A portrait of a young man adrift in a world where meaning has been swept away.

LAST SUMMER IN THE CITY

When nothing means anything, what do you grab onto to save yourself?

Drifting aimlessly in a sea of alcohol, coffee, women, and cigarettes, Milanese transplant Leo Gazzara floats through life in Rome, buoyed by his collection of secondhand classic books and a loose network of friends (some similarly disaffected, some seeming to have goals or, at least, cash). Leo’s attempts to create a more structured life—usually involving less alcohol and more employment—occur in waves and begin to take on more urgency when he encounters the troubled but alluring Arianna at a party at the home of more successful (and more settled) friends. Leo and a coasting soul mate, Graziano, mull over the causes of their estrangement from routine life and attempt a concerted effort to rescue themselves from slipping away entirely into adolce vita punctuated by drives to the sea or revivifying showers. Leo’s own efforts to recognize and connect with a meaningful existence rely in no small part on what may be the enduring love of his life: books. Allusions to Proust, James Fenimore Cooper, and other masters echo throughout Calligarich’s short but dense novel. Andre Aciman’s epic foreword to this first American edition provides biographical and bibliographic context for Calligarich’s novel, which was widely rejected before finally being published to acclaim in Italy in 1973 and, though falling in and out of print, developed a cultlike following over the years. The account of a lost generation in Rome in the early 1970s (possibly the children of the children of Hemingway’s lost generation) carries the weight of both family history and generational saga.

A portrait of a young man adrift in a world where meaning has been swept away.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60015-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people and also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE SENTENCE

The most recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction—for The Night Watchman (2020)—turns her eye to various kinds of hauntings, all of which feel quite real to the affected characters.

Erdrich is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis and, in this often funny novel, the favorite bookstore of Flora, one of narrator Tookie’s “most annoying customers.” Flora wants to be thought of as Indigenous, a “very persistent wannabe” in the assessment of Tookie, who's Ojibwe. Flora appears at the store one day with a photo of her great-grandmother, claiming the woman was ashamed of being Indian: “The picture of the woman looked Indianesque, or she might have just been in a bad mood,” Tookie decides. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day 2019 with a book splayed next to her—she didn't have time to put a bookmark in it—but she continues shuffling through the store’s aisles even after her cremation. Tookie is recently out of prison for transporting a corpse across state lines, which would have netted her $26,000 had she not been ratted out and had the body not had crack cocaine duct-taped to its armpits, a mere technicality of which Tookie was unaware. Tookie is also unaware that Flora considered Tookie to be her best friend and thus sticks to her like glue in the afterlife, even smacking a book from the fiction section onto the floor during a staff meeting at Birchbark. The novel’s humor is mordant: “Small bookstores have the romance of doomed intimate spaces about to be erased by unfettered capitalism.” The characters are also haunted by the George Floyd murder, which occurred in Minneapolis; they wrestle with generations of racism against Black and Indigenous Americans. Erdrich’s love for bookselling is clear, as is her complicated affection for Minneapolis and the people who fight to overcome institutional hatred and racism.

A novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people and also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-267112-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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