The Globe and Mail rounds up a baker’s dozen of spring releases that either you’re going to hear about or you’re going to wish you did hear about.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra (Random House)
Do you hear something? Perhaps it’s the deafening buzz around Anthony Marra, who comes with a fine a pedigree: MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Whiting Award winner and a debut novel earning rapturous endorsements from Ann Patchett, T.C. Boyle and Canada’s own Vincent Lam. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is set in an almost abandoned hospital in Chechnya in 2004, where a child, her caretaker and a doctor unravel the strange ties that bind them. It is a book of violence and beauty, and the undisputed arrival of a major new literary talent.
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf Canada)
The young Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, tackles an enormous issue in her new novel: Race. Her two main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, loved each other as teens in Lagos, but now Ifemelu attends Princeton where she is a graduate fellow, while Obinze is stuck in visa purgatory in London, unable to gain access to the States under tighter security post-9/11. Ifemelu must confront the harsh reality of being black in America, and when the two reunite later in life they find each other deeply changed.
Inferno, Dan Brown (Doubleday)
From relative unknown Dan Brown comes this novel about love, loss and Dante. Just kidding. Sure to be the biggest book of the season, Inferno welcomes back Robert Langdon, immortalized in film by a greasy Tom Hanks, as he sets about … well, no one’s really sure what he’s up to, as the book’s plot is a closely guarded secret, though it likely includes codes and secrets and a malevolent force of some description. But don’t worry – come May 14, it’ll be hard to avoid.
The Empty Room, Lauren B. Davis (HarperCollins Canada)
Colleen Kerrigan is on the verge of another binge – a battle she fights daily. She cannot remember the night before, though the bottle of vodka in her kitchen is almost empty. In the day that will follow she will remember the most harrowing moments of her traumatic past. Writing out of her own history with the disease, Lauren B. Davis confronts the darkest corners of alcoholism in this, her follow up to Our Daily Bread, which was nominated for the Giller Prize.
The Devil and the Detective, John Goldbach (Coach House)
John Goldbach’s first novel is an out-and-out romp, though a cerebral and extremely clever one. Robert James, a private detective with the heart of a philosopher, is summoned to help a young woman figure out what’s happened to her much older, very dead husband. The crime-solving soon takes a backseat to the soul-searching as James and his unlikely sidekick, a flower delivery kid named Darren, become more interested in metaphysical mysteries than quotidian concerns like murder. Goldbach’s prose is polished and inventive, and the book is at once a clever satire and satisfying bit of strangeness.
And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini (Viking Canada)
Khaled Hosseini’s new book is the successor to the blockbusters The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. It’s a sprawling novel about family and history and the ways in which we constantly surprise each other. And it’s a globetrotter, too: Greece, Kabul, Paris, San Francisco are all represented – though the plot’s reach is bound to be dwarfed by the number of countries in which this will be a surefire bestseller.
A Delicate Truth, John Le Carré (Viking Canada)
John Le Carré, the grandfather of the contemporary espionage thriller, returns with his 22nd novel. Those who came to his work through the gloomy chic of Tomas Alfredson’s elegant 2011 film adaptation of Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy will be surprised by the contemporary setting, but pleased by the novel’s decided Britishness: it’s largely set in Cornwall, though it does feature an of-the-moment counter-terrorist operation stationed in Gibraltar.
Woke Up Lonely, Fiona Maazel (Graywolf)
Helix, a cult founded by a man named Thurlow Dan with the modest goal of curing loneliness in the 21st century, is on the rise. It’s expanded beyond its Cincinnati headquarters and gone national. But charismatic Thurlow finds himself lonely, missing his wife and daughter. Early reviews have been rapturous, and Graywolf, the book’s publisher, has a sterling reputation for publishing extremely good books.
The Property, Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Israeli comics artist Rutu Modan had incredible success with her first graphic novel, 2007’s Exit Wounds, and she seems likely to repeat her good fortune with The Property, a stunning book about a family’s attempt to reclaim property lost during the Second World War. Modan’s drawings are precise and evocative, with rich yet restrained colouring and detail. The Warsaw she imagines, shaded with a mournful tone but full of vivid characters, feels alive on the page.
Caught, Lisa Moore (Anansi)
You’d never know it from the cover, but Caught is a marked – and markedly fun – departure for the Canada Reads winner, recounting the adventures of Slaney, an escaped con on the run, and a very large quantity of marijuana. It’s classic Lisa Moore: sexy, surprising and beautifully written.
The Dark, Claire Mulligan (Doubleday Canada)
This spooky historical ghost story, from British Columbian Claire Mulligan, features Maggie Fox, one of the notorious Fox sisters who were instrumental in the founding of Spiritualism, the 19 th and early 20 th century religion based on the belief that the spirits of the deceased had nothing better to do than hang about waiting to talk to those of us left behind. Mulligan’s first novel, The Reckoning of Boston Jim, brought the past vividly alive, and she’s likely to do the same here.
Odds Against Tomorrow, Nathaniel Rich (FSG)
Nathaniel Rich’s second novel, set in the near future, stars Mitchell Zukor, a mathematician charged with creating extremely detailed scenarios of complete disaster, which are then sold to corporations so that they can indemnify themselves against catastrophe. (Which actually doesn’t sound all that far-fetched.) A huge storm comes, and Mitchell might be the ideal man to take advantage of a situation so bad only he could have imagined it.
Big Brother, Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins Canada)
Lionel Shriver has a knack for the topical. Her new novel takes on the obesity epidemic, but from a very personal place: in 2009 she wrote a piece for the Guardian about her fears that her brother would eat himself to death; he died days after it was published. After his passing, Shriver composed this novel. Edison, morbidly obese, moves in with his sister, Pandora. Pandora decides she must intervene to save him and drafts a dramatic plan. But can it possibly succeed?