The War For Gloria is a haunting follow-up to Lish’s last award-winning novel. Set in the Boston area, Corey is in high school when his mother is diagnosed with ALS. As he struggles to cope and take care of his mother Gloria, his previously absent father comes back into their lives and upends everything. Corey initially admires his father’s intellect and seeks a connection with him through his mother’s situation. It doesn’t take long for Corey to realize his father is a leech that is absent of empathy and any kind of emotional connection. Corey goes through several stages of growth throughout the novel and he fights (quite literally) for his mother & his sanity… as he’s also fighting an internal war on how to best become a man. Every character’s actions in this story leads to a consequence. Even the most minor of things that they say or do come back to haunt them in some way, shape, or form. I was stuck processing everything about it by the end… and though this book is traumatic at times, it’s a hell of a story.
The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish, (List Price: 28, Knopf, 9781524732325, September 2021)
Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, novel. in Memphis, Tennessee
In the Wild Light is a beautiful tribute to family, friendship, and the natural world. Zentner handles all three subjects with a gentle hand, weaving magical sentences that left me thoughtful and tearful. This is Zentner at his absolute best.
In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner, (List Price: 17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers, 9781524720247, August 2021)
Tucker spins a beautiful tale of addiction, love, friendship, and survival in this stunning debut set in rural North Carolina. Irene spends her days slinging drinks at the local watering hole. There, she befriends magnetic Luce and the two start down a dark path of drugs and crime, all the while wishing for escape. Things change when Luce meets a young soldier who wants to help her get clean. Irene is torn between the need to keep her friend close and the desire for Luce to have the best life possible. it’s a story of doing what you think is best and living with the consequences. This book broke my heart in the most beautiful way.
Last year, the English translation of Mieko Kawakami’s novel Breasts and Eggs received so much indie bookseller excitement and praise that the “buzz” was more like a swarm. But her work has been highly acclaimed in Japan for decades. Haruki Murakami has called her his favorite young novelist — and it was Kawakami who did a series of interviews with him over two years where she pointedly grilled him on on the misogyny in his novels.
The receiption for Heaven, Kawakami’s latest novel to be translated into English, has been just as enthusiastic. Heaven explores the meaning and experience of violence and the consolations of friendship. Bullied because of his lazy eye, Kawakami’s protagonist suffers in silence. His only respite comes thanks to his friendship with a girl who is also the victim of relentless teasing. But what is the nature of a friendship if your shared bond is terror?
“I try to write from the child’s perspective—how they see the world.” says the author, “Coming to the realization you’re alive is such a shock. One day, we’re thrown into life without warning.”
What booksellers are saying about Heaven
From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs comes this new novel that is once again storytelling at its best. Real, raw and revelatory, Heaven shares the story of two young people who are joined at a broken place and investigates the power of human kindness and friendship to help them move forward. — Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC Buy from The Country Bookshop
If you thought Breasts and Eggs was good (and I did), Heaven will be a fierce competitor. It’s a fascinating mental examination into how one is to survive under terrible circumstances and how far one would go to break free from it. — Easty Lambert-Brown, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers, Tuscaloosa, AL Buy from Ernest & Hadley Books.
What I appreciate so much about Kawakami is the strength of her voice, and her ability to convey the most basic aspects of human nature in a complex and thoughtful way. Pick up this book and then share it with everyone! -Kelsey Jagneaux, Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, FL Buy from Tombolo Books
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami offers a blend of devastation and hope, exploring both the desolation of lonely adolescence and the beauty of friendship. — Alex Brown, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC Buy from Quail Ridge Books
About Mieko Kawakami
Mieko Kawakami is the author of the internationally best-selling novel, Breasts and Eggs, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and one of TIME’s Best 10 Books of 2020. Born in Osaka, Kawakami made her literary debut as a poet in 2006, and published her first novella, My Ego, My Teeth, and the World, in 2007. Her writing is known for its poetic qualities and its insights into the female body, ethical questions, and the dilemmas of modern society. She has received numerous prestigious literary awards in Japan, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, and the Murasaki Shikibu Prize. Kawakami lives in Tokyo, Japan.
From the publisher who introduced us to JC Sassser’s Gradle Bird and Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s Trouble the Water, this is another evocative Southern tale, set on the Florida coast. Lauded by other Southern gems including Cassandra King Conroy and Nicole Seitz, I was obviously intrigued, and journalist-turned-debut-novelist Joe Palmer delivers. Love the interaction between a crotchety old sailor and the crime-bound kid he takes under his wing. In a world often gone mad, this book was a great reminder that among storms and strife there is genuine humanity.
A Mariner’s Tale by Joe Palmer (List Price: $17.99, Koehler Books, 9781646631452, 10/25/2020)
Ava moves from Iowa to New Orleans to live with her artist grandmother (who’s suffering from memory loss) after her mother dies. Not having been in each other’s lives, this is a beautiful story about family, finding out who they are, and forging a path together.
The House Uptown by Melissa Ginsburg (List Price: $26.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250784186, 3/16/2021)
The Hare hits all the notes for a great novel you will read obsessively. Melanie Finn has written the breathtaking story of the life of Rose Monroe whose entire trajectory was determined at age eighteen by a chance (?) meeting with an older man at MOMA. However, Bennett isn’t who he claims to be. Because of this, despite this, Rose grows into a powerful woman who isn’t diminished by her dire circumstances. She is a survivor. This brilliant book contains a subtext involving dark, abhorrent behavior.
The Hare by Melanie Finn (List Price: $16.99, Two Dollar Radio, 9781937512972, 1/26/2021)
Calling Mary Jane a coming of age novel would be a vast understatement. It is the summer of 1975, and 14-year-old Mary Jane has the opportunity to nanny for the little girl of a family completely the opposite of her own family. Where her family is quiet and orderly, the Cone family is loud and chaotic. At home she learns Black and Jewish folks need to “know their place” in their upper class Baltimore neighborhood, while through the eyes of the Cone family everyone is equal and no judgments are passed. Not only is this a beautiful novel about a young girl realizing her place in the world and finding out who she is, it is an amazingly fun ‘70s music throwback with lyrics on almost every page.
Mary Jane: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau (List Price: $27.99, Custom House, 9780063052291, 5/11/2021)
I really enjoyed this read! I blew through it and actually read most of it on New Years Eve! What a perfect way to ring in the new year! This is perfect for your younger readers who are reading up, and honestly it can be enjoyed any time of the year!
New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews (List Price: $9.99, Underlined, 9780593179857, 12/1/2020)
Brit Bennett is a master storyteller who has created an intergenerational tale full of place, relevant commentary, the complexities of human nature, and life’s unexpected turns. I was sucked into the story from the beginning and absolutely loved how the idea of a “vanishing half” kept presenting itself in the storyline. Wow, this was just so smart and effortlessly crafted. I didn’t want my reading experience to end!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (List Price: $27, Riverhead Books, 9780525536291, 6/2/2020)
Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
Becca and KJ are cousins, both about to graduate from high school. But because their mothers are estranged, they don’t know each other at all. When their maternal grandfather dies, they have to come together for the reading of his will. In it, their grandfather has given both of the girls and both of their mothers a nice sum of money. The only catch is that the girls must complete a five-part bucket list before they get the money. The list is a set of things the grandfather always wanted to do, but his mounting agoraphobia wouldn’t let him. I LOVE that we have a story that, at its root, is about friendship. And while there’s a smidge of romance, it’s FAR from the main plot. It took me a moment to warm up to the two girls, but in the end, I enjoyed them, flaws and all.
Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay (List Price: $17.99, Running Press Kids, 9780762472291, 5/11/2021)
This book haunts me. I can’t stop thinking about it! “M” is a seven year old girl in Chile growing up with a father “D” who is a traveling salesman who sells hardware. Her mother is chronically depressed and, while loving, incapable of looking after her daughter much of the time. Told from M’s perspective, we go with her and D from place to place when he takes her out of school to go on his sales trips without her mother’s knowledge. She’s sort of his “buddy” and “junior salesman” traveling companion and it’s disturbing to see this child smoke and drink coffee in companionship with the other salesmen in the book. Ghosts of Pinochet’s Desaparecidos appear and disappear between the pages. It’s a book that will stay with you long after you close the cover.
How to Order the Universe by María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer (Trans.) (List Price: $19.95, Tin House Books, 9781951142308, 2/16/2021)
How are two Japanese 14-year-olds to deal with continuous bullying by their classmates and still have the presence of mind to genuinely care about others and question their place in their community? This is more than a story about bullying—it delves into the raw and moral relationships that most people don’t experience until they are adults. Beautiful to read, thoughtful in intent, and worthy of remembering.
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett (Trans.) (List Price: $23.00, Europa Editions, 9781609456214, May 2021)
Kate Weinberg’s debut novel of suspense weaves a tale of obsession, deception, and misguided love. Jess Walker is a young woman who enters an uninspiring university in East Anglia for the sole purpose of being a student of the charismatic professor of literature, Lorna Clay, who seems to have taken the position under a cloud of suspicion from her past. Clay will be conducting studies on the life and work of Agatha Christie, with an underlying theme, “People disappear when they most want to be seen.”
Jess not only falls under her thrall, but also that of her three new friends who introduce her to a lifestyle of excess and awakenings, with tragic and life-altering consequences.This is a moody, mesmerizing, and literary read.
The Truants by Kate Weinburg (List price: $17.00, G.P. Putnam’s Sons), recommended by The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC.
I just finished The Fortunate Ones and am a little breathless with it. Part political intrigue, part A Separate Peace, the novel spans decades across elite boarding schools and the halls of Washington, but what captures the reader is Charlie, the narrator at the book’s heart. I fell in love with Charlie’s voice and story, and it’s him I kept turning the page for. I loved this book.
The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington (List Price: $26.95, Algonquin Books, 9781616206802, 1/5/2021)
What’s starts off as a light and cheery coming-of-age story, quickly turns as unexpected sisters and family drama are tossed in. Abby Day is a relatable teen struggling with boy problems and AP Lit, when she suddenly learns that she has a sister! As she and her influencer sister try to uncover the mystery of their separation, they learn to appreciate each other not just as friends, but as sisters. Emma Lord’s story is unique and modern, detailing the trials of family, making careers out of passions, and navigating friendships, making it all I could think about for the last few days. Though, all Abby’s family drama makes me grateful the worst thing my sister ever did was go see Harry Styles without me!
You Have a Match by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250237309, 1/5/2021)
This book was just what I, a somewhat jaded bookseller, needed right now. Many thanks to all who brought it to life. The character development is just about perfect. These are people whom we meet, come to know, come to care for, and eventually cheer for. I can’t say it’s the most original plot, but it was the most satisfying version of “kids in peril” that I can remember. The adults come together in surprising ways, each on his or her own Hero’s Journey, and end up becoming their best selves for the benefit of the boys. It’s a lot for a first novel, but it just works–it comes across as so earnest and good-hearted, completely un-ironic in the best way. The river is both a plot device and a metaphor, as the kids barrel toward their doom. It makes this character-driven novel a real page-turner. I will be an evangelist for this book.
A slice of life tale from Northern Ireland featuring a bold, unusual, but very relatable protagonist. Definitely good for a few laughs, but above all else, a very engaging novel that manages to transport the reader to another place (unless you happen to be from a border town called Aghybogey).
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (List Price: $16.95, Algonquin Books, 9781643750897 December 2020).
Enormous in scope and theme, this book is a force. Weaving past and present into a lyrical world, Joukhadar uses a multi-generational cast to explore what it means to belong to a society, a community, and to oneself. It’s in this narrowing of belonging that the novel truly soars, literal ghosts and the ghosts of self-populating the story of a young trans boy as he sheds the confines of his traditional community-at-large and finds himself in the immigrant, working-class, LGBTQ, artists’ underground of NYC. The characters are imperfectly human. They experience everything from grief to joy, their lives full of loss and love, of heartbreak and the comfort of others, of seeing their world anew, and of being seen for who they are. This isn’t a novel about suffering; this is a novel about being in the world.
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (List Price: $27, Atria Books, November, 2020)
Every season one or two books seem to come out of nowhere to become the books that everyone is talking about. Except, they don’t really come out of nowhere. In the weeks and months before a book is published, reviewers and booksellers with an early peak start posting their opinions and reviews. That early swell of chatter and excitement is an indication of good things to come for a book.
Among Southern booksellers, the early chatter about Bryan Washington’s new novel, Memorial, was enthusiastic — marking it as one of the books not to be missed this Fall.
What booksellers are saying about Memorial
Washington has achieved something beautiful: a chill novel you want to hang out with. Like a good friend, this novel invites you in, cooks up a great meal, and opens up its heart. –Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA
Washington’s exploration of the bonds between family and lovers (and between one’s lover’s family) is incredible — super relatable, often hilarious, and deeply touching. I wanted this book to last forever. –Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
With razor-sharp humor, heartbreaking truths, and multi-dimensional characters that fly off the page, Bryan Washington’s novel is a virtuosic triumph. As I cried through the last pages, I only wished I could live within his story for as long as possible. — Greg Tarlton, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
I couldn’t put this book down. This world that Bryan Washington created felt so deeply personal that I felt like I was the one living with my boyfriend’s mother without said boyfriend being around. –Aimee Rankin, Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
About Bryan Washington
Bryan Washington is a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree, and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. His first book, the story collection Lot, was a finalist for the NBCC’s John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Lot was a New York Times Notable Book, one of Dwight Garner’s top ten books of the year, and on best-of-the-year lists from Time, NPR, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed, and many more. He has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed, Vulture, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Tin House, One Story, Bon Appétit, GQ, The Awl, and Catapult. He lives in Houston.