April 15, 2017 Booklist 21 www.booklistonline.com
Estelle back and create more artistic pieces for
his jewelry shop. She also distributes the gems
among the villagers, helping them realize their
dreams. Yet Gemma is hiding things, too,
and Benedict must finally reconcile with his
brother to help her. Readers will be charmed
by Patrick’s quirky characters and sweet premise. —Aleksandra Walker
The Shark Club.
By Ann Kidd Taylor.
June 2017. 288p. Viking, $26 (9780735221475).
Maeve Donnelly’s life is shaped by the two
defining moments of her childhood. At age 6,
she loses both parents in a tragic plane crash. At
age 12, within the same instant, she has her first
kiss and is attacked by a shark. Throughout,
Maeve finds comfort in the one constant in her
life: the sea. Set in a quirky beach town on the
Gulf of Mexico, Taylor’s first novel (following
the memoir Traveling with Pomegranates, 2009,
cowritten with her mother, Sue Monk Kidd)
is the story of a strong female character who
follows her own passions instead of chasing a
traditional happily-ever-after. Someone so devoted to swimming with sharks could be hard
for readers to identify with, but Taylor captures
Maeve effortlessly. For all her characters, she
creates relatable and clear voices, which come
through in the dialogue and balance seamlessly
against the picturesque setting. With humor
and surprises, The Shark Club moves along
briskly as Maeve struggles to forgive, let go of
past love, and navigate happiness on her own
terms. —Melissa Norstedt
The Shell: Memoirs of a Hidden
By Mustafa Khalifa. Tr. by Paul Starkey.
June 2017. 192p. Interlink, paper, $15 (9781566560221).
Khalifa’s superb debut novel is structured
as the prison diary of Musa, a Syrian who
has been studying film in France for six years.
He decides, against the wishes of his friends,
is an atheist, so his fellow prisoners, almost
exclusively devout Muslims, ostracize him.
Marginalized, Musa adapts the detached per-
spective of a sociologist, noting the hierarchies
and patterns of prison life. In spare, lucid
prose, Khalifa, a Syrian novelist- and political-
commentator-in-exile, vividly describes the
almost otherworldly existence of the prison-
ers. Told in jump cuts that mirror Musa’s film
background, his diary not only reflects the re-
lentless monotony and terror of imprisonment
but also the prisoners’ ingenuity: how they
survive outbreaks of diseases, how they stay
cool in the desert heat, and their sacrifices for
each other. With echoes of Solzhenitsyn and
Kafka’s The Trial, this demanding novel is an
important account of the horrors perpetuated
by the Syrian regime. —Alexander Moran
A Small Revolution.
By Jimin Han.
May 2017. Little A, $24.95 (9781503939738).
In a Pennsylvania college dorm, five teens
are trapped in a life-and-death situation. The
quintet’s point of connection, allegedly dead,
is a Korean American student, Jaesung, who
was reported to have perished in a recent car
fire in Seoul. Yoona, in whose room the terror
plays out, was Jaesung’s lover. Her three classmates serve as bargaining chips. Lloyd, armed
with deadly weapons, claims both Jaesung and
Yoona as intimate friends since they all shared
a cultural study-abroad program the previous
summer in Seoul. Convinced that Jaesung
is the victim of a cover-up by a violent, corrupt regime controlling South Korea, Lloyd
is determined to rescue Jaesung by any means
necessary. Desperate enough to hope, Yoona
recounts the events that led to such a menacing outcome. Entwining personal and political
histories on either side of the globe—“THE
SMALL REVOLUTIONS MAKE THE WAY
FOR THE BIG ONES”—first novelist Han
exudes a universal immediacy about what can
happen when safety and sanity are repeatedly
threatened. Although marked by events three
decades past, Revolution is a resonant parable
for today’s volatile, fearful times. —Terry Hong
By Katherine Heiny.
May 2017. 320p. Knopf, $25.95 (9780385353816).
Heiny’s first novel, following her story collection, Single, Carefree, Mellow (2015), offers
an absorbing character study of modern-day
relationships and parenthood. Graham lives in
New York with his younger second wife, Audra,
and their 10-year-old son, Matthew. Graham is
the more reserved of the pair, while the loquacious Audra seems to makes friends with every
person she meets. One day Graham unexpectedly runs into his ex-wife, Elspeth, whom he
left for Audra. At Audra’s urging, they set up a
double date with Elspeth and her current boyfriend. Subsequent encounters between the two
couples lead Graham to begin to examine and
question the state of his current relationship as
he ends up spending more time with Elspeth.
Meanwhile, Graham and Audra struggle to find
the best way to parent Andrew, whose unique
social needs present all kinds of challenges.
Heiny’s characters are authentic, witty, and infused with life, and they hold their secrets close,
whether to protect the ones they love or merely
themselves. Heiny’s novel offers a nuanced consideration of commitment, acceptance, and the
desire for personal connection. —Leah Strauss
By Bryn Chancellor.
May 2017. 320p. Harper, $27.99 (9780062661098).
While Sycamore, Arizona, newcomer Laura
Drennan is walking one day, getting to know
the small college town and blowing off steam
from her recent divorce, she discovers a human
bone poking from the wall of a dry wash, the
site of a former lake. Immediately, the wide
cast of characters Chancellor voices all land on
the same explanation: Jess Winters, the teenager who disappeared 20 years ago in 1991,
though they take different routes to get there.
Jess’ mom, Maud, still delivers mail in Sycamore (or Syc-to-my-stomach, as Jess called
it) and still thinks Jess wouldn’t have run
away, while many others who knew her have
moved on, or not, while harboring varying
degrees of guilt. Interspersed in Chancellor’s
meaty, suspenseful debut is Jess’ story of the
troubling year (itself preceded by another difficult year) leading up to her disappearance.
The author handles this back-and-forth movement well, creating subtle connections among
the fleshed-out Sycamore residents that readers will enjoy recognizing while waiting with
them to discover the truth about the long-concealed skeleton. —Annie Bostrom
By Courtney Maum.
May 2017. 320p. Putnam, $26 (9780735212121).
In Maum’s second novel (following I
Am Having So Much Fun Here without You,
2014)—a work of zealous social critique laced
with sexy romantic comedy and a just-in-the-nick-of-time family reconciliation—trend
forecaster Sloane has channeled her mysterious prognostic gifts into a flashy career in
initiate luxury electronics for wealthy hipsters
without children. When Sloane senses, instead,
that what people really want is less screen time
and more human-to-human contact, Dax retaliates by setting up a high-stakes show-off
between pro-touch Sloane and pro-tech Roman. With a weirdly nurturing driverless car,
a family emergency, a sexy art director, and
Maum’s incisive, charming, and funny novel ebulliently champions the
healing powers of touch, the living world, and love in all its crazy risks,
surprises, and sustaining radiance.
—Donna Seaman, on Touch