Literary Evaristo, Stories by Galchen, Debut by McBride, Thrillers, & More | Fiction Reviews

redstarEvaristo, Bernardine. Mr. Loverman. Akashic. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781617752896. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617752728. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617752803. F

Mr. LovermanAs a writer at the Guardian once proclaimed, if you don’t know Evaristo’s work, you should. The Royal Society of Literature Fellow, whose works have been named Book of the Year nine times by various British papers, writes of Barrington Walker, a 74-year-old Antiguan living in London with his wife of 50 years. Despite their long-standing union and their two daughters and grandson, Barrington is unhappy. He wants to leave his wife, who has long suspected his infidelity, for childhood friend Morris, with whom he has maintained an affair for nearly 60 years. As Evaristo details the love between Morris and Barrington while also introducing us to younger characters grappling with their identities, the novel proves to be revolutionary in its honest portrayal of gay men. Evaristo further reveals the barely known phenomenon of intrahomosexual discrimination and differences in how gays and lesbians have been portrayed in various nations and periods in history. The Walker family relationships are particularly intriguing, with no character appearing insensate, and Evaristo’s writing is both intelligible and compelling. VERDICT Like James Baldwin’s Another Country, this work will appeal to readers of gay and literary fiction.—Ashanti White, Yelm, WA

redstarFerguson, Trevor. The River Burns. S. & S. Apr. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9781476751849. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476726410. F

The River BurnsWakefield, Quebec, has two industries—­logging and tourism—and one attraction that comes between them, dividing the town: a vintage covered bridge. It draws tourists but impedes truckers, who must wait to cross its one lane or make a long, costly detour. A new span is not in the offing. So the truckers, angry and frustrated, burn the bridge. That’s the framework for this new novel by award-winning Canadian author Ferguson (The Timekeeper), which introduces us to a marvelous cast that includes a beautiful, mysterious newcomer to town who essentially commandeers a stuffed-shirt gift shop and becomes the love interest of the sheriff, whose brother is the bridge-burning trucker (although other­wise a great guy). Then there’s the usually undressed, baseball-obsessed weed-burner and weed-seller Skootch. The people are given three-dimensional treatment, and the village is wonderfully realized; the presentation is fair to both loggers and ecologists. In this tragicomic book of acts, consequences, and redemption—the latter more in a moral than a strictly legal sense—there are injustices but also bright, new hope for Wakefield and a marriage! VERDICT Ferguson deserves more recognition in America, and maybe this mixture of small-town Richard Russo, vintage Cathie Pelletier, and a touch of ecology-minded Carl Hiaasen (Skootch pinch-hitting for Skink) will get him there.—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY

redstarGalchen, Rivka. American Innovations: Stories. Farrar. May 2014. 192p. ISBN 9780374280475. $25. F

American InnovationsThe problem with the stories in this clever, urbane, and sometimes surreal collection from the author of the breakout novel ­Atmospheric Disturbances is that there are only ten of them. The settings are all over the map, both globally and emotionally. An adult daughter’s relationship with her mother is detailed in real estate jargon. A woman seems to witness her personal belongings supernaturally fleeing her apartment. A nine-year-old has a somber first crush on a tattooed McDonald’s server. A young writer takes her Asian stepmother to a conference, where the writer feels inept while her stepmother charms everyone. A few pieces are playful reflections of classic short stories, according to the promotion—useful information since the connections aren’t immediately obvious. In the title story, for example, a play on Gogol’s “The Nose,” a young library science student with a sardonic view of “information” develops a third breast; the protagonist bears her condition with bemused concern. VERDICT ­Galchen’s prose gets into the eerie, angst-filled interior monologs of young women veering toward middle age yet leavens the anxiety with wry humor. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/13.]—Reba Leiding, emeritus, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA

redstarMcBride, Laura. We Are Called To Rise. S. & S. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476738963 $25.F

We Are Called To RiseHow might children in crisis be helped if everyone—teachers, social workers, troubled parents, and the courts—worked together for their best interests? This is the big question at the heart of this well-written first novel by McBride, an English teacher in Las Vegas. The author shows us a side of the town that tourists don’t usually see, away from the glitz and glamour. Among the believable cast of characters is Avis, a middle-aged woman who has overcome a lot in her life and whose soldier son has returned from Iraq angry and abusive. The novel centers on Bashkim, the son of ­Muslim immigrants from Albania ill prepared for American life. (The only small flaw in the narrative is that the boy sometimes sounds too old for his eight years.) In a story line literally taken from newspaper headlines, the troubled immigrant family runs afoul of the police with tragic results. McBride is particularly good at probing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers in combat and on refugees uprooted from their homes. VERDICT McBride has written an urgent morality tale for our times in the form of this poignant and gripping debut.—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Fierro, Julia. Cutting Teeth. St. Martin’s. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250042026. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466839229. F

redstarGable, Michelle. A Paris Apartment. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781250048738. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849624. F

Godbersen, Anna. The Blonde. Weinstein: Perseus. May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781602862227. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781602862234. F

Harris, Eve. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780802122735. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780802192660. F

redstarHealey, Emma. Elizabeth Is Missing. Harper. Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062309662.

$25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062309709. F

redstarHeller, Peter. The Painter. Knopf. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385352093. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385352086. F

redstarHenderson, Smith. Fourth of July Creek. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jun. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780062286444. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062286451. F

Higgins, Joanna. The Anarchist. Permanent. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781579623562. $29.95. F

Ignatius, David. The Director. Norton. Jun. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780393078145. $26.95. F

Jensen, Lisa. Alias Hook. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781250042156. $24.99;

ebk. ISBN 9781466839717. F

redstarMcKeon, Darragh. All That Is Solid Melts into Air. Harper Perennial. May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780062246875. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780062246882. F

redstarMander, Marina. The First True Lie. Hogarth: Crown. 2014. 144p. tr. from Italian by Stephen Twilley. ISBN 9780770436858. pap. $13; ebk. ISBN 9780770436865. F

Marlow, L.Y. A Life Apart. Broadway: Crown. Apr. 2014. 480p. ISBN 9780307719393. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780307719409. F

Nesbø, Jo. The Son. Knopf. May 2014. 336p. tr. from Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund. ISBN 9780385351379. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351386. F

Owen, Lauren. The Quick. Random. Jun. 2014. 544p. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054. F

redstarRacculia, Kate. Bellweather Rhapsody. Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780544129917. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544133471. F

Rickert, Mary. The Memory Garden. Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781402297120. pap. $14.99. F

See, Lisa. China Dolls. Random. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780812992892. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679644163. F

Thoft, Ingrid. Identity. Putnam. (Fina Ludlow). Jun. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780399162138. $26.95. F

Waters, M.D. Prototype. Dutton. Jul. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780525954248. $26.95. F

Williams, Beatriz. The Secret Life of Violet Grant. Putnam. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780399162176. $26.95. F

Short Stories

Dugan, Polly. So Much a Part of You: Stories. Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780316320320. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316320306. F

redstarLevy, Deborah. Black Vodka: Ten Stories. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781620406724. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781620406748. F

redstarNelson, Antonya. Funny Once: Stories. Bloomsbury. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781620408612. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620408636. F

Devilish Thrillers

Grecian, Alex. The Devil’s Workshop. Putnam. (Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, Bk. 3). May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780399166433. $26.95. F

London, 1890. A train has just derailed into a prison, The Devil's Workshopfreeing a handful of its most dangerous inmates. Before the sun rises, the Scotland Yard has placed the Murder Squad on the case. As Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and their colleagues race to round up the escapees, two questions arise: Exactly how many prisoners have escaped and was their release purely accidental? Soon, the manhunt becomes a fight for survival, especially for one detective and his family. VERDICT Grecian has penned the Murder Squad’s (The Yard; The Black Country) best outing yet! Devotees are sure to be delighted, but Grecian’s latest would also make a satisfying introduction to the series. Recommended for historical thriller enthusiasts, crime buffs, Ripperologists, and Anglophiles; fans of Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk and Alan Moore’s From Hell should take special note. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/13.]—Liv Hanson, Chicago

Hodgson, Antonia. The Devil in the Marshalsea. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780544176676. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780544176645. F

The ne’er-do-well son of a country parson is thrown into the alternative world that is the debtors’ prison of London in 1727. Owned by a noble, run by an unlikeable bastard, and inhabited by the unfortunate as well as the conniving, the Marshalsea Gaol is a festering pot of deception, treachery, and brutality. When a man of means is murdered inside the institution, everyone seems to have an interest in finding the killer, as well as a motive for the crime. New arrival Tom Hawkins not only needs to pay off his debts, he must find out who killed the man who slept in his bed two days before. The scenes are Hogarthian and the pace is Pattersonian. Debut author Hodgson, who is also the editor in chief of Little, Brown UK, has a gift for action and colorful characters, using the infamous prison as the main stage and real people as supporting actors. She manages to keep the reader guessing as to who might be the murderer and when (and whom) he might strike next. VERDICT History and mystery fans will both enjoy the roller-coaster twists and turns of this atmospheric historical thriller.—W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ

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