The election is still nine months away, but already our airwaves are clogged with power-mad men in power ties lying through their straight white teeth. The unemployment rate is falling, they say; the economy is in recovery. There is hope, they tell us. Everyone’s favorite dream is still alive and well. Over the next six months, if we’re going to get anything remotely resembling truth, we have to turn to fiction.
The day after 9/11, one of my professors at Columbia said something that has stuck with me ever since. “As writers,” he said, “you have dedicated yourselves to examining your time and reporting back on it to the public.” I find this idea everywhere in this spring’s titles, though no two authors have processed in the same way what they see when they look at the world. Former Simon & Schuster editor Karen Thompson Walker’s debut, The Age of Miracles (bought in a pre-empt and sold extensively overseas), begins with the Earth’s rotation unexpectedly slowing. The effects are at first innocuous (more daylight), but soon deadly (it starts with the birds), and Walker reveals the full impact with excruciating deliberation, striking a quivering bull’s-eye into our contemporary anxiety. Noah Hawley (whose editor, Alison Callahan, also acquired The Night Circus) taps into Lionel Shriver and Jared Lee Loughner for The Good Father, which tracks a man’s descent into the mind of his son, arrested for killing a presidential front-runner. Though Madeline Miller looked back—all the way to Greece in the age of heroes—for The Song of Achilles, she makes a persuasive argument for the timeliness of her subject. The first of a planned series, Miller’s winning debut focuses on Patroclus, a young prince living in Achilles’ golden shadow. Miller also gives voice to many of the women who were also consigned to the shadows.
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is not only brilliant, her books sell extremely well. She returns with a novel that shares a title with Marilynne Robinson’s last work of fiction. In Home, Morrison traces a self-loathing Korean War veteran’s return to racist America, swapping the traumas of the battlefield for those of Main Street, U.S.A. John Irving has different traumas on his mind with In One Person. Irving, long a proponent of sexual freedom, provides an intimate portrait of a bisexual man and his dedication to being “worthwhile.” Bestseller Lauren Groff also explores freedom in Arcadia. Set both inside a 1960s commune and after its inevitable collapse, the novel illuminates communal life’s lasting impact on one man who grew up living it. In our starred review, we called it “unforgettable.” Robert Goolrick returns with the highly anticipated follow-up to his breakout novel, A Reliable Wife (the paperback of which has sold over 720,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan). Called Heading Out to Wonderful, the book explores dark passions in rural 1940s Virginia. Another bestseller, John Lanchester, is back with a novel for the 99%: Capital. The author of The Debt to Pleasure sets his latest in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. Speaking of finance, it was big news a few years back when Richard Ford moved from Knopf to Ecco, reportedly for a million dollars a book. The first book from his new house is this May’s Canada, a highly textured rural diptych about good men and bad choices. And finally, Jodi Picoult’s latest, Lone Wolf, howls with an astounding first printing of 1.5 million copies.
PW’s Top 10: Literary Fiction
The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker. Random, June.
The Good Father
Noah Hawley. Doubleday, Mar.
The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller. Ecco, Mar.
Toni Morrison. Knopf, May.
In One Person
John Irving. Simon & Schuster, May.
Lauren Groff. Hyperion/Voice, Mar.
Heading Out to Wonderful
Robert Goolrick. Algonquin, June.
John Lanchester. Norton, June.
Richard Ford. Ecco, May.
Jodi Picoult. Atria, Feb.
Literary Fiction Listings:
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick (June, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-56512-923-8). The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller A Reliable Wife returns with a novel about dark passion in rural 1940s Virginia. A handsome stranger brings two suitcases to town, one full of butcher knives, the other, money.
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult (Feb. 28, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4391-0274-9). “Picoult returns with two provocative questions: can a human join a wolf pack, and who has the right to make end-of-life decisions?” begins the PW review. Estranged siblings must overcome their long-held grievances around a father’s deathbed. “A terrific page turner about a compelling subject.”
Stay Awake: Stories by Dan Chaon (Feb. 7, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-345-53037-0). In National Book Award–finalist Chaon’s new nocturnal story collection, characters are haunted by past sins, easily damaged, plagued by guilt, plunged into darkness, and certain that the world is sending them messages. No one makes creeping dread seem so effortless.
Bellevue Literary Press
Inukshuk by Gregory Spatz (June 1, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-934137-42-0). A young man is obsessed with an Arctic explorer’s quest to find the Northwest Passage. If Bellevue’s remarkable literary credentials (a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award finalist) isn’t enough, Spatz’s own credentials (New Yorker publication, Iowa M.F.A., an NEA Literature Fellowship) are.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson (May 22, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-60819-811-5). In 1923, two missionary sisters have bicycle, will travel. But their journey down the Silk Road brings more adventure than proselytizing. And in present-day London, another woman is launched on an adventure of her own. PW calls it “an impressive literary debut.”
Elsewhere, California by Dana Johnson (June 12, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-58243-784-2). Readers first met Avery in Johnson’s Flannery O’Connor Award–winning collection Break Any Woman Down, which PW called “hip and elegant.” The arrival of Avery’s violent cousin illuminates the complicated history of African-Americans in Los Angeles.
Vlad by Carlos Fuentes, trans. from the Spanish by Alejandro Branger and Ethan Shaskan Bumas (July 24, hardcover, $17.95, ISBN 978-1-56478-779-8). In this satiric genre-bender, the mythic impaler, dispossessed after centuries of mayhem in eastern Europe, takes root in Mexico City, a teeming metropolis (lots of people, lots of delicious blood) saddled with a corrupt police force. Expect muchas bocas rojas.
A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois (Mar. 20, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4000-6977-4). In a “terrific debut” (PW) from Iowa M.F.A. grad and Stegner fellow DuBois, a woman is drawn to Russia by a letter found after her Russophile father’s death. DuBois brings two plot lines (one involving anti-Putin politicians) together with masterful grace.
The Red House by Mark Haddon (June 12, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-385-53577-9). The bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (more than 200,000 hardback copies sold) returns with a novel about a wealthy doctor, his estranged sister and her family, and the weeklong vacation they take in the English countryside.
The Good Father by Noah Hawley (Mar. 20, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-385-53553-3). “The father of a man who assassinates a presidential candidate tries to make sense of his son’s crime in Hawley’s gripping new novel,” begins the PW starred review, which goes on to say, “Hawley’s complicated protagonist is a fully fathomed and beautifully realized character.”
The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig (Feb. 16, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-525-95254-1). The ninth installment of Willig’s bestselling Pink Carnation series finds a British secret agent masquerading as a very bad poet and joining an American widow to prevent Napoleon’s invasion of England.
Canada by Richard Ford (May 22, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-169204-8). Pulitzer Prize–winner Ford leaves Frank Bascombe behind for his first work of fiction in six years, a rough, tough diptych about a teenager whose life is upended when his parents rob a bank, and an enigmatic American man whose reserve might hide a violent nature. 200,000-copy announced first printing.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (May 1, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-088559-5). A day in the life of an Iraq war vet whose participation in a Dallas Cowboys game is meant to reinvigorate support for an unpopular war. The author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara is an awards darling; he’s won PEN/Hemingway, O. Henry, and Pushcarts, among others.
The Cove by Ron Rash (Apr. 10, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-180419-9). New York Times bestseller Rash (Serena) returns to the Appalachian milieu he has previously so memorably evoked for this Southern gothic story of wounded siblings who take in a mysterious traveler—with devastating results. 75,000-copy announced first printing.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Mar. 6, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-206061-7). Miller spent 10 years writing this winning debut. The first book in a planned series focuses on Achilles’ friend Patroclus, but Miller also brings many of the era’s amazing women, such as Achilles’ mother, Thetis, to vibrant life.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman (Feb. 14, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-374-16257-3). An audacious debut novel that unfolds in the form of “affecting dispatches” about the “blighted opportunity and bad choices” (PW) of three generations of destitute women. Hassman holds an M.F.A. from Columbia and has published stories in a number of journals, including Zyzzyva.
Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, trans. from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia (Mar. 30, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-374-11939-3). This “trenchant” novel (PW) follows a young dreamer “absorbed into the private dramas of a host of 19th-century archetypes,” most alive during the erudite, often political discussions of its salon scenes. Neuman proves that “Modernism is still alive in the Spanish-speaking world.”
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker (Mar. 14, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-446-19423-5). The New York Times bestselling author’s latest tale concerns the dreams, secrets, and betrayals of the sisters, who run a family salt farm in Cape Cod. PW says “the characters [and] prose engage.”
Boleto by Alyson Hagy (May 8, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1-55597-612-5). Hagy’s second novel is a tale of men and horses, the American West, and the universal dream of getting out. The author of four story collections, including Ghosts of Wyoming, Hagy has been building her career slow-n-steady since her first collection in 1986.
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Feb. 23, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-55597-608-8). Barry taps Burgess for this electric “near-future noir” set on a dystopian coastal city in Ireland. Precincts, such as the Back Trace, are fought over by the likes of the Harnett Fancy Gang and the Gant Broderick. A fun mélange that wears its references on its soiled sleeve.
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt (Feb. 7, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8021-2992-5). PW said that Byatt’s postmodern reimagining of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods delivers “a double pleasure[;] we return to the feeling of reading—or being read—childhood myths.” War, natural disasters, and reckless gods make the work feel both timeless and prescient.
Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (May 7, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-8021-2024-3). The final book of a trilogy that began with the bestselling The Secret River finds Grenville’s focus on the youngest Thornhill daughter’s quest to uncover her family’s dark legacy—a legacy that helped build a nation, at the expense of the natives who first called it home.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (June, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-192812-3). Set in modern day and early-’60s Italy, this novel tells the story of an innkeeper, a mysterious beauty, the cynic who brought them together, and an idealistic young assistant. Walter’s The Zero was a National Book Award finalist and his novel The Financial Lives of Poets is being developed for film by the mercurial Michael Winterbottom.
Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd (Apr., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-187676-9). From celebrated author Boyd (Any Human Heart) comes a novel about deception, betrayal, psychoanalysis, and the mysteries of the human heart. PW has said that Boyd “excels in portraying ordinary British citizens caught up in pivotal historical events.”
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits (May 8, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-307-98473-9). In her English-language debut, Markovits draws from her own experience for the story of two sisters, born into the most insular Hasidic sect in 1930s Transylvania. Markovits left her French home to avoid an arranged marriage and holds degrees from Columbia, Harvard, and Cornell. The novel has already been sold in 10 countries.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Lower River by Paul Theroux (May 27, hardcover $25, ISBN 978-0-547-74650-0). With his marriage falling apart, a man flees to Africa, only to be caught up in a precarious situation in a village he thought was benign. 35,000-copy announced first printing.
The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti (Mar. 27, hardcover $26, ISBN 978-0-547-55309-2). Love and war converge in what PW calls a “sweeping, fascinating epic... full of drama and beauty.” DeSanti is v-p and editor-at-large for the Penguin Group. 50,000-copy announced first printing.
The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe (Apr. 10, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4013-4091-9). Howe’s second book (after her bestselling debut, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) is a case of perfect timing for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Following a family that lost two of its members on the ship, the novel is set mainly in 1917 Boston.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff. (Mar. 13, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4013-4087-2). PW called Groff’s new novel, about life in a ’60s commune, “dark” and “lyrical.” Groff’s previous novel, The Monsters of Templeton, was a bestseller. The Pushcart-winning author, twice anthologized in Best American Short Stories, published her first story in the New Yorker in 2011.
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (May 1, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-307-26884-6). Wunderkind Freudenberger returns with a new novel about the highs and lows of getting married. The catch—one of them, anyway—is that the man and the young Bangladeshi woman met online. “Young writers as ambitious—and as good—as Nell Freudenberger give us reason for hope” (the New York Times).
Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru (Mar. 6, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-307-95711-5). PW calls Kunzru’s ambitious new novel a “pitch-perfect masterwork” that spans a century and finds a teeming cast of characters searching for meaning in the Mojave desert: a British rocker with a gold-plated handgun, a former hippie currently hooked on meth, an 18th-century half-mad Jesuit Missionary.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (Feb. 7, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-307-95870-9). The author of the bestselling For the Relief of Unbearable Urges returns with a surprising new collection of stories, each, according to PW, “is particular, deeply felt, and capable of pressing any number of buttons.” 100,000-copy announced first printing.
The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler (Apr. 3, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-307-95727-6). Pulitzer Prize–winner (for Breathing Lessons) Tyler explores in her 17th novel how a middle-aged man, devastated by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent spectral appearances. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (May 15, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-307-59271-2). An automaton, a man and a woman who can never meet, a secret love story, and the fate of the warming world are all brought to life in modern-day London. Carey’s last novel, 2010’s Parrot and Olivier in America, has more than 100,000 copies in print.
Home by Toni Morrison (May 8, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-307-59416-7). An angry, self-loathing Korean War veteran finds himself back in racist America, trading the traumas of the battlefield for those of the front porch. Morrison’s last novel, A Mercy, has sold more than 350,000 copies.
The Sugar Frosted Nutsack by Mark Leyner (Mar. 26, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-316-60845-9). Bestseller Leyner takes a wild romp through the excesses and exploits of gods and mortals in a new novel. PW says that “every sentence reads like a DMT-induced hallucination, adding up to an anarchic masterpiece of vulgarity... pandemonium, and cartoonish free association.”
Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur Books
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan (Apr. 10, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18590-5). Set two years after the sinking of the RMS Titanic, Rogan’s debut uses a similar disaster to separate newlyweds when a woman’s husband secures her a spot on a life boat without him. Another novel with a release perfectly timed to capture Titanic mania.
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (Mar. 28, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-06-208814-7). A literary debut about the bond between brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town. PW called the novel “compelling... with an elegant structure [and] compassionate attention to character.” 100,000-copy announced first printing.
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore (Apr.3, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-177974-9). In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? This question and more confront baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, who vow to discover the truth behind van Gogh’s untimely death. 250,000-copy announced first printing.
W. W. Norton
Capital by John Lanchester (June 11, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-08207-4). From the bestselling author of The Debt to Pleasure, another perfectly timed release, set at the height of the financial crisis. It’s 2008 and things are starting to fall apart. A sweeping social narrative for the 99%.
Trapeze by Simon Mawer (May, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59051-527-3). The author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Glass Room returns with a fascinating WWII novel based in fact. A 19-year-old English woman’s fluent French gets her recruited by the government to work as a spy in Occupied France, one of only 53 women among the western allies to be trained for combat during the war. Coming-of-age story meets old-fashioned tale of adventure.
Hector and the Search for Lost Time by Francois Lelord (July 31, trade paper, $14, ISBN 978-0-14-312071-1) is the third book in the multimillion-copy internationally bestselling series by Lelord, following misplaced happiness and love. Now young Hector confronts the persistent march of the clock. More than 125,000 copies are in print of the other books in the series.
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Feb.8, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-250-01270-8). This finalist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize is a “mournful tribute” to a six-piece German-American multiracial jazz ensemble gigging in Berlin on the eve of WWII. When a band mate is arrested by the Gestapo, the others flee to Paris, “leaving behind a half-finished record... and one too many secrets” (PW).
Five Bells by Gail Jones (Feb. 8, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-250-00373-7). In its starred review, PW called Jones’s new novel “an elegant literary meditation on time and chance.” Echoing Virginia Woolf, Jones’s novel follows four characters around Sydney, Australia, over the course of one day. Poetic and focused.
Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books
A Good American by Alex George (Feb.7, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-399-15759-2). PW calls George’s debut a “sentimental, lively, and sad family saga spanning four generations.” From early 20th-century Germany to the doorstep of 21st-century America, the novel’s looping narrative finds its center in a restaurant-bar run for years by the same family in Beatrice, Mo.
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison (Mar. 6, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4000-6347-5). Harrison goes beyond the Rasputin myth to examine the fates of the man’s two daughters, left in the care of the doomed royal family after Rasputin’s murder. Harrison (The Kiss) is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June 26, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8129-9297-7). Walker’s gripping debut begins with the earth’s rotation slowing down. Then Walker, through her teenaged narrator, builds tension chapter to chapter by releasing the effects of “the slowing” with deliberate pacing. Pre-empted by Random House and editors in six countries, and sold at auction in 19 other countries at press time.
Absolution by Patrick Flanery (Apr. 12, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-59448-817-7). PW calls this an “intricate multilayered debut” that “calls for disciplined sleuthing in order to fully realize its merits.” American-born, British-educated Flanery sets his confident first novel in apartheid-era South Africa with a fiery tapestry of executions, bombings, murder, secrets, deception, and fiction.
No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel (Feb. 2, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-59448-794-1). This debut novel about “surviving and storytelling” (PW) begins with WWII on the horizon, as the Jewish families of a remote Romanian village decide to retreat into “an imaginary, alternative history” and remake their world. An unusual blend of traumatic history and imagination.
Simon & Schuster
Gold by Chris Cleave (July 10, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-1-4516-7272-5). A novel about Olympic athletes and friends who experience love, marriage, parenthood, trauma, and recovery by the #1 bestselling author of Little Bee, set on the eve of the 2012 Olympics in London. PW says that Cleave “has a sharp, cinematic eye.”
In One Person by John Irving (May 8, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-4516-6412-6) examines a bisexual man’s dedication to making himself “worthwhile.” This is the first book that Irving has written in first-person since A Prayer for Owen Meany. The publisher is calling it “his most political novel” since The Cider House Rules.
Deceit and Devotion by RM Johnson (Feb. 21, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4391-8057-0). “There’s no end to the mischief in this fourth installment of Johnson’s popular Million Dollar series,” says PW of the series featuring the Harris brothers, “who marked Johnson’s compelling 1999 debut.” Johnson is an Essence bestselling author of over a dozen books.
(dist. by PGW)
Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou (Mar. 19, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59376-436-4). PW has called Mabanckou’s past work, African Psycho and Broken Glass, “compelling,” “witty,” “ingeniously satirical,” and “entertaining.” This time out, an African legend about doubles—both wicked and benign—comes to life in a novel set in the Congo about a young boy saddled with a strange double: a porcupine.
A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott (Mar. 1, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6011-7). It’s crossover time for #1 bestselling U.K. author Alliott with this novel about Poppy Shilling’s loathed husband dropping dead, a sudden event that functions as a beginning for Poppy rather than an end.
St. Martin's Press
Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green (Mar., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-59182-3). From the New York Times bestselling author comes a novel that explores the complications of a woman marrying into a ready-made family, and the true meaning of motherhood. PW says, “Green finds an acute honesty” in the novel’s characters. 250,000-copy announced first printing.
The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay (Feb. 14, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-59330-8). In this epistolary novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Sarah’s Key, a French woman battles Napoleon III’s ambitious remaking of Paris in the mid-19th century. 150,000-copy announced first printing.
The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer (May 8, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-250-00097-2). Bestseller Archer returns to the Clifton Chronicles. Days before Britain declares war on Germany, a man hoping to escape his secrets joins the merchant navy; when his ship is sunk, he assumes the identity of a dying man. 300,000-copy announced first printing.
The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman. (June 19, hardcover, $27.95 ISBN 978-0-670-02364-6). In the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, orphan children are going missing. A quick-witted young trader, herself an orphan, and a dashing British spy are just two of the people trying to solve this 1660s mystery. The publisher calls this debut a “page-turner that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel.”
Viking/Pamela Dorman Books
The Darlings by Christina Alger (Feb.20, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-670-02334-9). “Two parts Too Big to Fail, one part The Devil Wears Prada,” says the PW review of Alger’s “taut and compelling” debut about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a major financial scandal, “the story of our time.” 75,000-copy announced first printing.
Washington Square Press
House of the Wind by Titania Hardie (Mar. 6, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-4165-8626-5). The bestselling author returns with a love story of magic and healing that moves from modern-day San Francisco to medieval Tuscany. “Hardie has merged Under the Tuscan Sun with Erin Brockovich into a story both heavily atmospheric and thematically hypnotic,” says PW.