It’s just coincidence, I swear that our recommended books this week include a novel called Elsewhere and a memoir called Son of Elsewhere – but as luck would have it, it’s a pretty resonant one, isn’t it? Wherever we are these days, it seems we all want to be anywhere but here.
Elsewhere (hey-o), we also recommend two memoirs in which well-known authors take a close look at their parents’ lives — “Esmond and Ilia,” by literary critic and scholar Marina Warner, and “Rough Draft,” by the TV journalist Katy Tur – along with investigative synopses of abuse at a boys’ reform school and the environmental costs of industrial pig farming. In fiction, we like Andrew Holleran’s new novel The Kingdom of Sand, Jess Walter’s collection of stories The Angel of Rome, and graphic novels about art (by Mark Haber) and family ties (by Alison Fairbrother). Happy reading.
Abdelmahmoud spent the first 12 years of his life in Sudan and identified as Arab – if he even thought about his identity. Then, when he emigrated to Kingston, one of Canada’s whitest cities, he quickly learned that he was black. Living in a new country brought uneasiness, but also opportunity.
In Holleran’s fifth novel – both melancholy and hilarious – the protagonist spends his days at his late mother’s home in Florida, navigating loneliness, a changing world, and life after the cruise. The book’s image of isolation and old age is all the more poignant given that Holleran wrote the 1978 novel Dancer From the Dance about the sheer, carefree pleasure of gay devotion.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $27
Tur’s first memoir, Unbelievable, chronicled her obsessive pursuit of Donald J. Trump during the 2016 campaign. This one – which is equally captivating – traces her upbringing as the daughter of obsessive journalists. As Tur unpacks the family laundry, it turns out her father is just as complicated as Trump: narcissistic, grandiose, vain, noisily tumbling from success to failure. Charming and immensely charismatic to outsiders, Tur’s father runs for mayor of Los Angeles, develops an “almost canine instinct” for television journalism and, most importantly, teaches Tur how to crush her rivals. When Tur feels the urge to apply a little more pressure, she writes: “I don’t usually think about my competition or my colleagues. It’s my father. Not that I would approve of all of his methods.”
A signal/atria | $28
Haber’s graphic novel traces the friendship, strife, and some sort of reconciliation between two critics who have devoted their careers to a 16th-century painting of St. Sebastian that both find sublime — albeit for different reasons. What is it about art that can move us to extremes? This absurd approach to very serious people risks conjecture.
coffeehouse | Paper, $16.95
Warner is an expert in myths, legends and fairy tales. So it makes sense that this elegiac “unreliable memoir” about her parents’ lives should be a tale of the power of narrative, told through lore, symbol, and allegory. As we learn the details of an unlikely marriage and a broken childhood, the project is bigger. It’s mostly a loss account.
New York Flashback | Paper, $19.95
Generous and wonderfully imaginative, these stories manage to capture generations of emotionally complex lives in relatively few pages. Walter offers an empathetic but unsentimental perspective on relationships.
Harper/HarperCollins | $27.99
Schaitkin’s second novel, set in a remote mountain town where new mothers are in danger of succumbing to a “disease” that causes some to disappear without a trace, joins the latest series of impressive books using speculative elements to investigate new motherhood.
In this warm and funny debut novel, a grieving daughter is determined to unravel a bewildering legacy. Why did her dad leave a treasured baseball to a stranger — and why did she get a glow-in-the-dark tie rack?
random house | $27
Addison, an attorney and best-selling author, tells the extraordinary true story of how some North Carolina hog farm neighbors fought a meatpacking company that was polluting their communities. They sued the company in federal court, starting cases that took years to resolve, with twists and turns and dire implications not only for the future of American agriculture but for the health of our democracy.
The abusive Florida boys’ school at the center of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Nickel Boys was based on an all too real institution – and this school’s horrific legacy is laid bare in this new book from a forensic anthropologist. Kimmerle was at the forefront of an excavation that uncovered the full horror (and number of victims) of the school’s hundred-year history. Here she tells not only the crimes of Dozier, but also the challenges and consequences of the controversial dig.