Below you will find the Fiction segment of
January Magazine’s Best Books of 2013 feature, completing this year’s postings. You can see our picks for the Best Non-Fiction here, while Best Crime Fiction is here, Best Cookbooks are here and Best Books for Children and Young Adults are here. -- LLR
David Abrams is the author of Fobbit (Grove/Atlantic, 2012) and regularly blogs about books at The Quivering Pen.
• At the Bottom of Everything by Ben Dolnick (Pantheon)
Ben Dolnick’s novel about two childhood friends trying, as adults, to reconcile past mistakes held me in its grip so hard that I found myself at two a.m. one night turning pages so quickly my fingers were crosshatched with tiny papercuts. At that point
in the novel, Adam had traveled to India in search of his old friend Thomas who is now lost, both bodily and in the corridors of his mind. Both men are in their 20s and are trying to deal with a terrible accident for which they were responsible as reckless teenagers. Guilt has wracked them each in separate ways and they drifted apart over the years -- Adam (the novel’s narrator) is now a tutor who’s having sex with the mother of one of his students, and Thomas has seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. His worried parents reach out to Adam in hopes he can track him down. Though Adam resists being pulled back into Thomas’ life, he also knows it’s inevitable. He tells us on the first page: “I’d spent the last couple of years... ignoring the fact that Thomas needed me, as if his life were a flashing Check Engine light in the corner of my dashboard.” Dolnick subtly asks big questions: What is our responsibility to the lives of others? Should we take it upon ourselves to rescue lost souls? How do we forgive ourselves for bad deeds? Is it ever possible to move on from the errors of our past? Another question he might have asked himself: “What is my responsibility to readers who end up bleeding from papercuts?”
• I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro (Grove/Atlantic):
Jamie Quatro’s debut is a profound, weird, funny, sad and wholly-original gathering of short fiction. Nearly a year after reading it, I’m still thinking of highlights: a church that falls apart, sending its parishioners to live in the woods; an ultra-marathon in which runners carry totems -- including a glass-blown penis -- in backpacks; and several heartbreaking stories about a family coping with the loss of its matriarch as she battles cancer. Set in the South -- primarily on Lookout Mountain which straddles the border between Georgia and Tennessee -- Quatro’s stories take on broad themes like adultery, spirituality, grief and parenting, but it’s the intimacy of the characters which drives the book forward. There’s a quadriplegic mother at a pool party, a rotting lover’s corpse in a bed, a fair amount of phone sex and at least one frail character’s perilous journey up and down a hilly suburban street in her quest to mail a letter about the Iraq War to President Bush. Quatro’s style has the terse, stabbing power of Raymond Carver in his finest hour, but at the same time there’s the fuller lyricism of something by Alice Munro, languorously stretching and humming below the surface of the words. Each time I finished one of the stories, I thought, “Wow, that’s the best one in the book,” and then I’d go on to the next story and find it
was the best one. I ended up closing the book and sighing, “Okay, they’re all the best.” I can’t wait for Jamie Quatro to show me more with her next book.
• Sparta by Roxana Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Conrad Farrell comes home from the war in Iraq, skin unbroken and all limbs still attached... and yet he is a damaged man, a wounded warrior struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder -- like so many (too many) of our returning veterans. PTSD is at the
heart of Roxana Robinson’s riveting novel Sparta
which describes the condition in terms I’ve never before seen on the page. Precise as a psychological case history, the book charts the painful journey of Conrad from gung-ho boy to disillusioned warrior to broken man. Conrad comes from a family that’s “bookish and liberal, not martial and authoritarian,” with a mother and father who can’t understand why their son would want to take up arms in defense of his country. Conrad, a classics major in college, is drawn to the stories of the ancient world -- particularly Sparta, the Peloponnesian War, and the Iliad
. “I want to do something big,” he tells his family when announcing his decision to join the Marines. “I want to do something that has consequences.” Little does he know, he’ll be the one on the receiving end of those consequences. No matter where you fall in the spectrum between hawk and dove, Robinson’s novel is powerfully affecting and takes its place on the shelf of essential war literature.
• All That Is by James Salter (Knopf)
At the center of All That Is
, James Salter’s first novel in 35 years, stands Phillip Bowman who we first see as a young naval officer in WWII, then a Harvard student, and then on to a Mad Men
life as a book editor in mid-century Manhattan. He lives, he loves, he advances toward death -- nothing too remarkable plot-wise, but the book’s power is all in the telling. Salter’s language is beautiful and confident. How many writers do you know who can carry off describing the span and breadth of one person’s life in the space of just one paragraph? Seemingly minor characters are given full, rich treatments in big, bold strokes. James Salter is hardly a household name -- even, sadly, in bookish households -- but he’s been quietly producing great works of literature since the late 1950s. In his generous and spot-on review for the New York Times
, Malcolm Jones wrote: “Salter is 87, with a reputation so secure he has nothing left to prove. If there were a Mount Rushmore for writers, he’d be there already. He could have published nothing, and no one would have thought less of him.” And yet, here he is in the twilight of a career with what could arguably be his best book so far. It is full of language distilled down to pure, true sentences.
• Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood (Europa Editions)
Pivoting off the real-life Tri-State Tornado of 1925, Kate Southwood’s debut novel is a riveting account of wealth, gossip and ostracism. The wind's devastation is described in vivid images like “a woman is frozen, screaming under a tree at a child’s body caught high in its branches” and “trees have been snatched out of the ground like hanks of hair.” Paul Graves, owner of a successful lumberyard, miraculously survives the tornado as the rest of his small Illinois town is flattened. While the tornado scene (which comes upon us quickly in the first chapter) is breathtaking in its fury, the most fascinating part of the story is how Paul is shunned by the rest of his town for his good fortune (none of his family members are hurt and his house and store are left standing in a landscape reduced to splinters and rubble). It’s a clever reversal of the Biblical story of Job. Instead of being stripped of everything by God, Paul is divinely spared -- and that’s the worst thing which could have happened to him.
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Jones Atwater is a musician, sports fanatic and struggling author. He lives in Ohio with his Fender Stratocaster, Pearl, and his cat, Rhea.
• Eucalyptus by Mauricio Segura, translated by Donald Winkler (Biblioasis)
In Chile for his father’s funeral, Alberto discovers that there was more to the man he hated than he ever knew while he was alive. Author and filmmaker Mauricio Segura was born in Chile and raised in Montreal, where he still lives. I found two things absolutely remarkable about Eucalyptus
. Firstly, Segura’s descriptions of Chile
are magical and exotic. However the story, though perfectly told, is a familiar one, exploring as it does the age old themes of loss and redemption.
• The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Harper)
Part of the charm and fascination for Helene Wecker’s deliciously muscular debut novel is that you don’t know what the hell you’re in for. The Golem and the Jinni
is an immigrant’s tale set in turn-of-the-century New York. But one of the immigrants proves to be a golem, made of clay. The other is a jinni, constructed of fire. Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature are threaded through the text and the resulting book is magical and completely unexpected.
• The Hope Factory by Lavanya Sankaran (Dial)
The second book of the author of 2006’s The Red Carpet
, a collection of fresh and fascinating stories set in Bangalore. The Hope Factory
seems to pull what was best about Sankaran’s first book and set it to the music of a full-length work. The result is a stunning debut novel. Sankaran’s voice is funny, wise and wry as she weaves her way cunningly through this novel of domestic disturbance in a newly industrialized Bangalore. Anand and Vidya are the new, modern Bangalore. Anand gives every appearance of being the successful businessman, right down to his grasping, demanding wife, Vidya. On the other end of the comfort scale is their maid, Kamala, a woman whose life is precarious in part because of an unsuccessful marriage and a son on the verge of bad-boydom, but in another part because Kamala’s happiness depends also on her employer’s wife, and that’s not a good place for anyone to be. The Hope Factory
is a pleasing and delicious book and Sankaran is a writer whose gifts we anticipate enjoying further in future.
• The Strength of Bone by Lucie Wilk (Biblioasis)
In her debut novel, Lucie Wilk does an admirable job of avoiding the expected in her story about a widowed North American doctor and a Malawian nurse who both find themselves in Blantyre in Malawi, in Africa, working through what is expected of them in order to try and find what might be correct. Those words might conjure up a different type of story, but the two characters never spark. Instead we are treated to an inside view of the bleak and hopeless seeming world of medicine in parts of Africa. And more. Wilk, who is herself a practicing doctor, uses the novel to explore various concepts around the stark and steady demands of need and healing and the human emotions that fuel it all. This was not an easy read, emotionally. But it was so very worthwhile.
• Three War Stories by David Mamet (Argo-Navis)
Even if perpetually controversial playwright David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Wag the Dog) had not picked such a perpetually controversial path to publishing his latest book, it would still be beyond worthwhile. The novellas is Three War Stories are classically Mamet which is a little like saying they are compelling and highly readable, even if the great one did decide to publish them on his own because, as he told the New York Times earlier this year, he is “a curmudgeon, and because publishing is like Hollywood – nobody ever does the marketing they promise.” Though the cover is second rate and the inside production value of the book lacks big six snap, the stories themselves are stellar… and classic Mamet. Two short stories an a novella comprise Three War Stories examine the edges of forgiveness and redemption. An extraordinary book.
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Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.
• In the Company of Thieves by Kage Baker (Tachyon)
Would I have loved this book as much had it been published while its prolific and award-winning author were still alive? I’m not sure. As it was, seeing new work from Kage Baker three years after her death was, for me, an unexpected treat. The stories here are all set in Baker’s Company universe, some of them have never been published before and a few were completed by Baker’s sister, Kathleeen Bartholomew, who has taken on the editing of some of the author’s work. Even skeptical fans will be pleased at the results, I think. Especially since it means new adventures from a pen we feared had been forever stilled.
• The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow)
Gaiman’s grown up fans have been waiting for a book for them since 2005’s Anansi Boys
. In the time between, of course, there have been a number of books, but they have all been aimed at young readers, including The Dangerous Alphabet
(2008) and Fortunately the Milk
(2013). Longtime Gaiman fans will be happy to get their hands on The Ocean at the End of the Lane
. This is classic Gaiman: magical realism-slash-fantasy in the richest possible sense. A 50-ish man returns to his childhood home in rural England for a funeral. While there he discovers a neighboring family’s magical secret. I wanted the book to be longer: but only for me. As a story, it’s perfectly complete.
• The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth (Quirk)
An extraordinarily fine example of the direction in which some think the book as form is headed now. In a world where fiction can be created easily and spat out just as fast, that which is very finedeserves special treatment. Like a
cross between Gray’s Anatomy
and Shelley’s Frankenstein
, Hudspeth’s debut work resonates with life, even though it is almost entirely concerned with death. An artist, Hudspeth was researching the anatomy of an angel’s wing while working on a sculpture when the seed for the idea that would become The Resurrectionist
began to form. The book follows the fictional Dr. Spencer Black through his childhood and medical training and then to his mysterious disappearance. The book is illustrated by the doctor’s fantastical drawings of creatures that perhaps were or might have been before the book vanished as quickly as did its author. That’s the premise: a long-lost manuscript of a long-forgotten doctor. And Hudspeth makes it work horrifically.
• The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books)
Though The Shining Girls
is not Lauren Beukes’s first novel, for me it was a complete surprise. I’m not sure what I expected, but whatever it was, was not this, a story so compelling, it grabbed me by the socks and would not let go. Is it thriller? Well, it’s thrilling. Is it horror? There’s lots of that here, too. And while I’m pretty clear it is not SF/F as I understand SF/F to be, Beukes is a previous winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award (for 2010’s Zoo City
). The Shining Girls
is about a time-traveling serial-killer and all because a Chicago house is forcing him to do it. This is scary and compelling fiction at its very, very best. I loved The Shining Girls
end to end.
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Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.
• A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam (Soho/Hamish Hamilton)
From the author of Some Great Thing
, a childless couple adopts a chimpanzee as their son and you know from the set up and the tone that things will not end well. In another thread, we follow a troop of chimpanzees that are part of a language experiment in Florida. This is a haunting, thought-provoking book that charms and alarms in single, bold strokes. A haunting, unforgettable and, ultimately, heart-breaking book. Since we end up learning an awful lot about chimpanzees it’s to McAdam’s credit that the book doesn’t bog under his research. It holds an air of authority and compassion and is never pedantic.
• Red Girl, Rat Boy by Cynthia Flood (Biblioasis)
It seems such a slender book to have grabbed this small spot among my favorites of the year, but that is the nature of Flood’s power. Here the Journey Prize-winning author packs a lot of that power into 11 taut stories that celebrate and challenge women of all types. Flood is unflinching, but her readers might not be so brave. The author is honest to the point of occasional emotional and unsentimental brutality. This is amazing stuff.
• What Changes Everything by Masha Hamilton (Unbridled)
Masha Hamilton’s writing is always informed by her worldview. Hamilton spent a decade as a journalist in conflict zones in the Middle East and is currently attached to the US Embassy in Kabul. So when she tells the story of the wife of a kidnapped American diplomat in Afghanistan that ring of authenticity you hear on every page is absolutely real. And it is not only Hamilton’s work with the foreign press and diplomatic corps that are the cause of this, but also the author’s deep empathy for and understanding of not only the human condition but human emotion and the games people play, both with themselves and with others. A thoughtful and compelling book.
• Tiger Rag by Nicholas Christopher (Dial Press)
Jazz myths loom large in Tiger Rag
, a book that is at least thinly based on the life of jazz legend Buddy Bolden. I say “thinly” because, truly, not a lot is known
about Bolden. His star burned hot, swift and terribly sad. Born in 1877 in New Orleans, at the age of 30 he was committed to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson where he stayed until his death in 1931 at the age of 54. The things we do
know about Bolden are shrouded in mist and mystery and the talented cornetist left no known recordings. None documented, that is. Rumors of his recordings still beat hot in the jazz community today. So it is that Christopher comes to embed unanswered questions and bits of intrigue into his own deeply felt version of what-might-have-been. One of the myths is that Bolden made a recording in 1904 -- “Tiger Rag” -- that was subsequently lost in the intervening years. Christopher turns the mist into a Holy Grail of a tale that stretches from New Orleans in 1900 to present day Florida where a once-prominent anesthesiologist is dealing with the death of her career and the collapse of her family.
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Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.
• Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin)
Caroline Leavitt’s 10th novel is a triumph of light and dark. The story at times brings to mind Dennis Lehane
’s masterful Mystic River
: a missing
child, Boston, and the shocking darkness of the human heart, starkly glimpsed. In the end, though, Is This Tomorrow
is a woman’s story in a way that Mystic River
never could be. And, ultimately, it begs the question: when someone goes missing, what happens to those left behind? Though all of Leavitt’s novels have been superb and highly acclaimed, it strikes me that Is This Tomorrow
is her most accomplished work. There is a sharp nuance here, one that reverberates throughout. That and lovely, vivid characterizations and superb period detail contribute to making what may be Leavitt’s best book yet.
• PostaPoc by Liz Worth (Now or Never)
c is elegant and surprising. The language is beautiful: Worth conjures up strong, poetic and lasting images to create her dying world. Despite this poetry, the world dies without thunder. No zombies or blasted cityscapes, just a cyberpunk rendering of what the end might look like, with everything reduced to basics and everyone just struggling with survival. Young Ang is part of an underground music scene that obsesses about the end of the world. They obsess so deeply that, when that end comes, Ang can’t help but feel as though she is in part to blame. And then that survival. And struggles. And our own doubts, as well look back with her and try, against all instinct, to look ahead. The end is surprising. Unexpected, yet perfect. With everything concluded, but nothing wrapped up. PostaPoc
is entirely riveting and worthwhile.
• Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford (Ballantine)
Jamie Ford’s second novel is exactly what you’re hoping to find when you pick up a family saga. It’s what you hope to find, but so seldom do. The book is polished, the storytelling sound, but there is heart here, as well. And passion. In other words, a balanced
parcel in every way and one of my top reads of the year. A Chinese American orphan sees an exotic actress, Willow Frost, at the theatre and feels certain it is his mother, lost to him many years before. He determines to find and confront her: how could she have given him up? What was the story there? The deeper he delves, however, the more starkly he discovers that there is more to that story than initially met the eye.
• The Harem Midwife by Roberta Rich (Doubleday Canada)
American readers won’t see Roberta Rich’s follow up to The Midwife of Venice
until early in 2014. They’re in for a treat. This briskly paced historical novel is set in Constantinople in 1579. Hannah and Isaac, now exiled from Venice, have created new lives for themselves. He works in the silk trade, while she is a midwife of skill and repute and she finds much work tending to the thousand women in Sultan Murat III’s harem. Here she meets young Leah, a slave who will be the Sultan’s next conquest and the mother of an heir. But the girl is terrified and prevails on Hannah to help her. While the correct moral choice seems clear to her, Hannah is less clear on how the politics of thwarting the sultan’s wishes might impact her career… and even her life. This is rich and finely spun historical fiction. As good as it gets.
• The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown)
In a year of deep, rich historical novels Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker-winning effort grabbed a lot of the headlines, though for good reason: this is a lot of book. Not just in volume (and at over 800 pages, it certainly does have volume to spare) but in complexity of thought and luxurious depth of narrative. All that said, it still manages to be highly readable and thoroughly engaging. Set on the New Zealand goldfields during the Victorian era, those who love some mystery with their history in a highly literate package will gobble this one up.
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Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of a dozen books, the most recent of which is the mystery novel Death Was in the Blood.
• Enon by Paul Harding (Random House)
Looking back, it seems to me that a lot of the books I liked best in 2013 did not stand alone. That is to say, most could function under their own steam, but -- for various reasons -- they were a detail from a larger picture. So it was with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding’s Enon
. The book follows up Harding’s stunning 2009 debut, Tinkers
, with another chapter in the lives of the Crosby family. This time out we meet Charlie, grandson of George Crosby who was Tinkers
’ central character. This is a blazing follow-up to Harding’s debut. With drugs, self-loathing and exquisite beauty focusing this lurch at madness, Harding here confirms what early fans suspected: Tinkers
was no accident and Harding is a writer to watch.
• MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese/McLelland & Stewart)
When I read Oryx and Crake
and The Year of the Flood
I did not realize they were the first installments in the MaddAddam trilogy. I only knew I was reading something beyond special: something groundbreaking and world-changing and… well… different. Atwood is brilliant. Whether or not you love her literary stylings, the brilliance can’t be denied. And I love her literary stylings, so clearly, MaddAddam
was always a book I was going to love. And Atwood does not disappoint. Post-Apocalyptic does not begin to cover the MaddAddam
world, though that’s a better start than some. It seems as though, every futuristic disaster that can be conceived of was first imagined by Atwood in one of these three books. The danger of GMOs. The death of the bees and now, bioengineered replacements for humans. All of this is spun in Atwood’s disturbingly arresting poetic voice. This is fantastic, world-bending stuff. And, sorry: it is perfect.
• The Way of the Dog by Sam Savage (Coffee House Press)
The Way of the Dog
is Sam Savage’s fourth novel, after Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, Cry of the Sloth
. Like those books, The Way of the Dog
is poetic in nature,
both for its lovely prose, but also for the stance: searching looks at the things closest to us. In this novel, Savage guides us through the experience of the artist looking back and coming to terms with choices that were difficult and not always “correct” yet finding a certain peace, nonetheless. Most of Harold-by-way-of-Savage’s observations are subtle and beautiful and we accompany him as he works through a lifetime’s worth of bitterness in order to make peace with himself and his world. It’s a quietly incredible book by an astonishingly overlooked author.
• The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown and Company)
Because she seems cavalier with our feelings and because she makes us wait, it’s easy to trash Donna Tartt whose extraordinary 1992 debut, The Secret History
, was so brilliant, it kept us on the edge of our seats waiting for a follow up. For a decade. And when 2002’s The Little Friend
finally appeared we were willing to forgive… a teensy bit. But in 2013, Tartt wowed us again while confirming what we’d most feared: the wait? It was worth it. Fiction like this simply does not come every day. More: where The Secret History
was engagingly green, The Goldfinch
is a master work. There were elements of Tartt’s debut that were a little overwrought and maybe (maybe!) not quite tight. These things can not be said of The Goldfinch
where we spend each page enthralled in the mental machinations of Theo Decker, orphaned at 13 and left to the devices of Park Avenue and art.
• The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (Hamish Hamilton)
This is the third book in Boyden’s gripping multigenerational Bird family saga, following Three Day Road
and Through Black Spruce
. Canadian historical fiction set in the 17th century, The Orenda
is narrated by three characters: a Jesuit missionary, an Iroquois teenager kidnapped by Hurons and a warrior named Bird who is mourning the loss of his family to the Iroquois. This look at an aspect of Canadian aboriginal culture is timely, but it is not heavy handed. Boyden is no Aseop, with morals to stories at the ready. This is a poetic, spiritual journey that gives those of us pondering the place where all Canadian cultures fit together food for thought. Though, honestly, even without that, this book (and this trilogy) would be stunning. When we look back at important Canadian fiction 100 years from now, Boyden’s Bird series will be near the top of the list.
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India Wilson is a writer and artist.
• Caught by Lisa Moore (Anansi/Grove)
People toss around the phrase “literary thriller” all the time, and it seldom has much meaning. A thriller that is well written should be a given, these days. And a work of
literature that has thrilling elements is not much of an exception to a lot of rules. However Lisa Moore’s latest is actually a book deserving of the term. Moore’s language is taut and fraught and even sometimes poetic. Yet it’s an old-fashioned crime story that satisfies in that old timey way. As the book begins, it’s the late 1970s and pot trafficker David Slaney has escaped from prison. With the authorities in hot pursuit, we follow Slaney across Canada and into Mexico. On his journey we are treated to character studies and vignettes of the characters and places he encounters on his journey. The ending is worthy of a thriller and not the least bit expected. Brace yourself: Caught
is an amazing ride.
• Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Random House)
This was easily one of the most hyped books of 2013. As a result, my hopes upon approach were not high. I was wrong. A beautiful young woman, daughter of a famous and reclusive maker of horror films, is found dead in a warehouse. Her death is determined to be a suicide, but an investigative journalist thinks differently. As he pursues his investigation, he discovers a lot of fishy stuff that he suspects is more than coincidence. This deft and muscular literary thriller from the author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics
(2007) leaves one breathless.
• The Eliot Girls by Krista Bridge (Douglas & McIntyre)
Early in 2013, January
’s editor, Linda L. Richards, shot an advance copy of The Eliot Girls
at me, commanding, “Read this. I’m
pretty sure it’s right up your alley.” As she so often is in matters like this, she was right. I loved Toronto author Krista Bridge’s unusual debut novel from the opening pages and, months later, I love it still. Audrey Brindle has always dreamed of attending the private school where her mother teaches. But it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know where this will lead us. Audrey imagines the possible glamor of a private school. But reality brings bullying and intolerance. (Is there any creature on Earth nastier than a teenage girl?) It all sounds a bit gothic when I say it like that but, in reality, it’s all of that and starchily feminist, as well. The Eliot Girls
deserved the many accolades rained upon it in it’s Canadian debut year. Look for it soon in a country near you.
• The Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Dominczyk (Spiegel & Grau)
This energetic and lovely debut by Polish-born Dagmara Dominczyk follows three best friends from the innocence of their 1980s Polish girlhood through to their complicated international lives as women. Dominczyk is better known as an actress than a writer, but that does nothing to mar this beautiful and poignantly executed first novel.
• The River and Enoch O’Reilly by Peter Murphy (Mariner)
The title’s Enoch has chosen to pray to Elvis instead of God, though he
once set out to be a preacher. In the winter of 1984, Murphy tells us, the fictional Irish rusty river Rua became swollen beyond her normal width. When the water receded two days later, survivors discovered the bodies of nine who were less lucky. Their deaths are mysterious. What could have caused them to venture forth of such a night? Nearby, in the basement of the family home, Enoch discovers distressing connections between those who perished the night of the storm and his own lost father and every mystery he himself has ever pondered. The River and Enoch O’Reilly
is magical and Murphy’s is a voice I look forward to listening to again.
Labels: best of 2013, fiction