It’s a cliche that spring is the season of fertility, a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. But for book lovers, it is indeed a very fertile time of the year. Tons of great books are scheduled to be published between March and June, and I’ve selected a dozen or so that seem most interesting. I’m looking forward to reading most (and possibly all) of these books. After you’ve reviewed my previews, leave a comment about which books you are most interested in reading.
Orchard of Lost Souls – Nadifa Mohamed (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, March 4)
Mohamed, recently named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, releases her second novel, a female’s view of the civil war in Somalia, particularly the price paid by women and citizens recruited into the “neighborhood watch.”
The Divorce Papers – Susan Rieger (Random House, March 18)
A shy young lawyer finds herself drafted to help the daughter of the firm’s biggest client in her divorce case against her famous oncologist husband. This debut novel sounds like the kind of literary soap opera combined with biting social commentary that often equals a bestseller.
The Frangipani Hotel – Violet Kupersmith (Spiegel & Grau, April 1)
Kupersmith’s debut collection reworks Vietnamese folktales and ghost stories she learned from her grandmother. In doing so, she explores the clash between ancient and modern in this nation with a complex history. These nine stories are also thematically linked, an approach that is becoming increasingly common.
Casebook – Mona Simpson (Knopf, April 15)
When a young man overhears that his parents are separating, he decides to find out why. Miles and his friend Hector, already obsessed with Miles’ beautiful mother, turn amateur sleuths and soon discover far more than they bargained for about the adult world.
Thunderstruck & Other Stories – Elizabeth McCracken (The Dial Press, April 22)
Best known for the National Book Award finalist The Giant’s House, McCracken publishes her first collection of stories in 20 years. She can be relied upon for stories (and characters) that are quirky and compassionate, funny and imaginative.
The Bees – Laline Paull (HarperCollins, May 6)
The publisher describes this debut novel as a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games, which is high praise. But the plot and characters certainly sound intriguing, more like the anthropomorphized rabbits of Watership Down than the human societies of the above novels. Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her hive. But her courage and strength provide her with opportunities to improve her station. As she gains access to restricted areas of the hive and its highest-ranking members, she learns the ominous truth about the hive and its Queen.
The Blessings – Elise Juska (Grand Central Publishing, May 6)
This novel follows the lives of a large Irish-American family in Philadelphia over the course of thirty years. Juska writes expertly and with great sensitivity of family dynamics, love, loss, dreams, and disappointments. Stewart O’Nan says her writing is reminiscent of the works of Elizabeth Berg and Alice McDermott.
The Possibilities – Kaui Hart Hemmings (Simon & Schuster, May 13)
Sarah St. John is grieving the loss of her son Cully in an avalanche near their home in Breckinridge, Colorado. Her life is coming apart when a young girl arrives, carrying ully’s baby. Hemmings is best known as the author of The Descendants, which was made into an outstanding movie in 2011 by writer-director Alexander Payne that featured George Clooney.
Decompression – Juli Zeh (Nan A. Talese, May 20)
Decompression is the fourth novel by Zeh, who won the German Book Prize for her debut novel, Eagles and Angels. Sven Fiedler has walked away from his legal career for a life as a diving instructor in the Canary Islands; his girlfriend Antje sells real estate. When another German couple hires them for a two-week crash course in diving, the two couples soon become enmeshed in a web of attraction, jealousy, and passion.
Chasing the Sun – Natalia Sylvester (Amazon/New Harvest, June 3)
Sylvester’s debut is the story of Andres and Marabella, a long-married couple living amidst the social and political upheavals of Lima, Peru. Andres thinks she has left him again, but he soon learns that terrorists have kidnapped her. How far is he willing to go to get her back? Is their troubled marriage worth saving? Andres works with a mediator to negotiate for her release, all the while caring for their two young children.
Home Leave – Brittani Sonnenberg (Grand Central Publishing, June 3)
The Krigstein family has lived a peripatetic existence, following husband and father Chris’s job to such far-flung locales as Berlin, Singapore, and Shanghai, before eventually settling in Madison, Wisconsin. Wife Elise has enjoyed the advantages of a clean slate every few years, while their daughters have developed an extremely close bond to cope with the constant change. When the family is rocked by a stunning loss, their lives and lifestyle are called into question.
The Sixteenth of June – Maya Lang (Scribner, June 3)
Lang’s debut novel examines the intimately connected lives of a young married couple and the husband’s young brother over the course of one summer day in Philadelphia. Both a close observation of twenty-somethings and a satire of ambitions dreamed, thwarted, and abandoned, The Sixteenth of June pays tribute to James Joyce’s Ulysses with its single-day time frame and the characters’ attendance at a Bloomsday party.
We Are Called to Rise – Laura McBride (Simon & Schuster, June 3)
A wide cast of characters, whose lives are falling apart, struggle to survive in Las Vegas during its recent boomtown years. Seemingly unconnected, their paths eventually cross and change each other’s lives. As the title suggests, together they find a way to rise above their troubled circumstances and repair their damaged lives.
All Day and a Night – Alafair Burke (Harper, June 10)
The latest installment in the Ellie Hatcher detective series, All Day and a Night is Burke’s tenth police procedural thriller. When a Brooklyn psychotherapist is found murdered, her husband is the prime suspect. But an anonymous caller knows that her body was abused in a way that matches the trademark of a serial killer who has been imprisoned for 20 years. The killer maintains his innocence, and now it appears that the actual killer is still at loose. Of course, the plot is far thicker than a brief synopsis can convey. As with Burke’s previous thrillers, All Day benefits from Burke’s years as a prosecutor. Her work is also distinguished by the presence of strong and realistic female characters.