22 Booklist February 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
to mind certain chunks of Donna Tartt’s The
Goldfinch (2013). Told from the younger son’s
point of view, Magariel’s debut is a stunning
discussion of parent-child loyalty, masculinity,
and how the only person we can truly save is
ourselves. —Courtney Eathorne
The Principles behind Flotation.
By Alexandra Teague.
Mar. 2017. 328p. Skyhorse, $24.99 (9781510717282).
Teague’s debut novel masterfully chronicles
the friction, contradictions, and emotional
tsunamis of being an intelligent 14-year-old
girl. Enter A.Z., Teague’s young protagonist.
The daughter of a librarian and an actor turned
journalist, A.Z. is wise beyond the four walls of her
tiny Arkansas high school.
She’s going to be an oceanographer. To gain admission
to the prestigious Sea Camp,
she designs an experiment to
test the salinization of the local sea. Twenty years before
A.Z. was born, a spell of rain and divine intervention left a giant, inexplicable, salty sea
in the middle of Arkansas. A.Z. wants nothing more than to dive into its depths, but
she is constantly thwarted by Fundamentalist Christians trying to protect their modern
miracle. A.Z. is further veered off course by
the inescapable trials of being a teenage girl.
Her friends are changing, and a hot new boy
called Kristoff moves to town and takes an
interest in her research. Although A.Z. is one
smart and self-assured young cookie, she’s not
immune to the magnetic pull of clammy teenage romance. Teague’s ear for dialogue and
natural poetic narrative shine. Author also of
the poetry collection Wise and Foolish Builders
(2015), Teague is a strong feminist writer to
watch. —Courtney Eathorne
YA: Teens will revel in A. Z.’s smarts
as well as her mistakes. Even an
oceanographer-in-training sometimes finds
herself making out with Skoal-scented
The Roanoke Girls.
By Amy Engel.
Mar. 2017. 288p. Crown, $25 (9781101906668).
After her mother commits suicide, 16-year-
old Lane Roanoke moves from New York to
Osage Flats, Kansas, to live with her grandparents and her cousin Allegra. Both girls’
mothers left Lane’s grandparents years earlier. Over the course of the summer, Lane
and Allegra explore their places in the line
of Roanoke girls—their mothers, aunts, and
grandmother—who all lived in Osage Flats.
Soon, Lane uncovers the reason her mother
fled the family and runs away herself, abandoning Allegra. Ten years later, her grandfather
calls to tell her that Allegra is missing. Lane returns to confront her tangled past and search
for her beloved cousin. Engel tells Lane’s story
in chapters that alternate between “Then”
and “Now” and includes single chapters from
each of the other Roanoke girls. The story is
partially a modern mystery and partially an
exploration of traumatic family dynamics
and the nature of love. In Engel’s (The Book of
Ivy, 2014) first novel for adults, she succeeds
in creating an emotionally captivating story
that will leave readers reaching for her earlier,
young adult work. —Laura Chanoux
The Shadow Land.
By Elizabeth Kostova.
Apr. 2017. 496p. Ballantine, $28 (9780345527868).
On her first day in Bulgaria, American Al-
exandra Boyd acquires the ashes of violinist
Stoyan Lazarov when she encounters a trio of
Bulgarians and inadvertently keeps their bag.
Boyd searches the country for Lazarov’s fam-
ily while sinister forces attempt to prevent
her from exposing devastating truths. Occa-
sionally reading like a travelogue, this novel
is replete with extensive character description
and authorial flourish. The pacing is leisurely,
with recurring visits to previously encountered
locales and expository characters, before a dé-
nouement that carefully threads together and
ties off all story lines. Historical detail and a
dual-time-period narrative is achieved with
Lazarov’s memoir of 1950s Communist Bul-
garia, a tale strongly reminiscent of Holocaust
fiction, adding appeal for fans of that genre.
Kostova’s phenomenally successful debut,
The Historian (2005), was an international,
period-jumping, doorstop literary thriller that
relied heavily on epistolary elements. Her sec-
ond novel, The Swan Thieves (2010), followed
structural suit, and after seven years, her highly
anticipated latest stays true to an exceedingly
appealing pattern. Recommend Kostova’s latest
to readers seeking outstanding and suspenseful
historical fiction. —Bethany Latham
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Substantial
prepublication buzz about best-selling Kostova
makes this a must-buy for fiction collections.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace.
By Patty Yumi Cottrell.
Mar. 2017. 288p. McSweeney’s, $24 (9781944211301).
Sitting on the brand-new couch—her
roommate’s—in her shared studio apartment in Manhattan, Helen gets a call from
her Uncle Geoff. (She has an Uncle Geoff?)
Her younger brother has died; he killed him-
self. Her adoptive parents aren’t expecting
her—she’s missed years’ worth of holidays at
this point—but she decides to go back to her
suburban Milwaukee home and attend the
funeral, for their sake. Why did her brother,
also adopted, she never forgets to add, though
from a different Korean family, take his own
life? Helen launches an investigation, and as
she examines the past and ambles through
her home and town in search of clues, we
see in her actions and others’ responses that
she’s unhinged, perhaps ill, or at the very least
unreliable, despite the nickname “Sister Reli-
ability” she earned as a caretaker of troubled
youth back in New York (a job her family
shakes their heads over). Helen’s foggy view
of reality is a dark, dark comedic well, and
debut novelist Cottrell tells her story with
gutsy style, glowing sentences, and true feel-
ing. —Annie Bostrom
To Name Those Lost.
By Rohan Wilson.
Feb. 2017. 272p. Europa, paper, $17 (9781609453497).
“And the sound of love is to name those
lost who lived for others.” Wilson tells a tale
of love, rendered with aching beauty through
the medium of loss. Upon his mother’s death,
William Toosey is left alone and adrift in
Launceston, Tasmania, a
hard and dangerous place
in 1874, at the very end
of the civilized world. His
long-absent, convict father,
Thomas, is willing to com-
mit terrible acts to reunite
with his young son. Standing
in Thomas’ way is the con-
sequence of one of those acts, the ceaseless
stalking of the boy by Irishman Fitheal Flynn
and his strange, hooded companion. They in-
tend to force repayment of a debt or exact the
ultimate price. Like his first novel, The Roving
Party, (2014), Wilson’s second has garnered
Australian literary awards, and the praise is
entirely justified for this masterly portrayal
of familial relationships in a society in which
the threads of civilization have frayed to the
snapping point. The prose is viscerally direct
and unsparing in its emotional impact. A
Launceston native, Wilson’s evocation of the
Tasmanian setting is pitch-perfect, as are his
characterization and the suspense maintained
throughout this exquisitely wrought novel.
The Young Widower’s Handbook.
By Tom McAllister.
Feb. 2017. 288p. Algonquin, $25.95 (9781616204747).
Hunter Cady has always been a bit . . .
unfocused. He’s 29, and his singular accomplishment so far has been to marry the
lovely Kait, who is clever, confident, and full
of direction. When Kait dies unexpectedly,
Hunter is left completely unmoored. Then,
after Kait’s boorish family descends and demands her remains, Hunter doesn’t know
what else to do except run away. With the aid
of the $750,000 life-insurance policy Kait was
smart enough to take out, Hunter embarks,
with Kait’s ashes as his traveling companion,
on a crazy cross-country trip, documenting
their adventures on Facebook. Among other
things, he almost loses her at a Renaissance
faire; does lose her (but recovers her the next
day) when he’s unwittingly roped into a bach-elorette party; and gives his father, Jack, the
slip, after Jack tracks him down at a hotel
in Oklahoma. McAllister’s debut novel is at
turns funny and touching, particularly in the
vignettes sandwiched between the narrative,
which delve into Hunter’s thoughts and feelings about his marriage and his wife. Expect
comparisons to Jonathan Tropper and Nick
Hornby. —Rebecca Vnuk
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