Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory

Stacy Wakefield. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-61775-303-9

In Wakefield’s novel, Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1995 is “the other side of the moon,” a desolate wasteland, replete with stray dogs. Sid, an adventure-seeking squatter, decides to take on the challenge of “the new frontier,” becoming fed up with the cliquey and over-capacity squats in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She convinces Lorenzo, a musician and “glue-sniffing badass from Mexico City,” to join her, and they depart for Brooklyn with their army backpacks and boots to squat at an abandoned commercial bakery with a team of other social misfit residents. Wakefield, author of the nonfiction book Not for Rent (also on the topic of squatting), draws on personal experience for this colorful and entertaining depiction. Though the dialogue is occasionally contrived and risks turning characters into caricatures, the sentiment of the nomadic community in New York in the ’90s comes alive through historical references and Sid’s journey as she forges a network of like-minded individuals. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Jesus Cow

Michael Perry. Harper, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-228991-9

Perry’s (Population: 485) latest is an amiable and quirky exploration of Christian beliefs, set against the backdrop of economically depressed rural Wisconsin. Bachelor Harley has been forced to sell portions of his family’s farm to developers over the years just to stay afloat. But on Christmas Eve, his beef cow goes into labor, delivers a calf that bears the unmistakable image of Jesus on her hide, and Harley knows his life is about to change—whether it’s for the better or not, however, is unclear. Harley initially attempts to hide the Jesus Cow, but word quickly gets out, and soon everyone in town has an opinion. There’s Klute Sorensen, the Hummer-driving developer intent on suing Harley right out of his home. Carolyn Sawchuck, a disgraced academic, rents the old water tower and shack on one edge of Harley’s land. And then there’s Billy, Harley’s friend, whose help is well intentioned but usually comes in the form of old country lyrics dispensed over a bottle of beer. Perry’s novel wrestles with some big issues—religion, environmentalism, community—but he resists letting his narrative get too bogged down in them. The result is a purposeful story that doesn’t overwhelm, an often charming read that rarely takes itself too seriously. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Silver Swan

Elena Delblanco. Other Press, $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-159051-716-1

Delbanco’s whirlwind debut novel immediately immerses readers in the rarefied world of classical music performance. Alexander Feldmann is a world-renowned cellist and the owner of the Silver Swan, a famous centuries-old cello. When he dies, his daughter, Mariana, who had been an up-and-coming cellist herself, assumes that she is going to inherit it. Much to her surprise, her father leaves it to Claude Roselle, a handsome young cellist whom Feldmann dubs his musical heir. Mariana is furious, but she and Claude spend time together to try to understand her father’s decision, and in the process they become lovers. Mariana wants to trust Claude and his intentions, but she is wary, having become accustomed to the egotism and selfishness of top-tier musicians. They draw each other into a web of deception in pursuit of the Swan. Delbanco’s father was a famed cellist, and her immersion in that world is evident on every page. While some aspects of the plot are predictable, readers with an enthusiasm for classical music will be swept away by this detailed, enthralling tale. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Ladies of Managua

Eleni N. Gage. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-05864-5

In Gage’s (Other Waters) sweet, stately story, three generations of women reunite in Managua, Nicaragua, for a family funeral, where they reflect on their loves, losses, and what the future holds for each of them. Isabela, burying her husband of over 50 years, slips into memories of her first love while her daughter, Ninexin, who left her husband and child to fight for her country, longs to reconnect with her own daughter, Maria, who returns to Nicaragua from New York as an adult with secrets of her own. Unfolding in an unhurried fashion through these three alternating viewpoints, the first half of the book revolves around each woman’s interior reflections: Maria’s anxiety over her noncommittal boyfriend and her long-held resentment toward her mother, Ninexin’s guilt at leaving her daughter behind, and Isabela’s absorption in reliving a long-ago love affair. The story comes to life, however, as mysteries are revealed, such as just what Maria is running away from and the true circumstances of Maria’s father’s death as a young, idealistic revolutionary. Along the way, glimpses of the beautiful landscape and the history of Nicaragua provide a backdrop to a universal narrative of hurt and forgiveness. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Lifted by the Great Nothing

Karim Dimechkie. Bloomsbury, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63286-058-3

Dimechkie’s debut is a coming-of-age tale loaded with themes and ideas. Max lives in New Jersey with his father, Rasheed, a Lebanese transplant whose mantra is “When we are in America, we are Americans.” Max knows little of his mother, who died when he was very young. Rasheed is a mostly solitary person—despite a brief and disastrous affair with a much younger woman named Kelly, who encourages Max to press his father for details about Max’s mother. Years later, Kelly writes a letter explaining the ways that Rasheed lied to him, at which point Max is already mostly estranged from his father, because of Rasheed’s racism in the face of Max’s friendship with a much older African-American neighbor. Frustrated and confused, Max leaves for Beirut to ferret out the truth about his family. Dimechkie writes without restraint, and the book covers homosexuality, racism, identity politics, and immigration. Eventually, Dimechkie’s wealth of themes gets away from him, and he is unable to give his ideas the nuance they deserve. The book is a well-written, engaging story, a bit too overloaded but nevertheless showing a writer with true potential. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Trompe l’Oeil

Nancy Reisman. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-941040-03-4

Reisman’s second novel (after 2004’s The First Desire) is a slow burn of breaking, healing, and breaking again, in the aftermath of a tragedy. At the start, the Murphys are an ordinary family. Nora and James are a “sparkling couple”: they have three beautiful children and a second house by the beach, in addition to their gorgeous first home in a Boston suburb. But an accident on a vacation in Rome shakes their lives to the core: their youngest daughter, four-year-old Molly, is hit and killed by a car. Slowly, over time, the trappings of the Murphys’ identity slip away. Reisman’s sense of language and lyricism are sharp. But the narrative can sometimes stall, and it is often too subtle and languorous for its own good. Still, with shades of The Ice Storm and Revolutionary Road, Reisman offers a poignant portrait of a family undergoing a gradual, permanent transformation. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Our Town

Kevin McEnroe. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61902-528-8

The debut novel from McEnroe is a shocking tale of addiction and family disintegration that takes place at the margins of the entertainment industry. Dorothy and Dale are young actors who meet when they are cast in the pilot of a 1960s television show. They fall in love, marry, and have two children: Clover and Dylan. Dorothy’s career founders just as Dale’s begins to rise. Both drink and take drugs; soon jealousy and abuse have wrecked the marriage. Dale lives the life of a playboy while Dorothy slips further into addiction and obscurity, and most of the novel is concerned with her long downward slide: she takes up with a teenage boyfriend, neglects her children, moves on to harder drugs, and becomes a progressively greater embarrassment to her ex-husband and her children. Though McEnroe has a gift for crafting scenes of familial horror (such as when teenage Dylan curls up at his mother’s feet while she injects heroin), the relentlessness of Dorothy’s march from degradation to degradation is exhausting. The icy narration strives for clarity, but ultimately the novel offers a shallow analysis of self-destruction. Clover, who seems to have mostly escaped her family’s calamities, is the novel’s most realized and interesting character, but her best scenes are too late to balance the overall work. McEnroe has undeniable talent; his next book will be one to watch out for. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay

Andrea Gillies. Other Press, $17.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-59051-729-1

Gillies’s (The White Lie) assured novel uses fragmented storytelling and flashbacks to generate tension and suspense in what might otherwise be a static narrative. Nina Findlay, hospitalized after a bus accident while on holiday in Greece, dissects her broken marriage and other fractured relationships in conversation with the attentive, attractive Dr. Christos. Gillies skillfully builds a sense of mystery around the secrets that destroyed the lifelong bond between Nina and the Romano brothers who grew up next door: Luca, her favorite, and Paolo, her husband of 25 years. Through her budding trust in the doctor, Nina explores the pivotal losses that haunt her: her parents’ separation, the deaths of her mother and sister-in-law, her miscarriage. Gillies’s brisk, confident style deftly manages convoluted jumps in time, and small gems of insight glitter among her clean, precise prose: “There was no doubt that Paolo was the nicer brother. Always kind. Even-tempered. Reliable. Loyal. But it hadn’t been any use.” This sure-handed, lovely exploration of the human heart is certain to build Gillies’s audience. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

Anna North. Penguin/Blue Rider, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-17339-4

The ending of North’s (America Pacifica) provocative new novel is a foregone conclusion; it is the journey there, revealed by the intimates in Sophie Stark’s life, that draws the reader in. The difficult and tenacious filmmaker Sophie inhabits the same world as the rest of us, but she doesn’t really live in it. Her intensity informs her filmmaking, which in turn conveys her vision and emotions. A by-product of her hyperfocus is that she manipulates people to achieve her art. Those in her orbit come to understand this too late to have a happy relationship with her. As such, the book’s narrators—among them a college basketball player, a musician, and a movie producer—disappear and reappear years later, interrupting the narrative flow. Mitigating that flaw is the character of a film critic, whose writings about Sophie’s films are a constant for the reader. The other constant is Sophie’s talent. Though derived from her existence as an outsider, it is the vehicle that allows her to bring an uncanny emotional depth to her work. North’s nuanced prose and emphasis on characterization result in a thoughtful, moving read that explores the creative process and its effects on relationships. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

Martin Millar. Counterpoint/Soft Skull (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-59376-605-4

Millar’s lively comic novel centers on the frantic efforts of Greek playwright Aristophanes to finally earn the respect that eluded him throughout his career. The year is 421 B.C.E., and Aristophanes hopes to wow his rowdy audience and the critics at the annual Dionysian theater festival, by combining his trademark bawdy humor with an underlying serious message about peace. Not only are there the familiar setbacks plaguing the production, which he entitles Peace, but there’s divine intervention, as well. This appears in the form of Laet, a spirit of discord summoned by the Athenians’ archenemies, the Spartans, with the assistance of a priestess called Kleonike. In response, the goddess Athena sends two ambassadors from Mount Olympus to help Aristophanes. The alluring but dim nymph Metris and the Amazon Bremusa are sent to counteract the efforts of Laet. Also stirring the pot is a pesky poet named Luxos, continually harassing Aristophanes for a slot in his production, as a lyricist or preshow performer or both. Millar’s (Lonely Werewolf Girl) plot and characters border on the cartoonish, but he packs the narrative with interesting information about the era and Greek drama. Very short chapters, from the various perspectives of the main characters, keep the novel moving at an appropriately manic pace. Smart escapist reading. (May)

Reviewed on 03/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.