Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart (Random House). Brilliant writer, neglected here for—well, to be fair, rather than kind, to myself—for only inane reasons. The column did cover his …
Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart (Random House). Brilliant writer, neglected here for—well, to be fair, rather than kind, to myself—for only inane reasons. The column did cover his recent novel, Lake Success, witty as his fiction tends to be, but warm, beautifully written, and heartfelt. And now, again, we have a sort of novel of manners, among urban (and urbane) people. It sounds and is smart and (at moments) funny. But make no mistake: it is surely the best novel so far of the pandemic that we’re all more or less desperately living through and (most of us) surviving—and will remain for the foreseeable future the best one imaginable. So: about city people, including a writer (though the one in the book, unlike its author, not so successful, lately) and friends, who have been able to avoid the pandemic by removing themselves from New York City for the duration—whole families (kids, too, are warmly alive)—to “the country,” Duchess County. Sounds…is yuppish a word? And the early, entirely warm and admiring reviews I’ve seen haven’t escaped making it sound brainy (fair enough) and even snooty (don’t believe it—that’s not what they meant). Shall I remind you of Auchincloss? Jonathan Lethem, Edith Wharton, Michael Chabon…?
The Collective by Alison Gaylin (Morrow). And so, this thriller—also set in New York’s upstate—first-rate, too deep (and too genuinely harrowing) to be funny for even a moment, a vengeance tale by this Edgar Award-winning column favorite author. Gaylin makes you believe in complicated, irresistibly compelling characters; you’ll find yourself rooting hard for a not exactly reasonable, or entirely likable, woman.
The Family by Naomi Krupitsky (Putnam). Almost shockingly warm—but not only!—women’s friendship novel that’s also about the very family that comes to mind when you see that title (even if not the author’s name). Not only warm? The “Family” is the one that Mario Puzo, and then Francis Ford Coppola, drew us into. It centers on two girls growing up as friends in the 1930s and into World War II, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There is no livable way to get entirely free of that Family, but these friends struggle to make lives for themselves, without either being its slaves or pretending it away; you’ll root for them, too, all the way through.
The Nameless Ones by John Connolly (Emily Bestler/Atria). One of the most original—and just plain finest—thriller series of our time, Charlie Parker’s struggle against more than everyday evil, is taking a bit of a turn, now. Last year’s The Dirty South took us back in time to his very first case (and had scarcely any supernatural elements); now, back to time present, we almost set Charlie aside to give our attention to his hellacious sidekicks, Louis and Angel, on an exhilarating chase (bloody violent, toward not supernatural but seriously evil people) through the Netherlands, Austria, and South Africa.
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