New fiction at the Libraries, March 14

March 14, 2012 – 3:33 PM

How It All Began by Penelope Lively
PR6062.I89 H69 2012

When Charlotte Rainsford, a retired schoolteacher, is accosted by a petty thief on a London street, the consequences ripple across the lives of acquaintances and strangers alike. A marriage unravels after an illicit love affair is revealed through an errant cell phone message; a posh yet financially strapped interior designer meets a business partner who might prove too good to be true; an old-guard historian tries to recapture his youthful vigor with an ill-conceived idea for a TV miniseries; and a middle-aged central European immigrant learns to speak English and reinvents his life with the assistance of some new friends.

Through a richly conceived and colorful cast of characters, Penelope Lively explores the powerful role of chance in people’s lives and deftly illustrates how our paths can be altered irrevocably by someone we will never even meet. Brought to life in her hallmark graceful prose and full of keen insights into human nature, How It All Began is an engaging, contemporary tale that is sure to strike a chord with her legion of loyal fans as well as new readers. A writer of rare wisdom, elegance, and humor, Lively is a consummate storyteller whose gifts are on full display in this masterful work.

The Chukchi Bible by Yuri Rytkheu
Translated from the Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse
PG3476.R965 P6713 2011

The Chukchi Bible is a collection of the myths and tales of Yuri Rytkheu’s own shaman father. The stories compose both a moving history of the Chukchi people who inhabit the shores of the Bering Sea, and a beautiful cautionary tale, rife with conflict, human drama, and humor. We meet fantastic characters: Nau, the mother of the human race; Rau, her half-whale husband; and finally, the dark spirit Armagirgin, who attempts to destroy nature’s harmony by pitting the two against each other. The Chukchi Bible moves through Arctic tundra, sea, and sky––and beyond––introducing readers to an extraordinary mythology and a resilient people, in hauntingly poetic prose.

Running the Rift: A novel by Naomi Benaron
PS3602.E6565 R86 2011

Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it’s impossible to stay apolitical—where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family. Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track, a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from this violence. When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.

The Book of Life: Stories by Stuart Nadler
PS3614.A385 B77 2011

While trying to save his marriage, a father struggles to reconnect with his newly devout son. A pure-hearted artist finds his devotion cruelly tested, while his true love tries to repent for the biggest mistake of her life. Forced together on a trip from Manhattan to Rhode Island, a father and son attempt to reconnect over lobster, cigarettes, and a buried secret. And in the collection’s daring first story, an arrogant businessman begins a forbidden affair during the High Holidays. The Book of Life is an unforgettable collection of stories about faith, family, grief, love, temptation, and redemption. Written in clear, crystalline prose, these stories signal the arrival of an exciting and bold new writer.

Penguin Lost by Andrey Kurkov
Translated by George Bird
PG3482.8.U6756 Z2413 2011

Andrey Kurkov’s first book to be published in English, Death and the Penguin, was hailed by leading critics in the US and the UK as “a tragicomic masterpiece” (The Daily Telegraph) of suspense about life on the crime-riddled streets of an impoverished, post-Soviet Kiev. But until now, fans haven’t been able to read the sequel and find out what happened to Viktor and his silent cohort, the penguin Misha, whom Viktor was forced to abandon at the end of the novel while fleeing Mafia vengeance.

Admirers need wait no longer. Now available for the first time in the US, Penguin Lost sees Viktor grab at the opportunity to return to Kiev incognito and launch an intensive, guilt-wracked search for Misha.

It’s a search that will take Viktor across the Ukraine to Moscow and back, vividly depicting a troubled landscape. It once again lands Viktor in league with a series of criminals and corrupt officials, each of whom know something of what happened to Misha, and each of whom are willing to pass that information along if Viktor will just help them with one more job. . . And it’s a tale told once again in a style that’s part Bulgakov and part Hitchcock, simultaneously funny and ominous, nearly absurd and all-too-real.

Readers may find themselves rooting even harder for Viktor this time, as he presses forward on his odyssey under even more dangerous circumstances, in another brilliantly rich and topical book from a contemporary Russian master.

Before the End, After the Beginning by Dagoberto Gilb
PS3557.I296 B45 2011

Before the End, After the Beginning is an exquisite collection of ten stories by Dagoberto Gilb. The pieces come in the wake of a stroke Gilb suffered at his home in Austin, Texas, in 2009, and a majority of the stories were written over his many months of recovery. The result is a powerful and triumphant book that tackles common themes of existence and identity and describes the American experience in a raw, authentic vernacular unique to Gilb.

These ten stories take readers through the American Southwest, from Los Angeles and Albuquerque to El Paso and Austin. Gilb covers territory touched on in some of his earlier work—a mother and son’s relationship in Southern California in the story “Uncle Rock,” and a character looking to shed his mixed-up past in “The Last Time I Saw Junior”—while dealing with the themes of mortality and limitation that have arose during his own illness. The collection’s most personal story, “please, thank you,” focuses on a man who has been hospitalized with a stroke, and paints in detail the protagonist’s relationship with his children and the nurses who care for him. The final story, “Hacia Teotitlán,” looks at a man, now old, returning to Mexico and considering his life and imminent death.

Short stories are the perfect medium for Gilb, an accomplished storyteller whose debut collection, The Magic of Blood, won the prestigious PEN/ Hemingway Foundation Award for fiction in 1994. Before the End, After the Beginning proves that Gilb has lost none of his gifts, and that this may be his most extraordinary achievement to date.

Forget Sorrow: An ancestral tale by Belle Yang
PS3575.A53 Z46 2010

Celebrated artist and writer Belle Yang makes a stunning debut as a graphic memoirist with this story of crisis and survival.

When Belle Yang was forced to take refuge in her parents’ home after an abusive boyfriend began stalking her, her father entertained her with stories of old China. The history she’d ignored while growing up became a source of comfort and inspiration, and narrowed the gap separating her—an independent, Chinese-American woman—from her Old World Chinese parents.

In Forget Sorrow, Yang makes her debut into the graphic form with the story of her father’s family, reunited under the House of Yang in Manchuria during the Second World War and struggling—both together and individually—to weather poverty, famine, and, later, Communist oppression. The parallels between Belle Yang’s journey of self-discovery and the lives and choices of her grandfather, his brothers, and their father (the Patriarch) speak powerfully of the conflicts between generations—and of possibilities for reconciliation.

Forget Sorrow demonstrates the power of storytelling and remembrance, as Belle—in telling this story—finds the strength to honor both her father and herself.

Leche: A novel by R. Zamora Linmark
PS3576.A475 L43 2011

A young Filipino American’s riotous adventures through the sprawling, tragicomic landscape of modern-day Manila.

After thirteen years of living in the U.S., Vince returns to his birthplace, the Philippines. As Vince ventures into the heat and chaos of the city, he encounters a motley cast of characters, including a renegade nun, a political film director, arrogant hustlers, and the country’s spotlight-driven First Daughter. Haunted by his childhood memories and a troubled family history, Vince unravels the turmoil, beauty, and despair of a life caught between a fractured past and a precarious future.

Witty and mesmerizing, this novel explores the complex colonial and cultural history of the Philippines and the paradoxes inherent in the search for both personal and national identities.

An Accident in August by Laurence Cossé
Translated from the French by Alison Anderson
PQ2663.O7248 A1813 2011

In An Accident in August, Laurence Cossé takes one of the most famous news events of recent world history as the starting point for a novel as intelligent as it is gripping. On the now infamous night of August 31, 1997, a young woman’s life is thrown into turmoil when fortune places her at the scene of the fatal car crash in which Lady Diana Frances Spencer, then Princess of Wales, lost her life.

Scared and alone, she flees the scene of the accident. While there are no immediate repercussions resulting from her flight, as news of the tragic event spreads and TV stations, papers and radio talk of nothing else for
days, she is assailed by a growing sense of guilt. Terrified of being found out, questioned, arrested, and thrown headfirst into a media whirlwind,she finds herself paralyzed by fear, paranoia, and a growing sense of remorse.

Wonderfully paced, suspenseful and dramatic, An Accident in August is the story of an ordinary person radically changed by her chance involvement in an extraordinary event. She unwittingly becomes a part of history. Yet history itself, not to mention the police and the media,ultimately fails to identify her, and she remains a figure cloaked in mystery.

Hidden Lives by Sylvie Germain
Translated by Mike Mitchell
PQ2667.E6845 I5313 2010

The Bérynxes are a middle-class family. Charlam, the grandfather, who wants to take control after the death of his son, Georges, in a road accident; Sabine, his daughter-in-law, who mutely but successfully wards off his encroachment. The three sons, who seem relatively unaffected by the loss of their father and who make their own way in life, sometimes to Charlam’s approval, sometimes to his disapproval. Marie, the daughter, whose leg was damaged in the accident rebels against his authority. Édith, the aunt, whose undiscovered secret is her passion for her nephew, Georges; and Pierre, whom Sabine chances to encounter; Mr Loyalty, the man she can rely on in her business and who becomes a kind of honorary uncle to the children, much to the disgust of Charlam complete the family group..

But that is merely the surface. What gives this novel its special flavour are the things unseen, the magma of hopes, desires, fantasies, memories, humiliations, passions and hatreds bubbling beneath the surface of all their lives, which Sylvie Germain evokes with the poetic intensity that distinguishes her novels.

Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin
translated by Jamey Gambrell
PG3488.O66 A2 2011

In 1908, deep in Siberia, it fell to earth. THEIR ICE. A young man on a scientific expedition found it. It spoke to his heart, and his heart named him Bro. Bro felt the Ice. Bro knew its purpose. To bring together the 23,000 blond, blue-eyed Brothers and Sisters of the Light who were scattered on earth. To wake their sleeping hearts. To return to the Light. To destroy this world. And secretly, throughout the twentieth century and up to our own day, the Children of the Light have pursued their beloved goal.

Pulp fiction, science fiction, New Ageism, pornography, video-game mayhem, old-time Communist propaganda, and rampant commercial hype all collide, splinter, and splatter in Vladimir Sorokin’s virtuosic Ice Trilogy, a crazed joyride through modern times with the promise of a truly spectacular crash at the end. And the reader, as eager for the redemptive fix of a good story as the Children are for the Primordial Light, has no choice except to go along, caught up in a brilliant illusion from which only illusion escapes intact.

The Seven Churches, or, The Heptecclesion: A gothic novel of Prague by Miloš Urban
Translated from the Czech by Mark Corner
PG5039.31.R294 S413 2010

Translated into eleven languages and a runaway bestseller in Spain as well as the Czech Republic, The Seven Churches – by the ‘dark knight of Czech literature’, Milos Urban – is a bloody, atmospheric modern classic of crime literature and one of the most haunting and terrifying thrillers to come out of Europe in years. Written in the spirit of the sensation story but with rich Gothic overtones, The Seven Churches is set in the medieval Nove Mesto (New Town) of Prague, a quarter with seven Gothic churches. Here the narrator, known simply as K, witnesses a bizarre accident followed by a series of mysterious murders. This event triggers a series of meetings with Gothic characters who appear to be trying to reconstruct the medieval ‘golden age’ of Prague in the reign of Charles IV under the noses if its modern-day inhabitants. The first English translation by Robert Russell of Urban’s signature work is one of the events in foreign fiction this year.

Leaving the Atocha Station: A novel by Ben Lerner
PS3612.E68 L43 2011

From a National Book Award finalist, this hilarious and profound first novel captures the experience of the young American abroad while exploring the possibilities of art and authenticity in our time.

Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. Instead of following the dictates of his fellowship, Adam’s “research” becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond: are his relationships with the people he meets in Spain as fraudulent as he fears his poems are? Is poetry an essential art form, or merely a screen for the reader’s projections? A witness to the 2004 Madrid train bombings and their aftermath, does he participate in historic events or merely watch them pass him by?

In prose that veers between the comic and tragic, the self-contemptuous and the inspired, Leaving the Atocha Station is a portrait of the artist as a young man in an age of Google searches, pharmaceuticals, and spectacle.

  1. One Response to “New fiction at the Libraries, March 14”

  2. I recommend Hidden Lives by Sylvie Germain, great book!

    By Haardonut kopen on May 10, 2013

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