10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2017

Here's looking forward to the arrival of these 10 fiction titles this month!

Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders
Beloved master of the short story, Saunders offers his first full-length: a mix of supernatural and historical fiction in which President Lincoln grieves the death of his eleven-year-old son while the Civil War rages. Lincoln’s despair compels him to cross over to a purgatory state where he can visit his son in the company of a kaleidoscopic multitude of ghostly characters who contribute to a panoramic, multi-voiced narrative. “Saunders creates a provocative dissonance between his exceptionally compassionate insights into the human condition and Lincoln’s personal and presidential crises and this macabre carnival of the dead, a wild and wily improvisation on the bardo that mirrors, by turns, the ambience of Hieronymus Bosch and Tim Burton. A boldly imagined, exquisitely sensitive, sharply funny, and utterly unnerving historical and metaphysical drama.” (Booklist)

Audiobook fans take note: The exceptional recording of this novel features a vast and star-studded cast of 166 separate readers, including David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon and Lena Dunham.

The Refugees
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Nguyen follows his Pulitzer-Prizewinning novel The Sympathizer with a stunning collection of short stories that draws from two decades of writing. Many of the stories revolve around Vietnamese exiles in California and touch on themes of family, home, identity, memory and the liminal lives of immigrant people. “Nguyen's slice-of-life approach is precise without being clinical, archly humorous without being condescending, and full of understanding.” (Kirkus Reviews) “This is an important and incisive book written by a major writer with firsthand knowledge of the human rights drama exploding on the international stage — and the talent to give us inroads toward understanding it… In topic and in execution, The Refugees is an exquisite book.” (Washington Post)

Pachinko
by Min Jin Lee
In Japan-occupied Korea in the early years of the 20th century, young, unmarried and pregnant Sunja receives a merciful offer of marriage from a pastor who offers to help her start a new life in Japan. This sparks the beginning of an epic that traces the fortunes of four generations of one family as they try to forge a home for themselves. “As the destinies of Sunja’s children and grandchildren unfold, love, luck, and talent combine with cruelty and random misfortune in a deeply compelling story, with the troubles of ethnic Koreans living in Japan never far from view. An old-fashioned epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth.” (Kirkus) Lee’s debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, was selected as one of the best books of 2007 by multiple reviewers including NPR’s Fresh Air.

Everything Belongs to Us
by Yoojin Grace Wuertz
Wuertz depicts a tumultuous era in South Korea history in this story about four students at Seoul National University in 1978. Jisun is dedicated to revolutionary action in opposition to her wealthy roots; Namin strives to use her smarts and talents to lift her family out of poverty; Sunam is caught between his desire for both young women; Juno is an ambitious, self-absorbed social climber. “Wuertz crafts a story with delicious scenes and plot threads, perceptively showing the push and pull of relationships in a strictly mannered society.” (Publishers Weekly) “An ambitious debut about power and family in South Korea with rich character portraits and a strong political heartbeat.” (Kirkus)

No Other World
by Rahul Mehta
In this coming-of-age story set in the mid-1980s, twelve-year-old Kiran Shah struggles with being Indian American in a rural New York community and coming to terms with being gay. He’s also torn by the troubles and longings of his family, his mother’s infidelity and the sexual abuse suffered by his sister. Years later, Kiran’s life is changed on a trip to India when he meets a young hijra, a member of India’s deep-rooted transgender community. “Mehta uses vivid, memorable imagery to present likable, complex characters whose conflicts are mostly internal” with “shimmering descriptions of emotionally resonant moments.” (BooklistMehta received a Lambda Literary award for Quarantine, his 2011 collection of short stories.

Amiable with Big Teeth
by Claude McKay
Claude McKay, one of the leading writers of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote Amiable with Big Teeth in 1941. It was never published, hidden away in a university archive until just a few years ago when it was rediscovered and authenticated in a major literary event. Set in 1936, the satirical novel depicts Black cultural and political life in Harlem, in a moment when nationalists are energized by efforts to support the anti-fascist liberation of Ethiopia while white Communists try to co-opt the movement. “Smart, daring, and brimming with arresting insights.” (Booklist)

The Woman Next Door
by Yewande Omotoso
Marion and Hortensia have been next-door neighbors—and enemies—for years in Katterijn, a wealthy suburb of Cape Town. They are both accomplished, strong women in their eighties, but they’ve been trading insults for two decades. At least part of their feud is based on racism: one woman is white and the other woman is a Black immigrant from Barbados. So why exactly would they end up living together? “A pleasing tale of reconciliation laced with acid humor and a cheery avoidance of sentimentality.” (Kirkus) “Omotoso's warm and witty story is more complex than a simple tale of black and white, with Katterijn a microcosm of a city and a country still grappling with the repercussions of apartheid's end.” (Library Journal)

Running
by Cara Hoffman
In Athens’ red light district in the 1980s, young American Bridey meets Milo and Jasper, a queer couple from England. They’re runners: they round up tourists to stay in seedy hotels in exchange for room and board and a little bit of money. Milo and Jasper show her the ropes, give her a place to stay, and they all become lovers until a money-making scheme gone horribly awry splits them apart. Years later, Milo still finds himself haunted by these memories. “This fascinating mix of youth, violence, and romantic and familial relations, loaded with socioeconomic issues, makes for a beautiful read.” (Library Journal)

The Lonely Hearts Hotel
by Heather O'Neill
Rose and Pierrot were abandoned as infants at the same bleak Montreal orphanage in 1914. Their bond is as strong as their talents, and their ability to perform becomes a money maker for the orphanage while they dream of creating the world’s most fantastic circus. As they grow into teenagers, the nuns, determined to squelch their romance, send them to separate new homes as servants. Divided, they struggle, finding survival in a sinister underworld of sex, drugs and thievery, always searching for one another until they can reunite and pursue their dream. “O'Neill's prose is crisp and strange, arresting in its frankness; much like the novel itself, her writing is both gleefully playful and devastatingly sad. Big and lush and extremely satisfying; a rare treat.” (Kirkus)

Ghachar Ghochar
by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur
This slim novel follows the sudden rise of a family and the havoc brought by newfound wealth in a rapidly changing 21st century India. When the unnamed narrator’s uncle starts a spice company, it brings unexpected and sudden affluence to a family that once struggled to get by, along with conflict, idleness and corruption. “Absorbing, insightful, and altogether a wonderful read.” (Publishers Weekly) “Exudes such a sly, ironic charm that it’s easy to forget you’re reading a translation. Ghachar Ghochar introduces us to a master.” (Paris Review)

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