Another week, another bunch of new releases. Here are four new titles which Jason has chosen for Boswell's Best.
I regret not reading in advance One Last Thing Before I Go, by Jonathan Tropper (Dutton). I hoped that with my great enjoyment of This is Where I Leave You, I might be able to get it to the top of the pile, but that was not to be. In this one, divorced Drew Silver plays in wedding bands, and maneuvers around the detritus of his past bad decisions. When he’s diagnosed as needing emergency heart surgery, he decides to forego it and repair his relationships and truly live in the moment. Entertainment Weekly gives it an A, calling the novel “a bristling, witty tale of woe that'll make you appreciate whatever good things, no matter how few, have come your way.”
Jason noted to me that this was the first week where just about all the highlighted new releases were from the fall selling season, not spring summer. One novel I saw being touted on fall lists that is finally out (and may make you cry, but not while your laughing) is Amand Coplin’s The Orchardist (Harper). Two girls appear at William Talmadge’s orchard. They steal fruit; he takes them in. Then some men arrive and things go very downhill. There are great quotes from Wally Lamb (“masterful writer”), Charles Baxter (“patiently beautiful), Ron Rash (“outstanding debut”) and Bonnie Jo Campbell (“mysterious, compelling, elemental novel”). And it’s not just writerly folk; Wendy Smith in The Washington Post says “Amanda Coplin’s somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. Steeped in the timeless rhythms of agriculture, her story unfolds in spare language as her characters thrash against an existential sense of meaninglessness.”
With a creeping nostalgia for newspapers, particularly British newspapers, particularly British newspapers that influence government policy, I quite taken with the jacket for Lionel Asbo (Knopf), by Martin Amis. It has a Fleet Street quality about it, though with more typefaces. Lionel is a thug turned millionaire, kept remotely in check by his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. Jess Walter, author of this summer’s breakout, Beautiful Ruins, wrote in Publishers Weekly the novel “crackles with brilliant prose and scathing satire” but then becomes “a gleefully twisted Great Expectations.” Alas, having searched among The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and The Guardian, I have to say that satire can be a tough mistress.
There's nothing satirical about Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile (Simon and Schuster), a novel of Florence Nightengale and Gustave Flaubert in a conceivable meeting as they traveled down the Nile in 1850. She is a radical thinker, he is a notorious womanizer, and both are destined for greatness. This is Shomer’s first published novel, following the story collection, Tourist Season (winner of the Iowa Short Fiction award) and several books of poetry. it’s unusal for a trade house to buy stories from a small press without a novel under contract, so I suspect Shomer moved with her editor from Random House. Alas, no trade reviews yet, though Kirkus notes that “by weaving her own imaginative constructions in with actual journal entries of both Flaubert and Nightingale, Shomer skillfully combines historical plausibility and historical truth.”
Local author Nicholas Dettman wrote in and let us know he's going to be on WTMJ's Morning Blend tomorrow, August 24, at 9 am. His novel, A Life Worth Dreaming About, is available at Boswell.