The books we love coming out this week include new titles by Laura Lippman, Guy Delisle, and Kate Moore.
Six years after Megan Kade’s abusive ex-husband, Greg Stanthorpe, steals their six-year-old son, Daniel, from school and disappears in this exceptional psychological thriller from Australian author Trope (The Nowhere Girl), the boy reappears at a New South Wales police station, reporting that his father has died in a fire in the shack where they had been living together. Though Daniel comes home with Megan and her second husband, Michael Kade, the detective on the missing child case, Megan’s hopes for a joyful reunion are quickly replaced by a difficult process of readjustment as Daniel’s volatility and reticence about connecting is amplified by the effects of psychological damage Daniel experienced in isolation, the extreme gaslighting Greg did about Megan’s intentions, and Daniel’s feelings of having been replaced by a new baby. Flashbacks to both Megan and Daniel’s stories in their six years apart, which highlight both their grief and the warped impressions each has of the other, lay the groundwork for a twist ending that forces the reader into suddenly reevaluating both perspectives. Trope pulls no punches in this tightly wound, emotionally harrowing story of parental abduction and the unhappy collision of hope with reality.
Mallo (The Nocilla Trilogy) delivers another work of postmodern, Dalí-esque surrealism with this mind-bending novel. An unnamed writer from Mallorca attends a conference, suffers amnesia, moves to New York City, and eventually travels to Uruguay to restore a manuscript to its rightful owner’s family. Kurt Montana, a fictitious fourth astronaut aboard Apollo 11 for the moon landing, navigates America’s postwar, hyper-consumerist ennui. A third thread follows a woman, also unnamed, who is heartbroken after losing her lover and goes on a walking pilgrimage across the coast of Normandy. All three characters, though they never meet, wander flaneur-like as they work through their ideas (the woman, for instance, reflects on how a couple can turn into a “single mutant creature”), take photographs, listen to the lives of strangers, and search for meaning. Throughout, Mallo’s prose is enticing—at times conversational, exhilarating, hilarious, and deeply quirky. If a through line emerges, it’s in the ideas, which revolve around the trash heap of postwar wreckage and consumption (the writer calls New York a “temple of detritus”). Out of this trash, Mallo has crafted a remarkable work.
The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear
Bestseller Moore (The Radium Girls) delivers a riveting chronicle of Elizabeth Packard’s (1816–1897) forced commitment to an Illinois insane asylum and advocacy for women’s equality and the rights of psychiatric patients. Skillfully drawing on Packard’s voluminous writings, Moore describes her subject’s “cheerless” marriage to Presbyterian preacher Theophilus Packard, and the couple’s growing estrangement as Elizabeth, inspired by the nascent women’s rights movement, began to publicly question his theological beliefs. Angered by his wife’s “impassioned eloquence,” Theophilus took advantage of an Illinois law that allowed husbands to have their wives committed without trial. Moore recounts Elizabeth’s shock at discovering that the Jacksonville Insane Asylum “was a storage unit for unsatisfactory wives,” details abuses by hospital attendants and superintendent Andrew McFarland, and delves into the legal and social framework that rendered married women “utterly defenseless.” After thwarting Theophilus’s plans to have her permanently committed, Elizabeth led successful campaigns to overturn coverture laws that denied rights to married women and reform asylums across the country. Moore packs in plenty of drama without sacrificing historical fidelity, and paints Elizabeth’s fierce intelligence and unflagging ambition with vibrant brushstrokes. Readers will be thrilled to discover this undersung early feminist hero.
Young Black love glows throughout this collaboration by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon, which follows six couples through a summer blackout in New York City. In a primary story arc, Tammi Wright is about to start her first day as the summer office assistant at the Apollo Theater’s Harlem headquarters when she runs into ex-boyfriend Kareem Murphy, who, due to an admin- istrative error, is there for the same job. Just as they are about to find out who will receive the single opening, a blackout sweeps the city, causing chaos aboveground and under. As the two reluctantly walk together back to Bed-Stuy, where Kareem is set to DJ a party after dark, they navigate their history and their love for each other. Featured between each stage of their journey are connections—some gentle, some combative, all thrilling—that feature characters falling in or professing their love across the city’s landmarks. As each teen makes their way home, this joyful collaboration brings a necessary elation to stories of Black love, queer love, and alternative forms of affection, all of which are all tenderly highlighted in these narratives.
Suri (the Books of Ambha series) astounds with the spellbinding epic fantasy that launches her Burning Kingdoms trilogy. When Princess Malini, the sister of Parijatdvipa’s Emperor Chandra, refuses to sacrifice her life to secure her ruthless brother’s throne, he imprisons her in the Hirana, a treacherous labyrinthine temple in the conquered country of Ahiranya. There, Priya, an Ahiranyi temple child with secret elemental powers, acts as her maidservant. Malini plots to secure her freedom while Priya seeks to understand her own tragic past. As the pair grow closer, both must weigh their loyalty to their respective countries and people with their partnership and growing feelings for each other. The result is a fierce, heart-wrenching exploration of the value and danger of love in a world of politics and power. Though it takes time to settle into the complex magic system and extensive cast, Suri’s confident and passionate prose expertly guides the reader throughout. This is a blade-sharp, triumphant start to what promises to be an exciting series.
In this fetching follow-up to the illustrated cookbook Let’s Make Ramen, chef Amano and comic artist Becan tackle the art of dumpling-making. As they note in their genial introduction, filled doughy treats appear in cuisines across the planet (think the Polish pierogi or Mexican tamales), but here they dial in on Asian choices, such as Cantonese shumai, Tibetan momos, and Korean mandu. Solid recipes (calling for either handmade and store-bought wrappers) and entertaining stories—including one about a forgetful cook who accidentally invented pot stickers—showcase the authors’ detailed yet playful approach to their craft. They even offer a chapter of their own “riffs,” featuring a Chinese takeout–inspired sesame chicken dumpling and breakfast baozi filled with bacon and scrambled eggs. Ending on a sweet note, Malaysian buns are offered with coconut jam filling, while Cambodian rice dumplings get a fragrant finish from steamed banana leaves. Thorough instructions combine the quirky and the functional (including how to freeze dumplings, since “you may as well go big and stock for your future self”), while the primer on folding techniques for seven different shapes is surprisingly simple. Those previously too intimidated to attempt dumplings at home owe it to themselves to pick up this stellar guide.
Successful novelist Gerry Andersen, the protagonist of this delicious literary thriller from Edgar winner Lippman (Lady in the Lake), has moved to Baltimore from New York to be near his ailing mother. He has barely settled into his duplex penthouse when his mother dies. While mulling over his agent’s suggestion that he write a memoir and trying to overcome the rising fear that he’ll never write again, Gerry slips and falls down his dangerous (but artistically designed) staircase. His injuries are severe, and he’s confined to bed and cared for by round-the-clock nurses. Befuddled by painkillers, Gerry’s mind drifts back over episodes in his life: his childhood, the highs and lows of his three marriages, his book tours and teaching jobs. One night, he receives a phone call from a woman claiming to be Aubrey, a character in his first—and still royalty-producing—novel, Dream Girl. The calls persist, as do shadowy nighttime appearances of a woman. He scrambles to separate truth from possible hallucinations until the morning he awakes to find a woman undeniably dead in his bed. Perceptive, often amusing insights into a writer’s mind make this a standout. Lippman is in top form for this enticingly witty, multilayered guessing game.