The story is built around a family road-trip full of comic moments, but these aren’t the Griswolds, and they’re not headed to Walley World. Every member of the Wang family is fighting to hang onto his or her own very specific American dream as they journey from California to New York after the loss of the family fortune. Jade Chang’s voice is fresh, her take on the immigrant narrative is new, but her themes are timeless. A really fun read.
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (Houghton Mifflin, $26), recommended by Mary Laura at Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN.
On a purely narrative level, Kelly Carlin's book is wholly engrossing; as a companion to her father's body of work, it's indispensable.
A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George by Kelly Carlin (St. Martin's Press) Recommended by Ike at Fiction Addiction Greenville SC
A legitimate masterpiece, mixing antiseptic, dystopian sci-fi with reflections on aging, love and lonlieness.
Hoeullebecq's genius is on full display, switching between philosophical musings and caustic misanthropy while somehow retaining a lowkey humanity. A singular bit of fiction.
The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq, Gavin Bowd ($16, Vintage Books USA), recommended by Justin, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.
An excerpt from Lemuria Books' blog: I recently told someone that Fresh Complaint, Jeffery Eugenides’ new collection of short stories, is so well-written I could cry. I lied.
I had already cried, specifically while sitting by my apartment’s swimming pool and reading the story “Early Music.” I don’t think anyone saw, but if they had, I would have told them the truth–that one of my favorite authors has reminded me how much I love books, and that I am not sure I will ever be so passionate about anything else.
[...] If you crave intimacy with a character the way I do, you will not get enough of his Eugenides’ writing. On the other hand, the amount of detail is intimidating. People shy away from his novels because they think they are too long, or too detailed, or too boring (none of which are true). I was a bit apprehensive that his short stories wouldn’t incorporate the trademark detail and introspection. But this is exactly why his short stories work so well. In just a few pages, Eugenides is able to capture a person, their entire life, and boil it down to the important scenarios. If you have been intimidated by the sheer length of Middlesex, or bored by the idea of The Marriage Plot, or put-off by the subject of The Virgin Suicides, this is the collection for you. It’s time to stop being afraid and pick up Fresh Complaint.
Fresh Complaint: Stories by Jeffrey Eugenides ($27.00*, Farrar Straus Giroux), recommended by Lemuria Books, Jacksonville, MS.
Tyler loves The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close: This is the story of Beth, a woman who moves to DC when her husband Matt gets a job campaigning for Obama during the 2008 election. For Beth, the city never feels like home until she and Matt become friends with Ash and her husband Jimmy, who also works in the administration. The rest of the novel is a sometimes comedy, always careful study of these four people, and how their friendships, relationships, and professional lives entangle and constrict. The backdrop of the Obama administration and Texas politics are fascinating, and Close's dry humor and sharp observations make The Hopefuls an "open it and realize four hours have gone by" novel.
The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95), recommended by Tyler at Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA.