New year, new books: In the coming months, beloved voices and new visions will appear on the fiction shelves. Here’s a selection of 10 titles to look forward to.
In her first novel Olga dies dreaming (Flatiron, Jan. 11), Xochitl Gonzalez introduces Brooklyn siblings Olga and Prieto Acevedo, Olga a high-end wedding planner, and Prieto a congressman who represents the district where they grew up. There are both personal and political dramas; our review calls the book “atmospheric, intelligent and well-informed: an impressive debut.”
Chantal James’ debut novel, None but the righteous (Contrapunt, January 11), is told by the ghost of St. Martin de Porres, who died in 17ecentury Peru and now watches over Ham, a 19-year-old orphan trying to find a home after being driven from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Our review says it’s “an enchanting story told by an impressive and captivating voice.”
Hanya Yanagihara’s latest novel, a small life, won the Kirkus Prize for Fiction in 2015 and it has earned the dedication of readers – I know a college girl who regularly rereads the parts that make her cry. It will come as no surprise to fans that the title of Yanagihara’s new novel, To paradise (Doubleday, January 11), isn’t exactly easy; as our review says, the book is “gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying and full of mystery.”
Musician and novelist John Darnielle returns with Devil House (MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 25), about a true crime writer whose latest project leaves him asking uncomfortable questions about his own performance. It’s an “impressive meta-work that delivers the joys of true crime while being skewered,” according to our review.
Our review points out that the title of Kim Fu’s powerful short story collection, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century (Tin House, February 1), is not a metaphor; these stories actually include a sea monster and a sinister doll; Fu “is equally at home in describing bizarre events and the inner lives of her characters.”
Marlon James made his unique mark on the epic fantasy genre with Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019), the opening of his Dark Star trilogy. In the second episode, Moon Witch, Spider King (Riverhead, Feb. 15), in what our review calls “a boldly imagined, lavishly divided ancient Africa,” he builds “something deeper and more profoundly innovative.”
Karen Joy Fowler’s position (Putnam, March 8) is about the family of Shakespearean actors that spawned John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, but it’s also about tensions in 19th-century America—and, as our review says, “the similarities with today are compelling and hair-raising.”
Douglas Stuart’s first novel, Shuggie Baino (2020), came out just before the pandemic started, and many Kirkus employees read it during the lockdown. “You’ll never forget Shuggie Bain,” our review said, and it was true. His second novel, Young Mungo (Grove, April 5), tells the story of two Glasgow workers, a Protestant and a Catholic, who must hide their love while trying to find a way to be together.
Twelve years later A visit from the Goon SquadJennifer Egan’s new novel, The candy house (Scribner, April 5), uses some of the same characters “to continue her exploration of what fiction can be and do in the 21st century,” according to our review. What would happen if people in some form of social media run out of control could access not only all of their own memories, but also the memories of everyone else who chose to share them? According to our review, this is “an exciting, endlessly stimulating work to be read and re-read.”
You might not think that the ministerial inquiry of a unitary church is fiction, but Michelle Huneven will prove you wrong. her new novel, Search (Penguin Press, April 26), has it all, according to our review: “the mood, the vetting, the drama, the discord, the anti-oppression training…. Like the cafeteria lamb shank, tender, salty and the mention worth.”
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.