Tag Archives: fall fiction

Spotlight on The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

About The Book

Ruth woke at four in the morning and her blurry brain said, “Tiger.”

A mesmerizing first novel about trust, dependence, and fear, from a major new writernight guest.

Ruth is widowed, her sons are grown, and she lives in an isolated beach house outside of town. Her routines are few and small. One day a stranger arrives at her door, looking as if she has been blown in from the sea. This woman—Frida—claims to be a care worker sent by the government. Ruth lets her in.
  Now that Frida is in her house, is Ruth right to fear the tiger she hears on the prowl at night, far from its jungle habitat? Why do memories of childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency? How far can she trust this mysterious woman, Frida, who seems to carry with her her own troubled past? And how far can Ruth trust herself?
 The Night Guest, Fiona McFarlane’s hypnotic first novel, is no simple tale of a crime committed and a mystery solved. This is a tale that soars above its own suspense to tell us, with exceptional grace and beauty, about aging, love, trust, dependence, and fear; about processes of colonization; and about things (and people) in places they shouldn’t be. Here is a new writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to describe the mysterious workings of our minds.

About The Author

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Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.

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“Such an accomplished debut.  Delicacy and poignancy combine with almost unbearable suspense.”  –Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life

“A rapturous, fearsome fable of grief and love.” –Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut

 

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A Harvest of Books

October is just days away, and that’s a good thing in the book world.  A plethora of great reads comes out in October.  Grab some hot chocolate or apple cider, a throw, and curl up with one of these reads.

Titles to pick up now:

Jonathan Evison’s The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving.  Evison is the author of West of Here; his newest work was a featured book at BEA 2012.

“Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything–his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving, where he is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and on how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider. But when Ben is assigned to tyrannical nineteen-year-old Trevor, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he soon discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent with an ax to grind with the world at large. Though begun with mutual misgivings, the relationship between Trev and Ben evolves into a close camaraderie, and the traditional boundaries between patient and caregiver begin to blur as they embark on a road trip to visit Trev’s ailing father. A series of must-see roadside attractions divert them into an impulsive adventure interrupted by one birth, two arrests, a freakish dust storm, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious brown Buick Skylark. Bursting with energy, this big-hearted and inspired novel ponders life’s terrible surprises and the heart’s uncanny capacity to mend.”

Are you a fan of J.K. Rowling?  Or maybe you are curious about her first novel for adults?  I am currently reading The Casual Vacancy, released September 27.  It’s about (gasp) muggles.  There is nothing supernatural in the story, but it’s by Rowling so I know there will be magic within its pages.  I spotlighted the book here.

Titles to pick up in October

Peter Geye’s The Lighthouse Road will be published October 2.

“Against the wilds of sea and wood, a young immigrant woman settles into life outside Duluth in the 1890s, still shocked at finding herself alone in a new country, abandoned and adrift; in the early 1920s, her orphan son, now grown, falls in love with the one woman he shouldn’t and uses his best skills to build them their own small ark to escape. But their pasts travel with them, threatening to capsize even their fragile hope. In this triumphant new novel, Peter Geye has crafted another deeply moving tale of a misbegotten family shaped by the rough landscape in which they live–often at the mercy of wildlife and weather–and by the rough edges of their own breaking hearts.”

Also released October 2 is Da Chen’s My Last Empress.  “When Samuel Pickens’ great love tragically loses her life, Samuel travels the globe, Annabelle always on his mind. Eventually, he comes face to face with the mirror image of his obsession in the last place he would expect, and must discover her secrets and decide how far he will go for a woman he loves.  Da Chen immerses the reader in the world of the Chinese imperial palace, filled with ghosts and grief, where bewitching concubines, treacherous eunuchs, and fierce warlords battle for supremacy. Da takes us deeply into an epic saga of 19th century China, where one man searches for his destiny and a forbidden love.”

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins also comes out October 2.

This is one I’m particularly excited about.  “With a lightness of touch that belies pitch-perfect emotional control, Scott Hutchins takes us on an odyssey of love, grief, and reconciliation that shows us how, once we let go of the idea that we’re trapped by our own sad histories—our childhoods, our bad decisions, our miscommunications with those we love—we have the chance to truly be free. A Working Theory of Love marks the electrifying debut of a prodigious new talent.”

Literary fiction is usually my genre of choice, but I found a non-fiction title that I want to read.  The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe will be released October 2.

This is sure to be a tear-jerker.  ““What are you reading?”

That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.

This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.

Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page.”

Yet another novel coming out October 2 is The Round House by Louise Erdrich.

“One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.”

On October 9, look for The Bathing Women by Tie Ning.

“FROM AWARD-WINNING and bestselling Chinese writer Tie Ning comes a stunningly original novel that captures the spirit of a new generation of young professionals in contemporary China. The Bathing Women follows the lives of four women—Tiao, a children’s book editor; Fan, her sister, who thinks escaping to America might solve her problems; Fei,a hedonistic and self-destructive young woman; and Youyou, a chef—from childhood during the Cultural Revolution to adulthood in the new market economy. This moving novel charts the journey of these women as they grapple with love, sibling rivalry, and, ultimately, redemption. Beloved and renowned in China, Tie Ning’s numerous books have never before been translated into English; this publication of The Bathing Women introduces a brilliant writer of uncommon talents, vision, and compassion to American readers. Spellbinding, unforgettable, and an important chronicle of modern China, The Bathing Women is a powerful and beautiful portrait of the strength of female friendship in the face of adversity.”

The most anticipated book of the year (for me, at least) comes out October 16.  It’s Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, the sequel to The Passage.

“At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral—but whose side, in the end, is she really on?”
Emma Donoghue releases a collection of short stories on October 30 called Astray.
“With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times.”
New in paperback:
Hector Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries is worth a read.  You can read my review here.
As you have probably already guessed, October is a great time to be reading!

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Spotlight on Wilderness by Lance Weller

I am about to begin reading Lance Weller’s Wilderness.  Critics and readers alike have compared the novel to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain (1997).  That is high praise indeed.

Needless to say, I am very excited about Wilderness.

Here is what Goodreads has to say about the book:

“Thirty years after the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It’s a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life-from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness tells not only the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller’s immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.”

Jeffrey Lent calls Wilderness “magnificent.”  “Masterful,” says Jonathan Evison.  John Vernon deems it “stunning.”

 

Have you read Wilderness?  Are you currently reading it?  If so, please discuss it here!

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September Fiction

It’s been said that the best books come out in the fall.  That time is just around the corner.  September fiction has some heavy hitters.  I have tried hard to narrow down my picks to ten.  These are, in my opinion, the best novels out in September.  Happy reading!

A novel that is out now is Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist, “set in the untamed American West, a highly original and haunting debut novel about a makeshift family whose dramatic lives are shaped by violence, love, and an indelible connection to the land.”  September 4 is the publication date for Ilie Ruby’s The Salt God’s Daughter.

“Set in Long Beach, California, beginning in the 1970s, The Salt God’s Daughter follows Ruthie and her older sister Dolly as they struggle for survival in a place governed by an enchanted ocean and exotic folklore.  Guided by a mother ruled by magical, elaborately-told stories of the full moons, which she draws from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the two girls are often homeless, often on their own, fiercely protective of each other, and unaware of how far they have drifted from traditional society as they carve a real life from their imagined stories.”

The incomparable Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and On Beauty, has a new novel, NW, coming out September 4.


“This is the story of a city.

The northwest corner of a city. Here you’ll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all.  And many people in between.

Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds.

And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation…

Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.

Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.”

Perhaps one of fall’s biggest books also comes out September 4.  It is Lance Weller’s debut novel, Wilderness, a story that has been compared to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

“In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness not only tells the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation.  Lance Weller’s immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.”

September 4 also marks the publication date for Lawrence Norfolk’s John Saturnall’s Feast.

“A beautiful, rich and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house, and rises through the ranks to become the greatest Cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.”

Tatjana Soli’s second novel, The Forgetting Tree, will be released September 4.  Soli’s bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was a New York Times Notable Book, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, and won the James Tait Black Prize. 

“Now, with her new novel, The Forgetting Tree, Tatjana delivers a breathtaking story about a complicated California ranch family struggling to find peace in the aftermath of a tragedy.  Haunting, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree proves that Tatjana Soli is an author readers will remember for a long time to come.”

Little, Brown and Company will publish The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers on September 6.  Powers is a veteran of the Iraq War. 

“With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a distant war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds captures the almost unimaginable costs of war in language that is precise and truthful.  It is destined to become a classic.”

The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis will be released September 11.  “Behold, a tantalizing meeting of the minds: Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘science of observation’ and Niccolo Machiavelli’s ‘science of men.’  But is their brilliance enough to unmask an enigmatic serial killer?  The answer lies within…and the secret history of The Prince is revealed at last.”

September 17 is the release date for The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, has praised Jakobsen’s novel: “The best stories change you. I am not the same after The Vanishing Act as I was before.”  I trust Morgenstern implicitly, and her endorsement works for me.

T.C. Boyle’s new novel, San Miguel, comes out September 18.  “On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom.  Their extraordinary stories, full of struggle and hope, are the subject of T.C. Boyle’s haunting new novel.”

I think we’re all going to be doing a lot of reading this month!

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