By Ken Pisani.
May 2016. 288p. St. Martin’s, $24.99 (9781250085207).
Pisani’s recent experience as a writer in the
fickle world of television entertainment serves
him well in this alternately poignant and
wryly funny first novel about a man trying
to wrest some meaning from his life after be-
coming disabled. After an SUV rams into the
side of his car, leaving him bereft of his left
arm, Aaron, a high-school teacher, retreats to
the Paris, Illinois, home of his father, a retired
and emotionally distant hoarder who refuses
to acknowledge his son’s affliction. Between
doses of V2 (his term for Vicodin chased
by Valium) and brooding about his sudden
outcast status (his first-person narrative is
peppered with lists of things you can’t do with
one arm), Aaron finds some meager pleasure
in swooning over the alluring voice of a radio
science commentator named Sunny Lee and
landing a job as a local dam “fish counter.”
Together with his protagonist’s barbed obser-
vations on contemporary life, Pisani’s portrait
of a disabled man self-deprecatingly embrac-
ing his own brokenness is oddly compelling
and understatedly comical. —Carl Hays
Bucky F&%@ing Dent.
By David Duchovny.
Apr. 2016. 304p. Farrar, $26 (9780374110420).
Struggling as a novelist, making ends meet
working as a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium,
Ted Fillilove is “nearing the all-star break in the
season of his life.” Then he learns that his father,
Marty, is dying of lung cancer, and at the urging of an especially attractive nurse, he moves
back into the family home in Brooklyn. Father
and son have been at odds for years; they don’t
even root for the same baseball team. When
Ted notices that Marty rallies whenever his beloved Red Sox win, he enlists Marty’s friends,
old guys who hang around the magazine kiosk on the corner, to help him stage elaborate
deceptions involving doctored newspapers, a
VCR, and even simulated rainouts to make it
look like the team is on a winning streak. The
father-son reconciliation culminates in a road
trip to Boston to attend the 1978 Yankee versus
Red Sox playoff game. Duchovny’s lively novel,
replete with references to literature and popular
music as well as baseball, treats its themes with
wit and warmth. —Mary Ellen Quinn
By Andy Mozina.
Mar. 2016. 288p. Spiegel & Grau, $26 (9780812998283);
Matt Grzbc pours too much of himself into
his concert harp. The instrument torpedoed his
first marriage, threatens his current relationship,
(Quality Snacks, 2014) first novel, we witness
the creation of what must be beautiful music.
Contrary motion, the term for simultaneous
notes diverging in direction, is an apt metaphor
for the tensions in the lives of Mozina’s char-
acters. With the audition quickly approaching,
Matt’s anxious perseveration becomes our own.
When he accepts an invitation to perform for
patients at a Chicago hospice facility, this new
endeavor proves surprisingly redemptive. Soon,
the day of the audition arrives, and tough deci-
sions need to be made. Mozina’s finely detailed,
painfully funny novel is a rollicking perfor-
mance that will keep readers on the edge of
their seats. —Dan Kaplan
The Excellent Lombards.
By Jane Hamilton.
Apr. 2016. 288p. Grand Central, $26 (9781455564224);
e-book, $13.99 (9781455564217).
Hamilton has anchored her writing life to her
family’s Wisconsin apple orchard, and in her
warm, funny, and incisive seventh novel, she
creates a veritable cosmos out of a Wisconsin
family farm, from its fields to its apple trees,
lambs, woods, marsh, and
ramshackle houses and barns.
The Lombards, a colorful,
dissonant clan of cousins, are
seen through the omnivorous
eyes of young Frankie (Mary
Frances), a fourth-generation
Lombard so enchanted by
their land and way of life, so
adoring of her brother and father, she plans on
dwelling in this humble paradise forever. Yet she
knows that conflicts roil between households
and that money is tight; she is terrified of the
forbidding elder, May Hill, and she battles over
her future with her tart-tongued mother, proud
director of the town’s library, a portal to the larg-
er world. As Frankie vividly recounts the story
of her blissful, sporadically traumatic, often-
hilarious coming-of-age, Hamilton neatly tags
the shaping forces of the 1990s, from suburban
sprawl devouring farmland to the dawn of video
gaming, and renders the precarious Lombard
kingdom mythic with the smothering labyrinth
of May Hill’s hoarded treasures and the sanctu-
ary of the trees. Hamilton’s lushly pleasurable
novel of radiant comedy, deep emotions, and
resonant realizations considers the wonders of
nature, the boon and burden of inheritance, and
the blossoming of the self. —Donna Seaman
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hamilton
is a library and book-group favorite, and this
bright, wise family portrait is sparking great
excitement, supported by a strong promotion
plan and schedule of personal appearances.
YA/M: Smart, funny, caring Frankie is
irresistible as she navigates tricky family
relationships, a crush on a teacher, and all
the jolts of growing up. DS.
By Christopher Sorrentino.
Feb. 2016. 336p. Simon & Schuster, $26 (9781501129537).
Sorrentino proved to be a virtuoso of narra-
tive complexity and acid social commentary in
Trance (2005), a National Book Award finalist.
In this heady tale of self and identity, voca-
tion and ambition, he demonstrates his wily
comedic skills. After scandalously capsizing
The funniest, most down-to-earth,
best illustrated FAQ to the world
of beer that I’ve yet to encounter.
— Jamie Bogner,
Craft Beer & Brewing magazine
$14.95 • ISBN: 978-1-61212-531-2
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