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.

A Thousand Ships

Natalie Haynes. Harper, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-306539-0

The women of the Trojan War take center stage in this excellent take on the Greek classics from Haynes (The Ancient Guide to Modern Life). Hopping through nearly a dozen perspectives, Haynes provides an enthralling reimagining of the lives of women from both Troy and Greek culture. There is Calliope, the muse who resents the poets demanding she supply them with inspiration; Andromache, who goes from princess to spoil of war when her husband, Hector, is killed by Achilles; and Penelope, who writes biting letters to Odysseus, asking him why it is that he doesn’t feel any urge to come home to her and their son. There are also the royal heroines, such as Clytemnestra, who seeks revenge against Agamemnon for sacrificing their daughter; and Helen, who is weary of being constantly blamed for her role in beginning the war and for plots and prophecies she has no power to stop. Cassandra, cursed with prophesies no one will ever believe, struggles to function when she knows exactly what will become of her and her family after the war. Haynes shines by twisting common perceptions of the Trojan War and its aftermath in order to capture the women’s experiences. Readers who enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Circe will want to take a look. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Cherie Jones. Little, Brown, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-53698-1

Jones’s intense debut explores the poverty and crime in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, amid an explosive collision between tourists and locals. The place, called Paradise here by foreigners and residents alike, turns out to be a living hell for two women whose lives are changed by one horrific incident. Lala, a local hair braider, is stuck in a turbulent marriage to Adan, a burglar. Mira Whalen, a former local who now lives in London, is vacationing with her English husband, Peter, at their beachfront villa. One night, Lala is on the beach, in labor and about to give birth. Adan, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. Lala stumbles upon the Whalens’ mansion and presses the buzzer for help. She hears a gunshot and Adan rushes out, an ear-piercing shriek following on his heels. A parallel narrative follows Mira dealing with the aftermath of Peter’s murder by Adan, while a detective works the case, and more violence ensues as Lala and Mira’s lives eventually collide. Rich characters and pulsing backstories add a great deal of flavor to the drama. Jones is off to a strong start. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Slaughterman’s Daughter

Yaniv Iczkovits, trans. from the Hebrew by Orr Scharf. Schocken, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4365-9

In Israeli philosopher and novelist Iczkovits’s delightfully expansive tale (after Adam and Sophie), a Jewish woman goes to great lengths to help her older sister in 1894 Russia. Mende and her children have been abandoned by her husband, Zvi-Meir, in the town of Motal. Mende’s younger sister, Fanny, also a wife and mother, travels to Minsk, where Zvi-Meir has gone, to convince him to sign a writ of divorce so Mende can move on with her life. Fanny’s traveling companion is taciturn boatman Zizek Breshov. Their travels take a turn when a family of bandits tries to rob them. Fanny, trained in animal butchery by her slaughterman father, expertly wields the knife she keeps strapped to her leg, and they leave the family dead on the road. Investigating the murder, imperial secret police colonel Piotr Novak disguises himself as a Jew to find out more about his suspects, Fanny and Zizek. Iczkovits elevates this cat-and-mouse story into a sweeping narrative with trips down side roads that reveal the riveting backstories of major and minor characters. His observations about human nature, family dynamics, and the interplay between religion and politics come across as wise but never didactic. Ever entertaining, Iczkovits’s lively, transportive picaresque takes readers on a memorable ride. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Come On Up

Jordi Nopca, trans. from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem. Bellevue, $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-942658-80-1

Citizens on the fringe of Catalan society are the stars in Spanish journalist Nopca’s witty collection, his English-language debut. In “Don’t Leave,” an aspiring art historian deals with a clash between her boyfriend and a charming suitor. “Àngels Quintana and Fèlix Palme Have Problems” follows a waiter who loses his job after arguing with rude customers and inadvertently starts a movement by sticking bananas into the exhaust pipes of motorcycles owned by Barcelona’s cultural elite. In the best story, “Candles and Robes,” a family’s neighbors perform rituals to return spirits to the world of the dead. Emotions are often distilled through an omniscient narrator’s wry asides. In “An Intersectional Conservationist at Heart,” in which an arrogant professor dies after getting a young journalist and her boyfriend fired, the couple sees a Tarantino film, “another one of his stories of vengeance and payback.” While Nopca relies a bit too heavily on describing dreams to reveal characters, he succeeds at tying the stories to Barcelona’s fraught place in the Catalan secession movement. All of the stories make noise, and some of them really take off. Agent: Sandra Pareja, Casanovas & Lynch Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Rabbit Island

Elvira Navarro, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Two Lines, $19.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-949641-09-7

The stories in Spanish writer Navarro’s arresting collection (after A Working Woman) are set in and around present-day Madrid, but the characters often find themselves in a more surreal terrain. In the title story, a man releases 20 rabbits on an uninhabited island in hopes they will eat the eggs of the birds whose excrement, noise, and dirty feathers are preventing him from enjoying the few nights a week he camps there, a plan which devolves into a grotesque, cannibalistic situation. In “Strychnine,” a paw grows in the young protagonist’s ear. It starts out as a red swelling, but by the next day the appendage hangs “below her breast” and has “sprouted toes with small mouths.” In “Myotragus,” Navarro imagines an encounter between a predatory nobleman and a cold-blooded (now extinct) goat that lived on the island of Majorca. While some stories feel overly impressionistic, with too little plot, the most daring in the collection are unsettling and memorable. Navarro showcases her ability to lead her characters from relative normalcy into nightmare terrain in starkly elegant prose and with a winking sense of humor. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Picnic in the Ruins

Todd Robert Petersen. Counterpoint, $16.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-64009-322-5

Petersen (It Needs to Look Like We Tried) serves up a rollicking mystery full of heroes, mystics, petty criminals, and evil capitalists on the border of Utah and Arizona. After the shadowy Kristine Frangos hires the local Ashdown brothers to steal some maps of ancient sites from amateur collector Bruce Cluff, Bruce and one of the maps go missing. Meanwhile, anthropologist Sophia Shepard and park ranger Paul Thrift are exploring ancient Pauite sites—Sophia for research, Paul for an ulterior motive involving a pilfered artifact. Thrown together with a German tourist on a mystical hero’s quest, and helped by a reclusive savant called Dreamweaver, Sophia and Paul must outsmart an assassin hired by Frangos—who wants to pillage the sacred desert for minerals and more—to clean up the mess made by the Ashdowns. While a few too many coincidences pile on in the last pages, Peterson keeps up plenty of action and suspense while also offering philosophical insights on who owns the land. Petersen’s offbeat adventure keeps the reader turning the pages. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Hades, Argentina

Daniel Loedel. Riverhead, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-18864-4

An Argentinian American unspools his dark memories of the Dirty War in Loedel’s mesmerizing debut. Tomás Orilla, a naive medical student, was drawn into Argentina’s dangerous political miasma in 1976 to impress his first love, the left-wing activist Isabel. The reader first meets Tomás in 1986 in New York City, where Tomás had fled 10 years earlier with a forged passport. Now married to an American woman, he shares with her a conveniently selective version of his story (“the full, fleshed-out story still wasn’t one I was eager to examine, much less hand over”). Tomás returns to Buenos Aires after receiving a call from Isabel’s mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. There, he encounters what appears to be the ghost of a former mentor who takes him to a crypt underneath an old detention center, where he relives a series of horrifying events, some of which he was party to in the lead-up to a difficult choice he made for his own survival. The theme of ghosts is bent a few ways—ghosts appear in memories, the crypt, and on the street—and it becomes an apt, poignant descriptor for the people who were disappeared and the agony of their loved ones who had to carry on without knowing what happened to them. Loedel’s unflinching look at human frailty adds a revelatory new chapter to South American Cold War literature. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
Hadley and Grace

Suzanne Redfearn. Lake Union, $14.95 trade paper (348p) ISBN 978-1-5420-1438-0

Redfearn (In an Instant) tips a hat to Thelma & Louise in this entertaining, fast-paced romp about an unlikely friendship formed during a heist. Hadley Torelli’s husband, Frank, has been running a gambling and drug-dealing operation out of his Orange County, Calif., parking business. As Hadley plots to leave Frank, a parallel narrative emerges with one of his employees, Grace, who’s seeking a solution for her husband’s gambling debts and a better life for her infant son. Both women end up in Frank’s office on the same night, looking to steal Frank’s $1.9 million stash. The women get off on the wrong foot—literally, as, engaged in a scuffle over who will take the money, Hadley ends up with a twisted ankle, which serves as a plot device to keep the women together, and to launch the plot in its buddy-comedy direction as they go on the lam. An FBI agent—on their trail after the heist compromises a sting operation—and a surprising love story throw the women’s plans for a getaway into increasing chaos as the novel barrels toward a surprising conclusion. Despite some familiar tropes, Redfearn keeps the reader rooting for her engaging heroines. This rollicking tale of crime, friendship, and love delivers the goods. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
When the Apricots Bloom

Gina Wilkinson. Kensington, $16.99 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-4967-2935-4

In Wilkinson’s vivid debut, set in early 2000s Baghdad, secrets and lies mingle as easily as the scent of apricot blossoms and nargilah smoke. Huda, a secretary to the Australian deputy ambassador to Iraq, is forced by the secret police to become an informant on Ally Wilson, the ambassador’s wife, or risk her son’s forced recruitment into the deadly fedayeen, the militia led by Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday. Meanwhile, Ally, whose presence in Iraq is motivated by a search for answers about her long-dead American mother, strikes up an acquaintance with Rania, Huda’s estranged childhood friend. When Rania’s daughter draws the attention of Uday’s cronies, Rania and Huda form a reluctant alliance and later rope in Ally, whose own safety is imperiled due to her being part American, to help protect their families. While the denouement is somewhat abrupt, Wilkinson weaves in the miasma of fear and distrust that characterized Hussein’s regime with convincing detail (“Two can keep a secret only when one of them is dead,” a character remarks sardonically). Scenes from Iraqi life—paying for work with food items, or snacking on “counterfeit ‘Keet Katts’ ”—offer a glimpse into a country crippled by economic sanctions. The richly drawn characters and high-stakes plot are enough to compensate for the minor shortcomings. Agent: Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

show more
City of a Thousand Gates

Rebecca Sacks. Harper, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-301147-2

Sacks’s ambitious and panoramic debut gives a glimpse into the everyday experiences of 28 residents of the West Bank whose extraordinary, tension-filled lives embody the region’s challenges and contradictions. The characters (don’t worry, there’s an index) include a professor at Bethlehem University who idly dreams of escaping to America, an American expat and new mother having doubts about her young family, a German reporter eager to make a name for herself, and a Jewish American teenager about to get married. Their individual crises intersect in various ways—generally involving the university, the military, and the ubiquitous checkpoints—and play out against the backdrop of ongoing sectarian drama. After a 14-year-old Israeli girl is stabbed to death in her West Bank settlement home, a mob of young Israeli men retaliate by beating a Palestinian teenager (with no connection to the stabbing) nearly to death. Sacks demonstrates a deep knowledge of the place and its people, and does an excellent job of inhabiting the many points of view through strong voices and rich emotion, making palpable the hate and love at odds not only across cultures but within individual hearts. Fans of Nathan Englander will find much to love. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | 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.