Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from David Rosenberg and Rhonda Rosenberg, Mia Tsai, and Karl Schlögel.

The Eden Revelation

David Rosenberg and Rhonda Rosenberg. Spuyten Duyvil, $25 trade paper (574p) ISBN 978-1-959556-05-3
Novelist David Rosenberg (The Book of J) collaborates with his wife, a public health researcher, for a stimulating narrative inspired by the biblical Garden of Eden. At the center is an ancient text called “The Scroll of the History of Adam” that was discovered and translated in the 1980s and takes a comparatively less damning view on the tree of knowledge and on sexual desire than the book of Genesis. Its surfacing triggers an extended discussion between scholars (and lovers) Archie Shechner and Julie Peleg, and after Archie disappears, his psychotherapist, Betti Peleg, Julie’s mother, proceeds to write down their story based on transcriptions of her sessions with him. Betti weaves a provocative tapestry, with additional threads provided by Professor Svitz, an editor with whom Julie has begun an affair. In Betti’s account, as Julie and Archie spend time with the scrolls, they gain access to an entity they call “the voice of Wisdom,” which enriches their philosophical inquiries, but also triggers Archie’s mental breakdown. After Archie’s disappearance, Julie carries on dialogues with Svitz, worrying she and her lover might be “duller than we think.” In the absence of a conventional narrative, the Rosenbergs make hay of the characters’ ricocheting analyses and revelations. This experiment pays off with dividends. Agent: Madison Smartt Bell, Panda Lit. (Mar.)

Bitter Medicine

Mia Tsai. Tachyon, $18.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-61696-384-2
Sparks fly in Tsai’s refreshing and enchanting paranormal debut. A sordid family past has driven gifted immortal Elle Mei, a descendant of Shénnóng, the Chinese god of medicine, into leading a quiet, unassuming life. Though Elle’s exceptional talent at magical calligraphy could easily earn her a lucrative career, she chooses to cover up the extent of her gift, hiding in plain sight as an “ordinary” glyphmaker in Raleigh, N.C. It’s the only way she knows how to protect her family, as using too much power would surely draw attention. But the temptation to use her full abilities becomes too much to resist when it comes to her favorite customer (and crush), the dashing half-elf security expert Luc Villois. When Luc realizes what Elle’s truly capable of, he commissions her to create custom glyphs for an upcoming assignment, and, against her better judgment, she agrees. Meanwhile, Luc has a secret of his own, and he knows that Elle would never choose to spend more time with him if she knew who he truly was. Despite their mutual reservations, their friendship deepens into love—but will their trust in each other be enough to save them when their twisted pasts come back to haunt them? With brilliantly developed, multifaceted characters; a clever magic system; and witty prose, the pages of this fantasy fly. This marks Tsai as a writer to watch. Agent: Anne Tibbets, Donald J. Maass Agency. (Mar.)

The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World

Karl Schlögel, trans. from the German by Rodney Livingstone. Princeton Univ, $39.95 (880p) ISBN 978-0-691-18374-9
In this magnum opus, Schlögel (Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland), professor emeritus of Eastern European history at the European University Viadrina, surveys the “Soviet lifeworld,” from megaprojects like the 1920s Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (where “elegance and barbarism were intertwined”) to WWII medals that are up for sale at a contemporary flea market. Drawing on several decades of research and travel in the U.S.S.R., Schlögel explains the nuances of Five-Year-Plans that reorganized the Soviet economy; describes workers’ sanatoriums and state-run wedding palaces; remarks on famous denizens like fashion designer Nadezdha Lamanova, who “turned fashion à la russe into a brand”; documents the recycling of churches and church bells into construction materials; and disparages the era’s “brutal violence” while visiting the ruins of forced labor camps along the river Kolyma. Though Schlögel’s thoughts on “the physical and moral decline of the megamachine” and other ruminations can veer toward the esoteric, this vast and vivid montage stresses the era’s cultural validity and eschews the tendency of recent histories to view the epoch strictly through a Cold War lens, with the West as winner-take-all. “The dissolution of empires is always something of a happy catastrophe,” the author writes. This invaluable study casts a lost world in a new light. (Mar.)

Feed Them Silence

Lee Mandelo. Tordotcom, $19.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-250-82450-9
This impressive novella from Mandelo (Summer Sons) probes the bounds of human empathy in the face of ecological crisis. Sean, a middle-aged researcher in the year 2031, embarks on a study that will link her brain to the brain of a wolf whose habitat has been shrinking rapidly. Her wife questions her motivations, and indeed, Sean’s interest in experiencing a wolf’s perspective of the world is initially largely personal. But as the season changes and the wolves struggle to survive, she becomes increasingly invested in the pack’s ability to persevere and thrive. Mandelo achieves a remarkable feat in capturing the wolf’s-eye view, creatively and believably describing the interiority of a wolf’s mind and offering a complex look at what effect Sean’s connection to this different way of thinking might have. Through this close link between woman and wolf, Mandelo delivers a powerful message about environmentalism and the limits of technology that doubles as a page-turning story about a collapsing marriage. Urgent, intimate, immediate, this is sure to wow. (Mar.)

Wolf Trap

Connor Sullivan. Atria/Bestler, $28.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-9821-6642-7
In this exhilarating thriller from Sullivan (Sleeping Bear), U.S. president Angela Buchanan is on the brink of a major political victory with the imminent signing of a sweeping international climate-change agreement. But when “the world’s seven experimental ‘clean energy’ thorium molten salt reactors” simultaneously melt down, a special group of U.S. intelligence officials and operatives from multiple agencies and departments must try to find the conspirators responsible before the nations assemble in Davos, Switzerland, to finalize the treaty. Brian “Lobo” Rhome, once a paramilitary officer with Ground Branch, the CIA’s most elite covert ops force, and the haunted lone survivor of an al-Qaeda ambush in Pakistan, now hides in the Montana backcountry, trying to leave his military past behind. Drawn back into the fold to enact revenge on the terrorist who slaughtered his comrades, Rhome finds himself in the center of the battle to save Buchanan and prevent a global war over fossil fuels. Sullivan’s clever rhetorical tricks will keep even savvy readers in the dark while he ratchets the tension ever higher. By the end, readers will be exhausted, breathless, and eager for further Ground Branch adventures. Sullivan is a writer to watch. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Mar.)

We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

Roxanna Asgarian. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-60229-1
Journalist Asgarian debuts with a comprehensive and searing look at systemic issues within the foster care and adoption systems through the eyes of two Texas families whose Black and biracial children were removed from their homes, adopted, abused, and killed in a deliberate murder-suicide car crash by their white adoptive mothers in 2018. Over and over, Asgarian finds that wherever the children’s birth relatives “encountered resistance in the system,” the adoptive parents were given the benefit of the doubt, despite evidence of long-term abuse. Instead of focusing—as most contemporaneous news reports did—on the “dark psychological problems” of the adoptive married couple, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, Asgarian centers the birth families, interviewing the birth mothers whose parental rights were terminated and extended family members who had been seeking custody of the children, and describing the lingering trauma of the children’s surviving family, including the siblings who weren’t adopted. Emotional and frequently enraging, it adds up to a blistering indictment of a system where, in the words of one reform advocate, “we’ve lost key concepts like humanity, dignity. We’re prioritizing compliance and the needs of bureaucracy.” Throughout, Asgarian makes clear that the endemic failures that led to this shocking tragedy continue to affect countless families caught up in the child welfare system. Sensitive, impassioned, and eye-opening, this is a must-read. (Mar.)

The Strangers’ House: Writing Northern Ireland

Alexander Poots. Twelve, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5387-0157-7
Former bookseller Poots debuts with a lyrical ode to Northern Irish literature. Through close readings of literary heavyweights (C.S. Lewis, Seamus Heaney) and overlooked talents (Forrest Reid), Poots surveys the writings and history of a region known for fraught “political positions and cultural identities.” He contends that homesickness “pervades the writing that has emerged from Northern Ireland over the past century,” and unpacks Tom Paulin’s poem “An Ulster Unionist Walks the Streets of London” to illuminate how even Irish unionists could feel out of place in both “Catholic Ireland and indifferent Britain.” Biographical background on authors highlights the relationship between their writings and history, with an account of poet Patrick Kavanagh’s youth serving as a window into the Irish independence struggles of the 1910s and ’20s, during which he cut telegraph wires until the onset of the civil war, when he spent isolated years honing his poetry. Poots demonstrates a masterful knowledge of Northern Irish authors and his prose is at turns funny and poetic, suggesting that Lewis’s prim child protagonists act like “bank managers in training” and that poet Louis MacNeice “describes his childhood with tactile care, as if he were running his hand up the bannisters of the rectory once again.” This powerfully evokes the beauty and complexity of Northern Ireland and announces Poots as an author to watch. (Mar.)

The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Valuable, Important Profession

Alexandra Robbins. Dutton, $29 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-98675-2
Journalist and substitute teacher Robbins (The Nurses) offers a poignant, behind-the-scenes exploration of America’s public schools focused on three teachers in different regions of the country. Miguel, a middle-school special education teacher in the West, advocates for his students against a hostile school board. Penny, a sixth-grade math teacher, navigates a toxic culture of teacher cliques in the South, while Rebecca, an East Coast elementary school educator, struggles to find time for a life outside of school. Robbins vividly chronicles their challenges, successes, and motivations, showing how Covid-19 “further exposed the nation’s shameful treatment of teachers” when short-staffed school districts ordered underpaid educators to give up their lunch and planning periods to take on extra students and duties. Interspersed with the profiles are incisive essays—based on interviews with hundreds of other educators—on such topics as parental aggression, high stakes testing, inadequate support staff, and school violence. Robbins provides eye-opening statistics (94% of public school teachers spend their own money on supplies; 44% of new teachers leave the field within the first five years) and commonsense solutions (better pay, more staffing). This deeply researched and impressive study brings home the fact that America underinvests in the education of its children—and that teachers step in to fill the gaps. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)