwright, Justin. Lion Heart. Bloomsbury USA. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781620401835. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620401842. F

redstar Cash, Wiley. This Dark Road to Mercy. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780062088253. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062088277. F

Crowell, Jenn. Etched on Me. Washington Square: Atria. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476739069. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476739076. F

redstar Finch, Charles. The Last Enchantments. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250018717. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018700. F

redstar Green, Jane. Tempting Fate. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780312591847. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466842038. F

redstar Greene, Thomas Christopher. The Headmaster’s Wife. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250038944. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466834248. F

Helget, Nicole. Stillwater. Houghton Harcourt. Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780547898209. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780547898421. F

Jefferson, Marci. Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250037220. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250037213. F

Kasischke, Laura. Mind of Winter. Harper. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780062284396. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062284419. F

redstar Lee, Chang-rae. On Such a Full Sea. Riverhead. Jan. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781594486104. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101632147. F

redstar Lippman, Laura. After I’m Gone. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062083395. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062083401. F

May, Eric Charles. Bedrock Faith. Akashic. Mar. 2014. 420p. ISBN 9781617751967. pap. $16.95. F

McLoughlin, Rosemary. Tyringham Park. Atria. Feb. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9781476733104. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476733111. F

redstar Merullo, Roland. Vatican Waltz. Crown. Dec. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780307452955. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780307452979. F

redstar Mohamed, Nadifa. The Orchard of Lost Souls. Farrar. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780374209148. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374709921. F

Muñoz Molina, Antonio. In the Night of Time. Houghton Harcourt. Dec. 2013. 656p. tr. from Spanish by Edith Grossman. ISBN 9780547547848. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780547548050. F

Olshan, Matthew. Marshlands. Farrar. Feb. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9780374199395. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780374711634. F

Powers, Richard. Orfeo. Norton. Jan. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780393240825. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393242683. F

Shotwell, Vivien. Vienna Nocturne. Ballantine. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780345536372. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345536396. F

Steinhauer, Olen. The Cairo Affair. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781250036131. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036148. F

redstar Waters, M.D. Archetype. Dutton. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780525954231. $26.95. F

Zyzak, Magdalena. The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel. Holt. Jan. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780805095104. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780805095524. F


Brekke, Jørgen. Where Monsters Dwell. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 368p. tr. from Norwegian by Steven T. Murray. ISBN 9781250016805. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250026040. M

Fowler, Christopher. The Invisible Code: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery. Bantam. Dec. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780345528650. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345539588. M


Rosales, Guillermo. Leapfrog and Other Stories. New Directions. 2013. 144p. tr. from Spanish by Anna Kushner. ISBN 9780811219419. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780811223270. F