Kitchens of the Great Midwest
J. Ryan Stradal
After Lars’ wife leaves, he’s left to raise baby Eva on his own and is determined to pass along his love of food to his daughter. Told through chapters bearing the names of the local Minnesota delicacies she tries and savors (lutefisk, chocolate habanero, venison), Eva matures out of her fractured youth into one of the most sought-after chefs in the nation. A debut that is mouthwateringly delicious.
Everything I Never Told You
Marilyn and James Lee, the mother and father of a Chinese American family in Ohio, are filled with hopes and dreams for their favorite daughter Lydia’s future—but when her lifeless body is found in the local pond, their lives are suddenly spun into chaos. Ng masterfully binds together the powerful sensations of familial expectation, the ache to assimilate and all-consuming grief into one riveting novel.
The Ghost Network
Molly Metropolis is the world’s most major pop star—who disappears into thin air on her way to a concert in Chicago. A journalist who has been working on profiling Molly steps into the role of amateur detective as she strings together clues from the singer’s songs and journal—all leading to an abandoned subway line under the streets of the Windy City. A fun satire that will have you playing sleuth as well.
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
An adolescent girl and her older brother (who suffers from brain damage) struggle to survive their dark and unrelenting childhood. Using creative syntax that gets at the protagonist’s innermost thoughts and feelings, this emotionally charged novel will give you chills.
When Charley, a single mom, learns she’s unexpectedly inherited an 800-acre sugar cane farm, she packs up her daughter and moves them from smoggy Los Angeles to the unfamiliar world of rural Louisiana. Sugar cane farming is as foreign to Charley as their new landscape, but with grit and determination, she is resolute in her decision to make it work. For anyone who loves an underdog story.
In the Country
A collection of short stories centered around the Filipino diaspora—the settings each as rich and diverse as the exiles and immigrants themselves. Alvar’s characters each grapple with the loss of their home and country and the discovery of a new one—or its substitute.
The winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction, “Redeployment” has been called one of the best books about the Iraq War. The collection of stories brings us to the front lines and paints a complex portrait of modern warfare and the veteran experience. This collection is not to be missed.
Every so often, a work of fiction comes along that causes you to stop in your tracks, to mumble breathless platitudes as you read, to become well, for lack of a better word, obsessed with the author. And sometimes you learn that the book is the author’s first and suddenly, everything you were already feeling seems weightier somehow. As if you were witnessing a teenaged Beethoven bang out his first sonata. Debut novels introduce us to an author’s voice, style and talent and makes us add them to our “ones to watch list.” Here, a collection of 21 debut novels that will have you looking forward to their second books with excited impatience.
Bookshelf curated by Abbe Wright. Image credits: Neustockimages/iStock.com.