Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from T. Kingfisher, Alex Mar, and Jess Row.

A House with Good Bones

T. Kingfisher. Nightfire, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-82979-5
Hugo and Nebula Award winner Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead) goes Southern gothic (Waffle House visits included) in this hilarious and gruesome contemporary horror novel. After archaeoentomologist Sam Montgomery’s dig gets put on hold, she drives to her deceased grandmother’s house in rural North Carolina to spend some time with her mom. The vulture waiting for her on the mailbox doesn’t seem like a good omen, nor does the strange absence of insect life; her mother’s anxious, odd behavior; or Sam’s new, mysterious bouts of sleep paralysis. Sam digs into her family history in the hopes of discovering medical information and scientific explanations for the weirdness—but instead she finds deeply buried horrors that are out to destroy Sam; her mother; her grandmother’s rival, wildlife rehabilitator Gail; and even the local handyman, Phil. Sam makes a charmingly kooky narrator, and Kingfisher remains the best in the business at using horror and fantasy to explore abusive relationships and how to escape them. Horror fans who like a little whimsy on the way to a chilling climax won’t want to miss this. (Mar.)

Seventy Times Seven: A True Story of Murder and Mercy

Alex Mar. Penguin Press, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-52215-7
Journalist Mar (Witches of America) delivers an engrossing study of faith, forgiveness, and justice centered on the 1985 murder of a great-grandmother in Gary, Ind. Fifteen-year-old Paula Cooper, one of four teenage girls who invaded the home of Bible teacher Ruth Pelke and stole her car, was sentenced to death for the crime. Mar details the physical abuse Cooper endured from her father, her mother’s attempt to kill herself and her two daughters, and Cooper’s experiences being “passed from stranger to stranger” in foster homes and emergency shelters in the three years leading up to the murder. Juxtaposed with Cooper’s volatile childhood are snapshots of Pelke, who had taught one of the teenage girls and driven her to church. Other profile subjects include Jack Crawford, the prosecutor who chose to pursue the death penalty against Cooper, who confessed to stabbing Pelke more than 30 times; Bill Pelke, Ruth’s grandson, who publicly forgave Cooper for the crime; and Earline Rogers, a state legislator who spearheaded efforts to exempt juveniles younger than 16 from the death penalty in Indiana. Though Cooper’s sentence was commuted and she was released from prison in 2013, she died in an apparent suicide less than two years later. Deeply reported and vividly written, this is a harrowing and thought-provoking portrait of crime and punishment. Photos. Agent: Sarah Burnes, Gernert Co. (Mar.)

The New Earth

Jess Row. Ecco, $29.99 (592p) ISBN 978-0-06-240063-5
Critic Row’s magisterial latest (after the essay collection White Flights) traces the complex dynamics of a New York City family on a geopolitical scale. In 2000, Wilcox patriarch Sandy, a lawyer, narrowly avoids disbarment after unwittingly aiding a client of fraud. A year later, his wife, Naomi, a geophysicist at Columbia University, reveals that her biological father was Black. Then, in 2003, their youngest child, Bering, is fatally shot by an Israeli Defense Force sniper while protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine’s West Bank. After Bering’s death, her oldest brother, Patrick, goes to Nepal to become a monk. Sandy and Naomi’s marriage, meanwhile, has been faltering since the late 1970s, when they founded a Zen monastery in Vermont, and following a failed suicide attempt a decade after Bering’s death, Sandy leaves Naomi and retreats to Vermont, where he takes a vow of silence. Middle child Winter, a 20-something immigration lawyer, is marrying Zeno, an undocumented citizen, and wants nothing more than the family to be together at their wedding. Winter and Naomi also butt heads, big time, on race (Naomi insists they’re white; Winter identifies as multiracial). As the Wilcoxes reckon with the limits of what they can bear, Winter’s request proves tough to meet. Moments of levity draw the reader in (Sandy on shaving his head: “I look like Mr. Clean, he thinks, allowing himself one glimpse in the mirror, or Yul Brynner”), and the author pulls off many moving metafictional moments (Sandy, again, sensing the text of Row’s novel: “He feels it embrace him, one animal embracing another; it smells like wet fur”). This is Row’s best work yet. (Mar.)

Hang the Moon

Jeannette Walls. Scribner, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1729-9
Walls’s breathtaking latest (after The Silver Star) traces the trajectory of two feuding Virginia families and a woman who rises to the top of a bootlegging empire. For more than 50 years, bad blood has permeated relations between the bootlegging Kincaid family and the Bond brothers, starting with the Kincaids’ questionable acquisition of 88 acres from the Bonds. Sallie Kincaid’s enigmatic father, “the Duke,” controls an Emporium general store, warehouse, lumber mill, hauling company, and rental properties, and after a string of unexpected deaths in the family, Sallie takes charge of the family business during the Prohibition years. As “Queen of the Kincaid Rumrunners,” Sallie comes to oversee a profitable business that amplifies the backwoods dispute into a full-fledged violent war with the Bonds, who avenge the Kincaids’ land grab with a calamitous act of escalation, entangling both families and exposing scandalous secrets. The thrilling plot culminates in bombshell revelations and massive conflagrations, and through it all Sallie makes for an indelible heroine as she fights for her life and livelihood. This is a stunner. Agent: Margaret Riley King and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME. (Mar.)

Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope

Sarah Bakewell. Penguin Press, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-735-22337-0
NBCC Award winner Bakewell (How to Live) brilliantly tracks the development of humanism over seven centuries of intellectual history. Humanism, she concedes, isn’t easy to define, though it fundamentally centers “the lives and experiences of people here on earth.” Drawing on the usual suspects (Erasmus, Voltaire, Bertrand Russell), as well as less expected luminaries (Ludwik Zamenhof, who invented Esperanto in hopes that a universalized language might promote multicultural understanding), Bakewell takes readers through the evolution of central humanistic concerns—whether life can be understood without God (“humanism warns us against neglecting the tasks of our current world in favor of dreams of paradise”); human interconnectivity (the South African concept of “ubuntu” for human relationality; the interconnectedness in E.M. Forster’s writing); and the importance of education (which Erasmus believed “should train a person to be at home in the world”). She also discusses humanism in philosophy, politics, and medicine, the latter of which centers the humanist goal of “mitigating suffering” even if some early interventions harmed more than helped. On the flipside, Bakewell unpacks antihumanism, which “point[s] out the many ways [humans] fall short,” though she notes humanism and antihumanism have historically worked to “renew and energize each other.” Erudite and accessible, Bakewell’s survey pulls together diverse historical threads without sacrificing the up-close details that give this work its spark. Even those who already consider themselves humanists will be enlightened. (Mar.)

Where We Meet the World: The Story of the Senses

Ashley Ward. Basic, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5416-0085-0
This eye-opening pop-science treatise by University of Sydney biologist Ward (The Social Lives of Animals) rhapsodizes about the power of the senses. He draws on evolutionary theory, neurology, and psychology to explain the development and functioning of senses in humans, animals, and plants (peas, for instance, can “hear” water flowing underground). In humans, according to Ward, each sense serves as an “information highway” that transmits “terabytes of information every second,” which the brain assembles into a “narrative” as it prunes, anticipates, fills in gaps with educated guesses, and sometimes overthinks. (Carsickness, he notes, happens because the brain interprets the disorienting sensations of motion as the product of intoxicating poison that it tries to make the body vomit up.) He packs in innumerable fascinating details: stars look white because we see them in dim light that only allows the eye’s black-and-white rod cells to function, a Scottish nurse was able to detect undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease by smell, and goats can sense impending volcanic eruptions hours ahead of time. The science illuminates the complex processes through which creatures make sense of their surroundings, and the delivery benefits greatly from the author’s stylish, evocative prose: “There’s a note of elderly fish, swimming valiantly against the lavatorial flow,” he writes of tasting Icelandic fermented shark. This will change how readers see the world. (Mar.)

White Cat, Black Dog

Kelly Link. Random House, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-44995-0
Link (Get in Trouble) refashions classic fairy tales, myths, and adventure sagas for contemporary settings in her wondrous collection. In “The White Cat’s Divorce,” a wealthy father sends his three sons on a series of quests to decide who will win his estate. Along the way, the sons wind up under the spell of an enterprising feline who runs a weed dispensary. A company of traveling actors finds peril in a curiously vacant Virginia town in “The White Road.” In “Prince Hat Underground,” a hapless man undertakes an epic journey to rescue his missing husband from the Queen of Hell. Hansel and Gretel get the sci-fi treatment on a planet of vampires in “The Game of Smash and Recovery.” And in “Skinder’s Veil,” a house-sitter is visited by figures out of storybooks. Link delivers the kind of off-the-cuff oddness her readers expect, and her reworkings take the clockwork of familiar stories and give them bloody, beating hearts. She makes great leaps in her prose, too, often framing her tales with time-hardened lines like “All of this happened a very long time ago,” before fashioning a startling new simile, as with the sensation of one character’s attention on others feeling like “sunlight coming through a magnifying glass.” This is enchanting. Agent: Renee Zuckerbrot, Renee Zuckerbrot Literary Agency. (Mar.)

How Not to Kill Yourself

Clancy Martin. Pantheon, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-593-31705-1
Philosopher and novelist Martin (How to Sell) delivers a disturbing and transfixing dissection of suicide and its circumstances. Toggling between the personal and the analytical, Martin presents a patient, chilling consideration of “what it’s like to want to kill yourself, sometimes on a daily basis, yet to go on living,” as well as his “own particular good reasons for doing so.” In three sections, Martin addresses societal conceptions of self-slaughter, his own struggles with alcohol and the times he hit rock bottom, and how to chart a path toward recovery. Along the way, he touches on famous suicides from Seneca to Anne Sexton, and historical and philosophical cases considering or even justifying the act, from philosophies as distinct as Bushido, pessimism, and stoicism. Funny but never flippant, Martin takes into account throughout the weight of his subject, even when describing his own grisly attempts, or those of his friends, without platitude or sentiment (“The last time I tried to kill myself,” the book begins, “was in my basement with a dog leash”). This provocative dive into a difficult subject shouldn’t be missed. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Mar.)