Category Archives: New fiction

*** Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Eli, the hero of Boy Swallows Universe, has a drug-dealer stepfather (who will be killed in drug wars), a depressed mother (who will end up in prison), an alcoholic father (who cannot hold a job), and a mute brother (with other issues). But he has a plan: to corner the heroin market in Brisbane. It will take him to a career in journalism, a terrifying meeting with a drug kingpin, and back to a family drama he tried to forget. I just loved this story of a boy with big ideas in a world that thinks that children can’t do much.

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** The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise

The Emperor of Shoes¬†is a young American who is poised to inherit a shoe factory from his father, but wants to change the direction of the company from safe and staid white labels to a new line. At the same time, he is in love with one of the workers who is organizing the workers to demand safer work conditions and better pay. Obvious contradictions need to be resolved, and cultural misunderstandings abound. It’s a debut novel, and a promising one.

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** Things Fall Apart by China Achebe

Things Fall Apart stars a Nigerian warrior whose village and life is about to change forever with the arrival of missionaries and the British empire. The best parts of the story are the many details about pre-colonial mores and customs, and also the wonderful tone and style that the author conjures to evoke a different time and rhythm of life. It’s not the usual, cheap idea of using exotic words (although he does that) but more a cadence of words and sentences. Very skillfully done.

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** Moving Kings by Joshua Cohen

Moving Kings stars the beleaguered owner of a moving company that handles eviction in addition to regular moves, and two Israeli veterans, working illegally for him as a family favor. I very much enjoyed the first part of the book, that describes the complicated relationship of the owner and his faithful assistant, the messy reality of running a small, scrappy company, and also the disorientation of the first veteran who tries to fit into a “normal” civilian life.

The second half is a heavier slog, comparing the evictions to the heavy-handed military presence in the Gaza strip. It’s not entirely convincing.

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*** My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

Looking for light summer fare? My Ex-Life could be just the ticket. Meandering between real estate and college application drama, it is full of insightful asides, from the travails of Airbnb owners to how well ex-spouses know each other, to the secret lives of teenagers (especially those with distracted parents). It’s funny and poignant at times. So you won’t be too disappointed that the ending is a little flat.

 

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** Cherokee America by Margaret Verble

Cherokee America is a fictional matriarch, inspired by the author’s grandmother, and in the story she has to contend with a dying husband, a wayward son, a dead newborn, orphans, a murder, a falsely accused black servant, and the white judge who would love to disrupt Native American justice. It’s an enjoyable rambling story with abundant historical references to the Trail of Tears and the Civil War. A big too much happens to that one woman in the course of the novel, and her son’s sexual urges are described a bit too comprehensively, but it makes for a long and rich story with lots of interesting characters.

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** Careless Love by Peter Robinson

Careless Love starts with two somewhat suspicious deaths, that will eventually be tied together and with more in a terrifying conspiracy. It felt like the story was a kind of warmup to another, darker, more international story. We shall see. And the personal details sprinkled throughout felt a little forced. Yes, we get it, the detective likes music of a particular era.

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