Short Fiction to Debut Novel | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Jan. 2018

MacArthur, Robin. Heart Spring Mountain. Ecco. Jan. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9780062444424. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062444455. LITERARY
Winner of the PEN New England Book Award for Fiction, MacArthur’s Half Wild offered stories both complex and polished about women from the backwoods who want up and out. Her debut novel draws on the same milieu, featuring New Orleans–based Vale, who heads home to Vermont in August 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene devastates the state. Her long-estranged mother has been reported missing, and trying to find her leads Vale to a secret about her family’s origins, but not before she wends her way through three generations of hang-tough women. Part of the indie-folk duo Red Heart the Ticker, MacArthur claims a family long rooted in Vermont and works her own farm there. If this novel proves to be as good as the story collection, it will be a first-rate read. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Pierce, Thomas. The Afterlives. Riverhead. Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781594632532. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698144941. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/FAMILY LIFE
A National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree who has published four stories in that gold standard, The New Yorker, Pierce won high praise for his story collection, Hall of Small Mammals (“ridiculously good,” New York Times). In this debut novel, Jim Byrd dies briefly of a heart attack at age 30  but remembers no glowing tunnels or beckoning angels after he is revived. He worries that no afterlife awaits him—or any of us. Then a ghost appears, and Jim and wife Annie end up careening through history, questions of faith, and meetings with psychics as they confront love, loss, and what happens next. Expect good coverage from NPR, where Pierce has worked.

Quatro, Jamie. Fire Sermon. Grove. Jan. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780802127044. $24. LITERARY
A New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Book, proclaimed a Top Ten by Dwight Garner in the New York Times and a Favorite Book by James Wood in The New Yorker, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Georgia Townsend Fiction Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, Quatro’s story collection, I Want To Show You More, left a huge mark when it was published in 2013. This debut novel features Maggie, married with children and living in Nashville, who is draw as if mesmerized to a wild affair with poet James even as she remains deeply loyal to husband Thomas. Quatro uses a range of writing techniques to get at her protagonist’s conflicted psyche.

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.

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