Hot-Button Literary Fiction | Fiction Previews, Mar. 2017, Pt. 1

Atogun, Odafe. Taduno’s Song. Pantheon. Mar. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781101871454. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101871461. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/CULTURAL HERITAGE
When Nigerian musician Taduno returns home from exile, he finds himself unrecognized in an unrecognizable land and learns that his girlfriend has been abducted by government agents. He faces a tough choice: to battle the powers that be, supporting his people, or follow his heart and save his true cantylove. Recalling the life of celebrated musician Fela Kuti and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, this debut novel from Nigerian author Atogun is stirring up international enthusiasm.

Canty, Kevin. The Underworld. Norton. Mar. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780393293050. $24.95. LITERARY
Once again plumbing the heartbreak of ordinary lives, Canty takes us to a remote silver-mining town in 1970s Idaho beset by tragedy. A devastating fire has swept through the mine, taking many lives, and the town’s hardworking, hard-drinking townsfolk cannot ignore their collective pain. Following Everything, which won the 2010 Montana Book Award.

Currie, Ron. The One-Eyed Man. Viking. Mar. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780670025350. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735222809. LITERARY/FAMILY LIFE
After his wife dies, the cantankerous K. decides it’s time to speak his mind, which friends and neighbors find wearing until he scotches an armed robbery and becomes a media hero with his own reality TV show. Not unexpectedly, the bright lights sharpen his tongue further, and his rapt audience eventually rebels against his puncturing their merry myths. Currie has had big fans since winning thecurrie New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award for his debut work, the story collection God Is Dead.

Knight, Michael. Eveningland: Stories. Atlantic Monthly. Mar. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780802125972. $25. SHORT STORIES
A teenage girl holds a hapless burglar hostage, a husband and wife run a fine-toothed comb through their marriage while setting up a party, and a grief-stricken real estate agent buys up an entire island. These are some of the scenarios in Alabama-born Knight’s story cycle, which is set in Mobile Bay just before a hurricane blows in. Knight’s recent The Typist was on Oprah Winfrey’s summer reading list and named among the Huffington Post 10 Best Books of 2010.

La Farge, Paul. The Night Ocean. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781101981085. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101981108. LITERARY/MYSTERY
After her H.P. Lovecraft–obsessed husband vanished, psychiatrist Marina Willett refuses to believe that he committed suicide and follows his fading trail. During her journey, we learn a lot about Lovecraft; gay teenage fan Robert Barlow, with whose family Lovecraft stayed for two months in 1934; future Beat writer William S. Burroughs, whom Lovecraft taught; and L.C. Spinks, a Canadian appliance salesman and sf enthusiast. Billed as both literary fiction and mystery and also slated for promotion at ComicCon; from a former NYPL Cullman fellow and Bard Fiction Prize winner.

Pachico, Julianne. The Lucky Ones. Spiegel & Grau. Mar. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780399588655. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399588679. Downloadable: Random Audio. SHORT STORIESpachico
Colombia-born, England-based debut author Pachico intensively limns her homeland’s longtime violence by crisscrossing the lives of numerous characters in these stories . Among them: a teenager hiding in her family’s mansion and her kidnapped teacher, who ends up somewhere in the jungle teaching guerrillas the fine points of Shakespeare. A sharply real portrait of corruption, insurgency, and fear told in language that brushes up against magical realism, this book is particularly relevant as Colombia looks to end the fighting, with a national referendum set for October 2. Excerpted in The New Yorker.

Padura, Leonardo. Heretics. Farrar. Mar. 2017. 544p. tr. from Spanish by Anna Kushner. ISBN 9780374168858. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374714284. LITERARY
In 1939, the doomed Jewish refugees sailing from Hamburg to Havana on the Saint Louis include nine-year-old Daniel Kaminsky, whose parents desperately try to bargain with corrupt Cuban officials by offering them a small Rembrandt portrait of Christ. As the Saint Louis returns to Europe, the paduraportrait vanishes, only to reappear in a London auction house nearly seven decades later. Daniel’s son subsequently travels to Cuba to track the portrait’s history, and the narrative completes its story by revisiting Rembrandt’s studio in 1600s Amsterdam. Leading Cuban author Padura (The Man Who Loved Dogs) is winner of the prestigious Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Letras.

Peterson, Zoey Leigh. Next Year, for Sure. Scribner. Mar. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781501145858. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781501145872. LITERARY
Award-winning short story writer Peterson offers a first novel about relationships, circa 2016. Because lovers Kathryn and Chris are so close that they have their own private language, it’s something of a surprise when Chris is attracted to a charming young woman he meets at the Laundromat. Kathryn encourages his fling as just that, failing to understand how deeply it will undermine their relationship. Northwest appearances (British-born Peterson now lives in Canada); a writer to watch.


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.