New fiction at the Libraries, Nov 11

November 11, 2010 – 12:47 PM

Ape House: A novel by Sara Gruen
PS3607.R696 A86 2010

Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language. Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside. When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda. Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.

Dress Rehearsal: A story in four acts and five chapters by Alexander Galich
PG3476.G34 G413 2008

Alexander Galich, born Alexander Arkadievich Ginzburg in 1918 (“Galich” is a literary pseudonym he assumed in 1947), is best known as the cult author of poem-songs surreptitiously disseminated throughout the Soviet Union in the millions as part of the magnitizdat phenomenon. Dress Rehearsal was written by Galich in 1973, only a year before his forced emigration from the Soviet Union and four years before his tragic death. Galich wrote Dress Rehearsal to reflect not only on his own life but on the psyche of his Soviet contemporaries. A major theme of Dress Rehearsal is the dilemma of Russian-Jewish identity in Soviet times, written from the perspective of an eyewitness to and victim of the various anti-Jewish campaigns throughout the Soviet period. Although the Soviet Union has since collapsed, and its society has been almost totally transformed by the radical changes that followed, “Dress Rehearsal” remains more relevant than ever for anyone who wants to acquire an insight into the post-Soviet mentality and into the acute identity crisis facing post-Soviet society today.

Father of the Rain by Lily King
PS3561.I4814 F38 2010

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2010: There’s an emotional heft to Father of the Rain that comes not in the form of high drama, but in the feel of its characters. Daley Amory is an acute and attentive witness to her parents’ divorce, which coincides with the larger dissolution of Nixon’s presidency–itself a particularly appropriate historical counterpoint for a novel that explores how fiercely parents and children can polarize. Daley’s father, Gardiner, is a jovial but capricious blue-blood New Englander, an alcoholic whose behavior is increasingly erratic and punishing to the point that Daley finally breaks away–in spite of how much she loves him–for much of her adult life. She is resilient, a woman you can respect but also challenge, and her love is (ultimately, amazingly) uncomplicated and true. The award-winning author of two previous novels, Lily King has long been admired for her deft, graceful characterization, and in no novel is this more evident than Father of the Rain. She takes on difficult characters but never vilifies them, choosing instead to seek out the feelings they shield, raise them up, and set them free. –Anne Bartholomew

The Typist by Michael Knight
PS3561.N486 T97 2010

Rife with the crisp dialogue, complex characters, and economy of language for which Knight’s previous work has been praised, The Typist chronicles the early rehabilitation of the Pacific theater of the Second World War—specifically occupied Japan, where Western bureaucrats flooded into Tokyo, taking charge of their former enemies.

When Van joins the army in 1944, he expects his term of service to pass uneventfully. After all, the war is winding down and Van’s singular talent—typing ninety-five words a minute—keeps him off the battlefield and in General MacArthur’s busy Tokyo headquarters, where his days are filled with paperwork and letters of dictation.

Little does Van know that the first year of the occupation will prove far more volatile for him than for the Army. Bunked with a troubled combat veteran cum-black marketer and recruited to babysit MacArthur’s son, Van is suddenly tangled in the complex personal lives of his compatriots. As he brushes shoulders with panpan girls and Communists on the streets of Tokyo, Van struggles to uphold his convictions in the face of unexpected conflict—especially the startling news that reaches his barracks from his young war bride, a revelation that threatens Van with a kind of war wound he could never have anticipated.

The Debba: A novel by Avner Mandelman
PR9199.3.M34814 D33 2010

In Middle East lore the Debba is a mythical Arab hyena that can turn into a man who lures Jewish children away from their families to teach them the language of the beasts. To the Arabs he is a heroic national symbol; to the Jews he is a terrorist. To David Starkman, “The Debba” is a controversial play, written by his father the war hero, and performed only once, in Haifa in 1946, causing a massive riot. By 1977, David is living in Canada, having renounced his Israeli citizenship and withdrawn from his family, haunted by persistent nightmares about his catastrophic turn as a military assassin for Israel. Upon learning of his father’s gruesome murder, he returns to his homeland for what he hopes will be the final time. Back in Israel, David discovers that his father’s will demands he stage the play within forty-five days of his death, and though he is reluctant to comply, the authorities’ evident relief at his refusal convinces him he must persevere. With his father’s legacy on the line, David is forced to reimmerse himself in a life he thought he’d escaped for good.The heart-stopping climax shows that nothing in Israel is as it appears, and not only are the sins of the fathers revisited upon the sons, but so are their virtues—and the latter are more terrible still.  Disguised as a breathtaking thriller, Avner Mandelman’s novel reveals Israel’s double soul, its inherent paradoxes, and its taste for both art and violence. The riddle of the Debba—the myth, the play, and the novel— is nothing less than the tangled riddle of Israel itself.

C by Tom McCarthy
PR6113.C369 C3 2010

C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who – as his name suggests – surges into the electric modernity of the early twentieth century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him.

Born to the sound of one of the very earliest experimental wireless stations, Serge finds himself steeped in a weird world of transmissions, whose very air seems filled with cryptic and poetic signals of all kinds. When personal loss strikes him in his adolescence, this world takes on a darker and more morbid aspect. What follows is a stunning tour de force in which the eerily idyllic settings of pre-war Europe give way to the exhilarating flightpaths of the frontline aeroplane radio operator, then the prison camps of Germany, the drug-fuelled London of the roaring twenties and, finally, the ancient tombs of Egypt.

Reminiscent of Bolaño, Beckett and Pynchon, this is a remarkable novel – a compelling, sophisticated and sublimely imaginative book uncovering the hidden codes and dark rhythms that sustain life.

The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass
PS3607.L37 W56 2010

In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.

One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches—and begins to practice—an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston’s most affluent suburbs.

Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy’s neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one lovely spring evening, upending everyone’s lives, but none more radically than Percy’s. With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family. Yet again, she plumbs the human heart brilliantly, dramatically, and movingly.

Bitter in the Mouth: A novel by Monique Truong
PS3620.R86 B57 2010

From Monique Truong, the bestselling and award-winning author of The Book of Salt, comes a brilliant, mesmerizing, beautifully written novel about a young woman’s search for identity and family, as she uncovers the secrets of her past and of history.

Growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in the 70’s and 80’s, Linda believes that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. “What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two” are the cruel, mysterious last words that Linda’s grandmother ever says to her.

Now in her thirties, Linda looks back at her past when she navigated her way through life with the help of her great-uncle Harper, who loves her and loves to dance, and her best friend Kelly, with whom Linda exchanges almost daily letters. The truth about my family was that we disappointed one another. When I heard the word “disappoint,” I tasted toast, slightly burnt.

For as long as she can remember, Linda has experienced a secret sense—she can “taste” words, which have the power to disrupt, dismay, or delight. She falls for names and what they evoke: Canned peaches. Dill. Orange sherbet. Parsnip (to her great regret). But with crushes comes awareness. As with all bodies, Linda’s is a mystery to her, in this and in other ways. Even as Linda makes her way north to Yale and New York City, she still does not know the truth about her past.

Then, when a personal tragedy compels Linda to return to Boiling Springs, she gets to know a mother she never knew and uncovers a startling story of a life, a family. Revelation is when God tells us the truth. Confession is when we tell it to him.

This astonishing novel questions many assumptions—about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected and to be disconnected—from others and from the past, our bodies, our histories, and ourselves.

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
PR9369.3.G28 I5 2010

A young man takes three journeys, through Greece, India and Africa. He travels lightly, simply. To those who travel with him and those whom he meets on the way – including a handsome, enigmatic stranger, a group of careless backpackers and a woman on the edge – he is the Follower, the Lover and the Guardian. Yet, despite the man’s best intentions, each journey ends in disaster. Together, these three journeys will change his whole life. A novel of longing and thwarted desire, rage and compassion, In a Strange Room is the hauntingly beautiful evocation of one man’s search for love, and a place to call home.

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