Literary Highlights | Fiction Previews, Jan. 2018

Anderson, James. Lullaby Road. Crown. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781101906545. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101906569. LITERARY THRILLER
Engrossing and beautifully written, Anderson’s The Never-Open Desert Diner was issued by a small press in 2015, picked up by Crown in 2016, and received generally glowing reviews. Protagonist Ben Jones, a truck driver plying Utah’s highways, returns in a follow-up that can be read as a stand-alone. Ben gets himself deeply in trouble when he decides to help a silent Hispanic child he finds abandoned at an out-of-the-way gas station one wintry day. I’m really anticipating.

Helgason, Hallgrímur. Woman at 1,000 Degrees. Algonquin. Jan. 2018 368p. ISBN 9781616206239. $27.95. LITERARY
One thousand degrees: that’s the temperature needed for cremation. At 80, Herra Bjornsson, isn’t quite ready for that, but she’s holed up in a garage in Reykjavík, waiting to die. Meanwhile, she contemplates a life that parallels significant events of the 20th century. Her Icelandic father sided with Hitler, taking the family to Nazi Germany, and Herra soon found herself alone in war-torn Europe. She then traveled to Argentina and the United States, finally returning to post-crash Iceland in her old age. Herra is apparently quite a character, embraced by crowds; the book has been published in 15 territories; achieved bestsellerdom in Germany, France, and Denmark; and won multiple prizes in France. A big push at next year’s BookExpo and ALA.

Mosher, Howard Frank. Points North. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. 208p. ISBN 9781250161932. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250161949. SHORT STORIES
Recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award and a New England Book Award, Mosher famously vivified beautiful, rocky Vermont, creating a fictional county called Kingdom that readers gladly revisited. He passed away last January, and this, his final book, is a collection of stories about the Kinneson family, chronicling their decades in Kingdom. Classic Mosher, from a scandalous love affair to the troubles caused by a proposed dam, which could wreck the river where the Kinneson men have long supported their families by fishing.

Nissen, Thisbe. Our Lady of the Prairie. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781328662071. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781328663054. LITERARY
Nissen debuted in 1999 with a John Simmons Short Fiction Award winner, then published two well-received novels, The Good People of New York and Osprey Island. We haven’t heard from her in over a decade, but this intriguing-sounding new work is getting a big push. A theater professor who engaged in a passionate affair while teaching away from home for a semester, Phillipa Maakestad peaceably wreaks havoc when she returns home for her daughter’s wedding. With a 40,000-copy first printing; a seven-city tour to New York, Boston, Portland (ME), Austin, Madison, Iowa City, and Kalamazoo.

Olson, Neil. The Black Painting. Hanover Square: Harlequin. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9781335953810. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488079436. LITERARY THRILLER
The launch title of Harlequin’s Hanover Square imprint, which will focus on general fiction and narrative nonfiction, this elegantly rendered chiller opens with the theft of a reputedly cursed painting, a self-portrait by Goya that can drive the viewer mad or even lead to death. The theft sunders a venerable East Coast family, and years later, when four now-grown cousins are summoned by the family patriarch, they arrive to find him lying dead, his eyes shot with terror as he stares at the spot where the painting hung. Lots of mysteries to solve here; with a 100,000-copy first printing.

Smith, Gregory Blake. The Maze at Windermere. Viking. Jan. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780735221925. $27. LITERARY
Smith has written other novels, including The Divine Comedy of John Venner, a New York Times Notable Book, but this work is positioned as his big-themed breakout novel. It all starts with an ill-advised wager between a seen-better-days tennis pro and a tipsy party guest but opens up to embrace narratives ranging over three centuries. A Gilded Age bachelor seeks to marry for money, a writer commits himself to his dream with sore consequences, a British officer during the American Revolution courts a young woman with a murderous outcome,  and an orphaned Quaker girl must make a life for herself and the slave girl she has inherited. It all fits together, with the foamy waves of Newport, RI, as backdrop. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

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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