The debut novel of Joanne Ramos is a timely examination of motherhood, meritocracy, and the failing American dream told through the lens of an immigrant’s story. It centers around the Farm: a posh resort that pays women a life-changing fee to serve as surrogate mothers. The catch? The women are under constant surveillance, can’t leave the grounds, and are completely cut off from their former lives.
Evvie Drake Starts Over
This charming and quirky romance tells the story of recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake. The loss of her husband, Andy, to a car crash has left her world shattered. When Andy’s childhood friend, Dean Tenney, takes a break from his Major League pitching career to spend some time in his hometown, he and Evvie start an unlikely friendship and perhaps something more.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
The long-awaited debut novel from acclaimed poet Ocean Vuong is a powerful portrait of family, first love, and redemption. Told as a letter from a son to his mother who cannot read, the novel recounts a family’s history from its beginnings in Vietnam to its present in service of a shattering, poignant revelation.
This intertwining tale of two families spans decades and continents. The Travelers follows the intersecting lives of the Vincent and Christie families from the 1950s to the Obama years. Managing to balance a sweeping scale with an intimate sense of storytelling, the novel is an exploration of not only family ties, but how we have reached this current point in society.
Whiskey When We're Dry
Despite shades of True Grit and Blood Meridian, John Larison’s debut is nonetheless a wholly original examination of gender identity, violence, and survival set against the backdrop of the American west. Seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney is an orphan struggling to survive on her family’s 1885 homestead. Unable to make a go of it any longer, she chops off her hair and binds her chest before setting off to find her wayward outlaw brother.
When two young girls set out on a mission on the remote Kamchatka peninsula, a small, tight-knit community is thrown into turmoil. Disappearing Earth takes readers through a year in the beautiful, haunting, and sometimes alien terrain of Kamchatka and deep into the simmering social and ethnic tensions that threaten to destroy a community.
Set in Paris in 1989, Mamta Chaudhry’s lyrical debut centers around a grieving pianist named Sylvie who discovers an enigmatic letter among her late lover’s possessions. The letter, and its story, consumes Sylvie and pushes her into the decades-long search for a young girl who vanished during the Nazi occupation.
How Not to Die Alone
How Not to Die Alone is a sharp, darkly humorous, and delightfully quirky romance. Andrew is in a rut, stuck in a thankless job tracking down the next of kin of people who die alone. Peggy is new to the office and immediately sparks something in the reclusive Andrew. Unfortunately, a seemingly small lie threatens his tenuous outreach to a world he thought had left him behind.
The Plus One
We can all agree dating is hard. Why not build your ideal date? What could possibly go wrong? Kelly is a brilliant, perpetually single robotics engineer. With her younger sister’s wedding on the horizon, and each attempt to find her plus one more cringe-inducing than the last, Kate does the logical thing: she builds a boyfriend. Everything is going well–at least until she begins to really fall for her mechanical mate.
My Lovely Wife
In this twisty debut, Samantha Downing takes readers into the trenches of a fifteen year-long marriage on the downhill slide towards boredom. The pitch perfect suburban life isn’t quite what it seems and marriage is nothing if not a repository of secrets. It just so happens that getting away with murder is a perfect way to keep that marital spark alive.
Set in Trinidad, Golden Child focuses on Clyde, a family man in a rural community working long hours to support his children. The twins, Paul and Peter, could not be more different. Paul is an endless source of trouble. Peter is the golden child, a genius. When Peter goes missing and hours turn into days, Clyde is forced to face a horrifying reality enough to shatter any parent.
We Cast a Shadow
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Set in a near future of fenced-in ghettos and police brutality, families are turning to an experimental medical procedure–one that involves skin bleaching, lip thinning, and nose narrowing–to secure a better life for their children. The unnamed narrator wants the best for his biracial son, Nigel. But as Nigel becomes darker by the day, his father’s fears are barreling towards a breaking point and his desire to save his son threatens to leave their family in tatters. Reading like a Kafka-esque Get Out, We Cast a Shadow is a hallucinatory and timely debut.
The Old Drift
Playing out over the course of a century, Namwali Serpell’s imaginative debut centers around a cycle of revenge and convergence among a group of Zambian families. Beginning in a 1904, when an unfortunate mistake links the families of an African busboy and and Italian hotelier, The Old Drift chronicles a stunning chain of events that plays out across a generation. It examines family, loss, and an everyday sort of magic that is both wondrous and surreal.
Set against the tumultuous, simmering backdrop of the Cold War, American Spy follows Marie Mitchell–a young black intelligence officer in a notorious old boy’s club. She’s sent on a mission to seduce and ultimately topple the charismatic president of Burkina Faso. It’s a mission of vital importance to the American mission, but also one that will lead her to question everything she knows about herself and the profession she’s dedicated her life to.
As avid readers, we’re always on the lookout for something new to read–whether it’s a new book by a favorite author or the new “it” novel of the moment. However, nothing quite compares to the thrill of stumbling upon a stunning new voice in the literary world. Here are a few 2019 debut novels that have our attention and are just begging for a spot in your TBR pile.
Featured image: @Tereza via Twenty20