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The TNB Book Club

51ipt8e0vzlAvailable from Algonquin Books

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“Funny, sad, and smart, The Young Widower’s Handbook is a brilliant meditation on love, loss and loneliness. Part wacky road novel, part romantic comedy, Tom McAllister’s debut novel flies along yet reaches deep.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of West of Sunset

For Hunter Cady, meeting Kait was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. Otherwise unmotivated, he spent roughly half his twenty-nine years accomplishing very little, which makes him about fifteen in terms of real-life experience. But he’s the luckiest man on earth when it comes to his wife. Beautiful and confident, Kait is somehow charmed by Hunter’s awkwardness and droll humor. So when she dies quite suddenly, Hunter is crushed. Numb with grief, he stumbles forward the only way he knows how: by running away. To the dismay of her family, Hunter takes Kait’s ashes with him and heads west.

They had always meant to travel. Soon enough, he finds himself–and Kait–in encounters with characters even quirkier than he is: an overzealous Renaissance Faire worker; a raucous yet sympathetic troop of bachelorettes; a Chicago couple and their pet parrot, Elvis. He meets a much older man still searching for the wife who walked out on him years ago. Along the way are glimpses of Hunter and Kait’s beautiful, flawed, very real marriage and the strength it gives Hunter, even when contemplating a future without it. Insightful, wry, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, The Young Widower’s Handbook is a testament to the power of love.

tdr_bookcover_reactive_grandeAvailable from Two Dollar Radio

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“Woozy, touching… a novel that delivers an unexpected love letter to Cape Town, painting it as a place of frustrated glory. The Reactive often teems with a beauty that seems to carry on in front of its glue-huffing wasters despite themselves.” —Marian Ryan, Slate

From the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award comes the story of Lindanathi, a young HIV+ man grappling with the death of his brother, for which he feels unduly responsible. He and his friends—Cecelia and Ruan—work low-paying jobs and sell anti-retroviral drugs (during the period in South Africa before ARVs became broadly distributed). In between, they huff glue, drift through parties, and traverse the streets of Cape Town where they observe the grave material disparities of their country.

A mysterious masked man appears seeking to buy their surplus of ARVs, an offer that would present the friends with the opportunity to escape their environs, while at the same time forcing Lindanathi to confront his path, and finally, his past.

With brilliant, shimmering prose, Ntshanga has delivered a redemptive, ambitious, and unforgettable first novel.

laluz_new-jersey-meAvailable from Rare Bird Books

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“Gritty and loud, raucous and real, but still somehow hushed and holy—like a love story told in the blacklight room at the back of a Spencer’s Gifts.” —Ben Loory, author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

New Jersey Me explores an ensemble cast of unique characters, including Blackwater’s hometown nuclear power plant; a beauty named Baby, Baby’s hell-bent-for-prison boyfriend, Terry; a Mary Kay mom high on Vicodin and Bloody Marys; and an old old tree with a taste for blood. The son of the local police chief, Mark dreams of escaping the small town’s conflicting and oppressive codes of manhood. In the meantime, though, Mark lives a boy’s life, Blackwater-style: netting fish that have been killed by sudden coldwater emissions from the nuclear plant; kidnapping a chimp from the local circus; selling dirty socks to a local eccentric who may hold the key to Mark’s escape; dating a one-legged girl; and observing the increasingly mysterious behavior of his best friend, Jimmy.

51qbloltnclAvailable from Relegation Books

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“A gorgeous multigenerational saga of love and race, loss and belonging…Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human…Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down.” —Kirkus (starred review)

In this masterful novel of inheritance and loss, Sonya Chung (Long for This World) proves herself a worthy heir to Marguerite Duras, Hwang Sun-won, and James Salter. Spanning generations and divergent cultures, The Loved Ones maps the intimate politics of unlikely attractions, illicit love, and costly reconciliations.

Charles Lee, the young African American patriarch of a biracial family, seeks to remedy his fatherless childhood in Washington, DC, by making an honorable choice when his chance arrives. Years later in the mid-1980s, uneasy and stymied in his marriage to Alice, he finds a connection with Hannah Lee, the teenage Korean American caregiver whose parents’ transgressive flight from tradition and war has left them shrouded in a cloud of secrets and muted passion.

A shocking and senseless death will test every familial bond and force all who are touched by the tragedy to reexamine who their loved ones truly are–the very meaning of the words. Haunting, elliptical, and powerful, The Loved Ones deconstructs the world we think we know and shows us the one we inhabit.

26530351Available from Liveright

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“One of the most stunningly beautiful novels in recent years…Dennis-Benn’s writing is so assured, so gorgeous, that it’s hard to believe Here Comes the Sun is a debut novel…it feels like a miracle.” —Michael Schaub, NPR

In this radiant, highly anticipated debut, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman―fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves―must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.

9781250097101Available in trade paperback from Picador

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“Franzen may well now be the best American novelist. He has certainly become our most public one, not because he commands Oprah’s interest and is a sovereign presence on the best-seller list—though neither should be discounted—but because, like the great novelists of the past, he convinces us that his vision unmasks the world in which we actually live . . . A good writer will make an effort to purge his prose of clichés. But it takes genius to reanimate them in all their original power and meaning.” —Sam Tanenhaus, The New Republic

A magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom

Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother–her only family–is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she’ll ever have a normal life.

Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world–including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn’t understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.

Purity is a grand story of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedom has imagined a world of vividly original characters–Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers–and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Purity is the most daring and penetrating book yet by one of the major writers of our time.

51y28tNrnGL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Available from Harper

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“A discreetly sexy novel…of romantic suspense.” —New York Times Book Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep, a sensational new psychological thriller about a woman with a secret identity that threatens to destroy her.

How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia’s quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she’s losing herself…losing control…perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.

A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead—and the dark places in which they can find themselves—Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson.

31aYhx22AJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Available from Graywolf

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“Max Porter has written one of the only accurate representations of grief I have ever found in literature. He combines verse, narrative, essay, myth, drama, jokes, bad dreams, and the language of therapy in a way that seems magical, permanent, utterly integrated, as impossible to distill to its components as it would be impossible to remove or isolate grief from love, or from life itself. Says Crow of grief, ‘It is everything. It is the fabric of selfhood.’” —Sarah Manguso, author of The Guardians and Ongoingness

Here he is, husband and father, scruffy romantic, a shambolic scholar—a man adrift in the wake of his wife’s sudden, accidental death. And there are his two sons, who, like him, struggle in their London flat to face the unbearable sadness that has engulfed them. The father imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness while the boys wander, savage and unsupervised.

In this moment of violent despair they are visited by Crow—antagonist, trickster, goad, protector, therapist, and babysitter. This self-described “sentimental bird,” at once wild and tender, who “finds humans dull except in grief,” threatens to stay with the wounded family until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and the pain of loss lessens with the balm of memories, Crow’s efforts are rewarded and the little unit of three begins to recover: Dad resumes his book about the poet Ted Hughes; the boys get on with it, grow up.

Part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter’s extraordinary debut combines compassion and bravura style to dazzling effect. Full of angular wit and profound truths, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers is a startlingly original and haunting debut by a significant new talent.

cover-innocentsAvailable from Scribner

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“Dana Spiotta is one of my favorite living writers and in this wondrous and mysterious novel, a spectacular and subtle meditation onsight and sound, she seems almost to channel Jean-Luc Godard: Innocents and Others, like classic JLG,is brilliant, and erotic, and pop.” —Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers

From “a major, unnervingly intelligent writer” (Joy Williams)…“rich, funny, learned, and tonally fresh” (Jeffrey Eugenides), comes a novel about aspiration, film, work, and love.

Dana Spiotta’s new novel is about two women, best friends, who grow up in LA in the 80s and become filmmakers. Meadow and Carrie have everything in common—except their views on sex, power, movie-making, and morality. Their lives collide with Jelly, a loner whose most intimate experience is on the phone. Jelly is older, erotic, and mysterious. She cold calls powerful men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. She invites them to reveal themselves, and they do.

Spiotta is “a wonderfully gifted writer with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadnesses of contemporary life, and an unerring ear for how people talk and try to cope today” (The New York Times). Innocents and Others is her greatest novel—wise, artful, and beautiful.

Final Cover Electric PeakAvailable from Artistically Declined Press

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I’m From Electric Peak is a schizophrenic valentine from the broken heart of America. Bud Smith writes with his foot on the gas, driving his damaged characters across the mystic beauty of a country intent on destroying them.” —Kevin Maloney, author of Cult of Loretta

Kody loves Teal Carticelli. He has broken out of the Mayweather, a home for wayward youth, following his threat to blow up his high school with a fertilizer bomb. Kody is on his way to see Teal’s parents, because they forced her to get an abortion. They are about to put Teal on an airplane to Italy, and he might never see her again. But Kody has a gun in his pocket and he is climbing down the water tower to go and pay the Carticelli’s a visit. True love / true wreckage.

51w0uIUWPML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Available now in paperback from Algonquin Books

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“In The Daylight Marriage, there are two mysteries–the whereabouts of a missing woman and the vagaries of the human heart. Heidi Pitlor explores both of these enigmas with equal mastery, merging a shocking crime story with an incisive portrait of a failed marriage. The result is a novel that is fast-moving, emotionally complex, and ultimately heartbreaking.” —Tom Perrotta, bestselling author of The Leftovers and Nine Inches

Hannah was tall and graceful, naturally pretty, spirited and impulsive, the upper-class young woman who picked, of all men, Lovell—the introverted climate scientist who thought he could change the world if he could just get everyone to listen to reason. After a magical honeymoon, they settled in the suburbs to raise their two children.

But over the years, Lovell and Hannah’s conversations have become charged with resentments and unspoken desires. She has become withdrawn. His work affords him a convenient distraction. And then, after one explosive argument, Hannah vanishes.

For the first time, Lovell is forced to examine the trajectory of his marriage through the lens of memory. As he tries to piece together what happened to his wife–and to their life together–readers follow Hannah on that single day when a hasty decision proves irrevocable.

With haunting intensity, a seamless balance of wit and heartbreak, and the emotional acuity that author Heidi Pitlor brings to every page, The Daylight Marriage mines the dark and delicate nature of a marriage.

51cKAyKbWyL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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The Queen of the Night is an astonishing universe into which its lucky readers can dissolve completely, metamorphosing alongside its shapeshifting protagonist. Lilliet Berne steals her name from a gravestone and launches into a life of full-throated song; her voice is an intoxicant, and this book is a glorious performance. Chee’s enveloping, seductive prose is perfectly matched to the circus world of the opera.” —Karen Russell, bestselling author of Swamplandia

From a ferociously talented writer, praised as “the fire, in my opinion. And the light,” by Junot Diaz, comes a blazing portrait of one woman’s rise from courtesan to world-renowned diva.

Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.

As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.

Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.

51mXhwIQX5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Available from Flatiron Books

“This well-written book is hard to put down and hard to forget.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house
without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father―the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony―is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.

In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where Ruth’s mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As she begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.

Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable memoir of one girl’s fight for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.

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Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 9.21.04 AMAvailable from Unknown Press

“Rift made me laugh my face off, cry my guts out, and remember why writing matters: stories save us from our idiotic but lovable selves.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children

A stunning collaboration from Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish, two masters of flash fiction, who’ve blended their work together in a vibrant explosion that is all of these things: evocative, heart wrenching, rare in the wild. The stories in Rift explore the gamut of human connection and conflict, where emotions run deep beneath the surface. Divided into four sections: Fault, Breach, Tremor, and Cataclysm, writers Fish and Vaughan thread together their tales of strange encounters, mishaps, accidents, and disrepair. The world of Rift is riven, tumultuous, and haunting. In here, danger lurks and the fallible human heart lay exposed and vulnerable. Fish and Vaughan leave their readers spellbound, mystified, and eager for the next story.

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41FeK9ggXXL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Available from Tyrant Books

“Money, sex and deception is an irresistible combination, and Bad Sex is un-put-downable. Brett is a lovable heroine–a lusty, wrongheaded writer, flawed and rueful, yet charging ahead. She wants everything she knows is bad for her–alcohol, drugs, and to have violent, lurid sex with her husband’s rapscallion banker–and we root for her all the way.” —Rebecca Curtis

“I drink, I hurt myself and the people around me, and then I write.” Brett is in Central America, away from her husband, when she begins a love affair with his friend, Eduard. Tragedy and comedy are properly joined at the hip in this loosely autobiographical book about infidelity, drinking, and the postponing of repercussions under the sun. Though coming undone is something we all try to avoid, Martin reminds us that going off the rails is sometimes a part of the ride.

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