Kushner, Ondaatje, Simsion, & More | May 2018

Alam, Rumaan. That Kind of Mother. Ecco. May 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780062667601. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062667625. LITERARY
As he did in his celebrated debut, Rich and Pretty, Alam takes a women’s-eye view to give us a larger picture of the world. Panicked about raising her baby, first-time white mother Rebecca invites understanding African American hospital staffer Priscilla to be her nanny. Rebecca quickly comes to see her own advantaged position and takes the next step when Priscilla dies in childbirth by adopting her son. But she’s not prepared for the consequences of being a white mother to a black child. Alam’s backstory as an adoptive parent raising sons with his husband adds interest. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Dovey, Ceridwen. In the Garden of the Fugitives. Farrar. May 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780374226640. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374713072. LITERARY
Dovey’s debut novel, Blood Kin, was short-listed for the Dylan Thomas Award and won her the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 status; her story collection, Only the Animals, was a knockout. So smart readers will be looking for this new novel, framed as an exchange of letters between Vita, a South African woman now living in Australia, and Royce, an older man who once helped her secure a fellowship to study in the United States. The letters close with a big-bang surprise.

Kushner, Rachel. The Mars Room. Scribner. May 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781476756554. $27. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
Having ranged the world in Telex from Cuba and Flamethrowers, both National Book Award finalists, Kushner here places us in a much more telescoped setting: Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California’s Central Valley. It’s 2003, and since Romy Hall is starting two consecutive life sentences, she’ll have lots of time to get acquainted with institutional living and the violence of the guards. With a seven-city tour to Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Ondaatje, Michael. Warlight. Knopf. May 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780525521198; ebk. ISBN 9780525521204. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Trust the multi-award-winning author of The English Patient to turn in a new novel both mysterious and dramatic, featuring 14-year-old Nathaniel and older sister Rachel, whose parents leave them in the care of a shadowy man called the Moth when they pick up and move to Singapore in 1945. The Moth could be a criminal, but the friends he enlists to guide the two siblings are connected by service in the war and have lots to teach. Then the siblings’ mother returns, mum about their father, and Nathaniel has more puzzles to solve.

Phillips, Caryl. A View of the Empire at Sunset. Farrar. May 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780374283612. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374718503. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Just as Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea reimagines the life of Bertha, the in-the-attic first wife of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, so Phillips (The Lost Child), winner of PEN Open Book and James Tait Black Memorial honors, reimagines the life of Jean Rhys. Himself born in St. Kitts, Phillips traces Rhys’s life from her birth in Dominica when the British Empire was flourishing, to her miserable years in Edwardian England (with a side trip to Paris), and return in 1936 to her beloved Caribbean home. In the process, he addresses fraught issues of colonization. Not just for Brontë fans.

Powers, Kevin. A Shout in the Ruins. Little, Brown. May 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780316556477. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316556484. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Having won the Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and National Book Award finalist attention for The Yellow Birds, set during the Iraq War, Powers shifts to the Civil War and its enduring consequences as signpost of violence in American society. During the war, Virginia plantation master Anthony Levallios realizes that slavery is done for even as slaves Nurse and Rawls anxiously anticipate emancipation. Meanwhile, Levallios all but locks up his wife, daughter of a Confederate soldier. In the 1950s, 90-year-old George Seldom, orphaned during the war, heads South to discover his roots, helped by a young woman named Lottie whose life story unfolds until the 1980s. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Simsion, Graeme & Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward. Morrow. May 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062846150. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780062843111. $15.99. WOMEN’S
For centuries, pilgrims have walked the hallowed route called Camino de Santiago, ending in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Here, they’re joined by California artist Zoe, trying to recover from her husband’s sudden death, and English engineer Martin, stunned by his divorce and road-testing a cart he has designed. They start off in the same small French town and head, however bumpily, toward togetherness. Simsion, whose The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect have together sold over four million copies, joins forces with leading Australian psychiatrist Buist, who writes mystery and romantic suspense under the pseudonym Simone Sinna. Crowds are lining up already. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Trevor, Williams. Last Stories. Viking. May 2018. 224p. ISNB 9780525558101. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525558118. SHORT STORIES
Publishing on May 24, which would have been Trevor’s 90th birthday, this collection of ten final stories from a multi-award-winning master of the form will draw big attention throughout the literary community. Six of the ten stories have not appeared in print, though they will be surfacing in The New Yorker, and the remaining four stories have never appeared between book covers. As always, Trevor explores the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways.

Ware, Ruth. Untitled. Gallery: S. & S. May 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781501156212. $26.99. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY SUSPENSE
Since blasting onto the scene with In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ware has come up with some pretty intriguing premises, and this sounds no different. Protagonist Hal quickly realizes that a letter she’s received about a big inheritance was misdirected and just as quickly realizes that certain skills she developed as a tarot card reader can help her claim it anyway. But at the deceased’s funeral, she gets the sense that there’s something really off about this death.

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.


  1. Joseph Jones says:

    A new Ruth Ware book???? I love her books! No fair the publisher teasing us without giving the title yet.

  2. verushka says:

    Anne Buist is Graeme Simsion’s wife, and writes the acclaimed Natalie King series as well. This really is a marvelous read.

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