25 Key Indie Fiction Titles, Fall 2014-Winter 2015

The main aim of Prepub Alert is to present the biggest forthcoming titles—those that will be most discussed in the media and by readers everywhere—and that means focusing primarily on scallythe biggest houses. Some readers of this column have indicated recently that they’d like to hear about the best small-press titles as well, and although I do feature such titles, I thought a more thoroughgoing roundup of my fall 2014-winter 2015 favorites was in order. This list focuses on stellar fiction, and as it clarifies, small press doesn’t mean small authors—here you’ll find  Elizabeth Harrower, Bernice McFadden, Nicholas Mosley, and Sam Savage, among others. Not to mention Per Petterson. All these titles promise to be terrific reads, and not just for the strictly literary.

Anderson, Jessica . Tirra Lirra by the River. Melville. Oct. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781612193885. pap. $15.95. CLASSICS
Anderson, who died in 2010, may not be well known to American readers, but she was a significant force in Australian literature, having won the Miles Franklin Award twice (including for this book). This novel tracks the return of 70-year-old Nora Porteous to her hometown, Brisbane, after years of quietly assured freedom in London.

Bronsky, Alina. Just Call Me Superhero. Europa. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781609452292. pap. $16.
Bronksy’s biting coming-of-age first novel, Broken Glass Park, was nominated for the Bachmann Prize; the follow-up, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, was named a PW Best Book of the Year. In this third novel, a 17-year-old boy badly mauled by a dog joins a support group for young people with physical disabilities and manages to fall in love.

Coffey, Michael. The Business of Naming Things. Bellevue Literary. Jan. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781934137864. pap. $14.95.
The former co-editorial director of PW, already noted for his poetry, presents a debut collection of eight short stories that are imaginatively conceived, fluidly written, and absorbing to read. Many of the stories have to do with grappling fathers and sons, as when a father believes that his son may have been involved in an assassination attempt on the President.

Daoud, Hassan. The Penguin’s Song. City Lights. Nov. 2015. 184p. tr. from Arabic by Marilyn Booth. ISBN 9780872866232. pap. $14.95.
Editor of the Nawafidh cultural supplement of the Beirut daily al-Mustaqbal, Daoud has written two volumes of short stories and eight novels, four already translated into English (e.g., Borrowed Time). In this 1998 title, a deformed young man called the Penguin lives with his dibbellparents in the hills, where much of the populace has fled owing to destruction caused by the civil war. Bravely affecting.

Dibbell, Carola. The Only Ones. Two Dollar Radio. Mar. 2015. 344p. ISBN 9781937512279. pap. $16.99.
Dibbell, who worked as a music critic at the Village Voice for many years, has published fiction in venues like The New Yorker and the Paris Review. Her debut novel features a young woman immune from disease in a devastated post-pandemic world who volunteers to provide genetic material to a mother who lost four daughters. Here’s a shout-out to Two Dollar Radio for doing some wonderful work.

Ducornet, Rikki. The Deep Zoo. Coffee House. Jan. 2015. 165p. ISBN 9781566893763. pap. $15.95.
The only nonfiction on this list, this essay collection from National Book Critics Circle finalist Ducornet should offer the imaginative thrust and heightened language of her fiction and poetry, so I couldn’t resist adding it. Here she explores sex and violence, dreams and fantasy, and how art can remake them all.

Énard, Mathias. Street of Thieves. Open Letter. Nov. 2015. 350p. ISBN 9781940953014. pap. $15.95.
Énard won the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie and the Prix Edmée de la Rochefoucauld for his first novel, La perfection du tir; 2010’s Zone was a breakout novel here for readers in the known. Moving from Tangier to Barcelona, this Prix Goncourt finalist features a young Moroccan boy’s coming of age with the Arab Spring and Spain’s financial collapse as backdrop.

Fabre, Dominique. Guys Like Me. New Vessel. Feb. 2015. 200p. ISBN 9781939931153. pap. $15.95.
The setting may be Paris, but it’s not the Paris of grand avenues and pricey cafés. In fact, Fabre’s hero is a recognizable everyman, from any country, a middle-aged office worker who’s divorced, adrift, and estranged from his son yet still looking for a way to reignite his life.

Harrower, Elizabeth. In Certain Circles. Text. 256p. ISBN 9781922182296. $24.95.
Finally published here in 2013, Harrower’s wrenching 1966 novel The Watch Tower made a big impression; in the Washington Post, Michael Dirda called it “brilliant achievement.” Here is Harrower’s final novel, withdrawn just as it was about to be published in 1971 and finally seeing everlastingthe light of day. Great expectations; love and power, reenvisioned.

Lovett, Andrew. Everlasting Lane. Melville. Jan. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781612193809. $25.95.
Lovett’s coming-of-age debut, which hints at shadows falling over the golden 1970s English childhood of a lad named Peter, was published in England by Galley Beggar Press. And since that press triumphed recently with Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing, winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, I’m paying attention.

Maroh, Julie. Skandalon. Arsenal Pulp. Sept. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781551525525. $21.95.
Since Maroh is the author of Blue Is the Warmest Color, made into a head-turning feature film that won the Palme d’Or and a New York Times best seller when it was translated from the French, you can bet her graphic novel about the rise and fall of a Jim Morrison–like rock star will draw attention.

McCourt, Suzanne. The Lost Child. Text. Mar. 2015. ISBN 9781551525525. pap. $15.95.
I’m hearing good things about this debut novel from Down Under, set in the 1950s in a fishing village on Australia’s southern coast. Sylvie can’t fathom her gloomy mother and perpetually angry father, but she’s got her brother to look up to—until he goes missing.mcfad

McFadden, Bernice L. Loving Donovan. Akashic. Feb. 2105. 224p. ISBN 9781617753183. pap. $15.95.
A two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist also twice honored by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, McFadden presents a love story starring Campbell and Donovan—both from shattered homes, both still hopeful, and both shaped more by history than they can imagine. Don’t miss.

Meginnis, Mike. Fat Man and Little Boy. Black Balloon. Oct. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781936787203. $16.
Meginnnis, whose work has appeared in places like Best American Short Stories 2012 and PANK, takes an unusual approach to assessing the impact of war and particularly nuclear devastation. He personifies the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, making them brothers who must journey together to discover the meaning of their awful birth. Winner of the 2013 Horatio Nelson Prize for Fiction.

Mosley, Nicholas. Metamorphosis. Dalkey. Sept. 2014. (British Literature Series). 250p. ISBN 9781628970241. pap. $14.95.
In this latest from nonagenarian Mosley, the distinguished author of novels like the Whitbread Award-winning Hopeful Monsters, a humanitarian worker and a journalist in an East African refugee camp encounter a newborn child who they believe could change the world.

Nahai, Gina B. The Luminous Heart of Jonah S. Akashic. Oct. 2014. 380p. ISBN 9781617753206. pap. $16.95.
Orange Prize and IMPAC Award finalist Nahai (Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith) returns after seven years with a distinctive look at Iranian Jewish life in America, featuring a Los Angeles–based family hounded for decades by an unprincipled financier from their own community. His disappearance upends everything.

Petterson, Per. Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes: Stories. Graywolf. Apr. 2015. 128p. ISBN 9781555977009. pap. $14.
I’m pushing into spring here, but I can’t help but leap when I see a new work from Petterson, author of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his perfectly rendered Out Stealing Horses. This book was Petterson’s debut, and it introduces us to a child named Arvid Jansen, who reappears throughout Petterson’s oeuvre. Here, Arvid dreams scary dreams about crocodiles as he discovers the passage of time, the finality of death, and the possibility of nuclear war.

Petterson, Per.  I Refuse. Graywolf. Apr. 2015. 224p. ISBN 9781555976996. $24.
Again, it’s Petersen, and again I’m happy to leap. This spring, look for the author’s new novel, a pettersonmajor hit in his native Norway that has been sold into 16 countries. A book that sounds intriguing enough to outsteal Out Stealing Horses, it features an accidental meeting between two men who recall shattering events 35 years past. In their youth, Jim stood by Tommy when he tried to protect his sisters from their abusive father and was subsequently separated from them. But through a shift in power presaged by events on a dark, frozen lake, Tommy has emerged as the success story with the new Mercedes, while Jim sits fishing alone.

Reza, Yasmina. Happy Are the Happy. Other. Jan. 2015. 160p. ISBN 9781590516928. $20.
“Happy are the happy,” said Jorge Luis Borges. But it’s not that easy for Reza’s intertwined characters, as they seek intimacy and face marital ups and downs throughout 20 chapters. Two-time Tony Award winner Reza had good luck with this novel, which won Le Monde’s first literary prize and has sold 100,000 copies to date in France. The first chapters are mesmerizing.

Savage, Sam. It Will End with Us. Coffee House. Nov. 2105. 150p. ISBN 9781566893725. pap. $12.95.
Savage made a name for himself with Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, a Discover Great New Writers Award finalist starring a literate rat, then followed with The Cry of the Sloth, Glass, and The Way of the Dog. Here, predictably unpredictable Savage tells the story of Eve, building a memorial to the woman who raised and yet betrayed her, but it’s the form that counts: brief, pithy, one-sentence paragraphs trickle down the pages like starbursts.

Sherborne, Craig . Tree Palace. Text. Oct. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781922147325. pap. $15.95.
Australian author Sherborne has written two memoirs, Hoi Polloi and Muck, and the novel The treepalaceAmateur Science of Love, and they’ve all won awards. So one can rightly expect much of this novel about a group of itinerants who join together to form a family of sorts on the margins of society. Though teenage Zara struggles with motherhood and Shane butts heads with the police, this is ultimately celebratory rather than Lord of the Flies.

Skármeta, Antonio. A Distant Father. Other. Sept. 2015. 112p. tr. from Spanish by John Cullen. ISBN 9781590516256. pap. $15.95.
Lovers of Latin American literature will recognize Skármeta as winner of the Premio Iberoamericano Planeta-Casa de América de Narrativa for The Days of the Rainbow; others may not know his name but will recall the Academy Award–winning film Il Postino (The Postman), based on one of his novels. Here, Jacques, a schoolteacher in a Chilean village who inherited his love of the French language from his long-vanished Parisian father, finds ways to deal with his sense of isolation and abandonment.

Winter, Kathleen. The Freedom in American Songs: Stories. Biblioasis. Oct. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781927428733. pap. $15.95.
Winter’s Annabel was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and finalists for Canada’s three leading fiction prizes; it won the Thomas Head Raddall Award and an Independent Literary Award. And it was achingly eye-opening. So take a good look at this story collection.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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.