Monday, November 11, 2013

Three More Debut Authors, Three Great Books
In the tradition of Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife and Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn, P. S. Duffy's astonishing debut showcases a rare and instinctive talent emerging in midlife. Her novel leaps across the Atlantic, between a father at war and a son coming of age at home without him. When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into the visceral shock of battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief. With the intimacy of The Song of Achilles and the epic scope of The Invisible Bridge, The Cartographer of No Man's Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home.
The Last Animal by Abby Geni is that rare literary find—a remarkable series of stories unified around one theme: people who use the interface between the human and the natural world to contend with their modern challenges in love, loss, and family life. These are vibrant, weighty stories that herald the arrival of a young writer of surprising feeling and depth.

Terror Birds tracks the dissolution of a marriage set against an ostrich farm in the sweltering Arizona desert; Dharma at the Gate features the tempest of young love as a teenage girl must choose between man’s best friend, her damaged boyfriend, and a beckoning future; and Captivity follows an octopus handler at an aquarium still haunted by the disappearance of her brother years ago. The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr details a Greek chorus of Jewish girls at a summer camp whose favorite counselor goes missing under suspicious circumstances, and In the Spirit Room centers on a scientist suffering the heartbreaking loss of a parent from Alzheimer’s while living in the natural history museum where they both worked. In Fire Blight, a father grieving over his wife’s recent miscarriage finds comfort in their backyard garden and makes a surprising discovery on how to cherish living things; and in the title story, a retired woman traces the steps of the husband who left her thirty years ago, burning the letters he had sent along the way, while the luminous and exotic wildlife of the Pacific Ocean opens up to receive her. 

Unflinching, exciting, ambitious and yet heartfelt, The Last Animal guides readers through a menagerie of
settings and landscapes as it underscores the connection among all living things.
A brawny, brilliant debut novel about an irrepressible Jewish boy and his indelible mother in 1930s South Africa, reminiscent of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and perfect for lovers of Cutting for Stone.

Set in the tough streets of Doornfontein, Johannesburg, in the years leading up to the Second World War, The Lion Seeker tells the coming-of-age story of Isaac Helger, the son of Jewish immigrants, whose mother, Gitelle, suffuses his young life with an overpowering sense of his mission. But it is the terrible unspoken secrets of the family's past that form another more enduring legacy for Isaac, one that haunts him even as he makes his way in the world, one that will lead to the moment when he must face the starkest moral choice of his life as the threat of war looms like a storm cloud over the Jews of Europe.

The Lion Seeker brilliantly brings to life the world of South African Jewry in all its raw energy and ribald vernacular. Comedic, searing, lyrical and with a snap-perfect ear for dialogue, The Lion Seeker is a profoundly moral exploration of how wider social forces act on families and individuals with lasting relevance for the present moment.

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