LJ’s First “Writes” of Spring 2016

Library Journal‘s roundup of seasonal first novels includes these six “Literary Look-Sees” from Macmillan:

Hopwood Award–­winning author Daviau interweaves time travel, music, and love to good effect in her “mind-bending” debut. According to NPR, she delivers “a bittersweet, century-hopping odyssey of love, laced with weird science, music geekery, and heart-wrenching laughs…a wise, witty, whipcrack sci-fi romp about how our passions can both lift us up and hold us back.” LJ’s reviewer said, “Daviau writes with humor and compassion, creating absorbing, sympathetic characters and enveloping serious questions about love and life-changing events.”

BACK TO MOSCOW by Guillermo Erades
In 1999, young Martin enrolls at an elite Moscow school as a student of ­Russian language and literature and falls in with a gang of carousing expats. “An appealingly chaotic—if familiar—look at the inner life of a young ‘intellectual,’ ” read the Kirkus review. “With hints of Anthony Burgess’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, notes of Gary Shteyngart, and a shadow of Masha Gessen, Erades’s first novel is part frothy concoction and part deadly hemlock…. [T]he story begs to be read in one sitting.”

THE BOOK OF MEMORY by Petina Gappah
Gappah returns to her native Zimbabwe after her successful story collection AN ELEGY FOR EASTERLY, featuring albino Memory as her narrator. “A fiercely vivid novel…[a] beautiful, gliding dance of language,” said the Los Angeles Times. “[A]n exploration into the unpredictable grip of memory and perception,” said Booklist. LJ’s reviewer said Gappah “delivers her themes successfully, while stimulating all the senses with Memory’s vivid descriptions of food, music, heat, colors, and scents.”

THE YID by Paul Goldberg
Jane Ciabattari of BBC.com refers to this title as one of the “10 Books to Read in 2016” and “a tragicomic tour de force.” “In this fantastical (and fantastic) debut novel by reporter and writer Goldberg,” set in early 1953 in Stalin’s Russia, a group of Soviets plot to prevent a final pogrom against Jews. “[A] rollicking romp of a novel,” said the Chicago Tribune; “Wily, rambunctiously entertaining [with] irresistible characters,” said Booklist’s starred review. LJ’s starred review “highly recommended” it “for readers with a grasp of history who enjoy imaginative deviations from what we think we know as historical truth.”

STORK MOUNTAIN by Miroslav Penkov
“[A] searing, heartfelt novel” (PW starred review), this mashup of myth, folk tales, and a modern love story introduces a Bulgarian American college student recently arrived in the Strandja mountain village of Klisura, hoping to reconnect with his estranged grandfather. “Penkov’s story collection, EAST OF THE WEST, a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, concerns itself with borders, both physical and metaphorical, as does this debut novel. The author uses gentle humor…while writing a love song to his native land.”

SHELTER by Jung Yun
An extended Korean Irish American family attempt to reclaim their fractured lives in this Discover Great New Writers Spring Pick. “Skilled [and] deeply disconcerting” (Booklist); a “fearless and thrilling debut” (Town & Country). “So wowed was Picador with Yun’s debut that hundreds of extra galleys were printed,” said LJ’s starred review. “[T]his work should find itself on best-of lists [and] among major award nominations.”

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