Boyne, Senna, Messud, Perrotta, & More | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Aug 2017

Boyne, John. The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Hogarth: Crown. Aug. 2017. 592p. ISBN 9781524760786. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781524760809. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
The author of the multi-award-winning and mega-best-selling children’s book The Boy in the boyneStriped Pyjamas and of adult fiction like 2015’s blade-sharp A History of Loneliness, Boyne here tells the affecting story of Cyril Avery. Born out of wedlock to an Irish teenager after World War II, Cyril is adopted by a rich but cockeyed Dublin couple who keep reminding him that he’s not a real Avery. Cyril swirls and eddies through life, trying to find out who he really is and relying mainly on his friendship with charismatic Julian Woodbead. Furies, indeed; with a 75,000-copy first printing.

Gilvarry, Alex. Eastman Was Here. Viking. Aug. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781101981504. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101981528. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Gilvarry debuted brilliantly with From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, a Bookspan Best New Voice and Barnes & Noble Discover pick that saw him named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35. He returns with the story of Alan Eastman, a has-been war journalist in 1973 who’s hiding behind the façade of public intellectual and regretting the indiscretions that compelled his wife to takes the children and go live with her mother. An invitation to return to Vietnam and chronicle the ending of the war thrills him with the promise of renewed glory and the return of his wife, but he just brings his problems with him.

Kurniawan, Eka. Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash. New Directions. Jul. 2017. from Indonesian by Annie Tucker. ISBN 9780811225649. pap. $15.95. LITERARY
Shooting-star Indonesian author Kurniawan made his English-language debut in 2015 to considerable acclaim with the laceratingly beautiful Beauty Is a Wound, and his next work has the same raw feel. Ajo Kawir is a lower-class Javanese teenager whose rampant interest in sex is blunted when he sees two policemen brutally rape a deranged woman. He tries to channel his frustrations by fighting and gets such a reputation that he’s asked to kill a local thug, but instead he falls for a luscious bodyguard. Will love win out? Kurniawan smartly plays with pop culture tropes as he investigates male violence and political repression; sophisticated readers must check out.

Messud, Claire. The Burning Girl. Norton. Aug. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780393635027. $25.95. LITERARY
Friends since nursery school, Julia and Cassie are bonded by a desire to get out of airless, messudclairenoose-tight Royston, MA. But there’s only one burning girl in Messud’s title, and that’s Cassie, who ventures further and further afield during adolescence until she puts friendship with Julia—and her own life—in danger. Author of the New York Times best-selling The Emperor’s Children, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and most recently of The Woman Upstairs, Messud writes evocatively of our most unsettled longings. With a six-city tour to Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle; big promotion at BEA and ALA.

Perrotta, Tom. Mrs. Fletcher. Scribner. Aug. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781501144028. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501144042. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
Beloved best seller Perotta again digs wisely and gleefully into our social upsets with the story of quiet 46-year-old divorcée Eve Fletcher, who dutifully runs the local senior center and takes community college courses. After her only child heads off to college, she receives an anonymous text that says, “U R my MILF!” That sparks her erotic imagination, driving her to a porn website called; soon she’s entertaining the possibility of romance. Meanwhile, her son’s privileged-white-guy retrosexism isn’t playing out well at college, and his grades are already plummeting. With a seven-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Pulley, Natasha. The Bedlam Stacks. Bloomsbury USA. Aug. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781620409671. $26. FANTASY/HISTORICAL
In this follow-up to Pulley’s extravagantly praised debut novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree pulleyStreet, former East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is so desperate to escape Cornwall, where he’s stuck after a terrible accident that has left his lame, that he gladly accepts an India Office offer to secure quinine in Peru. Every expeditionary who’s tried has died, killed by something beyond the salt line separating the village where Merrick lands from the looming forest. Fantastical stories abound, and the young missionary priest Merrick befriends seems rather improbably to have known his grandfather. Big promotion.

Seiffert, Rachel. A Boy in Winter. Pantheon. Aug. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780307908834. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908841. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
In World War II Ukraine, Ephraim is marched with other Jews into a red brick factory and searches the crowd for his two sons, whom he suspects have disregarded German orders to line up. In fact, they’re slipping furtively through the back streets and are spotted by farmer’s daughter Yasia, who decides to offer them shelter. It’s just the beginning of a heartrending 48 hours, told partly from the perspective of German soldiers and reflecting the larger story of the Final Solution. From one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, whose recent powerhouse novel, The Walk Home, was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Senna, Danzy. New People. Riverhead. Aug. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781594487095. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780698172463. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Life looks good for Maria, who’s living in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn with her sennahusband-to-be (they were King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom) and pursuing her dissertation as he enjoys success during the first wave of dot-coms. They even star in a documentary about “new people” like themselves and their fresh success. So why is Maria daydreaming about a poet she barely knows, and what does this say about the pressures of race, class, and self-affirmation in contemporary America? From the author of the best-selling Caucasia, an Alex and Stephen Crane award winner and an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award finalist that helped launch the Riverhead imprint.

Yoon, Paul. The Mountain. S. & S. Aug. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781501154089. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781501154102. LITERARY
Yoon’s Once the Shore was a New York Times Notable Book and NPR Best Debut that won its author National Book Foundation 5 under 35 status, while Snow Hunters won the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. So smart readers will want this linked collection of short stories featuring characters worldwide left rootless and uncertain by their painful pasts. Here, a morphine-addicted nurse stumbles through a ruined French countryside, looking for purpose, while a young woman who emigrated from Korea to Shanghai and works in a sweat shop is equally at sea about her life. The time frame is post–World War II to the present. Not to be missed.

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