I’m constantly collecting book titles that I’ve torn from newspapers and magazines, plus ones I’ve handwritten on sticky notes. These below are some recent ones.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Eight Mennonite women have gathered in a neighbor’s barn to decide if they will stay or leave their community in Miriam Toews new novel. August, a trusted man, is in the hayloft. On the first page we are told: “August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation.” They have 48 hours before their men return from a nearby town. Toews, author of the highly praised All My Puny Sorrows, creates her fictional story from true events that occurred among Mennonites in Bolivia, where women and girls were drugged and assaulted by the community’s men. From The Guardian: “Rather than dwell on the crimes, Toews wrings unexpected drama from her protagonists’ moral and theological to-ing and fro-ing, as they spar over how best to remain faithful to a system that has been used to betray them so brutally.” Note: This novel is available in England and Canada. U.S. publication is set for April 2019.
The Order of the Day by Éric Vuillard
Winner of the 2017 Prix Goncourt, the most distinguished literary award given in France, this World War II novel takes place in the 1930’s and focuses on the annexation of Austria by the Germans. From the book’s description: “With this vivid, compelling history, Éric Vuillard warns against the peril of willfully blind acquiescence, and offers a reminder that, ultimately, the worst is not inescapable.” A mere 144 pages, this small book is available now in the U.S from Penguin Random House. The Wall Street Journal calls it gripping. The New York Times reported: “Mr. Vuillard, a 49-year-old filmmaker and the author of several previous novels, said by telephone that he had been inspired by Montesquieu’s warning that the concentration of power and money in the hands of a few was ‘dangerous for everybody.'”
Bakhita: A Novel of the Saint of Sudan by Véronique Olmi
A novel for your radar screen (to be published in 2019), Bakhita was the runner-up for the 2017 Prix Goncourt. It’s based on the true story of the female slave born in 19th century Sudan who became Saint Josephine Bakhita. The narrative follows Bakhita’s journey, as she is sold and resold in the slave network — from being taken as a young child by slave traders to being purchased years later by an Italian consul. In Italy, she is introduced to religion that changes her life. Note: The book is set to be released in the U.S. in April 2019.
After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet by Julie Dobrow
I have no poetry in my library by Emily Dickinson, not counting the Norton Anthologies from college. That seems odd, considering I’ve got an entire bookcase dedicated to poetry; however, I’m eager to read this book about Mabel Loomis Todd and her daughter Millicent Todd Bingham who devoted themselves to getting Emily’s work recognized after she died. According to Kirkus Reviews, Julie Dubrow “spent years in the massive Todd archives … in order to recount, with sympathy and nuance, Todd’s near obsession with editing Dickinson, securing a publisher, and publicizing the poet on the lecture circuit.”
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
This new fantasy, Book One in The Founders Trilogy, is being described as riveting by reviewers. The large page count makes me hesitate, and so does the thought of committing to a multi-book saga. And yet, I’ve reserved Foundryside at the library, and I absurdly keep putting it in an Amazon cart and then removing it. Foundryside has been out since August. The protagonist Sancia Grado is a skilled thief, and from the book’s description, she’s been “sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving.” Of course, someone wants her dead and the artifact for themselves. Plus I think there’s some world domination going on. Publisher’s Weekly says: “This is a crackling, wonderfully weird blend of science fiction, fantasy, heist adventure, and a pointed commentary on what it means to be human in a culture obsessed with technology, money, and power.”
Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin
I always feel a tinge of sadness for authors who publish in obscurity during their lifetimes and then become posthumously popular. It’s so unfortunate they couldn’t experience the surge of recognition for their work. Such is the fate of Lucia Berlin, who died in 2004. In 2015, A Manual for Cleaning Women put Berlin on the literary map, astounding critics and readers with her distinctive perspective and unique voice in the collected stories. The book landed on top-ten lists and became a New York Times bestseller. Now, Evening in Paradise, another book of Berlin’s stories, is available, and so far it’s winning praise. Kirkus Reviews comments, “No dead author is more alive on the page than Berlin: funny, dark, and so in love with the world.”