From Aciman to Coretta Scott King | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2017, Pt. 3

Aciman, André. Enigma Variations. Farrar. Jan. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9780374148430. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374714772. LITERARY FICTION
Aciman made his name with the memoir Out of Egypt and came forth as a novelist with aciman2007’s Let Me Call Your Name, a New York Times Notable Book that won numerous other honors; 2013’s Harvard Square got raves. In literate and absorbing style, this new novel chronicles the passions of a young man named Paul, from his preadolescent crush on his parents’ cabinetmaker (the novel opens with him revisiting as an adult the island of San Giustiniano, site of this first love), to his passion for a young woman he meets at his New England college, to numerous encounters with men he tries to capture body and soul. The narrative paces its way beautifully through five smoothly linked sections.

Bohjalian, Chris. The Sleepwalker. Doubleday. Jan. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780385538916; $26.95; ebk. ISBN  9780385538923. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MYSTERY
Bohjalian, bless his heart, never writes the same book twice. From the rural Vermont–set Midwives to the historical The Sandcastle Girls to the close-at-hand dystopia of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, he charts crucial moments in different settings and with different sensibilities. His new novel is suspense with a twist; says Harlan Coben (why not quote a master of the genre?), it’s “more than a mystery: it’s a beautiful, wrenching novel of family secrets and the enigmas that link husbands and wives and lovers.” Hint: a sleepwalking heroine seems to figure in the shivery plot; stay tuned.

Gay, Roxane. Difficult Women. Grove. Jan. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780802125392. $25. SHORT STORIES
Cultural force Gay, the author of both fiction (An Untamed State, an LJ Best Book) and nonfiction (the New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist), always makes us rethink our assumptions. In this collection of stories, female protagonists don’t take things easy as they surmount life’s difficulties. Closely bonded sisters abducted as children face separation again when one of them decides to marry, a black engineer contends with interfering colleagues even as she tries to forget the past, and characters from wealthy matrons to the members of a girls’ fight club try to figure out how they fit into this world. Gay will soon join forces with poet Yona Harvey to write a Marvel comic series with the same setting as Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther series, so she’s going to be everywhere soon.

King, Coretta Scott. My Life, My Love, My Legacy. Holt. Jan. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781627795982. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781627795999. CD: Macmillan Audio. AUTOBIOGRAPHYkingcorettas
At the end of her life, King disclosed her full story to a close friend, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, an ordained minister and journalist who was on USA Today’s founding editorial team. As the narrative discloses, King became one of the first black scholarship students recruited by Antioch College and was a dedicated civil rights activist and feminist who as a graduate student was determined to purse her own career when she met and married Martin Luther King Jr., who insisted that his wife stay home with the children. Having marched side by side with her husband, King challenged the era’s all-male African American leadership after his death, championing gay rights and AIDS awareness, founding the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, lobbying for the passage of a bill creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and serving as a UN ambassador. Look for library marketing.

Moshfegh, Ottessa. Homesick for Another World: Stories. Penguin Pr. Jan. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780399562884. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399562891. SHORT STORIES
Winner of the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for her story “Bettering Myself,” the inaugural Fence Prize for Prose for her novella McGlue, and the PEN/Hemingway Award for her debut novel, Eileen, a multiply best-booked title that was also a National Book Critics Circle finalist, Moshfegh returns with a collection of short stories that are—not surprisingly, for anyone who’s read her—edgy, acerbic, and disturbing in a sometimes uncomfortably funny way. A teacher with an off-balance social life, a man who cannot bring himself to profess love to the women at the video arcade, a slacker failing to look for a job and half-heartedly picking up girls—these are some of the characters in this collection that are all too real.

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.