Also of interest
In sophomore novels
“Nicole Dennis-Benn is quickly becoming an indispensable novelist,” said Michael Schaub in NPR.org. In her “brave, brilliant” second novel, a Jamaican woman yearning for a lasting reunion with a female lover leaves a 5-year-old behind to move to America. Nothing works as hoped—for mother or daughter. But these “unforgettable” characters each have desires that run counter to society’s expectations, and Dennis-Benn “isn’t afraid to confront truths that many other authors would shy away from.”
With the Fire on High
“Elizabeth Acevedo’s new novel is literary soul food,” said Joshunda Sanders in The New York Times. In this follow-up to The Poet X, winner of last year’s National Book Award for young-adult fiction, a 17-year-old Afro-Latina pursues her dream of becoming a chef while raising a baby as a single mother. Yes, Emoni Santiago is another “brilliant, brown girl who will not be victimized,” but Acevedo elevates the story with “blazes of writing that simmer, then nourish.”
Novelists too young to remember the 1960s now can’t get enough of the decade, said Thomas Mallon in The New Yorker. Joshua Furst’s first novel since 2007’s The Sabotage Café is narrated by the son of an Abbie Hoffman–like radical. The Hoffman stand-in is a brash egotist, and “a little of him goes a long way.” But even though Furst retains an unjustifiably romantic view of yippie politics, his book “knows how to get out of its own way”—how to make Hoffman and friends living characters.
“Don’t think too much about this book; just enjoy it,” said Laurie Hertzel in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In Mary Miller’s “endearing” tale, a boozy, bitter 63-year-old Southern divorcé unexpectedly acquires a pet while taking a detour to avoid his ex-wife. Is a border collie the ticket out of his rut? The meandering journey toward an answer involves some “implausible narrative twists and turns.” Still, “the ride is so much fun that you’d be a spoilsport for demanding that it all add up.” ■