This week, we highlight new books from David Carr, Kathryn Scanlan, and Victoria Chang.

Little Siberia

Antti Tuomainen, trans. from the Finnish by David Hackston. Orenda (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-912374-51-9

Pastor Joel Huhta, the narrator of this stunning comic noir from Tuomainen (Palm Beach Finland), who ministers to the mostly neurotic villagers of Hurmevaara in the far north of Finland, has a secret. Due to wounds from his deployment to Afghanistan, Joel can’t father children, but six days after a meteorite strikes a former rally driver’s car, Joel discovers that his beloved wife, Krista, is pregnant. Joel, consumed by jealousy, searches for the father of Krista’s child as several boozy and violent villagers and Russian thugs plot to steal the valuable meteor from the local museum where it’s temporarily housed. With scalpel-keen portraits of villagers and their cruel wintry environment, the author humorously probes the eternal ironies, temptations, and uncertainties facing people caught up in unexpected circumstances. Tuomainen also persuades readers how hard life makes it to do the right thing in a universe that too often feels like a profound personal insult. Fans of Scandinavian noir will relish this one. Agent: Federico Ambrosini, Salomonsson Agency (U.K.). (Apr.)

The Dominant Animal

Kathryn Scanlan. MCD, $15 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-374-53829-3

As with Aug 9—Fog, her adaptation of a real woman’s diary, Scanlan craftily makes the stuff of everyday life seem strange and rare in this collection. There are 40 very short stories, often only long enough to lay out a situation before it’s sneakily turned on its head. In “Florida Is for Lovers,” a daughter goes through the objects left behind by her recently deceased parents, who were indifferent to her when living. A couple’s stay in a foreign city is interrupted by their digestive troubles in “Please.” “Colonial Revival” tracks a man’s expanding fortunes after he comes home from a war before, over time, the fortunes shrink back, the dwindling crystallized in a final image of a pile of unwanted furniture. “Master Framer” follows a man who lies about his abilities for his advantage. Scanlan has a knack for subtly bending the ordinary into the uncanny, as when a narrator witnessing two boys chase each other around their yard with scissors wonders if it’s a dream, or letting the gently irregular seep into the everyday, as when a woman creeps into her basement with a knife to eat some of “a large, costly wedge of aged cheese” while her ravenous partner is distracted upstairs. Reading Scanlan is akin to looking at two “spot the difference” images, but not knowing what, exactly, is off. This is a delightful, mischievous, and mysterious collection that’s perfect for fans of Lydia Davis and Mary Ruefle. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Associates. (Apr.)

My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes

Hooni Kim, with Aki Kamozawa. Norton, $40 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-23972-0

In this exciting debut, Kim, chef at Michelin-starred New York City restaurant Danji, collects Korean recipes that are in turn spicy, funky, and comforting. Chapters follow the progression of a Korean meal, beginning with banchan, the small dishes that appear at the start, including homemade silken tofu and dried anchovies fried until crisp and tossed in a sweet, sticky sauce. Kim skillfully describes Korean food culture: in Korea, anchovy broth, “a hangover remedy,” is served in late-night tent-taverns, and Spam is specially packaged for holiday gift giving (Kim shares recipes for the broth with somen noodles, and for a spicy stew made with Spam). Kim isn’t wedded to tradition, but when he does craft variations, they’re on target, as when brisket stands in for the pork in fried rice or bacon and kimchi marry in a savory sauce. The chapter dedicated to kimchi contains a traditional cabbage recipe as well as versions made from ramps or radishes. Meat dishes include pork belly sliders and Hanjan chicken skewers, and seafood choices, such as black cod simmered in an umami-rich sauce, appear as well. A chapter on cocktails includes a colada made with probiotic yakult and rum, and a handful of desserts feature shaved ice. This thoughtful, comprehensive, and inventive volume sets a high bar for Korean cookbooks. (Apr.)

To Have and to Hoax

Martha Waters. Atria, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-9821-3611-6

Waters’s debut Regency rom-com delights with hilarious, high-concept romantic schemes that call to mind Shakespeare’s comedies. Lady Violet Grey’s first meeting with Lord James Audley, second son of a duke, was a comedy of errors. Despite an unlikely start and constant bickering, the pair fell in love and married. The first year was bliss for these sparring hearts, but one argument too many turned their passionate romance sour, and an icy distance has persisted between them for the past four years. They’re reunited when Violet learns that James has fallen from his horse in a riding accident. She rushes to his side only to discover him totally fine and seemingly indifferent to her concern. To recapture his attention, Violet enlists her two closest friends to help her fake a health crisis of her own. What follows is a series of riotously funny mishaps, pranks, and misunderstandings as the feuding couple weaponize Regency manners for their own ends. Waters gently lampoons genre tropes without sacrificing genuine feeling. Self-aware and brimming with well-timed epiphanies, this joyful, elegant romp is sure to enchant. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary (Apr.)

Umma’s Table

Yeon-Sik Hong, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-77046-386-8

In this mature and nuanced follow-up to Hong’s graphic memoir Uncomfortably Happy, the artist and his wife are still living a poor but mostly contented life in the South Korean countryside. They now have a baby, Iwan, and Hong imagines the home they’ve built together as a tiny, idyllic private planet; all the characters are represented as cartoon cats. But the larger world intrudes in the form of Hong’s aging parents, who share a grim basement apartment in Seoul and are starting to require constant care. Having worked hard to escape his father’s alcoholic abuse and his mother’s depression, Hong feels that “only beyond my parents’ reach is my world free to grow.” But he comes to appreciate how the work he does to support his wife and child—cooking, gardening, raising chickens, making kimchi for the winter—grows from an urge to nurture passed down from his mother. “Almost every memory I have of my mother begins with her cooking,” he reflects, and food provides a link between Hong’s two worlds. In Hong’s cheerful drawings, the countryside bursts with life, and his culinary escapades are a jubilant theatrical sequence. But even as the narrative grows darker, the simple, friendly art remains surprisingly effective. This moving story about being both a parent and a child represents a creative leap forward for one of Korea’s up and coming contemporary comic artists. (Mar.)

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom

Martine Murray. Tin House, $15.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-947793-61-3

Murray’s masterful adult debut (after the Cedar B. Hartley and Henrietta children’s series) explores a family’s fraught relationships in a small Australian town in the early 1980s. Awakened during a sweltering, mosquito-plagued night, nine-year-old Ada sees her father, Mike, having sex with a family friend. In the morning, Ada tells her older sister, Tilly, that she saw their father doing “something bad.” Tilly confronts Mike to no avail, which drives a wedge between him and his daughters. The girls also struggle with their mother, Martha, who treats 17-year-old Tilly especially coldly, leading Ben, the 15-year-old favorite middle child, to conclude that Martha must be jealous of Tilly’s talent on the piano. Murray nimbly illustrates the tensions running through the family using various points of view, describing emotions and events with fluid precision. A glimpse of Tilly “like a just-opened flower” sends Martha into a “sudden tumult of yearning for her own youth and the familiar tang of regret that she had lost it.” As the second act unfolds, the married couple’s entwined relationship with Mike’s college friend Arnold emerges through a series of eerie scenes that illuminate the roots of Martha’s bitterness, as well as Mike’s compulsion toward infidelity. Murray’s unflinching, intuitive tale will satisfy readers who like their family dramas with a strong dose of darkness. (Apr.)

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Grady Hendrix. Quirk, $21.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-68369-143-3

When Patricia Campbell, a bored, housewife in 1990s Charleston, S.C., sighs, “Don’t you wish that something exciting would happen around here?” she all but invites the chilling horrors that soon enmesh her and her friends in this clever, addictive vampire thriller from Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls). Patricia is one of a clutch of local women who assuage their ennui by forming a book club to discuss pulpy true crime chronicles. Their lives are upended by the arrival of James Harris, an outsider who easily ingratiates himself into their community, bringing an influx of money and good fortune to the town. Patricia alone finds Harris’s lack of traditional identification and sensitivity to daylight peculiar. When people begin to disappear, she struggles to convince her friends that Harris is more sinister than he appears. Hendrix draws shrewd parallels between the serial killers documented in the book club’s picks and Harris’s apparent vampire persona, loading his gruesome story with perfectly-pitched allusions to classic horror novels and true crime accounts. This powerful, eclectic novel both pays homage to the literary vampire canon and stands singularly within it. Agent: Joshua Bilmes, JABberwocky Literary. (Apr.)

Final Draft: The Collected Work of David Carr

Edited by Jill Rooney Carr. . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-358-20668-2

David Carr (The Night of the Gun), who died in 2015, was a consummate journalist with a gift for memorable expression, as demonstrated in this rewarding volume edited by his widow. Its 56 columns and features span his 25-year career and beats that ranged from Minnesota to Manhattan, where, from the New York Times’s culture desk, he wrote “The Carpetbagger” film industry column. The pieces include celebrity profiles (such as of Neil Young and Philip Seymour Hoffman), a look at the fall of the Tribune Company’s newspaper empire, and dissection of local Washington, D.C., politics. The most powerful selections, about Carr’s early struggles with cocaine and alcohol addiction, frequently serve up observations stunning in their candor and self-awareness: “Crack users are universally paranoid consumptive eunuchs who show little interest in things unrelated to their addiction.” Throughout, Carr’s work is a model of concision, demonstrating a skill at crystallizing an idea in a single resonant sentence as, when writing about 9/11’s impact on New York City’s psyche, he observes, “This is the place where the world seemed to end in a single morning.” Readers will appreciate having this wide-ranging sample of Carr’s inimitable perspective on American life. Agent: Flip Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)


Victoria Chang. Copper Canyon, , $17 ISBN 978-1-55659-574-5

The exceptional fifth book from Chang (Barbie Chang) does not open with death, at least not in the way its title might suggest. It opens instead with a father’s stroke and the assertion that grief “is really about future absence.” The collection explores the newspaper obituary through prose blocks whose language moves between shuddering realism and more lyrical elaborations. One poem recalls: “After my father’s stroke, my mother no longer spoke in full sentences... Maybe this is what happens when language fails, a last breath inward but no breath outward. A state of holding one’s breath forever but not dying.” The sparser tankas about children and the future offer some of the book’s most exquisite and painful moments: “My children, children,/ today my hands are dreaming/ as they touch your hair./ Your hair turns into winter./ When I die, your hair will snow.” Chang’s poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore. (Apr.)