The Other Americans
Laila Lalami, the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Moor’s Account, is back with another riveting tale about the heart-wrenching realities of immigrant life. In The Other Americans, a Moroccan immigrant in California is killed by a car while on a walk, an incident that reverberates through the lives of several people connected to it. With this her fourth book, Lalami has established herself as one of America’s most vital chroniclers.
Lost and Wanted
Named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40,” Nell Freudenberger returns with her second novel Lost and Wanted, which tells the story of an MIT physics professor whose life (and worldview) is thrown into question when she receives texts, emails, and a phone call from her college roommate and erstwhile friend, Charlotte, who—and here’s the troubling part—is dead. Infused with Freudenberger’s characteristic empathy and depth, Lost and Wanted is a profound meditation on friendship and loss.
Another of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40,” Obreht published her magical and haunting debut novel The Tiger’s Wife in 2011. Obreht’s follow-up, Inland, is her take on the American Western. In 1893, the lives of a frontierswoman and an outlaw collide in the unruly world of myth and menace.
The Irish literary sensation Sally Rooney, whose debut novel Conversations with Friends became an international phenomenon, delivers another psychologically acute story of millennial love and friendship. Normal People focuses on Connell and Marianne, two star-crossed teenagers whose connections persists from high school through college. Filled with adept depictions of contemporary life and uncommonly good dialogue, Rooney’s second novel is just as satisfying and subtle as her first.
The third in Smith’s Seasonal Quartet (following, naturally, Autumn and Winter), Spring is like all of Smith’s novels in that it is unlike anything else and yet somehow distinctly the work of the author of, among others, How to be both and There but for the. Like the other entries in the Quartet, Spring meditates on the current state of the world via its seasonal theme, replete with riffs on Beethoven, Katherine Mansfield, Rilke, Chaplin, Shakespeare, and Brexit. Smith is, without a doubt, one of the best fiction writers at work today.
Ted Chiang is a master of the philosophical sci-fi short story—which sounds rather niche until you read his fiction. His previous collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, is a classic of the form, and his follow-up Exhalation, filled as it is with Hugo and Nebula Award-winning stories that are blisteringly brilliant and wonderfully thought-provoking, is destined, I dare say, to overtop its predecessor.
Orange World and Other Stories
Pulitzer Prize finalist for Swamplandia! and also one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40,” Karen Russell returns to the form with which she first caught the attention of the literary world: the short story. Orange World is her third collection, and it shows why Russell’s wild imagination and narrative ingenuity work so well with short fiction. She’s able to distill loads of atmosphere, plot, inventiveness, and tone in a couple of pages (something other writers may take many chapters to accomplish), leaving her free to explore her ideas to their fullest.
Fiction, as an art form, requires an inordinate amount of time to perfect. Most novelists spend years crafting their books, and any reader worth her salt can quite easily see why. No one, in other words, means to rush a novelist’s intricate work, yet the understandable gap between novels can seem interminable for us fans. The trick, I think, is to read as widely as possible, so that every month (or at least every year) promises new books from authors you like, thereby making the wait more tolerable for the ones by the writers you love. Here are some recent and forthcoming books by some exceedingly gifted artists who’ve left me in years-long anticipation of what they’ll do next.