Writers To Watch | Literary Fiction Previews, Jul. 2017

Clemmons, Zinzi. What We Lose. Viking. Jul. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780735221710. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780735221727. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Raised by a South African mother and an American father, ever walking the color line, clemmonsThandi is already struggling to find a sense of sureness in life when she learns that her mother has cancer. Debut novelist Clemmons, who has a second novel signed, cofounded the literary/political journal Apogee at Columbia and serves as a contributing editor for Literary Hub, writing about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dawkins, Curtis. The Graybar Hotel: Stories. Scribner. Jul. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9781501162299. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501162312. SHORT STORIES
Dawkins’s debut collection is something different: an intense look at the terror and tedium of prison life from a man with an MFA who is also a convicted murderer serving life without parole. His characters make collect calls to the outside world just to feel connected, smuggle in dandelions from the wretched prison yard, and cook up candy from powdered milk, water, sugar, and hot sauce. In-house raves.

Hay, Ashley. The Body in the Clouds. Washington Square. Jul. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781501165115. pap. $16. ebk. ISBN 9781501165122. LITERARY
Three times over three centuries, on the same lick of land, three men see the impossible: someone tumbling from the sky and surviving. For a 1700s astronomer, a 1900s bridge worker, and a 2000s expatriate banker, the event bespeaks the importance of home. Hay’s new bit of magic follows the Miles Franklin long-listed The Railwayman’s Wife.

Hewitt, Jason. Devastation Road. Little, Brown. Jul. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780316316354. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316316378. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316501316. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY
As World War II winds down, a man wakes up on a battlefield with no memory of who hehewitt is and begins the long, arduous walk across shattered Germany toward England, which he barely remembers as home. Along the way, he joins forces with a teenage boy and encounters a disturbed young woman who clarifies what he’s lost. Long-listed for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and a 30,000-copy first printing; Hewitt debuted with The Dynamite Room, a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick.

Marais, Bianca. Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Putnam. Jul. 2017. 432p. ISBN 9780399575068. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780399575075. LITERARY
Ten-year-old white girl Robin lives comfortably in 1970s Johannesburg, while Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman living in the Transkei, is raising her children alone after her husband’s death. They would never have met but for the Soweto Uprising, which sees Robin sent to live with relatives and Beauty hired to care for her as she searches for her own daughter. Born in apartheid South Africa, Toronto-based Marais draws on her own life to unfold this ultimately disturbing story.

Platzer, Brian. Bed-Stuy Is Burning. Atria. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780451499059. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451499073. Downloadable: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
Tensions mount as Brooklyn’s historically African American Bedford Stuyvesant gentrifies, then boil over when a cop shoots a boy in the park. Aaron, a disgraced rabbi now working on Wall Street and living in Bed-Stuy with his girlfriend and their newborn, finds himself at the center of the rioting that follows. First novelist Platzer, familiar to readers of The New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs, is himself a Bed-Stuy resident. rooneyGenerating some heat.

Rooney, Sally. Conversations with Friends. Hogarth: Crown. Jul. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780451499059. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780451499073. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Cool, collected Frances and gorgeous, will-to-power Bobbi perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, capturing the attention of journalist Melissa. For Frances, an increasingly dangerous flirtation with Melissa’s louche actor husband forces all her relationships to spin out of control. Bought by Faber UK in a seven-way auction at the London Book Fair; Hogarth preempted U.S. rights.

Ryan, Donal. All We Shall Know. Penguin. Jul. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780143131045. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524704834. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
At 33, Melody Shee is pregnant—not by husband Pat but by the 17-year-old Traveller boy she had been teaching to read. Now they’re both out of her life, and Melody is being helped by Traveller girl Mary, who has interesting secrets of her own. From the author of The Spinning Heart, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and winner of the Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.

Stansel, Ian. The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo. Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2017. 208p. ISBN 9780544963399. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780544963412. WESTERN/LITERARY
There’s a murder, with one brother doing in the other. There’s a chase, with the dead stanselbrother’s wife sallying forth on horseback to catch the killer. And there are lots of evidently gorgeously rendered horses, for both brothers were famed horse trainers in Northern California. But this isn’t your typical Western. Stansel is a PEN/Bingham finalist who writes with a beautiful edge. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Williams, Jenny D. The Atlas of Forgotten Places. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781250122933. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250122940. LITERARY
Troubled by memories of her time in Africa, aid worker Sabine Hardt returns home to Germany. But she can’t hide; her American niece Lily has gone missing while volunteering in Uganda, and Sabine goes looking for her with the help of Rose Akulu, whose lover Ocen has also vanished. A debut novel with big promotion.


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.