Laird Hunt, Laila Lalami, Ben Lerner, Joseph O’Neill, Christos Tsiolkas | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 5

Hunt, Laird. Neverhome. Little, Brown. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780316370134. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316370127. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316370158. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his previous novel, Kind One, and a two-time neverhomefinalist for the PEN Center USA Award, Hunt is a real writer’s writer poised for breakout with this lusciously written but hard-hitting historical fiction (based in fact) about a woman who leaves her husband to fight for the Union cause. Why does she join and not her husband? Why does she seem to resist returning home? And why is she regarded as both a legend and a traitor? With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Lalami, Laila. The Moor’s Account. Pantheon. Sept. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780307911667. $26.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Morocco-born Lalami, who has edged into our consciousness with her story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and debut novel Secret Son, both award finalists, tells the story of the Moroccan slave Estebanico, the first New World explorer of African descent—and only one of four survivors of a crew of 600 that set sail under Pánfilo de Narváez in 1527. Enslaved for six years by Native Americans, the four men eventually escaped and wandered through the territory that is now Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. American history will never look the same after you read this book.

Lerner, Ben. 10:04. Faber & Faber. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780865478107. $25; lib. ebk. ISBN 9780374711344. LITERARY
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, among other honors, Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station featured a wittily disaffected protagonist not quite able to connect. The protagonist of this follow-up novel is more engaged, having achieved literary success and been asked to help his best friend father a child, never mind that his love life is just starting to heat up. Being diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition does throw things off. Note that Lerner is also a poet whose Hayden Carruth Prize winner, the achingly beautiful The Lichtenberg Figures, thedogwas an LJ Best Poetry book.

O’Neill, Joseph. The Dog. Pantheon. Sept. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307378231. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870044. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Netherland, O’Neill crafts a story whose protagonist leaves New York after a bad breakup for a job in Dubai as “family officer” to a stupendously rich family. It’s not the fantasy escape he’d been imagining, however; serving the ever demanding Batros family, he always feels as if he’s doing something wrong. Both funny and affecting; with a reading group guide and a seven-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Tsiolkas, Christos. Barracuda. Hogarth: Crown. Sept. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780804138420. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804138437. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Tsiolkas, who wowed us with The Slap, winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Literature and Australia’s Miles Franklin Award, returns with the story of a teenager of modest background whose Olympic-level swimming talent lifts him into another world. But it’s not easy being odd man out at the elite private school to which he has won a sports scholarship, and when he blows his first big meet, he takes out his frustration in the worst way possible. Already a hit in the U.K. and Australia.

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.