Debuts with Buzz, from British Playwright Paull, 5 Under 35 Honoree Johnston, & More | Fiction Previews, May 2014, Pt. 4

Gay, Roxane. An Untamed State. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. May 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780802122513. pap. $16. LITERARY
A multiple Pushcart nominee with work in Best American Short Stories 2012, Gay has a built-in readership anticipating this work. Mireille Duval Johnson, youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest men, lives contentedly with her husband and son until she’s whisked away by several heavily armed men. When her father hesitates to pay the ransom, Mireille finds herself in a tortuous situation that highlights the huge divide of privilege and poverty defining Haiti today. With an eight-city tour to New York, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Portland (OR), and Seattle.

Go, Justin. The Steady Running of the Hour. S. & S. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781476704586. $26. POP FICTION
When newly minted college graduate Tristan Campbell discovers that he may be heir to a fortune left to Imogen Soames-Andersson by a former lover in 1924 but never claimed, he dashes about from the Somme battlefields of France to the Eastfjords of Iceland to provide the requisite documentation. Then he gets interested in the tragic story of the lovers themselves. Big publicity and an eight-city tour—to Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and counting.

Harnett, Natalie S. The Hollow Ground. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. May. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250041982. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466839199. POP FICTION
In 1960s Pennsylvania coal country, fires began burning underground that continue today. Set at the time, this first novel by Sandra Schor and James Kreuzer Award winner Harnett features 11-year-old Brigid Howley, whose family must move in with her estranged grandparents when the burning starts. Even as the family struggles to survive, Brigid uncovers a horrific secret in a bootleg mine shaft that sets the whole town on edge. In-house excitement, especially about that Gary Shteyngart blurb.

Johnston, Bret Anthony. Remember Me Like This. Random. May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781400062126. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996166. POP FICTION
Author of the multi-award-winning collection Corpus Christi, a 5 Under 35 honoree from the National Book Foundation, and director of the creative writing program at Harvard, Johnston has lots to live up to with this first novel. It concerns the kidnapping of Justin Campbell, gone for four years and now suddenly returned safely. You’d expect nonstop celebrating, but Justin’s reappearance serves to highlight cracks in the family fortress that are only getting bigger.

Melnik, Kseniya. Snow in May. Holt. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781627790079. $25. SHORT STORIES
Some smart readers will know Melnik from Granta’s “New Voices” series; others will discover her here. This collection of linked stories is set in Russia’s Far East, in the town of Magadan, Melnik’s birthplace and once an arrival point for prisoners headed for Stalin’s forced-labor camps. The characters swirling through the book’s half-century framework range from ex-prisoners and loyal party members to artists and young professionals.

Morris, Katherine Faw. Young God. Farrar. May 2014. 192p. ISBN 9780374534233. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780374710880. LITERARY
I got a hot tip from a Farrar insider that this is a book to watch, and in style and content it has the ring of Daniel Woodrell’s taut and fabulous Winter’s Bone. The strong-willed Nikki doesn’t want anyone to tell her what to do. In fact, she’s going to tell them. She’s making sure that her family stays on top of the local drug trade, even without her parents around. And she’s only 13 years old.

Paull, Laline. The Bees. Ecco. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780062331151. $25.99. FANTASY
Both fantasy and fable, this book has one of the more intriguing settings of any novel around: an orchard beehive. Heroine Flora 717 is a lowly sanitation worker in the hive’s strict hierarchy, but her intrepid spirit lets her advance to feeding the newborns and then foraging outside the hive. But when Flora 717 dares to question the queen’s fertility, she puts herself on a dangerous path. British playwright and screenwriter Paull’s debut was preempted within 24 hours, which suggests that something good is going on here, as does the 100,000-copy first printing

Rowland, Amy. The Transcriptionist. Algonquin. May 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781616202545. $24.95. LITERARY
Lena works as a transcriptionist at a New York City–based newspaper called the Record; that is, she takes calls from reporters around the world and turns their spoken word into print. As technology advances, her job looks done for, but Lena has a more immediate worry. She’s read a story about an unidentified woman mauled to death after climbing into a lion’s den and recognizes her as a woman she met recently on a bus. Trying to find out what really happened leads her to uncomfortable truths about her own paper. Rowland worked as a transcriptionist at the New York Times before moving to the Book Review, so expect authenticity. With a five-city tour to New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Miami.


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.