Three 2012 novels that have received great reviews but haven’t yet hit the best sellers lists:
Alif the Unseen (M)
by G. Willow Wilson
In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients, dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups, from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the State’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line.
“[G. Willow Wilson] works magic. . . . Ms. Wilson has not set out to copy JK Rowling’s books or anyone else’s; she has her own fertile imagination and fanciful narrative style. But as an American convert to Islam, she has an unusual ability to see the best of both worlds. In Alif the Unseen she spins her insights into an exuberant fable that has thrills, chills and—even more remarkably—universal appeal.”
– The New York Times
Imaginative storytelling . . . Wilson skillfully weaves a story linking modern-day technologies and computer languages to the folklore and religion of the Middle East. For readers ready for adventure and looking for original storytelling, this excellent novel supersedes genres as easily as its characters jump from one reality to another.”
– Library Journal
Magnified World (M)
by Grace O’Connell
What’s a girl supposed to do after her mother kills herself by walking into the Don River with her pockets full of unpolished zircon stones? Maggie removes the zircon stones from the inventory of the family’s New Age shop and opens up for another day of business. Then her blackouts begin, as do the visits from a mysterious customer who offers help for Maggie’s blackouts and her project of investigating her mother’s past in the American South. Is Maggie breaking down in the way her mother did, or is her “madness” a distinctive show of grief? Nobody really knows, not her father, her boyfriend or her psychiatrist, and especially not Maggie, who has to make some crazy decisions in order to work to feel sane again.
“She’s a beautiful writer. Line by line, her prose is sensate and evocative, toying with words and images and reframing them in wonderfully counterintuitive, surprising ways.”
– The Walrus
“O’Connell has a deliriously good style, swooping through layers of consciousness and comprehension with elegance and even a bit of humour. The painful experience of going on with one’s life after a loved one commits suicide is examined by stripping bare multiple layers of perception to try to find stability in an unstable emotional world.“
– Quill & Quire
by Lauren Groff
In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and beyond.
“[Lauren Groff] has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality…And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast…The raw beauty of Ms. Groff’s prose is one of the best things about Arcadia. But it is by no means this book’s only kind of splendor.”
– The New York Times
“…Groff, author of 2008’s magnificent The Monsters of Templeton, eschews counterculture stereotypes to bring Bit’s interior and exterior worlds to life. Her exquisite writing makes the reader question whether to hurry up to read the next beautiful sentence or slow down and savor each passage. Highly recommended” – Library Journal