Ladies and Gentlemen by Adam Ross
PS3618.O84515 L33 2011
Following his celebrated debut novel, Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross presents a stunning collection of stories about brothers, loners, lovers, and young people navigating lives full of good intentions, misunderstandings, and obscured motives.
A hotshot young lawyer, burdened by years of guilt and resentment, comes to the aid of his irresponsible kid brother, only to realize he’s a pawn in a treacherous scheme. A lonely professor, frequently regaled with outrageous tales by the office handyman, suddenly fears he’s being asked to abet a murderous fugitive. A man down on his luck closes in on a mysterious job offer while doing a good turn for his fragile neighbor, but his efforts backfire in a terrifically surreal—and hilarious—manner. And an enterprising adolescent uses his brief career as a child actor to fulfill the crush he has on a friend’s older sister.
Laced throughout with glimmers of redemption and a refreshing combination of warmth and cynicism, these noirish narratives have a youthful energy that belies their hard-won wisdom, and together they showcase one of our truly essential new writers.
Netsuke: A novel by Rikki Ducornet
PS3554.U279 N48 2011
Ruled by his hunger for erotic encounters, a deeply wounded psychoanalyst seduces both patients and strangers with equal heat. Driven to compartmentalize his life, the doctor attempts to order and contain his lovers as he does his collection of rare netsuke, the precious miniature sculptures gifted to him by his wife. This riveting exploration of one psychoanalyst’s abuse of power unearths the startling introspection present within even the darkest heart.
You Think That’s Bad: Stories by Jim Shepard
PS3569.H39384 Y68 2011
Following Like You’d Understand, Anyway—awarded the Story Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award—Jim Shepard returns with an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience—from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average—with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.
A “black world” operative at Los Alamos isn’t allowed to tell his wife anything about his daily activities, but he can’t resist sharing her intimate confidences with his work buddy. A young Alpine researcher falls in love with the girlfriend of his brother, who was killed in an avalanche he believes he caused. An unlucky farm boy becomes the manservant of a French nobleman who’s as proud of his military service with Joan of Arc as he’s aroused by the slaughter of children. A free-spirited autodidact, grieving her lost sister, traces the ancient steps of a ruthless Middle Eastern sect and becomes the first Western woman to travel the Arabian deserts. From the inventor of the Godzilla epics to a miserable G.I. in New Guinea, each comes to realize that knowing better is never enough.
Enthralling and unfailingly compassionate, You Think That’s Bad traverses centuries, continents, and social strata, but the joy and struggle that Shepard depicts with such devastating sensitivity—all the heartbreak, alienation, intimacy, and accomplishment—has a universal resonance.
Daughters of the Revolution: A novel by Carolyn Cooke
PS3553.O55495 D38 2011
From the O. Henry Award–winning author of the story collection The Bostons—a New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and winner of the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers—an exquisite first novel set at a disintegrating New England prep school.
It’s 1968. The prestigious but cash-strapped Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable fifteen-year-old black girl.
What does it mean to be the First Girl?
Carolyn Cooke has written a ferociously intelligent, richly sensual novel about the lives of girls and women, the complicated desperation of daughters without fathers and the erosion of paternalistic power in an elite New England town on the cusp of radical social change. Remarkable for the precision of its language, the incandescence of its images, and the sly provocations of its moral and emotional predicaments, Daughters of the Revolution is a novel of exceptional force and beauty.
Lydia by Tim Sandlin
PS3569.A517 L93 2011
Fifteen years ago, Tim Sandlin concluded his acclaimed “GroVont” trilogy. But some characters call a writer back.
Managing the Virgin Birth Home for Unwed Mothers means the women in Sam Callahan’s life keep his world interesting. But it’s his family members that really take the cake. His daughter may be having a nervous breakdown, and his mother’s just out of prison for attempting to poison the President’s dog. And when they hit the road with a geriatric, an adoptive son trying to discover his parentage, and an enraged psychopath on their tails, all hell may break loose.
Half Life by Roopa Farooki
PR6106.A765 H35 2010
On the morning that changes everything, Aruna Ahmed Jones walks out of her ground-floor Victorian apartment in London wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, carrying nothing more substantial than a handbag, and keeps on walking. Leaving behind the handsome Dr. Patrick Jones, her husband of less than a year, Aruna heads to Heathrow, where she boards a plane bound for Singapore and her old life. Educated and beautiful, Aruna has a desperate need to risk it all. But why? Waiting for her is a messy past and a perfect past lover she had once abandoned without even saying goodbye – a story left unfinished – until now.
Aruna is not running away from home, she is running back to the home she always had, before it became impossible for her to stay. Before her father, the only family she’d ever known, passed away. Before she tried, and failed, to create a life and a family with her best friend and lover, Jazz. Before her doctor delivered a complicated psychological diagnosis she’d rather forget. After years of fleeing the ghosts that continue to haunt her, Aruna is about to discover that running away is really the easy part; it is coming home—making peace with her past, with Jazz and those they have loved—that is hard. Spanning the world from London to Singapore to India and back again, Half Life is a richly layered tale of love and conflict, friendship and sacrifice, the luminous story of a young woman who risks everything in order to find where she truly belongs.
My New American Life by Francine Prose
PS3566.R68 M9 2011
Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman living surreptitiously in New York City on an expiring tourist visa, hopes to make a better life for herself in America. When she lands a job as caretaker to Zeke, a rebellious high school senior in suburban New Jersey, it seems that the security, comfort, and happiness of the American dream may finally be within reach. Her new boss, Mister Stanley, an idealistic college professor turned Wall Street executive, assumes that Lula is a destitute refugee of the Balkan wars. He enlists his childhood friend Don Settebello, a hotshot lawyer who prides himself on defending political underdogs, to straighten out Lula’s legal situation. In true American fashion, everyone gets what he wants and feels good about it.
But things take a more sinister turn when Lula’s Albanian “brothers” show up in a brand-new black Lexus SUV. Hoodie, Leather Jacket, and the Cute One remind her that all Albanians are family, but what they ask of her is no small favor. Lula’s new American life suddenly becomes more complicated as she struggles to find her footing as a stranger in a strange new land. Is it possible that her new American life is not so different from her old Albanian one?
Set in the aftermath of 9/11, My New American Life offers a vivid, darkly humorous, bitingly real portrait of a particular moment in history, when a nation’s dreams and ideals gave way to a culture of cynicism, lies, and fear. Beneath its high comic surface, the novel is a more serious consideration of immigration, of what it was like to live through the Bush-Cheney years, and of what it means to be an American.
The Watery Part of the World: A novel by Michael Parker
PS3566.A683 W38 2011
Michael Parker has created a wholly original world from two known facts: (1) Theodosia Burr Alston, daughter of the controversial vice president Aaron Burr, disappeared in 1813 while en route by schooner from South Carolina to New York; and (2) in 1970, two elderly white women and one black man were the last townspeople to leave a small barrier island off the coast of North Carolina.
In this fiction based on historical fact, Parker weaves a tale of adventure and longing as he charts one hundred and fifty years in the life and death of an island and its inhabitants— the descendants of Theodosia Burr Alston and those of the freed man whose family would be forever tethered to hers.
It’s a tale of pirates and slaves, treason and treasures, madness and devotion, that takes place on a tiny island battered by storms, infested with mosquitoes, and cut off from the world—as difficult to get to as it is impossible to leave for those who call it home. From Theodosia’s capture at sea to the passionate lives of her great-great-great-granddaughters to the tender story of the black man who cares for them all his days, this is an inspired novel about love, trust, and the often tortuous bonds of family and community.
Rodin’s Debutante by Ward Just
PS3560.U75 R63 2011
Tommy Ogden, a Gatsbyesque character living in a mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Rodin and announces instead his intention to endow a boys’ school. Ogden’s decision reverberates years later in the life of Lee Goodell, whose coming of age is at the heart of Ward Just’s emotionally potent new novel.
Lee’s life decisions—to become a sculptor, to sojourn in the mean streets of the South Side, to marry into the haute-intellectual culture of Hyde Park—play out against the crude glamour of midcentury Chicago. Just’s signature skill of conveying emotional heft with few words is put into play as Lee confronts the meaning of his four years at Ogden Hall School under the purview, in the school library, of a bust known as Rodin’s Debutante. And, especially, as he meets again a childhood friend, the victim of a brutal sexual assault of which she has no memory. It was a crime marking the end of Lee’s boyhood and the beginning of his understanding—so powerfully under the surface of Just’s masterly story—that how and what we remember add up to nothing less than our very lives.
Children and Fire: A novel by Ursula Hegi
PS3558.E4185 C55 2011
Though more than fifteen years have passed since Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River captivated critics and readers alike, it retains its popularity, is on academic reading lists, and continues to be adopted by book groups.
Also set in Burgdorf, Germany, Hegi’s Children and Fire tells the story of a single day that will forever transform the lives of the townspeople. At the core of this remarkable novel is the question of how one teacher—gifted and joyful, passionate and inventive—can become seduced by propaganda during the early months of Hitler’s regime and encourage her ten-year-old students to join the “Hitler-Jugend” with its hikes and songs and bonfires. Membership, she believes, will be a step toward better schools, better apprenticeships.
How can a woman we admire choose a direction we don’t admire? So much has changed for the teacher, Thekla Jansen, and the people of Burgdorf in the year since the parliament building burned. Thekla’s lover, Emil Hesping, is sure the Nazis did it to frame the communists. But Thekla believes what she hears on the radio, that the communists set the fire, and she’s willing to relinquish some of her freedoms to keep her teaching position. She has always taken her moral courage for granted, but when each silent agreement chips away at that courage, she knows she must reclaim it.
Hegi funnels pivotal moments in history through the experiences of individual characters: Thekla’s mother, who works as a housekeeper for a Jewish family; her employers, Michel and Ilse Abramowitz; Thekla’s mentally ill father; Trudi Montag and her father, Leo Montag; Fräulein Siderova, midwife to the dying; and the students who adore their young teacher. As Ursula Hegi writes along that edge where sorrow and bliss meet, she shows us how one society—educated, cultural, compassionate—can slip into a reality that’s fabricated by propaganda and controlled by fear, how a surge of national unity can be manipulated into the dehumanization of a perceived enemy and the justification of torture and murder.
Gorgeously rendered and emotionally taut, Children and Fire confirms Ursula Hegi’s position as one of the most distinguished writers of her generation.
All the Time in the World: New and selected stories by E. L. Doctorow
PS3554.O3 A79 2011
From Ragtime and Billy Bathgate to World’s Fair, The March, and Homer & Langley, the fiction of E. L. Doctorow comprises a towering achievement in modern American letters. Now Doctorow returns with an enthralling collection of brilliant, startling short fiction about people who, as the author notes in his Preface, are somehow “distinct from their surroundings—people in some sort of contest with the prevailing world”.
A man at the end of an ordinary workday, extracts himself from his upper-middle-class life and turns to foraging in the same affluent suburb where he once lived with his family.
A college graduate takes a dishwasher’s job on a whim, and becomes entangled in a criminal enterprise after agreeing to marry a beautiful immigrant for money.
A husband and wife’s tense relationship is exacerbated when a stranger enters their home and claims to have grown up there.
An urbanite out on his morning run suspects that the city in which he’s lived all his life has transmogrified into another city altogether.
These are among the wide-ranging creations in this stunning collection, resonant with the mystery, tension, and moral investigation that distinguish the fiction of E. L. Doctorow. Containing six unforgettable stories that have never appeared in book form, and a selection of previous Doctorow classics, All the Time in the World affords us another opportunity to savor the genius of this American master.
Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna
PS3613.A5294 T54 2011
As the first girl to be born into the Nachimanda family in over thirty-five years, the beautiful Devi is the object of adoration of her entire family. Spirited and strong-willed, she befriends the shy Devanna, a young boy whose mother has died in tragic circumstances. Together they grow up amidst the luscious jungles, rolling hills, and coffee plantations of Coorg in Southern India; cocooned by an extended family whose roots to this beautiful land can be traced for centuries. Their futures seem inevitably linked, but everything changes when, one night, they attend a ‘tiger wedding’. It is there that Devi gets her first glimpse of Machu, the celebrated tiger killer and a hunter of great repute. Although she is still a child and Machu is a man, Devi vows to marry him one day. It is this love that will gradually drive a wedge between Devi and Devanna, sowing the seed of a devastating tragedy that will change the fate of all three – an event that has unforeseen and far-reaching consequences for generations to come.
Told in rich, lyrical prose and set against the background of a changing society, Tiger Hills is a sweeping saga about one woman’s determination to live life on her own terms — and a riveting novel about the choices we make in the name of family, nation, and love.
The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya
PR9499.4.B537 S59 2011
In flight from the tame familiarity of home in Bombay, a twenty-six-year-old cricket journalist chucks his job and arrives in Guyana, a forgotten colonial society of raw, mesmerizing beauty. Amid beautiful, decaying wooden houses in Georgetown, on coastal sugarcane plantations, and in the dark rainforest interior scavenged by diamond hunters, he grows absorbed with the fantastic possibilities of this new place where descendants of the enslaved and indentured have made a new world. Ultimately, to fulfill his purpose, he prepares to mount an adventure of his own. His journey takes him beyond Guyanese borders, and his companion will be the feisty, wild-haired Jan.
In this dazzling novel, propelled by a singularly forceful voice, Rahul Bhattacharya captures the heady adventures of travel, the overheated restlessness of youth, and the paradoxes of searching for life’s meaning in the escape from home.