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Empire of Wild

Cherie Dimaline (Morrow)

Dimaline draws on the Métis myth of the werewolflike Rogarou in this irresistible quest narrative. After Joan’s husband, Victor, disappears from their First Nations community of Arcand, Ontario, Joan tracks the Rogarou in search of answers. Dimaline takes readers from Ontario to New York to New Orleans and beyond to describe Joan and Victor’s passionate courtship and his gradual acceptance by her family, informing Joan’s rabid desperation. This literary thriller is a must-read.


Everyone Knows How Much I Love You

Kyle McCarthy (Ballantine)

In McCarthy’s deliciously incisive tale of obsession, a woman tracks down her childhood friend in New York City. Rose, 30, worms her way into sharing Lacie’s apartment, and soon, in the best horror movie tradition, is costuming herself in Lacie’s clothes and throwing herself at Lacie’s new boyfriend, all the while secretly writing a novel that fills in the details of Rose’s betrayal when they were teens. McCarthy’s dark tone and beguiling narrative strike the perfect chord.



Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf)

In O’Farrell’s lyrical evocation of a home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the household’s most famous character is mostly off-stage. O’Farrell instead focuses on the wife and son of Shakespeare (referred to here as “the Latin tutor” or “the husband”), Agnes and Hamnet. Agnes is described in fecund, mythical terms, possessing a strong connection to nature and a steadfast nurturer, while Hamnet, who dies from fever at 11, is achingly vulnerable. This is a consummate work of literary inspiration.


Lake Life

David James Poissant (Simon & Schuster)

A retired couple invites their sons Michael and Thad for one last summer at their lake house in North Carolina before selling and moving to Florida. What could go wrong? Well, Michael, an alcoholic, fails to save a neighbor boy from drowning, while Thad, an underemployed poet with his blocked artist boyfriend Jake in tow, begrudges their open relationship. Poissant’s superb talent for observation makes for vicarious thrills, as the truth brings the family members to a head.


The New American

Micheline Aharonian Marcom (Simon & Schuster)

Marcom’s powerful tale of refugees from Guatemala and Mexico making their way to the U.S. draws on her work with the New American Story Project. Emilio, a student at UC Berkeley, is deported to Guatemala, where he doesn’t speak the indigenous language. Desperate to return home, he embarks on a treacherous trip with four other migrants. Marcom makes this a stirring, captivating adventure, from train hopping to an excruciating Sonora Desert crossing.


The New Wilderness

Diane Cook (Harper)

Cook imagines a crowded and polluted near future in which only one natural area remains, the Wilderness State. Twenty people volunteer for a government experiment in how humans fare in the wilderness. Among the volunteers, Glen and Bea learn to eke out a precarious existence with Bea’s daughter in tow, while navigating strict rules enforced by rangers. Bea’s uncompromising survival instincts make her an indispensable travel companion, and so does Cook’s wry, irreverent humor.


Self Care

Leigh Stein (Penguin)

In this sharp satire of wellness culture gone toxic, a Goop-like lifestyle company called Richual seeks to “catalyze women to be global changemakers through the simple act of self-care.” Maren, who got her start working for a nonprofit feminist organization, ensures Richual runs “like a well-moisturized machine.” That machine hits a rough patch after a male investor is accused of sexual misconduct. The plot flies by, but the real appeal lies in Stein’s merciless skewering of startup culture.



Andrew Durbin (Nightboat)

In Durbin’s lush, languid novella, a writer flies to Greece with a friend to track down a painting of French writer Herve Guibert, who died of AIDS in 1991. The narrator romanticizes Guibert, who wrote his masterpiece in a fevered state. On the beach at Patmos, the duo enjoys the sun, the beach, and the scantily clad young men. Durbin’s dreamy, sensual odyssey will have readers longing for the days when it was okay to get close to strangers.


Slum Virgin

Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, trans. from the Spanish by Frances Riddle (Charco)

Cabezón Cámara’s stunning tour de force follows Quity, a down-and-out Argentinean journalist who hopes to salvage her career by profiling Cleo, a trans ex-prostitute known for her visions of the Virgin Mary. The propulsive narrative is filled with humor, danger, and romance as Quity and Cleo navigate the hardscrabble Buenos Aires slum of El Poso and fall in love.


The Son of Good Fortune

Lysley Tenorio (Ecco)

In Tenorio’s sly, empathetic tale, 19-year-old Excel, an undocumented Filipino immigrant, reluctantly returns home to Colma, Calif., from Hello City, where he’s $10,000 in debt and drawing potential heat from the feds. At home, he returns to a dismal pizza job and eventually seeks help from his mother, Maxima, a former action star who gets by running online scams. Perfectly paced and with unforgettable characters, this is the kind of book readers will wish would never end.


The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett (Riverhead)

In the Jim Crow 1950s, twins Desiree and Stella Vignes long to escape their town of Mallard, La., where their father was lynched. As teens, they flee to New Orleans, and then Stella disappears. Eventually, the twins reunite, reckoning with the decisions that have shaped their lives. Bennett explores her characters’ struggles with great compassion, following Stella through her decision to pass as white as characters’ story lines satisfyingly diverge and intersect through the generations.


When These Mountains Burn

David Joy (Putnam)

Joy’s North Carolina noir takes readers on a white-knuckle ride through an opioid- and wildfire-ravaged region of the Smoky Mountains. In 2016, with the Tellico fire smoldering in the background, a retired forester gets a nightmarish phone call. He must pay his pill-addicted son’s debt to a pusher in Cherokee country, or else he’ll be killed. The hardboiled prose crackles as the story becomes an unforgettable tale of father and son.


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