The Clerk’s picks for this month include a Pulitzer Prize winner, an international Japanese superstar, a reimagined literary hero (of sorts), tales of the American Southwest, the anxiety of graduate students, a man who thinks he is the inspiration for some of literature’s greatest villains, and the next great historical novel about Jamaica. Enjoy, and click through the cover images to purchase and support this site.
Trajectory: Stories – Richard Russo (May 2nd)
“Russo’s characters in these four expansive stories bear little similarity to the blue-collar citizens we’re familiar with from many of his novels. In “Horseman,” a professor confronts a young plagiarist as well as her own weaknesses as the Thanksgiving holiday looms closer and closer: “And after that, who knew?” In “Intervention,” a realtor facing an ominous medical prognosis finds himself in his father’s shadow while he presses forward–or not. In “Voice,” a semiretired academic is conned by his increasingly estranged brother into coming along on a group tour of the Venice Biennale, fleeing a mortifying incident with a traumatized student back in Massachusetts but encountering further complications in the maze of Venice. And in “Milton and Marcus,” a lapsed novelist struggles with his wife’s illness and tries to rekindle his screenwriting career, only to be stymied by the pratfalls of that trade when he’s called to an aging, iconic star’s mountaintop retreat in Wyoming.” – Penguin Random House
Men Without Women: Stories – Haruki Murakami (May 9th)
“Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.
Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.” – Penguin Random House
Mr. Rochester – Sarah Shoemaker (May 9)
“For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.
The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain – Don Waters (May 22)
“Master storyteller Don Waters returns to the desert in his third book set in the American Southwest. With the gothic sensibility of Flannery O’Connor and emotional delicacy of Raymond Carver, these nine contemporary stories deftly explore the lives of characters losing or clinging to a fleeting faith and struggling to find something meaningful to believe in beneath overpowering desert skies.
Soldiers, seekers, priests, prisoners, and surfers pursue their fate amid bizarre, sometimes overwhelming circumstances. In “La Luz de Jesús,” a gutless Los Angeles screenwriter, a believer in nothing but the god of Hollywood, must reorient after he encounters a group of penitents in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The decorated soldier in “Española” faces more chaos back home than he did during his tour in Iraq. And “The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain” pairs a “trustee” prison inmate and a wild mustang horse, both wards of the state of Nevada, as they fumble toward a spiritual truth.
These stories capture the spirit of a region and its people. Once again Waters assembles an unconventional cast of characters, capturing their foibles and imperfections, and always rendering them with compassion as these modern-day martyrs and spiritually haunted survivors strive for some kind of redemption.
Ingenious, sometimes forbidding, often absurd, and altogether original, The Saints of Rattlesnake Mountain is a stirring tribute to the lives, loves, and hopes of the faithful and the dispossessed.” – Nevada Press
Chemistry: A Novel – Weike Wang (May 23rd)
“Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.” – Penguin Random House
The Only Child – Andrew Pyper (May 23rd)
“Dr. Lily Dominick has seen her share of bizarre cases as a forensic psychiatrist working with some of New York’s most dangerous psychotic criminals. But nothing can prepare Lily for her newest patient.
Client 46874-A is nameless. He insists that he is not human, and believes that he was not born, but created over two hundred years ago. As Lily listens to this man describe the twisted crime he’s committed, she can’t shake the feeling that he’s come for her—especially once he reveals something she would have thought impossible: He knew her mother. […]
To discover the truth—behind her client, her mother’s death, herself—Lily must embark on a journey to find him that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.
Fusing relentless suspense with surprising emotion, The Only Child is a psychological thriller about family, identity and monstrosity that will keep you up until its last unforgettable revelation.” – Simon & Schuster
Augustown – Kei Miller (May 23rd)
” 11 April 1982: a smell is coming down John Golding Road right alongside the boy-child, something attached to him, like a spirit but not quite. Ma Taffy is growing worried. She knows that something is going to happen. Something terrible is going to pour out into the world. But if she can hold it off for just a little bit longer, she will. So she asks a question that surprises herself even as she asks it, “Kaia, I ever tell you bout the flying preacherman?”
Set in the backlands of Jamaica, Augustown is a magical and haunting novel of one woman’s struggle to rise above the brutal vicissitudes of history, race, class, collective memory, violence, and myth.” – Penguin Random House
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