Amy Bloom’s new novel, White Houses, combines a pacey but cozy literary love story of heart-plucking longing balanced by realistic barriers—which hinge on mutable emotions, cultural restrictions, poor timing, bounds of duty—with clever banter and an irresistible peek inside a presidential marriage. At its core, though, White Houses is simply and powerfully an ode to lasting, shifting love.
One of the best ways I know to judge the quality of a novel and its endurance rests in its ability to transcend subject matter—and the potential reader’s innate prejudices and proclivities. The Mothers, Brit Bennett’s Leonard Prize-shortlisted debut novel, manages this so slyly and with such unassuming gusto and finesse that I’m pleased to have it as one of my final and favorite reads of the year.
Kevin Rabalais has a chance encounter in a bookstore, the kind that sends us home to read a special new book right now, even though there are stacks of unread ones waiting.
In Idra Novey's Ways to Disappear, a Brazilian writer disappears up a tree with a suitcase and a cigar. Before long, she has everyone—her daughter, her translator, an ominous man with a gun—searching for her and trying to decipher her secrets.
We all know, to paraphrase Whitman, that each of us contains multitudes. Without any contradiction, we are different versions of ourselves. Debra Spark's new novel about identity and the incomprehensible other, Unknown Caller, illuminates all we can't know about ourselves and others. It rattles and thrills.
There should be a retroactive book-of-the-year award, some prize or label that acknowledges that a novel exceeds everything you read in the year of its publication, even if you missed it in its first twelve months of life. Still, I wonder, how did I miss it? Why wasn’t everyone talking about this book?
At no time during April 2010 or in the months and years that followed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast, when the environment went from bad to worse and people along the Louisiana Gulf Coast lost their livelihoods and restaurants removed local oysters from the menu, did I consider writing a novel about these devastating events.
We should all be thankful that Tom Cooper did.