New fiction at the Libraries, Aug 26

August 26, 2011 – 8:50 AM

Please Look After Mom: A novel by Kyung-sook Shin
translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim
PL992.73.K94 O4613 2011

A million-plus-copy best seller in South Korea and poised to become an international sensation—Please Look After Mom is the stunning, deeply moving story of a family’s search for their mother, and of the desires, heartaches, and secrets they discover she harbored within.

On a family visit to the city, Mom is right behind her husband when the train pulls out of Seoul Station without her, and she is lost, possibly forever. As her children argue over how to find her and her husband returns to their countryside home to wait for her, they each recall their lives with her, their memories often more surprising than comforting. Have they lived up to her expectations? Was she happy? Through the piercing voices of daughter, son, and husband, and through Mom’s own words in the novel’s shattering conclusion, we learn what happened that day, and explore an even deeper mystery—of motherhood itself.

At once steeped in the beauty and complexities of the East and rich with a universal tenderness, Please Look After Mom has a revelatory emotional power. You will never think of your mother the same way again after you’ve read this book.

Swim Back to Me by Ann Packer
PS3616.A33 S95 2011

From the best-selling author of Songs Without Words and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, her strongest work yet—a collection of burnished, impossible-to-put down narratives framed by two stunning, linked novellas.

A wife struggles to make sense of her husband’s sudden disappearance. A mother mourns her teenage son through the music collection he left behind. A woman shepherds her estranged parents through her brother’s wedding and reflects on the year her family collapsed. A young man comes to grips with the joy—and vulnerability—of impending fatherhood. And, in the masterly opening novella, two teenagers from very different families—one a tightly knit foursome, the other a father and son who share little more than having been abandoned by the same woman—forge a sustaining friendship, only to discover the disruptive and unsettling power of sex.

Swim Back to Me
showcases one of our most vibrant talents at the height of her powers—a book that belongs beside Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Amy Bloom’s Where the God of Love Hangs Out.

Pulse by Julian Barnes
PR6052.A6657 P85 2011

The stories in Julian Barnes’ long-awaited third collection are attuned to rhythms and currents: of the body, of love and sex, illness and death, connections and conversations. Each character is bent to a pulse, propelled on by success and loss, by new beginnings and endings. In “East Wind” a divorced estate agent falls in love with a European waitress, but is tempted, despite his happiness, to investigate her past; in “The Limner” a deaf painter discovers his patron’s likeness after spending time among his staff. Anchored off the coast of Brazil, Garibaldi spies his future wife through a telescope, and in “Marriage Lines”, a widower returns to a remote Scottish Island to relive a favorite holiday. These are also lives in flux – in the ‘stages, transitions, arguments; incompatibilities which grow’ – as in the title story, where a man reflects on the break-up of his marriage, brought into new perspective by the actions of his parents; two writers, a ‘good team’, return from an event rehearsing familiar arguments; in “Gardener’s World”, a couple bond, fall out and bond again over flowers and vegetable patches. Positioned in between are a series of evenings at “Phil & Joanna’s”, where among the topics of conversation – the environment, politics, the Britishness of marmalade, toilet graffiti and the perils of smoking – we witness the guests’ lives shift in sections over the course of a year. Ranging from the domestic to the extraordinary, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in winter, the stories in Pulse resonate and spark, each imbued with the humor, poignancy and perception that marks all Julian Barnes’ work. This is an imaginative and expertly-constructed new collection from a master of the form.

Bright’s Passage: A novel by Josh Ritter
PS3618.I785 B75 2011

Josh Ritter’s first novel is a wondrous, suspenseful, and uniquely affecting story of the journey taken by a father and his infant son.

Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Grief struck by the death of his young wife and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he’s ever known. His only hope for safety is the angel who has followed him to Appalachia from the trenches of France and who now promises to protect him and his son.

Together, Bright and his newborn, along with a cantankerous goat and the angel guiding them, make their way through a landscape ravaged by forest fire toward an uncertain salvation, haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war and shadowed by his dead wife’s father, the Colonel, and his two brutal sons.

At times harrowing, at times funny, and always possessed by the sheer gorgeousness and unique imagination that have made Josh Ritter’s songs beloved to so many, this is the debut of a virtuoso fiction writer.

The Tragedy of Arthur: A novel by Arthur Phillips
PS3616.H45 T73 2011

The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips.

Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare—a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.

Years later, Arthur’s father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father’s mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity. . . .

Unless it’s their father’s last great con.

By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel—which includes Shakespeare’s (?) lost King Arthur play in its five-act entirety—captures the very essence of romantic and familial love and betrayal. The Tragedy of Arthur explores the tension between storytelling and truth-telling, the thirst for originality in all our lives, and the act of literary mythmaking, both now and four centuries ago, as the two Arthurs—Arthur the novelist and Arthur the ancient king—play out their individual but strangely intertwined fates.

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
PS3570.H625 Y43 2011

In The Year We Left Home, Jean Thompson brings together all of her talents to deliver the career-defining novel her admirers have been waiting for: a sweeping and emotionally powerful story of a single American family during the tumultuous final decades of the twentieth century. It begins in 1973 when the Erickson family of Grenada, Iowa, gathers for the wedding of their eldest daughter, Anita. Even as they celebrate, the fault lines in the family emerge. The bride wants nothing more than to raise a family in her hometown, while her brother Ryan watches restlessly from the sidelines, planning his escape. He is joined by their cousin Chip, an unpredictable, war-damaged loner who will show Ryan both the appeal and the perils of freedom. Torrie, the Ericksons’ youngest daughter, is another rebel intent on escape, but the choices she makes will bring about a tragedy that leaves the entire family changed forever.

Stretching from the early 1970s in the Iowa farmlands to suburban Chicago to the coast of contemporary Italy—and moving through the Vietnam War’s aftermath, the farm crisis, the numerous economic boomsand busts—The Year We Left Home follows the Erickson siblings as they confront prosperity and heartbreak, setbacks and triumphs, and seek their place in a country whose only constant seems to be breathtaking change. Ambitious, richly told, and fiercely American, this is a vivid and moving meditation on our continual pursuit of happiness and an incisive exploration of the national character.

We Had It So Good: A novel by Linda Grant
PR6057.R316 W4 2011

A generational novel which opens memorably in a fur storage house in Los Angeles with its American protagonist as a boy trying on Marilyn Monroe’s coat. When he grows up, Stephen goes to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and stays on to avoid the draft and Vietnam.  He marries an Englishwoman, and they experience many of the things the baby boomer generation went through.  Later the torch is passed to their children.  In addition, Stephen’s father Si makes a dramatic reappearance after Stephen’s mother dies.  This is a big, capacious novel, bursting with wonderful characters and ideas.

The Great Night by Chris Adrian
PS3551.D75 G74 2011

Acclaimed as a “gifted, courageous writer” (The New York Times), Chris Adrian brings all his extraordinary talents to bear in The Great Night—a brilliant and mesmerizing retelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

On Midsummer Eve 2008, three people, each on the run from a failed relationship, become trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, the secret home of Titania, Oberon, and their court. On this night, something awful is happening in the faerie kingdom: in a fit of sadness over the end of her marriage, which broke up in the wake of the death of her adopted son, Titania has set loose an ancient menace, and the chaos that ensues will threaten the lives of immortals and mortals alike.

Selected by The New Yorker as one the best young writers in America, Adrian has created a singularly playful, heartbreaking, and humorous novel—a story that charts the borders between reality and dreams, love and magic, and mortality and immortality.

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano
PS3614.A66 G66 2011

Literary history and fiction gracefully intersect in Ann Napolitano’s second novel. (Her first was the well-received 2005 Within Arm’s Length.) A Good Hard Look pays tribute to author Flannery O’Connor in both its setting (her hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia) and its title (a sly remake of O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find). The legendary author also makes appearances in the novel itself, dropping down from history, as it were, to provide commentary on life’s stipulations and our choices. At the heart of the fiction is Cookie Himmel, an attractive, socially adept, engaged Southerner who seems the very opposite of the awkward, lupus-crippled author. What transpires from their chance connection is a fateful meditation on the people we become. Perfect for book clubs.

Long Drive Home: A novel by Will Allison
PS3601.L4484 L66 2011

A riveting second novel by Will Allison, author of the acclaimed What You Have Left. A happily married suburban father makes a mistake that results in a teenager’s death and sends his own life into a devastating tailspin. Written as a confessional letter, the book is a fascinating and moving cautionary tale that explores the moral ambiguities of personal responsibility as it chronicles a father’s desperate attempt to explain himself to his daughter—even though he knows that in doing so, he risks losing her forever.

Embassytown by China Miéville

PR6063.I265 E46 2011

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim by Jonathan Coe
PR6053.O26 T47 2011

Maxwell Sim seems to have hit rock bottom. Estranged from his father, newly divorced, unable to communicate with his only daughter, he realizes that while he may have seventy-four friends on Facebook, there is nobody in the world with whom he can actually share his problems. Then a business proposition comes his way – a strange exercise in corporate PR that will require him to spend a week driving from London to a remote retail outlet on the Shetland Isles. Setting out with an open mind, good intentions and a friendly voice on his SatNav for company, Maxwell finds that this journey soon takes a more serious turn, and carries him not only to the furthest point of the United Kingdom, but into some of the deepest and darkest corners of his own past. In his sparkling and hugely enjoyable new book, Jonathan Coe reinvents the picaresque novel for our time.

Untold Story: A novel by Monica Ali
PR6101.L45 U58 2011

When Princess Diana died in Paris’s Alma tunnel, she was thirty-seven years old. Had she lived, she would turn fifty on July 1, 2011. Who would the beloved icon be if she were alive today? What would she be doing? And where? One of the most versatile and bold writers of our time, Monica Ali has imagined a different fate for Diana in her spectacular new novel, Untold Story.

Diana’s life and marriage were both fairy tale and nightmare rolled into one. Adored by millions, she suffered rejection, heartbreak, and betrayal. Surrounded by glamour and glitz and the constant attention of the press, she fought to carve a meaningful role for herself in helping the needy and dispossessed. The contradictions and pressures of her situation fueled her increasingly reckless behavior, but her stature and her connection with her public never ceased to grow. If Diana had lived, would she ever have found peace and happiness, or would the curse of fame always have been too great?

Fast forward a decade after the (averted) Paris tragedy, and an Englishwoman named Lydia is living in a small, nondescript town somewhere in the American Midwest. She has a circle of friends: one owns a dress shop; one is a Realtor; another is a frenzied stay-at-home mom. Lydia volunteers at an animal shelter, and swims a lot. Her lover, who adores her, feels she won’t let him know her. Who is she?

Untold Story is about the cost of celebrity, the meaning of identity, and the possibility—or impossibility—of reinventing a life. Ali’s fictional princess is beautiful, intrepid, and resourceful and has established a fragile peace. And then the past threatens to destroy her new life. Ali has created a riveting novel inspired by the cultural icon she calls “a gorgeous bundle of trouble.”

A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete short stories by Margaret Drabble
PR6054.R25 D39 2011

Margaret Drabble’s novels have illuminated the past fifty years, especially the changing lives of women, like no others. Yet her short fiction has its own unique brilliance. Her penetrating evocations of character and place, her wide-ranging curiosity, her sense of irony—all are on display here, in stories that explore marriage, female friendships, the English tourist abroad, love affairs with houses, peace demonstrations, gin and tonics, cultural TV programs; in stories that are perceptive, sharp, and funny. An introduction by the Spanish academic José Fernández places the stories in the context of her life and her novels. This collection is a wonderful recapitulation of a masterly career.

Galore: A novel by Michael Crummey
PR9199.3.C717 G36 2010

Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book, Caribbean & Canada and the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award; Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Book Award, and the Winterset Award

When a whale beaches itself on the shore of the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, the last thing any of the townspeople expect to find inside it is a man, silent and reeking of fish, but remarkably alive. The discovery of this mysterious person, soon christened Judah, sets the town scrambling for answers as its most prominent citizens weigh in on whether he is man or beast, blessing or curse, miracle or demon. Though Judah is a shocking addition, the town of Paradise Deep is already full of unusual characters. King-me Sellers, self-appointed patriarch, has it in for an inscrutable woman known only as Devine’s Widow, with whom he has a decades-old feud. Her granddaughter, Mary Tryphena, is just a child when Judah washes ashore, but finds herself tied to him all her life in ways she never expects. Galore is the story of the saga that develops between these families, full of bitterness and love, spanning two centuries.
With Paradise Deep, award-winning novelist Michael Crummey imagines a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to discern. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us.

Tabloid City: A novel by Pete Hamill
PS3558.A423 T33 2011

If a budding Hollywood director were searching for the archetypal New York City journalist, he or she could find no better model than Pete Hamill. A veteran beat writer and columnist, a former editor-in-chief of both The New York Post and The New York Daily News, Hamill knows what it means to chase down a front-page story or to confront a stop-the-presses editorial decision. In the case of his new Tabloid City, the headline grabber is the murder of a socialite and her personal secretary at a stylish Manhattan town house. This ambitious ensemble novel takes us into late night city newsroom deadlines and the nest of a terrorist plotting destruction.

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