If there’s one thing you should know about me – it’s that I adore a book about an unhappy housewife, not because I like seeing women unhappy, but because I love to support women fighting wrongs. Seeing how a woman reclaims her space, life, and situation – even if she goes about it in questionable ways, is a ride I want to be on. Kashimada’s novel is a prime example of all these elements, with the perfect blend of sparse, deeply impactful prose that explore themes of religion, tragedy, identity, and isolation.
Love at Six Thousand Degrees by Maki Kashimada, (List Price: $17, Europa, 9781609458195, March 2023)
Jessica Moore perfectly encapsulates the thrilling genius of Maylis de Kerangal in this translation. The beauty of Eastbound‘s prose directly contradicts the dire circumstances of Aloicha, a young Russian soldier who quickly deserts, hiding on the very same train as his pursuers. Kerangal’s masterful control of his work and Moore’s faithful translation of the original French novel will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Eastbound by Maylis De Kerangal, (List Price: $18, Archipelago, 9781953861504, February 2023)
I love nothing more than a place-driven, character-driven novel, so this book was right up my alley. Fiona McFarlane explores colonial Australia through the eyes of many of the inhabitants of a small farm town on the edge of the desert as they react to the disappearance of a young boy. McFarlane does not shy away from exploring the brutal history of European colonialism and the effects it had on this country. Her prose is captivating and her characters are multifaceted. I’m sure Cissy, the headstrong older sister of the missing boy, will be a favorite of many readers. Fans of Michele de Kretser and Maggie Shipstead will enjoy this book.
The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane, (List Price: $28, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374606237, February 2023)
Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Over seven days in a psychiatric ward in 1994 in Italy, the main character Daniele Mancarelli (who shares the author’s name and some life experiences) documents his involuntary committal. We spend most of our time on the ward itself with occasional flashbacks of the six patients’ and staff’s pasts. Mencarelli (author and character) is also a poet, and the language is beautiful and delicately translated by Wendy Weathly. While not dismissing the need for the truly suffering or dangerous to be treated, the author presents much to be considered about the way society categorizes those who are simply different or passing through a difficult phase of life.
Everything Calls for Salvation by Daniele Mencarelli, (List Price: $22, Europa Editions, 9781609458065, January 2023)
“I think urban legends, myths and folktales constantly tell us that what you know is not all, and you shouldn’t be arrogant enough to think that what your five senses can sense is all there is to feel and perceive and think.” ―Bora Chung, Interview, The Korea Herald
What booksellers are saying about Cursed Bunny: Stories
Cursed Bunny is a fantastically weird and thought-provoking collection of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories that had me ruminating long after I had finished them. Bora Chung takes the bases of human nature (and a lot of the worst ones) and puts them on display like an open wound for the reader. Along with covering individual issues like greed, despair, or love… the stories also tackle societal issues regarding feminism and poverty as well. This book is perfect for horror fans that also enjoy literary fiction.
―Stuart McCommon from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel.
A fantastic, Korean story collection that includes nightmarish tales you won’t be able to put down. Bora Chung is bringing a new depth of not only gore and terror to traditional horror but also something more provocative as well. Tales that range from heads emerging from toilets, body horror that you’ll remember for days, and even some more sci-fi elements as well, this story collection is not for the faint of heart. An unforgettable book that’ll keep you thinking for days.
―Grace Sullivan from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore
Delightfully gruesome, disarmingly weird, and incredibly sharp; Bora Chung’s debut collection Cursed Bunny is an incredibly memorable trip into the mind of an amazing new voice. From a head growing out of a toilet wanting to be free, a snared fox that bleeds gold, or the titular cursed bunny; each of Chung’s amazing stories reads like a dark fable that would give the Grimm brothers a run for their money. With themes of gender, greed, and technology, Cursed Bunny is a must read for those who take their humor black and their ideas big. So very good!
―Caleb Masters from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks
About Bora Chung
Bora Chung has written three novels and three collections of short stories. She has an MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University. She has taught Russian language and literature and science fiction studies at Yonsei University and translates modern literary works from Russian and Polish into Korean.
Anton Hur was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He won a PEN Translates award for Kang Kyeong-ae’s The Underground Village and his translation of Sang Young Park’s Love in the Big City was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2022. He lives in Seoul.
Olafdottir takes us to Iceland a few days before Christmas where a midwife, Domhildur, has just delivered her 1,922nd baby. She comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and her father’s family work as undertakers. Her family deals with beginnings and endings, life and death, and sunlight and darkness. “I have come to the conclusion that the one who calls himself the master of all creatures is in fact the most vulnerable of all animals…the most fragile of the fragile on the planet.” These words, written by Domhildur’s great-aunt, are discovered in some manuscripts left in a closet after her death. Domhildur reads her great-aunt’s reflections on humans, life, and loves, while a storm is moving into Reykjavik. Will the prediction in these pages come to be reality? Will mankind be “the most short-lived species on earth”?
Animal Life by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (List Price: $17, Grove Press, Black Cat, 9780802160164, December 2022)
Reviewed by Nancy Pierce, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia
A novel that takes place in a Russian town where officials are dropping dead after a recent law that stifled forms of expression has been passed, following the real-life events of a Pussy Riot church protest. The neo-noir feel that envelopes this political yet humorous novel fits perfectly and makes this a fantastic and original read. Though this deals with conversations on nationalism, religion, and sexuality among others, the light humor and prose kept this novel more digestible and entertaining.
Offended Sensibilities by Ganieva Alisa (List Price: $16.95, Deep Vellum Publishing, 9781646052233, November 2022)
A pastoral fall pick for dog and animal lovers: this quick read throws you into the 5-year journey of Tamon, a German Shepherd, as he wanders in and out of the lives of his many different grief-stricken, down-and-out owners. This is the first translated works of Seishu Hase, a veteran of the Yakuza crime genre, whose teeth are bared in simple but sweet prose with moments of striking intensity. Struggle, plight, and grief are mirrored between human and animal as each character contends for their own survival and place in the world. Bittersweet, but ultimately a story of returning home in both place and spirit.
The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase (List Price: $23, Viking, 9780593300411, November 2022)
“I do not deliberately drag my identity to the desk every day, but it turns up. I grew up a Catholic in a small, mostly Protestant town on the shores of Belfast Lough in the seventies. My childhood had a lot in common with that of children in the UK and, in a different sense – the rest of Ireland. But it was stressful in a way I did not understand until later; my generation were reared by nervous wrecks. ” ―Louise Kennedy, Interview, Wasafiri
What booksellers are saying about Trespasses
I am in awe of everything about this incredible debut. Set in Belfast during the 70s, Trespasses explores the roles of violence and chance through the life of Cushla, a Catholic woman in her 20s who finds herself swept up in a love affair with an older, married Protestant lawyer. The narrative grows with a quiet sense of discomfort until it rushes to a startling conclusion that left me breathless.
―Chelsea Stringfield from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus Books
I am fascinated by the Troubles and all the heartache it caused. Cushla Lavery’s struggles to reconcile her loyalties to community and her love for a man forbidden by that community. The daily drama of living for people caught up in this terrible time seems very real in the characters Kennedy develops. I was mesmerized by this story and couldn’t put it down! A must read!
―Stephanie Crowe from Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL | Buy from Page & Palette
I am fascinated by the Troubles; it continually boggles my mind that armed occupation of and paramilitary presence in Northern Ireland went on for so long, so recently. So I deeply appreciated the insight into the Troubles that this novel provides, following Cushla, a Catholic schoolteacher living in a small town near Belfast, enamored with an older Protestant barrister who is wrong for her in every way. Louise Kennedy’s story of sectarian violence and tragedy is totally compelling and humanizes this fascinating period of time by focusing on the stories of ordinary people.
―Kate Storhoff from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks
About Louise Kennedy
Louise Kennedy grew up near Belfast. Trespasses is her first novel. She is also the author of a collection of short stories, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac. She has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, and BBC Radio 4. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a chef for almost thirty years. She lives in Sligo, Ireland.
Claire Keegan’s books are little, quietly epic works of art. Foster is the story of a lonely child sent to live with relatives one summer, not knowing whether she would return home. The love and compassion shown to her on the Irish farm starkly contrast with the child’s family. Keegan’s prose is gorgeous.
Foster by Claire Keegan, (List Price: $20, Grove Press, 9780802160140, November 2022)
Witches, by Mexican writer Brenda Lozano, features quite possibly the most distinctive voice I’ve come across in fiction this year. Feliciana’s narrative, recounting her life as an indigenous healer – or curandera – is hypnotic, elliptical and utterly absorbing. Her story intertwines with that of Zoe, a journalist from Mexico City sent to report on the death of Paloma, Feliciana’s muxe – or third gender – cousin. Their stories combine to highlight the struggles of women striving to be true to themselves and to find their own voices.
Witches by Brenda Lozano, (List Price: $26, Catapult, 9781646220687, August 2022)
Reviewed by Jude Burke-Lewis, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
My favorite Julian Barnes books feature an unremarkable protagonist who attempts to decode the words and actions of a different, more complicated character; the author thereby offers insight into his own process of character creation, from the outside in. Elizabeth Finch is the apotheosis of this type of Barnes book. A former student tries to understand the life of a recently deceased scholar who was his teacher and then friend. Along the way, we are treated to a lengthy essay about Julian the Apostate, which perhaps is offered as a key for us to encode the life of Julian the Author. I thought of Julian, and how the centuries had interpreted and reinterpreted him, like a man walking across a stage pursued by different-coloured spotlights… Well, getting our history wrong is part of being a person.
Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes, (List Price: $26, Knopf, 9780593535431, August 2022)
Reviewed by Anne Peck, Righton Books in St Simons Island, Georgia
Here’s how you take a great sin–maybe The great sin–and particularize it so that our minds can grasp it. The Germans and the British and the Portuguese and the Dutch (and now, of course, the US and China and ad nauseam)–all of these governments have, at one time or another, wanted to get their hands on Africa–really get in there–all the way in–and do what they want to it. Gurnah and his magical Nobel Prize-winning pen tells us the story of a family battered by the complexities of colonialism and their risings and fallings and re-risings. Deep, satisfying, horrifying, wonderful.
Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, (List Price: $28, Riverhead Books, 9780593541883, August 2022)
Reviewed by Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Murata, author of the 2016 indie hit Convenience Store Woman, is back with a collection of weird and weirdly relatable short stories. Cannibalism! Alien bodies! Distant worlds! Getting older, and more alone! These and other strange subjects are blown up to speak about the fundamental problems of living today. I especially loved "Hatchling," a story reminiscent of Osamu Dazai’s classic "No Longer Human," but with a feminist sensibility. Life Ceremony further cements Sayaka Murata as one of the world’s most interesting contemporary writers.
Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, (List Price: $25, Grove Press, 9780802159588, July 2022)
Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
Three women have shared a bond for decades. When they are reunited for one of their daughter’s weddings, the past comes back in a rush. The story is told in flashbacks and present day in a way that helps them reconcile where they have ended up and where they once dreamed they’d go. A timeless examination of all the dreams you hold for yourself, the dreams your parents and others have for you, and how much you are able to follow your heart.
Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro, (List Price: $27, Knopf, 9780593320297, June 2022)
Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina