February Fiction Preview: Jen, Offill, and Yuknavitch return; Dare and Schaitkin make their debut


Continuing with last week’s preview of January’s most intriguing books, here are five works of fiction that are worth your time in February and March. I’m certain you will add at least one or two to your TBR. Happy reading!

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The Resisters – Gish Jen (Knopf, Feb. 4)

Jen has written a dystopian tale of the haves and have-nots in AutoAmerica: The Netted, who are fair-skinned and live on high ground, and the Surplus, who are dark-skinned and live on swampland or on the water. When the child of a Surplus couple (a former professor and a lawyer) turns out to be a phenomenal baseball player (yes, that aspect of America has not changed), she is given the opportunity to play with the Netted in the Olympics. The Resisters is the story of a possible America and a family struggling to maintain their integrity when their values are challenged. While this synopsis might sound like a YA book, it’s a Gish Jen book, so you know it’s going to be philosophical and provocative.

Verge: Stories – Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead Books, Feb. 4)

It’s usually inadvisable to say an author has staked out her own unique territory. But that is the truth with Lidia Yuknavitch. Starting with her memoir The Chronology of Water and continuing with The Small Backs of Children and The Book of Joan, Yuknavitch has probed deeply and fearlessly into the psychic wounds caused by trauma. Her work has a futuristic/alternate reality setting and her focus on society’s outcasts makes for compelling and universal, but often brutal, stories. She is not for the faint of heart or mind.

The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Dare (Dutton, Feb. 4)

Adunni is a 14-year-old Nigerian girl caught between tradition and modernity. When her father marries her off to an older man, she flees to the city, where she is forced into servitude with a wealthy family. All she wants is an education so she can have what her mother calls “a louding voice” – the ability to determine her own future and make herself heard. This is a coming of age story highlighted by Adunni’s memorable voice. A strong debut from an author to watch.

Weather – Jenny Offill (Knopf, Feb. 11)

Jenny Offill’s previous book, Dept. of Speculation, showed that she can do more in 200 pages than most authors can do in twice that many. She’s carved out her own niche of quirky, observational novels that have you highlighting sentences on every page. In Weather, librarian Lizzie Benson has a side gig as a fake therapist working alongside her mentor on her podcast about coping with societal change, Hell and High Water. This gives Offill an opportunity to psychoanalyze those on the left and right and to try to make sense of the media, both professional and social, and how we interact with each other today. And Lizzie has her hands full with her recovering addict brother, God-obsessed mother, and eccentric mentor. All in 224 pages.

Saint X – Alexis Schaitkin (Celadon Books, Feb. 18)

A wealthy family is vacationing on a Caribbean island when their 18-year-old daughter Alison disappears. Her body is found and two local men are arrested and then released due to lack of evidence. The family goes home and the investigation continues. These events have a profound effect on seven-year-old Claire, who grows up having never really known her much older sister. Years later, she encounters one of the accused men in New York City and becomes obsessed with figuring out what happened on the island. Schaitkin’s debut is both a murder-mystery thriller and a pointed commentary on race, class, and privilege.

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