March 15, 2017 Booklist 21 www.booklistonline.com
care of a sweet, playful meth addict who has
been living in a local mausoleum. A young
woman and her schizophrenic girlfriend
drop acid at a MENSA party thrown by
the schizophrenic woman’s parents. Woods’
writing is deep and dynamic. Her characters
are complex and never sink into the ease of
generalizations. She spares no experience
in her representation of modern America;
it is a rare work of literary fiction that fully
showcases the rich and diverse American
populace. The stories establish instant, distinct voices, much like Roxane Gay’s recent
Difficult Women (2016), and fans of Miranda
July’s fiction will relish the wily creativity of
Woods’ plots. This book is tight, intelligent,
and important, and sure to secure Woods a
seat in the pantheon of critical twenty-first-century voices. —Courtney Eathorne
Time’s a Thief.
By B. G. Firmani.
May 2017. 320p. Doubleday, $26.95 (9780385541862).
Kendra Lowenstein is somewhat legendary for her absence on the Barnard campus,
which is why Francesca “Chess” Varani is so
surprised to meet her on a random street corner in New York. Immediately fascinated by
an eccentricity so affected that it’s unaffected,
Chess starts spending time at the Lowensteins’
11th Street mansion, much to the chagrin of
her punk-rock student friends. Firmani really
captures the grit and promise of 1980s New
York, with too many cigarettes and dingy
punk shows, when it was both unusual and
magical for kids to come from rural Pennsylvania (as Chess did) for school. Chess is
like The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway, the
straight vessel for the eccentricities of her
new, rich friends—Kendra, her heartbreaking brother, her infamous mother—and their
genteel mental illness straight out of a Salinger novel. And yet, as she orbits the cruelty
and fabulosity of the Lowensteins, the novel
is her coming-of-age story, one that continues
well into her thirties and traverses everything
from an intense love affair to dubious employment. A leisurely exploration of character and
place that, when you connect to Chess, packs
a wallop. —Susan Maguire
What It Means When a Man Falls
from the Sky.
By Lesley Nneka Arimah.
Apr. 2017. 240p. Riverhead, $26 (9780735211025).
Arimah, a young writer of the UK, Nige-
ria, and the U.S., debuts with a slender yet
mighty short story collection that delivers one
head-snapping smack after
another. Arimah’s potently
concentrated portrayals of
young women who can’t
stop themselves from doing
the wrong thing, especially
by refusing to adhere to
traditional Nigerian expec-
tations for females to be
obedient and self-sacrificing, possess tre-
mendous psychological and social depth and
resonance. Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adich-
ie, she writes with subtlety and poignancy
about the struggles of love and hope between
daughters and mothers and fathers, including
relationships complicated by the legacy of the
Biafran War, class divides, and transatlantic
separations, as in “Wild,” in which an in-
trouble American teen is sent to live with her
aunt in Lagos. Arimah’s emotional and cul-
tural precision and authenticity undergird her
most imaginative leaps. She flirts with horror
fiction, presents a ghost story, and creates an
arresting form of magic realism in sync with
that of Shirley Jackson, George Saunders, and
Colson Whitehead. Babies are made of yarn,
hair, and mud. In the title story, “Mathemati-
cians” devote themselves to “calculating and
subtracting emotions, drawing them from
living bodies like poison from a wound.”
Arimah’s stories of loss, grief, shame, fury, and
love are stingingly fresh and complexly affect-
ing. —Donna Seaman
YA: YAs will find Arimah’s propulsive
prose and watchful, often defiant girls and
young women in conflict with parents and
society deeply engaging. DS.
What’s Become of Her.
By Deb Caletti.
Apr. 2017. 284p. Bantam, paper, $16 (9781101884263).
After her mother’s death, Isabelle Austen returns to her birthplace off the coast of
Washington State to run the family’s airline
business. Recently divorced and ambivalent
about a future on the island, she quickly enters into a relationship with Henry North, an
outsider with a questionable past: both his
former fiancée and his wife died under suspicious circumstances. Loyal at first, Isabelle
becomes increasingly suspicious as packages
begin arriving from around the globe, each
containing items belonging to the dead women. Unbeknownst to her, Professor M. Weary
is watching both Henry and Isabelle online
in what he describes as a selfless attempt to
prevent another woman’s death. But who is
Weary, and what is the source of his obsession
with Henry’s dead wife? In her latest, prolific
National Book Award finalist Caletti (Secrets
She Keeps, 2015) deftly builds tension through
alternating chapters narrated by Isabelle and
Weary in this well-told tale. Is Henry North
a murderer? Does Weary have Isabelle’s best
interests at heart? As Caletti combines literary
fiction with suspense, she keeps readers guessing until the last page. —Lindsay Harmon
You’re the One That I Want.
By Giovanna Fletcher.
Apr. 2017. 320p. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne, $26.99
Readers may recognize that this book’s title
is the same as the catchy song’s from the movie
musical, Grease. Maddy is a young twentysomething about to walk down the aisle to
marry her best friend, Rob. Everything is
picture-perfect. Except for the man standing
next to Rob, best man Ben, their mutual best
friend . . . and the other man Maddy loves.
The book starts with a cliffhanger, whom will
she choose? Will someone stop the wedding?
This is a warm, humorous, at times heartbreaking novel of three childhood friends,
told from their alternating points-of-view and
reminiscent of Cecelia Ahern’s Rosie Dunne
(2005). It reads like a diary readers won’t be
able to put down, with characters they would
like to spend more time with and get to know.
A fresh take on the classic love-triangle story.
All By Myself, Alone.
By Mary Higgins Clark.
Apr. 2017. 336p. Simon & Schuster, $26.99
In Clark’s (The Sleeping Beauty Killer, 2016)
latest, bumbling lottery winners Alvirah and
Willy Meehan take some of their $40 million
windfall and splurge on a trans-Atlantic cruise
on the über-luxury liner, Queen Charlotte.
They’re joined by an Agatha Christie–like cast
of fellow passengers, from pompous Shakespearean lecturer Professor Longworth to
antiquities expert Ted Cavanaugh. But the
ship’s collective attention turns to Lady Emily Haywood and her retinue, which includes
personal assistant Brenda Martin and accountant Roger Pearson and his gold-digger wife,
Yvonne. Lady Emily has stated that during the
voyage she will wear the famed, and some say
cursed, emerald necklace that once belonged
to Cleopatra. But there’s a jewel thief on board
who wants to make sure that never happens, as
well as a dedicated gemologist, Celia Kilbride,
who may be the only one Lady Emily can trust
with her jeweled treasures. Murders and men
missing at sea provide Alvirah and Willy dangerous excitement and ample opportunities
to further test their amateur sleuthing skills.
The tried-and-true whodunit formula benefits
from Alvirah and Willy’s down-home charm.
The Burial Hour.
By Jeffery Deaver.
Apr. 2017. 480p. Grand Central, $28 (9781455536375);
e-book, $14.99 (9781455536399).
Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic criminalist, calls New York City home. But
occasionally he travels to other places. In The
Kill Room (2013), he follows the trail of a killer to the Bahamas. Here, he’s way outside his
comfort zone: Naples, Italy, to be exact, where
an unknown subject who nearly killed a man
in New York has fled (and has, apparently, attacked another victim). When Rhyme and his
partner, NYPD detective Amelia Sachs, turn
up in Naples, they aren’t exactly warmly received, especially by the prosecutor in charge
of the case and the lead detective. But, as
Rhyme and Sachs show just how good they
are, they begin to win over their law-enforcement adversaries. Misdirection and plot twists
abound, and the novel’s theme (the European
immigrant problem) feels, given recent events