All Is Beauty Now.
By Sarah Faber.
Aug. 2017. 400p. Little, Brown, $26 (9780316394963);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316394949).
There were many witnesses at the beach to
the moments just before Luiza disappeared.
But no one actually saw her vanish under
the surface of the sea. Suddenly she was just
gone. The loss of this sensitive, peculiar young
woman, who had kept her father grounded
during his fits of mania and bouts of depression, leaves a deep void in her family. They
had been planning to leave Brazil for Canada,
the father’s homeland. Instead, they must
grapple with life without Luiza and the cracks
now being exposed beneath the polished veneer they had presented to the world. In her
debut novel, Faber offers tantalizing glimpses
of Copacabana high society during the golden
age of the 1960s, leavened with the private
pain and seedy poverty that lie beneath. She
delves deeply into the interior lives of Luiza’s
parents and her two younger sisters, carefully
exposing the challenges each one faces in the
wake of Luiza’s disappearance. Richly realized
and filled with tantalizing secrets, this novel
offers a dramatic look at one family’s struggle
to survive. —Bridget Thoreson
All the Beautiful People We Once Knew.
By Edward Carlson.
Aug. 2017. 296p. Skyhorse, $24.99 (9781510716315).
Steven Harker is having an existential crisis. He loathes his soul-draining job as an
associate litigator at the Kilgore firm nearly
as much as he does his womanizing, boorish boss, Fleeger. When Kilgore’s largest
client, Worldscore, an insurance giant, assigns
Fleeger and Harker the task of denying an injury claim to a Special Forces veteran, Harker
faces the slippery slope into moral depravity. Complicating matters further is Harker’s
burgeoning affair with Fleeger’s soon-to-be
ex-wife, Kath. Although none of these characters are particularly likable, lawyer and
first-time novelist Carlson’s ability to capture
each of their insecurities creates an element of
empathy. Carlson’s controlled authorial voice
is further enlivened by clever wordplay and a
Delilloan obsession with etymology and news
stories. Carlson deftly steers clear of a clichéd
good-versus-evil, David-versus-Goliath plot
as he provides a nuanced exploration of the
questionable motivations of all parties. The
result is a more satisfying, Franzenian interplay of politics and class with hints of the
stylistic reportage of Tom Wolfe. For fans of
the aforementioned authors as well as later
Bret Easton Ellis. —Bill Kelly
All the Dirty Parts.
By Daniel Handler.
Sept. 2017. 144p. Bloomsbury, $24 (9781632868046).
Teenage Cole is obsessed with sex. Not
that he isn’t having any. On the contrary, he’s
having a ton, but he still can’t stop thinking
about sweat, breasts, and porn. Aware of his
“rep” at school but oblivious to how he’s of-
fending the girls around him, he’s selfishly
engrossed with his raw, urgent impulses and
vividly describes his favorite, most erotic
deeds. However, he starts developing a new
code of sexual morals when he fools around
with his best guy friend and “dates” Grisaille,
a hairy hottie from Portugal who challenges
his double standards and pursues sex with
equal vigor. Though best known as kids’ au-
thor Lemony Snicket, Handler continues his
recent endeavor to boldly straddle the divide
between teen and adult books, as he did in
We Are Pirates (2015). Here, in brief, under-
stated vignettes, Cole sounds like Holden
Caulfield writing a sex blog. Amusing yet
genuine, lustful yet sensitive, this odd no-
vella approaches teenage horniness seriously
and, in the process, touches on important
subjects such as sexism, consent, and sexual
identity. —Biz Hyzy
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Handler, aka
Lemony Snicket, has an immense and loyal
readership who will be eagerly awaiting this
tale of teen sex and consciousness.
YA: Although some scenes are graphic,
Handler’s young fan base and Cole’s
adolescent viewpoint will naturally draw
in teens. BH.
By Paul Kingsnorth.
Aug. 2017. 184p. Graywolf, paper, $16
Flash-forward nine centuries from the
world Kingsnorth depicted in acclaimed first
novel, The Wake (2015). Much has changed.
No longer focused on Anglo-Saxon “Green
Men” waging desperate guerrilla war against
their Norman overlords, this new narrative focuses on one Edward Buckmaster, a
(postmodern) man living alone on England’s
western moors. But as in Kingsnorth’s earlier
novel, the human protagonist combats malign and threatening forces he ill understands.
Unsettled by glimpses of
a mysterious dark creature
stalking him, Buckmaster
sets out to find the beast.
But his quest becomes far
more than a search for an
elusive moor animal. His
leg injured, his stomach
empty, his spirit tormented, his mind teetering on the edge of sanity,
Buckmaster presses relentlessly toward the
one prey that truly cannot escape—himself.
Bit by agonizing bit, Buckmaster pries from
his painful bodily experiences and his even
more painful flights of imagination answers
to his profoundest questions about what it
means to be a man, a father, a lover, a mortal in a godforsaken, god-haunted polyverse.
Readers who, like the protagonist, yearn for
answers to such questions will find such by
joining him in a psychological maelstrom.
Daunting but rewarding, this dazzling work
will burnish Kingsnorth’s already luminous
reputation. —Bryce Christensen
By Lawrence Osborne.
July 2017. 304p. Hogarth, $25 (9780553447378).
Naomi is a beautiful animal, a panther lick-
ing her claws after being fired from her law job,
whiling away the summer on a Greek island,
when along comes the perfect prey. Saman-
tha, a young American, is looking to break
free of the suffocating choke hold imposed by
her parents. In Naomi, Sam
finds something exciting, a
glimpse of the independence
she has not yet tasted: “Nao-
mi offered something else—a
sense of knowing what she
wanted long before any-
one else did.” For her part,
Naomi is weighed down by
an excess of liberal guilt, apologizing for her
parents’ hedonistic excesses and taking the side
of the wronged whenever she can. As Osborne
(Hunters in the Dark, 2015) shows, the line
between altruism and self-absorption can be
thin. When the young women find a refugee
hiding on a remote part of the island, Naomi’s
impulsive actions, fueled by utterly delusional
motivations, plunge both into murky and dan-
gerous waters. Soaked in lush descriptions of
the breathtaking Greek countryside, this bril-
liantly paced novel also visits the chasms built
by class. As Naomi’s example illustrates, it takes
a special type of privilege to play puppet master
with somebody else’s life. —Poornima Apte
YA: YAs will be intrigued by Naomi
and Sam’s volatile friendship forged from
boredom and made malleable by unequal
expectations and baggage. PA.
By David Abrams.
Aug. 2017. 272p. Black Cat, paper, $16
In Fobbit (2012), Abrams caricatured military personnel who avoided combat overseas.
His second novel confronts another under-explored aspect of war: the unlikely bonds
formed by mutinous allegiance. Six soldiers
steal a Hummer and sneak off base to attend
their esteemed commander Rafe’s memorial
service. Then their vehicle breaks down in the
heart of Baghdad. In a city where everyone
is a potential enemy, the men risk their careers, and their lives, to get to the service on
foot. Battling hunger and paranoia, the squad
episodically recalls their daring adventure and
Rafe’s violent demise, portraying a complex
man who secretly cared for stray dogs and
avenged the deaths of innocent victims. Sharing their stories as a collective voice, each man
bears his own burden: there’s the notorious
overeater, Cheever; impulsively violent Fish;
Park the stoic; desperately romantic O, who
can’t get over his ex; Drew, who married the
wrong woman; and their sententious makeshift leader, Arrow, who spurs them on. Just
when the squad’s plights become darkly, hilariously absurd, Abrams surprises with pathos
and tenderness. This is military fiction at its
truest. —Jonathan Fullmer