Winter Institute in Asheville, N.C., begins this coming weekend, and we talked to booksellers about the titles and authors they're most looking forward to. (Part one, Fiction, is here; part two, Nonfiction, is here.)
The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor (Algonquin, May, $24.95, 9781616203689)
This new novel by Heidi Pitlor--editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's The Best American Short Stories and author of The Birthdays--has advance praise from Stephen King, Geraldine Brooks and Tom Perrotta. In The Daylight Marriage, the day after a beleaguered couple quarrel, the wife drops their two children at their suburban school, then disappears, leaving the husband to dissect the trajectory of their marriage through his memories and the children's impressions of it. "I could not put it down," said Sarah Bagby of Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan. "In a way, it's a little Gone Girl, except every word is deliberate. It's more literary. I read it in two sittings."
The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat, translated by Adriana Hunter (Other Press, May, $22.95, 9781590517079)
The Travels of Daniel Ascher was a sensation in France, and now Other Press brings this debut with YA crossover appeal to the U.S. At the heart of the novel is the question of who wrote a hugely popular (fictional) YA series known as the Black Insignia--was it the person whose name is on the spine or a great-uncle of Hélène, who finds herself searching for the truth that goes deep into the history of the French occupation. "A sweet little gem that we love to handsell," observed Cathy Langer, buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver.
Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt, translated by K.E. Semmel (Open Letter/Consortium, Aug., paper $16.95, 9781940953168)
The long-awaited first novel by the winner of both the Nordic and Danish prizes for literature, Rock, Paper, Scissors opens shortly after the death of Thomas and Jenny's criminal father. While trying to fix a toaster that he left behind, Thomas discovers a wad of cash, setting into motion a series of events that draw him him into a dark underworld of violence and betrayal. Aidt was born in Greenland and raised in Copenhagen.
The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo (Europa Editions, April, paper $16, 9781609452520)
In what might be the first novel published in the U.S. that tells of the Cuban Wars for Independence from a Cuban point of view, The Distant Marvels opens as a hurricane is bearing down on the island in 1963 and a group of women is forced to take refuge in the governor's mansion. One of them, Marie Sirena, quells the others' fears by sharing stories from her childhood during the third war for independence. Told in chapters alternating between 1963 and the 1880s-'90s, The Distant Marvels is a tribute to the brilliance of female storytelling. With the U.S. poised to reopen relations with Cuba, the book is especially timely.
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora (Grove, May, $25, 9780802123558)
The Wonder Garden is a first story collection by a writer whose work has appeared in the Paris Review and other literary journals. Acampora's stories are compared with those of Updike, Cheever, Homes and Ann Beattie, and she is being called the new voice for American suburban fiction. "This is an in-house favorite," said Linda-Marie Barrett at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville.
Grace by Calvin Baker (Tyrus Books, July, $24.99, 9781440585784)
Grace, by the award-winning author of Dominion--Esquire called him one of the "best young writers in America"--is being described as "The Unbearable Lightness of Being meets This Is How You Lose Her." It's about a weary war correspondent's attempt to return to "normal" life, hoping to find love and the ability to see the beauty again.
Slim and the Beast by Samuel L. Barrantes (Inkshares/Ingram, Feb., paper $18, 9781941758021)
Set in North Carolina, where the author grew up, Slim and the Beast is about two friends--Slim, an Iraq vet, and the Beast, a college basketball star--who take refuge in a local bar from a stalker and a hurricane. It's being described as "David Foster Wallace meets the Coen brothers meets Larry David." Inkshares is a crowd-sourced publishing operation; Slim and the Beast is the first novel on its list.
Forgiveness 4 You by Ann Bauer (Overlook, March, $26.95, 9781468310238)
Forgiveness 4 You has an unusual premise: a former Catholic priest working at a bookstore finds that everyone confesses to him--including an advertising executive named Madeline who thinks they should create a non-religious confessional brand. Bauer is the author of The Forever Marriage.
Whisper Hollow by Chris Cander (Other Press, March, paper $17.95, 9781590517116)
Chris Cander is the author of the critically acclaimed 11 Stories. Her new novel, Whisper Hollow, is set in a West Virginia coal-mining town rife with secrets and evil spirits. An announced 30,000 first printing--huge for an indie press like Other--is helping to fuel the buzz.
The Boatmaker by John Benditt (Tin House, Feb., paper $15.95, 9781935639985)
This debut by a poet who studied with Adrienne Rich is about a "fierce and complicated" man who builds a boat to escape from the isolated island on which he was born, only to be tempted, beaten and betrayed. Pam Cady at University Book Store in Seattle described it as "a tour de force and a strangely mesmerizing parable."
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (Sourcebooks Landmark, April, paper $16.99, 9781492602026)
A time-slipping romance from the bestselling author of The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden. In A Desperate Fortune, a codebreaker comes to Paris to unlock a 300-year-old mystery in the journal of a Jacobite exile. "I hadn't read anything by her before," said Kate Schlademan, owner of the Learned Owl in Hudson, Ohio. "It's a really fun read. I liked how the character is a high-functioning autistic and it shows how she deals with it in her life."
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House, Sept., $15.95, 9781566894098)
Named by the National Book Foundation in its "5 Under 35" list last year, Valeria Luiselli is the author of Faces in the Crowd and the essay collection Sidewalks, both published by Coffee House. The Story of My Teeth is about a late-in-life world traveller, yarn-spinner, collector and legendary auctioneer, whose most precious possessions are the teeth of the "notorious infamous" like Plato, Petrarch and Virginia Woolf. The Story of My Teeth is an elegant, witty romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli's own literary influences.
On Hurricane Island by Ellen Meeropol (Red Hen Press, March, $16.95, 9781597093002)
Ellen Meeropol is a former nurse practitioner who works part-time at the Odyssey Book Shop in South Hadley, Mass. In her third novel, On Hurricane Island, a math professor is hooded and cuffed by federal agents at JFK airport on her way to a conference in New England. Interrogated for things she knows nothing about, the professor is put into the hands of a rookie guard who becomes horrified by secret things he is asked to do. On Hurricane Island will have readers questioning the real cost of the war on terrorism.
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (Algonquin, April, $25.95, 9781616203740)
This debut, inspired by the author's family's experience of the Armenian genocide, is told from the point of view of a young man who is ignorant of his family's past and the grandmother who cannot escape memories of it. "I'm always compelled by the Armenian genocide--it's such a horrific period of history" that is not written about much, said Langer at Tattered Cover.
The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes (Atlantic Monthly, June, $26, 9780802122490)
In her editor's note, Elizabeth Schmitz celebrates that Mary-Beth Hughes has moved from stories and a "slim and potent" debut novel, Wavemaker II, to write a "seismic novel--a darkly seductive drama of family secrets and professional lies set in the early '70s of the booming cosmetics industry in New York and London. Comp titles for The Loved Ones include Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Penelope Fitgerald's The Gate of Angels and James Salter's Light Years.
Will Starling by Ian Weir (Steerforth, Feb., paperback $17, 9781586422301)
Set in London after the Napoleonic War, the title character, Will Starling, is a 19-year-old who has just returned to the continent with Alec Comrie, the military surgeon he served. Starling helps Comrie build a medical practice in London's rough Cripplegate area, where one of Comrie's old school friends is suspected of operating on not quite dead corpses. An investigation twists through brothels, charnel houses and the mansions of Mayfair. Weir is originally from North Carolina, and now lives in Canada.
Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff (She Writes/PGW, April, $16.95 paper, 9781631529764)
Written by the co-founder of She Writes Press, Wishful Thinking is about what happens when an overworked mom comes across an app on her phone that lets her be in more than one place at one time--becoming super mom and über worker, but at what cost? Langer is among the booksellers who are watching She Writes Press build its hybrid publishing company, which acts as a gatekeeper for work that might otherwise be self-published. --Bridget Kinsella