LITTLE GODS by Meng Jin (Custom House). Brilliant first novel, by a brave young American writer—brave enough to dare you to get to know her book and its people—and also shrewd, smart enough to …
LITTLE GODS by Meng Jin (Custom House). Brilliant first novel, by a brave young American writer—brave enough to dare you to get to know her book and its people—and also shrewd, smart enough to startle you with teases of what you'll find by pressing on. The very first pages are set in the maternity ward of a hospital near Tiananmen Square in Peking in 1989, during the uprising and massacre there; but we aren't there for a history lesson. We're there to begin to learn why the American girl we'll soon meet is flying to the city where we've seen her mother coming to that very hospital to give birth on that violent night. The girl is just 17 (it's 2007, now), and as much a mystery to herself as thoughtful 17-year-olds generally are, and she is carrying her mother's ashes. This is a beautiful literary novel, allusive in the writing, but it's also emotionally stirring; along with this girl, we come to know her genius mother from the stories she will hear from those who knew her in China.
THE RABBIT HUNTER by Lars Kepler (Knopf). This powerful crime novel is typical of the Swedish husband-and-wife author team and their by now rather scraped-up series lead, the detective Joona Linna—but maybe even more so. As always, it's long, and very complex as we know to expect, and maybe darker than ever, more unafraid of horrifying us. We spend time with the brilliant, mad murderer; we follow his pursuers across an ocean and a thousand miles of our own continent, and finally, as all becomes shockingly clear, we experience with Joona an excruciatingly tense showdown with evil in person.
ALL THE WAYS WE SAID GOODBYE: A Novel of the Ritz Paris by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White (Morrow). It's Williams the column knows, of course; Willig and White are indistinguishable from her within these pages, at least to my maybe jaded eyes. In structure it's typical of Williams, including the interwoven period stories (three, here—for some reason); it may be a bit more crowded with incident than a typical Williams. In any case, there's nothing like a change of author's voice from chapter to chapter or timeline to timeline. Many of Williams's readers will presumably know Willig's and White's books—they're clearly well established, successful writers—and they'll know better than I whether separate fingerprints are to be detected; but I can assure you at least that if you love Beatriz Williams, you'll love this book.
WE WISH YOU LUCK by Caroline Zancan (Riverhead). A terrific second novel by a writer whose first (LOCAL GIRLS) I thought was overpraised (maybe I'll take another look). This one has a thriller sort of plot but a lot more attention to, and more vivid presentation of, its central characters, young people in a writing class (don't groan—this works just fine, they're charming and this is high-speed storytelling).
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