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I've chosen to list some debut fiction that's being released in the early part of 2013 for this week's Top Ten. Picking only ten has proven to be quite a challenge.
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri
Release: January 31
A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture. Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of. Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.
Me, Him, Them, and It by Caela Carter
Genre: Young Adult
Release: February 5 (per the publisher's website; Amazon says March 5)
When Evelyn decided to piss off her parents with a bad reputation, she wasn't planning to ruin her valedictorian status. She also wasn't planning to fall for Todd-the guy she was just using for sex. And she definitely wasn't planning on getting pregnant. When Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn's not sure where to go. Can a distant mother, a cheating father, an angry best friend, and a (thankfully) loving aunt with adopted daughters of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow? With the popularity of Juno, Teen Mom, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, this novel has a built-in audience. Gripping, heartfelt, and responsible, Me, Him, Them, and It is not to be missed!
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
Release: February 5
Margaret Wrinkle’s luminous, affecting debut novel is the impassioned story of two men and a woman joined by slave breeding in early-nineteenth-century Tennessee. Written as an accusation, a revelation, and a prayer, Wash challenges contemporary assumptions as it transcends time, revealing anew this explosive shard of national history. Richardson, a troubled Revolutionary War veteran, responds to the pressures of debt and westward expansion by setting Washington, a young man he owns, to work as his breeding sire. As Wash gets drawn into a power struggle with Richardson, he fights to hold onto his West African spiritual legacy. Despair and disease lead him to a potent enslaved healer named Pallas. While their delicate love unfolds, she inspires Wash to forge a new understanding of his heritage and his place in it. As these three lives intertwine, the stories they tell allow them to find solace and mastery. By turns haunting, tender, and redemptive, this boundary-crossing novel carries the reader from the heart of whiteness into the center of ancestral African spirituality until these two contrasting ways of seeing shimmer together. Questioning differences of blood and belief, erasing the line between the living and dead, Wash offers new insights into current racial dilemmas.
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
Release: February 12
The sensation of the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair: a stunningly dark first novel that is sure to become a major publishing event. When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from "Jack." Only thirty or so people are sure this man exists, some believe he's dead, and none know anything at all about his true identity. Those are closely guarded trade secrets, to say the least, for an exceptionally trained, experienced, and talented criminal. But as he struggles to clean up the mess left in the wake of the bungled Atlantic City heist, he finds himself increasingly more visible as he's pursued simultaneously by the FBI and other interested, if mysteriously elusive, parties--a situation that requires every gram of his skill, ingenuity, and self-protective instincts, especially when offense and defense become meaningless terms. From its opening pages, Ghostman effortlessly pulls the reader into Jack's refined and peculiar world--and the sophisticated shadowboxing only grows more powerfully intense as the novel moves toward its inexorable conclusion.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Release: February 12
Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell.
New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves. It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her? Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.
The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian
Release: February 21
A thrilling debut of a postapocalyptic world for fans of The Hunger Games Weaving philosophy and science together into a riveting, dystopian story of love and adventure, The Office of Mercy illuminates an all-too-real future imagined by a phenomenal new voice in fiction. Twenty-four-year-old Natasha Wiley lives in America-Five—a high-tech, underground, utopian settlement where hunger and money do not exist, everyone has a job, and all basic needs are met. But when her mentor and colleague, Jeffrey, selects her to join a special team to venture Outside for the first time, Natasha’s allegiances to home, society, and above all to Jeffrey are tested. She is forced to make a choice that may put the people she loves most in grave danger and change the world as she knows it. The Office of Mercy is speculative fiction at its best with a deeply imagined, lush world, high-stakes adventure, and romance that will thrill fans of Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Genre: Young Adult
Release: April 2
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her? Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Release: April 2
In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate. An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump. Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.
Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley
Release: April 16
A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she's convinced will follow them wherever they go--her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can't imagine what the world holds outside their father's polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley's abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, Amity and Sorrow is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Genre: Historical/ Magical
Release: April 23
A marvelous and absorbing debut novel, an enchanting combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York. An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world. Meeting by chance, Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing nature-until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
What books are you most eagerly anticipating in 2013? I'd love to hear about them.
Thank you so much for stopping by.