Log In

Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the Table-of-Contents Database.

Get a digital subscription to Publishers Weekly for only $19.95/month.

Your subscription gives you instant access exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time.

The Gates of Eden

Nadene LeCheminant. Cottage Street Books, $12.99 trade paper (318p) ISBN 978-0-9600215-0-5

LeCheminant’s intriguing debut follows converts to Mormonism trekking across the U.S. in the mid-1800s. In 1855, missionaries in England have gathered new “Saints” from the destitute of Liverpool. Sixteen-year-old Josephine Bell and her mother, Elizabeth, lost everything when Josephine’s father died in debt, and the two converts board a ship to America, survive typhus and dysentery on board, and land in New York. After a suffocating train ride to Iowa City, their next task is to travel 1,300 miles to Utah with nothing but a handcart meant to hold all of their worldly possessions—Josephine becomes known as a “handcart maiden”—but they find the promised land is not quite as promised: Josephine is forced to marry a man who already has one wife, and who’s “old ’nough to be [her] grandpa.” But Brigham Young and his apostles are determined that polygamy is sacred, and they’re willing to fight federal troops in order to protect the religion and its tenets. LeCheminant’s story is ambitious, though sometimes weighed down by a plodding pace. This often fascinating novel will be appreciated by historical fans, particularly those seeking a look into the early days of Mormonism. (Self-published.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Antidote for Everything

Kimmery Martin. Berkley, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-984802-83-5

Martin’s solid sophomore effort (following 2018’s Queen of Hearts) concerns Charleston urologist Georgia Brown, whose best friend and fellow doctor Jonah becomes the center of a controversy. Usually unlucky in love, Georgia has a meet-cute on an airplane when she saves Mark, a handsome businessman, from an excess of Benadryl and nausea patches. Mark and Georgia click immediately, though Georgia’s thoughts often turn to Jonah; his patients have been leaving the clinic and searching out care elsewhere, and though he’s an excellent doctor, the rumor mill claims that there have been issues with his care. Georgia and Jonah soon learn that the church-funded hospital has been pushing out trans and gay patients but spinning it to make it seem as if they’re leaving because Jonah is a bad doctor. Since Georgia has many of the same patients, she’s also a target of the framing and is kicked out of the hospital. The situation escalates as Jonah is fired and the story makes it into the press. Jonah, who’s prone to depression, overdoses on Tylenol, shutting down his organs and putting him in a coma. Mark is there for Georgia through it all, though he discovers something about her that endangers their relationship. The two plotlines—Georgia and Mark’s relationship, and Jonah’s possible transgressions—don’t fully gel into a cohesive whole, but Martin’s medical know-how (she’s an emergency medicine doctor) elevates the setting and provides authenticity. This will mostly appeal to readers who appreciate complex medical dramas. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Lakewood

Megan Giddings. Amistad, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-291319-7

In Giddings’s chilling debut, Lena Johnson takes a leave from college after her grandmother dies and must find a way to financially support herself and her mother, who suffers from a mysterious but debilitating illness. Serendipitously, she receives an invitation to apply to the Lakewood Project, a series of research studies about memory. If chosen, Lena will receive a hefty paycheck and, crucially, insurance that would cover all of her mother’s health-care costs. After an invasive screening process that includes uncomfortable questions about race and being injected with strange substances, Lena is invited to participate. This involves moving to Lakewood, a nearby town in Michigan, and leading a double life. After signing an NDA, she’s instructed to tell her family and friends, through monitored communication, that she works for a shipping company. In reality, she and the other participants—all of them black, Indian, or Latin—must undergo grueling evaluations and take part in experiments (such as eye drops that change eye color, and being put on a diet of cream pellets only) that can have fatal consequences, all under the watch of “observers,” all of whom are white. Though the book’s second half doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first, Giddings is a writer with a vivid imagination and a fresh eye for horror, both of the body and of society. This eerie debut provides a deep character study spiked with a dose of horror. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Serenade for Nadia

Zülfü Livaneli, trans. from the Turkish by Brendan Freely. Other, $17.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-63542-016-6

A 36-year-old divorcée working at Istanbul University draws inspiration from an 87-year-old visiting professor’s recollections of WWII in this affecting novel about love, loss, and personal identity from Livaneli (Bliss). When octogenarian Max Wagner returns to Istanbul after a 59-year absence to lecture at the university where he once taught, narrator Maya Duran has the job of escorting him around the city. Maya accompanies Max on an out-of-town expedition to a beach by the Black Sea, site of the 1942 sinking of the Struma, a ship filled with Jewish refugees, including Max’s wife, Nadia. There, Max plays his composition, “Serenade for Nadia,” on the violin. Back in Istanbul, despite Maya’s brother’s warnings against dredging up the past, Maya records Max’s account of emigrating from Germany to Turkey in 1939 along with his desperate attempts to arrange for Nadia to join him. Maya also learns how her grandmothers—one Armenian, one Crimean Turk—assumed false identities to survive acts of brutal repression. Their experiences and Nadia’s inspire Maya to find the courage to declare her independence, defy her brother, and tell the world Max’s story. Livaneli smoothly switches between 2001 and 1938–1942, offering insights into Turkey’s rich cultural, political, ethnic, and religious divides. Livaneli’s worthy portrait of a man coming to terms with his tragic past and a woman coming to terms with her Turkish heritage delivers a forceful plea for openness and tolerance. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Freedom Artist

Ben Okri. Akashic, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-61775-792-1

This haunting and inspiring novel from Booker winner Okri (The Famished Road) follows a man’s search for a woman who goes missing in a dystopian world. An oppressive and faceless “Hierarchy” dominates the world, in which people move through their days in a state of near-catatonia, sensing but helplessly fearing their subjugation. The citizens are largely numbed, but some, such as young woman Amalantis, dare to speak out. After Amalantis courageously asks, “Who is the prisoner?” she is abruptly arrested for posing a taboo, revolutionary question, and her lover, Karnak, embarks on a quest to find her. He roams the streets seeking answers from whoever dares to speak with him. Karnak watches the populace grow increasingly resistant to the Hierarchy’s oppression, first through ubiquitous screams in the night, and then through an epidemic of nervous breakdowns that occur randomly among the public, which can only be resolved by a transcendental awakening. Karnak’s search is juxtaposed against the spiritual trials of a man named Mirababa, who travels through mystical, otherworldly realms, where he meets beings who offer perplexing guidance on his quest to understand true freedom. In this story of political abuse and existential angst, Okri employs a powerful and rare style reminiscent of free verse and evoking a mythical timbre. This is a vibrantly immediate and penetrating novel of ideas. Agent: Georgina Capel, Georgina Capel Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Indelicacy

Amina Cain. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-14837-9

Cain (Creature) upends fairy tale endings in her stimulating story of insidious oppression. Vitória works as a cleaner at an art museum in an unnamed large, modern city, skips meals to afford simple splurges like a nice blouse, and yearns almost compulsively for the time and freedom to write about art. She commiserates with her lazy co-worker Antoinette, who longs for a husband. When Vitória marries a rich man, she glides into a life of ease only marred by quiet clashes with her cold housekeeper. Her husband does not understand the unfocused, self-reflective observations she finally has time to write, but pampers her with everything she wants. Vitória feels naggingly unsatisfied and starts ballet lessons, where she befriends the most promising student, Dana. Vitória’s sense of being stifled increases when she reconnects with Antoinette, now happily married to a poor man, and watches Dana move into professional dancing roles. She hatches a devious plot to achieve a different kind of freedom. Vitória’s deadpan voice and Cain’s finespun descriptions of quotidian disappointment energize this incisive tale. This novel disquiets with its potent, swift human dramas. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Gnome Stories

Ander Monson. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-64445-012-3

This offbeat collection from Monson (Letter to a Future Lover) touches on suburbs, relationships, and, yes, gnomes. The titular gnome first appears in “The Reassurances,” in which a man adopts a stretch of highway to propose to his girlfriend, Sharon, who turns him down right before she gets into a fatal car accident. The man remembers a story he heard from Sharon, in which a pair of campers on hallucinogens come across what they think is a live gnome in the woods and bring it back to their campsite; the next morning, they discover they’d actually found a human child. This kind of unexpected yet mundane horror is prevalent in all of Monson’s stories. The outward ordinariness of the characters always belies something deeper and darker, as in “Weep No More over This Event,” in which a man whose wife has recently left him gradually displays a penchant for violence that may have contributed to his wife’s decision. “Our Song” is about a man whose job it is to delve into and embody other people’s memories in order to help parse or preserve them; the narrator’s attempts to fix past wrongs ends in tragedy. Monson shines in his longer stories, where he’s able to work the magic of his sleight of hand—shorter, more experimental pieces like “In a Structure Simulating an Owl,” which finds inspiration in a patent application, are a little harder to land. Nevertheless, this is a strange, unnerving, and intelligent collection. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Illness Lesson

Claire Beams. Doubleday, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-54466-5

Beams’s daring debut novel (after the story collection We Show What We Have Learned) imagines a school for teenage girls in the mid-19th century Massachusetts countryside. Here, at a failed commune, sensitive Caroline lives with her idealistic, ambitious father, Samuel, and his admirer David, for whom 20-something Caroline harbors secret feelings. When Samuel starts a school dedicated to the intellectual awakening of its eight young women students, things quickly go astray. Following the lead of Eliza, the daughter of a rival of Samuel, the girls begin to exhibit a variety of physical ailments—headaches, skin irritations, and sleepwalking—as does, to her own horror, Caroline, a teacher at the school. When an unscrupulous doctor is brought in to test an experimental treatment on the girls, Caroline must decide whether to stay loyal to her father or question his authority. Though there is a fantastical thread about a flock of mysterious, aggressive, blood-red birds that doesn’t fit well with the otherwise plausible plot, Beams excels in her depiction of Caroline, an intriguingly complex character, and in her depiction of the school, which allows the reader a clear view of changing gender roles in the period, with parallels to today’s sexual abuse scandals. This powerful and resonant feminist story will move readers. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Kawai Strong Washburn. MCD, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-27208-1

Washburn’s standout debut provides a vivid portrait of Hawaiian identity, mythology, and diaspora. This family chronicle opens in 1995 Honok’a as the seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls from a ship, only to be rescued and returned to his parents by sharks. This seminal event in the lives of the Filipino-Hawaiian Flores family marks Nainoa for life as the “miracle boy,” even as his parents struggle to turn a profit on their sugarcane plantation. As things become more desperate, Nainoa and his violent older brother, Dean, and adventuresome younger sister, Kaui, leave the island to seek their fortunes on the mainland. Dean embarks on a promising career as a basketball player in Spokane only to wind up in trouble with the law, while Kaui discovers her sexuality in San Diego, and Nainoa becomes an EMT in Portland, Ore. Poised halfway between their cultural upbringing and hopes for the future, the family is riven by a horrific tragedy that will test them to the breaking point. Though perhaps overlong, Washburn’s debut is a unique and spirited depiction of the 50th state and its children. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Fabulous

Lucy Hughes-Hallett. Harper, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-294009-4

The characters in the eight clever stories collected for this offbeat volume include estate agents, window washers, and pest controllers, all of whom have the souls of gods and legendary beings from myths and folktales. In “Orpheus,” a music hall singer named Oz is devastated to discover that his wife Eurydice’s essence has been trapped in the underworld, leaving her comatose body aboveground. The title character of “Piper” is a bus-driving exterminator who abducts a town’s children to become his traveling commune of performing “folkies” after the parents refuse to pay him for remedying their rat infestation. In “Pasiphae,” Minos is a refugee-exploiting business manager and his consort gives birth to a bull-like son spawned from her liaison with a short-order cook nicknamed Toro. “Joseph” and “Mary Magdalene” both present characters from the Bible in inventive modern scenarios. Hallett (Peculiar Ground) forges novel situations for her quirky characters, and each retelling works well as a modern story in its own right. This collection shows how classic themes continue to inform the fiction of today. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time for assistance.

Not Registered? Click here.