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The Blood of Heaven

Kent Wascom (Grove)

Though only 26, Wascom has the ambition of a more seasoned scribe. A few years into the 19th century, two young men, both preachers’ sons, head into the rough frontier of West Florida. They preach, rob, steal, and kill, finding something spiritual in their deeds. Angel Woolsack narrates with assurance, mixing biblical cadences with a Southern lilt in a voice pulsating with violence, tension, and religious hysteria.

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Kiss Me First

Lottie Moggach (Doubleday)

This disturbing, engrossing psychological thriller will keep you up nights as the founder of a website that discusses philosophy lures a lonely young woman into a twisted scenario involving identity takeover via social media. A wild and wicked debut novel.

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Flora

Gail Godwin (Bloomsbury)

Charismatic Helen Anstruther, the wry adolescent narrator of Godwin’s new novel, is left in the care of the “hopelessly effusive” Flora, a young family friend. The isolated and rambling house they share once served people recovering from tuberculosis or alcoholism. It’s 1945, Helen’s father is away on business and her mother is long dead, and the summer she spends with Flora—full of boredom, desire, and ultimately heartbreak—profoundly transforms them both. Godwin knows how to deliver rich, textured tales.

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The Peripatetic Coffin

Ethan Rutherford (Ecco)

This summer, read short stories in your shorts. Rutherford’s sharp, inspired debut collection runs the gamut of emotion and genre in eight tales that ponder the ways in which we find ourselves isolated. The writer embraces wild variation while still creating linkages. Many of the stories take place inside physical vessels (a Civil War–era submarine; a Russian ship bound for the North Pole; a futuristic tanker), but often the vessels of containment are psychological. Robust, engaging stories from a writer to watch.

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The Other Typist

Suzanne Rindell (Putnam/Amy Einhorn)

Victor LaValle has said “Rindell messes with your head,” and that her book “pretends to be the story of a nice young woman entering the cutthroat world of police work in 1920s New York.” This sly debut novel is narrated by Rose Baker, a typist for the NYPD falls under the spell of the department’s glamorous new typist. As Rose’s fascination turns to obsession, so too does her reliability come into question. LaValle again: “I had a blast reading this and had my nerves scrambled by the end.”

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Bobcat and Other Stories

Rebecca Lee (Algonquin)

Lee’s debut novel, The City Is a Rising Tide, was well received, and this, her first collection of stories, is a Barnes & Noble Discover pick. Lee covers a wide terrain in only seven stories, touching on fidelity, sacrifice, jealousy, and obligation, with stories that often dial out slowly from tightly-focused beginnings, like, “It was the terrine that got me,” or “I went to Professor Pine for help twice in my life, once as a child and once as an adult.”

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Sisterland

Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)

Hovering in that wildly desirable land where literary meets commercial, Sittenfeld is a writer who has fans waiting for her next novel and this summer delivers a page-turner about psychic twin sisters who have taken different views of “the gift.” They both arrive in their hometown, St. Louis, to confront the fallout from a startling prediction and their own relationship.

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Snow Hunters

Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster)

In his debut novel, Yoon tells the story of a North Korean soldier who defects at the end of the Korean War, leaving everything behind him to build a new life on the coast of Brazil. The collection Once the Shore showcased Yoon’s piercing powers of story and language; this novel continues his stunning trajectory with prose so pristine it feels supernatural.

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Search Party

Valerie Trueblood (Counterpoint (PGW, dist.))

In these 13 stories, Trueblood, who’s tackled marriage (or rather people escaping from marriage) in her first collection, Marry or Burn, here writes of rescue: how just plain people—a fired cop, a nurse’s aide, a radio producer diagnosed with cancer—are spared, saved, and delivered from the jaws of fate, often from situations that seem hopeless.

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Questions of Travel

Michelle de Kretser (Little, Brown)

Through the lives of two characters, Australian Laura and Sri Lankan Ravi, de Kretser weaves a story about travel. Laura is freed to roam because of a financial windfall; Ravi travels in his imagination. When they finally meet, another adventure begins in this keenly observed meditation on the meaning of leaving home.

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