For me, August is the last of the summer reading months: one more month for reading my way through the piles of books that have built up on end tables, night tables, coffee tables and every other surface in my house. The fact that people read more in the summer (or think they’re going to, anyway) can’t be lost of publishers. If the number of excellent new releases on tap for August is any indication, I’d say publishers are working hard to grab your attention and your summer reading minutes. Do you have space to add one of these ones to your list?
The Family Fang
by Kevin Wilson (August 9)
When I first stumbled upon this book, I didn’t know anything about Kevin Wilson, but a quote from author Hannah Pittard describing the books as “the Royal Tenenbaums meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” definitely piqued my interest. The Family Fang tells the story two children who spent their lives as extras in their parents’ performance art (whether they’ve liked it or not, and—no surprise here—mostly it’s not). The book is being described as a serious book with a lot of humour and fun. Wilson, I’ve now learned, is a first novelist, but published an award winning collection of short stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, in 2009.
This first novel is a classic case of art imitating life. Set in New York City post 9/11, and at the centre of the book is a design competition for a memorial on the site. When the committee chooses the proposal of an outspoken Muslim American from the anonymously submitted designs, a wave of controversy erupts. The buzz behind the book mentions that Waldmen ended up rewriting large sections of her novel last summer, after controversy broke out around a real proposal to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site. Waldman has been quoted as saying “I felt like I was reading my novel in the newspapers.” Publisher’s Weekly said the book “addresses with a refreshing frankness thorny moral questions and ethical ironies without resorting to breathless hyperbole”.
The Natural Order
by Brian Francis (August 23)
My recollection is that when Brian Francis’ first novel Fruit: A novel about a boy and his nipples was added to the 2009 Canada Reads competition, most readers’ reaction was “Brian, who”? It was great then to see a first novel by a young author getting attention on the national stage. Now, two years after later we have Francis’ second offering, one that—with its plot about a mother coming to terms with the death of her son—sounds decidedly more grown up. It has already received praise from well know Canadian authors including Kathleen Winter, Ami McKay and Wayson Choy and is one to keep an eye on for this year’s awards season.
Salvage the Bones
by Jessmyn Ward (August 23)
Hurricane Katrina formed in the waters near the Bahamas on August 23, 2005. Six years later, Ward delivers her second novel to use the storm as its backdrop. A short, poetic novel that focuses on the twelve days leading up to the Hurricane, through the eyes of a family of young, impoverished children in the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Ward’s first novel, 2008’s Where the Line Bleeds received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. This follow up is getting a lot of buzz: book clubs take note.
The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka (August 23)
“On the boat we were mostly virgins.” When I saw Otsuka speak back in May, she said the first line her forthcoming novel about “women brought from Japan to San Francisco in the early 1900s as mail-order brides” came to her clearly, early on. Like her first novel When the Emperor Was Divine, her much anticipated followup, is a slim, historical novel of the life of Japanese immigrants in America. Otsuka is known for her clear, delicate prose: Publisher’s Weekly said that readers “will finish this exceptional book profoundly moved”.
Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen (August 23)
Fan of crime fiction? Like a brooding police detective? How ’bout a Scandinavian setting. From the publisher, here’s what you need to know about this one: “Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s premier crime writer. His books routinely top the bestseller lists in northern Europe, and he’s won just about every Nordic crime-writing award, including the prestigious Glass Key Award-also won by Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo… The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first installment of Adler- Olsen’s Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen’s best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren’t so lucky, and Carl, who didn’t draw his weapon, blames himself.“