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.

Valentine

Elizabeth Wetmore. Harper, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-291326-5

Wetmore’s stirring debut follows a group of women as they find the strength to survive a series of hardships in 1970s Odessa, Tex. After oil rigger Dale Strickland is charged with the rape of 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez, the town is split between those who believe he is guilty and those who believe she brought it on herself and who cast bigoted aspersions about Gloria and her family. Mary Rose Whitehead, pregnant with her second child and feeling alienated from her rancher husband, envisions a brutal comeuppance for Strickland and bonds unexpectedly with the reclusive Corrine Shepard, a recent widow who shares in her outrage (“as if there might have been some moral ambiguity, Corrine thinks bitterly, if Gloria Ramírez had been sixteen, or white”). Ten-year-old Debra Ann, whose mother abandoned her and whose father lets her wander freely, leaves behind imaginary friendships to help Jesse Belden, a luckless Vietnam vet. With Mary Rose as a major witness for the prosecution, Gloria eventually gets her day in court, though the outcome doesn’t please anyone. As a storm threatens Odessa, Debra Anne watches a “thousand-foot cloud rise up from the earth,” setting the stage for a series of potential tragedies, culminating with Mary Rose’s ire stoked by the sight of her neighbor Debra Ann walking with Jesse, a stranger to her. Wetmore poetically weaves the landscape of Odessa and the internal lives of her characters, whose presence remains vivid after the last page is turned. This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Invisible as Air

Zoe Fishman. Morrow, $15.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-283823-0

Fishman’s affecting latest (after Inheriting Edith) tracks the impact of opioid addiction on a grieving family in an Atlanta suburb. Sylvie Snow, 46; her triathlete husband, Paul; and 12-year-old-son, Teddy, mourn stillborn Delilah. On the third anniversary of Delilah’s death, Sylvie tries one of Paul’s Oxycodone pills, which a doctor prescribed for his broken ankle, but he never took. Sylvie discovers a more confident, seemingly capable version of herself, and finally commemorates Delilah’s death by lighting a yahrzeit candle. Noticing the change in Sylvie, Paul regrets the glut of workout gear bought to fill the void he felt from her distance and the loss of their daughter. Meanwhile, Teddy overcomes his escapist habit of watching movies alone after his girlfriend encourages him to host a movie night at a retirement home for his bar mitzvah project. After Sylvie speeds through Paul’s prescription and a refill, she resorts to drastic measures to acquire more pills, stealing them from a co-worker and sleeping with Paul’s best friend, and the family’s burst of renewal dims. Fishman’s lively prose, punctuated with volleys of incisive wit and mouthy irreverence, propels the gloomy story. This convincing portrayal of a struggling family will captivate readers. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Universal Love

Alexander Weinstein. Holt, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-14435-5

Set in the near future, Weinstein’s troubling and compassionate collection (after Children of the New World) imagines some dire ramifications of social media and robotics. In the sweetly comic “The Year of Nostalgia,” a dead woman returns in the form of a hologram, complete with memories and personality traits assembled from her social media accounts and diaries. Leah, the reanimated woman’s daughter, discovers a more adventurous, free-spirited version of her mother than the Midwestern housewife she remembered, since the hologram has been programmed to act on her desires for travel and romance. The portentous “Beijing,” set in a future version of the city so polluted that it’s only possible to navigate by stopping at stations that dispense breathable air, follows a gay American expatriate whose lover has become addicted to having his memories removed through microsurgeries, leaving the men’s relationship suspended in the present. In the chilling “Childhood,” the robot “son” of a suburban couple observes his older robot sister becoming addicted to illicitly smoking her “emotion card” through a glass pipe. Though some of the stories lean on intriguing concepts without developing complete narratives, the collection convincingly explores many potential effects of social engineering. Channeling Ray Bradbury with contemporary allegories, Weinstein will make readers think twice about their relationship to technology. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Stateway’s Garden

Jasmon Drain. Random House, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984-81816-4

Drain’s resonant debut tracks a community’s hardscrabble struggle in the Stateway Gardens housing project on Chicago’s South Side from the 1980s through the project’s closure in the early 2000s. Loosely connected stories revolve around Tracy—dubbed “the smart child” by his mother—and his older half-brother, Jacob (“the handsome one”), an eventual high school dropout who Tracy looks up to before choosing his own path and joining the Marines. “B.B. Sauce” introduces Tracy and Jacob and their working mom (“Nothing was more important than the way she looked. That was her moneymaker”), who strives to make ends meet. In “Solane,” a single mother of two other boys hopes for a better life for her younger sister, Stephanie, whom she lives with, while Jacob is humbled by a pregnancy scare in “Shifts,” and Tracy has a tender coming-of-age moment in “The Tornado Moat.” In “Love-able Lip Gloss,” Jacob, now a young adult, cheats on his wife with Stephanie, his first love from childhood and now a cocaine addict. An epilogue describes the actual project’s development and eventual demolition while commenting on the legacy of segregation and the area’s present-day gentrification. This bold outing vividly encapsulates a chapter of Chicago’s complex history. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Snow Collectors

Tina May Hall. Dzanc, $16.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-950539-04-8

Hall sets a contemporary murder mystery in a snow-laden Northeastern town in her eerie debut novel (after The Physics of Imaginary Objects collection). Henna, an encyclopedia writer specializing in hydrology and Arctic expeditions, retreats to the frozen reaches of New England after the deaths of her twin sister and parents. Stumbling upon the body of a dead girl in the woods, Henna finds a fragment of a letter clutched in the girl’s hand; it was written by Lady Jane, wife of Capt. John Franklin, an Arctic explorer who was lost at sea in 1845. Henna’s interest is piqued, and she researches Jane at a local library before reporting the discovery to the police. As Henna pieces together a harrowing story of cannibalism on an Arctic expedition, rendered by Hall with short chapters evoking the voices of Jane and Capt. Franklin, Henna feels she’s being watched. Fletcher, the local police chief, takes a keen interest in the case, and in Henna, and their desire for one another flares. Fletcher, meanwhile, knows far more about the connection between the murder and the Arctic history than he lets on. Hall seamlessly weaves dreamlike imagery with descriptions of police procedure and scientific inquiry as Henna works to confirm her intuition that the murder’s connection to the past is real and not imagined. This elegant account of a woman’s confrontation with a cover-up delivers historical intrigue and emotional depth. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Town

Shaun Prescott. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-27852-6

Prescott debuts with a promising allegory of an Australia in cultural and economic flux. An unnamed narrator moves to the Central West of New South Wales, planning to work on a book about rural towns in the region that have “simply disappeared” from the landscape along with the people who lived in them. After renting a room and getting a job in a grocery store, where he plays back dictations of his work in progress, vaguely planned as a hybrid of journalism and horror, the narrator befriends his roommate Rob’s girlfriend, Ciara, a DJ with a late-night slot at a community radio station. Her feedback on the narrator’s book (“she couldn’t tell whether the book was fiction or fact”) echoes questions that are sure to emerge from the reader. As bottomless holes start appearing throughout the town, people and buildings begin to vanish, the cost of goods increases, and civic order unravels. Ciara, who’s broken up with Rob, plans an escape with the narrator. While the ephemeral details wear thin (“As the town disappeared, so did my grip on any particular town truth”), Prescott brilliantly captures the disconcerting effect of a town’s changing storefronts, people, and customs on the newcomer and Ciara, offering stark reflections on the young characters’ search for a sense of definition and permanence. Prescott is off to a strong start. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Schrödinger’s Dog

Martin Dumont, trans. from the French by John Cullen. Other, $14.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-63542-998-5

Dumont’s rich, somber debut plumbs a father-son relationship to meditate on the fictions people create to endure loss. Widowed French cabbie Yanis Marès, long haunted by the possibility that his wife Lucille’s death was a suicide, lives for his college-aged son Pierre, calling him “my greatest accomplishment.” Pierre, a biology student and hopeful novelist, is equally devoted to Yanis, and they share a passion for deep-sea diving. After the sudden decline of Pierre’s health from pancreatic cancer, Yanis tries to get Pierre’s novel published. As Yanis and his son grapple with Pierre’s terminal prognosis, Yanis considers telling him his book was accepted, and, during a visit with Yanis’s prickly in-laws, Yanis vacillates between an idealized story about their grandson’s literary success and pressing for the truth about his wife’s death. Dumont, also a naval architect, credibly describes the characters’ love for the depths of the sea, which they appreciate for its darkness and quiet desolation. While the compressed narrative jumps abruptly between major plot developments, Dumont effectively explores the forces that draw Yanis and Pierre to solitude. As Pierre fades, Dumont offers powerful philosophical insight into questions of what people owe one another and the value of subjective belief. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
In Five Years

Rebecca Serle. Atria, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-982137-44-1

Serle’s bewitching story of love and friendship (after The Dinner List) centers on a young woman who plans her life down to the minute until fate gets in the way. At 28, Dannie Kohan lives happily with her boyfriend, David, in a Manhattan apartment and is poised to land her dream job as a lawyer at a top firm. Dannie expects to get married by the time she’s 30; right on track, David proposes, giving Dannie a ring picked out by her best friend Bella. After accepting the proposal, Dannie slips into a deep sleep and dreams of an alternate future, where everything is off-kilter. In her dream, it’s the year 2025 and she lives with a man named Aaron Gregory. Upon waking, Dannie begins to second-guess her regimented course, and as the years pass, she puts off the marriage. On a rainy day in June 2025, she meets up with Bella, now a successful art dealer, and is stunned to find her accompanied by Aaron, the man from her dream. She senses a mutual recognition, and, after Bella receives a devastating cancer diagnosis, Dannie and Aaron grow closer. While the plot hinges on well-worn tropes, the deadpan prose highlights the author’s keen sense of irony. Serle’s whimsical tale is book club catnip. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Last Summer of Ada Bloom

Martine Murray. Tin House, $15.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-947793-61-3

Murray’s masterful adult debut (after the Cedar B. Hartley and Henrietta children’s series) explores a family’s fraught relationships in a small Australian town in the early 1980s. Awakened during a sweltering, mosquito-plagued night, nine-year-old Ada sees her father, Mike, having sex with a family friend. In the morning, Ada tells her older sister, Tilly, that she saw their father doing “something bad.” Tilly confronts Mike to no avail, which drives a wedge between him and his daughters. The girls also struggle with their mother, Martha, who treats 17-year-old Tilly especially coldly, leading Ben, the 15-year-old favorite middle child, to conclude that Martha must be jealous of Tilly’s talent on the piano. Murray nimbly illustrates the tensions running through the family using various points of view, describing emotions and events with fluid precision. A glimpse of Tilly “like a just-opened flower” sends Martha into a “sudden tumult of yearning for her own youth and the familiar tang of regret that she had lost it.” As the second act unfolds, the married couple’s entwined relationship with Mike’s college friend Arnold emerges through a series of eerie scenes that illuminate the roots of Martha’s bitterness, as well as Mike’s compulsion toward infidelity. Murray’s unflinching, intuitive tale will satisfy readers who like their family dramas with a strong dose of darkness. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Eden Mine

S. M. Hulse. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-14647-4

Hulse (Black River) revisits the American West with a taut, poignant tale of a personal vendetta turned act of domestic terror. Lone wolf bomber Samuel Faber disappears after blowing up a courthouse in Elk Fork, Mont., and unintentionally injuring a dozen people in a church across the street. His sister, Jo, a paraplegic artist, refuses to cooperate with the authorities, even after befriending a pastor named Asa Truth, whose daughter was gravely injured in the blast. The two bond in their mutual desire to retain some semblance of faith, Asa in God and Jo, less understandably, in Samuel. Hulse labors to blur the lines between good and evil, drawing out Jo and Samuel’s backstory—their father’s death in a mine collapse, their mother’s violent murder, the state government’s imminent seizure of the property—to highlight the past’s indelible marks on the present. As the sheriff leads a manhunt for Samuel, Hulse shares the fugitive bomber’s point of view, adding to a chorus of voices grappling with questions of loyalty, faith, injustice, and redemption. Despite stock characterizations and plotting, the dramatic conclusion kicks like a mule, a testament to Hulse’s storytelling acumen. This country noir has its moments. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | 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.