new fiction

Mired in Controversy, ‘American Dirt’ Is a Gripping Story of a Family’s Perilous Journey

Lee Polevoi

Jeanine Cummins’s novel, American Dirt, appeared early in 2020, drawing initial excitement and laudatory reviews. Soon, the book came under attack, with accusations and recriminations revolving around the issue of cultural appropriation. Critics questioned Cummins’s legitimacy and ability to write a novel about a Mexican mother and child on the run from a vicious drug cartel. Protests followed and a host of publicity events and television appearances were canceled.

Award-Winning Writer Portrays a Moving Family Saga in ‘Someone to Watch Over’

William Schreiber

William Schreiber earned the 2019 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association for his novel, Someone to Watch Over. The book was adapted from his original screenplay, which has won or been nominated for many competition awards, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting, as well as numerous Best Screenplay awards at film festivals throughout the country.

Reliving the Old West in Téa Obreht’s ‘Inland’

Lee Polevoi

In a second narrative strand, a Turkish refugee and outlaw named Lurie Mattie finds his fortunes inextricably linked with the U.S. Camel Corps, a little-known (and real) adjunct of the military around the time of the Civil War. Throughout his part of the story, spanning some 40 years, Lurie addresses his dromedary pack animal, Burke, as they make their way across the Wild West. Lurie, too, speaks with the ghost of a fellow renegade. Inland is saturated with the realm of the occult and more than a hint of magical realism.

The Future Is Here in John Lanchester's Dystopian 'The Wall'

Lee Polevoi

A decade or two into the future, after a tumultuous global climate event called the Change, an island nation (much like England) has built a Wall to protect itself against marauding outsiders, known as the Others. Those charged with protecting the borders, known as the Defenders, must maintain a 24/7 vigilance against attack and penetration. In many ways, it’s a world not all that different from what we know today, except that—as one example—rising waters around the planet have made beaches extinct.

Ghosts and Spies Emerge From London Fog in Kate Atkinson’s ‘Transcription’

Lee Polevoi

Atkinson quickly establishes place, diction, and a credible spirit of wartime and postwar milieus—while rarely getting bogged down in unnecessary exposition. The tone in the early chapters is both keenly literary and vividly cinematic. Confusion arises, however, with a plethora of secondary characters, i.e., the German sympathizers and double agents, some of whom are being “run” by Godfrey Tobey, some by Perry (her boss). The reader might be forgiven for wondering why many of these clandestine members of the Fifth Column talk so openly about “working for Berlin” or “spying for the Gestapo” in the midst of wartime England. 

A Girl Vanishes, Seasons Pass, in Jon McGregor’s ‘Reservoir 13’

Lee Polevoi

A frenzied, exhaustive search gets underway. But despite the best efforts of residents and authorities, no trace of the girl is found. McGregor, employing a kind of narrative wide-angle lens, travels fitfully among the villagers—Jones, the school janitor; Jane, the vicar; the butcher Martin Fowler and his wife, Ruth; teens Sophie, James, Liam and Deepak—pausing long enough to remark on their circumstances and then moving on. 

Mark Haddon Displays Compelling Fiction in ‘The Pier Falls’

Lee Polevoi

It's difficult to recall encountering another work of short fiction as well-crafted and emotionally devastating as the title story in Mark Haddon's new collection, The Pier Falls. Read first for shock value (and it is shocking), the story demands an immediate second reading for its sheer mastery of detail and timing. “The Pier Falls”– spoiler alert in the title—recounts the spiraling escalation of events when a crowded pier in an English seaside resort town abruptly loses one key load-bearing rivet and then another, paving the way for catastrophe. 

Comedy, Tragedy Collide in Thomas McGuane’s ‘Crow Fair’

Lee Polevoi

Flash forward some 40-odd years, and McGuane’s writing has grown leaner and more mature, while maintaining a characteristically deft balance between over-the-top comedy and heartbreaking tragedy. In Crow Fair, a new collection of short stories set mostly in Montana’s Big Sky country, he depicts better than most what one character thinks of as “the blizzard of things that could never be explained and that pointlessly exhausted all human inquiry.”

T.C. Boyle Focuses on Cycles of Rage in ‘The Harder They Come’

Lee Polevoi

In the opening pages of Boyle’s new novel, The Harder They Come, a 70-year-old Vietnam vet named Sten Stensen and his wife are part of a tour group robbed at gunpoint while on vacation in Costa Rica. At some point during the ordeal, his long-ago military training kicks in and Stensen subdues one of the robbers, killing him in the process. On the bus ride back to the Red Cross Clinic, he experiences the adrenalin-charged aftermath of the incident.

Victim and Accuser Clash in David Bezmozgis’ ‘The Betrayers’

Lee Polevoi

The setup of David Bezmozgis’ second novel is refreshingly simple. Baruch Kotler, a prominent Israeli politician (and former political prisoner in the USSR) has fled Tel Aviv in disgrace with his much younger mistress, Leora. They come to Yalta, a resort town in the Crimea, where, after a mix-up over hotel reservations, they rent a room in an apartment owned by a Russian woman, Svetlana. As we quickly discover, Svetlana’s aged husband, Chaim Tankilevich, is the man who long ago denounced Kotler to the KGB, which led to Kotler’s 13 years of exile and imprisonment.    

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - new fiction