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Review: Leila Slimani's The Perfect Nanny, The Millions
To Live, Yu Hua's Brief Masterpiece, Grub Street
...sustainable, high-efficiency novel making
A dark, literary, psychological thriller that recasts Euripides' Medea in NYC. It's boundary-pushing. It's raw. It's challenging. And it dares to take a notorious revenge fantasy all the way.
Maddie, an ambitious, iron-spined immigrant from Russia, has sacrificed everything for her husband Jason. She's given him two children, her entire family inheritance, and most of all, she's set aside her own dreams time and again so Jason's tech start-up can thrive. But when Maddie finds Jason with another woman at a Christmas party, she lashes out. In response, Jason demands a draconian divorce: she must get out of the house, then out of the country soon after, or else he'll press charges.
Faced with betrayal, humiliation, and the collapse of her family, Maddie's long-bottled rage spills over. In the course of a single, fast-paced day, Maddie sets in motion a plan so horrifying it can hardly be believed. In this story, the jilted wife will be no victim. Readers will hold their breath as they try to anticipate what exactly Maddie will do, and whether those around her will figure out her scheme soon enough to stop her.
The taboo tale of Medea has haunted the Western mind for 2,500 years. On one level, this retelling treats the age-old theme—how can a mistreated wife get back at her cheating man? But what makes this story both timeless and tragic is the cost Maddie is willing to bear to exact her primitive form of justice. Readers will empathize with the trap Maddie is in—until they realize how far she'll to go.
A mayor confronts his past in this loose retelling of Oedipus Rex, re-imagined in post-prohibition Boston.
It's 1908 in East Boston, late one autumn night. The teenaged Owney O'Neill, on a dare, goes down to the waterfront to have his palm read by a trio of homeless women. Expecting a thrill, instead, the women tell him his future holds an unspeakable fate, one so horrifying that Owney swears he will spend the rest of his life trying to avoid it.
Thirty years later, it's July 4, 1938, and former bootlegger and club owner Owney O’Neill seems untouchable. Owney has avoided the law, buried a seedy past, and become rich as a real estate magnate. What's more, he's just been elected Mayor of his crime-ridden town. But when police dredge up a body in the woods south of the city, there’s clues that tie the body back to the man who they say "has a destiny unlike any other."
At first, Owney mocks and berates the police who come to question him, suspecting he’s been set up. He not only agrees to cooperate with the investigation, but starts to uncover clues on his own, thinking he’ll expose a conspiracy. Yet as revelation follows revelation, Owney rapidly realizes he might not only have been responsible for the body in the woods, but something far worse. Urged on by a desire to clear his name, over the course of a single day Owney's zealously guarded identity begins to unravel, as the story barrels toward a series of harrowing revelations.
An inversion of the American dream with echoes of the Kennedy family saga, OWNEY O’NEILL updates Sophocles into an eerie blend of the crime, horror and psychological thriller genres. A haunted man trying to evade an old curse, instead makes it come true.
the calling is the shelter
At its heart, this modern-day fable—one part coming of age adventure, one part philosophical odyssey—is about the existential anguish of one very mortal girl face to face with death. The book asks a simple question: if the only way to save your life was to renounce all you stand for, would you do it?
Joan is a teenager from a small town who knows she'd destined for more. She talks to a statue of the Angel Gabriel. The statue talks back. When the army comes to town, she faces a choice: stay by her loving, strict father, or cut ties with her family and chase destiny. She goes. Her rise is meteoric. Mentored by an old vagrant, who is secretly one of the great soldiers in the history of the French Army, Joan redefines herself and redefines God in the process. God becomes not a shackle to hold her back, but a mysterious power that sets her free.
But when Joan is captured in battle and put her on trial by forty clerics of the Catholic Church, her new notion of God proves her undoing. Joan is judged a heretic and sentenced to burn at the stake. Joan's anguish climaxes on her final night as she seeks frantically for a way to keep both her creed and her life. In a prison cell she debates with a hard-line bishop, a secular cook, and an atheist magistrate, but none give her the transcendent answer she craves. As dawn creeps closer, the time nears when she must decide who is, and what she must sacrifice, life or principle.
THE CALLING IS THE SHELTER is not another fusty, over-reverent, DOA rehash, nor is this a typical historical fiction novel. The story of Joan of Arc has inspired for six hundred years and the time has come for a swift retelling of her incredible story, taking on its big questions in clear, compelling language.
the obscene history of paul bunyan
The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the seminal works of western culture, a story of adventure, love, and the search for eternal life set in ancient Babylon. Why does American literature have no such myths? Well, it does now.
But first, be warned. You won't find in this story any stale, happy-go-lucky homespun yarns about Bunyan eating flapjacks, chopping down trees, or making lakebeds out of his footprints. This tale begins with Bunyan apprenticing in a whorehouse under a backwater, tabacco-spitting pimp named Washington. One afternoon, while walking in the woods, the Virgin Mary appears to Bunyan in a vision. She tells him three things: First, he must do a kind deed for the sake of all humanity; second, he must go on a long, sad journey to find the meaning of life; and lastly, when he comes to the end of his labors, he will find true love. In the process, the Virgin Mary tells him, Bunyan will suffer as no man has suffered before.
Soon after his vision, Bunyan is spurned by the love of his youth, Lucette. He leaves home and brawls with a hulking railroad worker named John Henry, who's trying to raise the money to buy his wife out of slavery. Unable to knock each other out, the two giant men become friends. Together they track down and capture a half-man, half-machine nicknamed The Oiler, who's terrorized a small northern town. A motor-mouthed industrialist named El Boffo rewards the pair for their heroism, and soon the three are riverboating down the Mississippi, riding high. But when they get to New Orleans, Bunyan and John Henry squander their fortune on a shape-shifting witch named Sulta, who unleashes a plague of flies upon the city. Then comes John Henry's epic victory over the steam hammer, after which he dies immediately. Bunyan, lost in despair for his one true friend, sets out on a journey to find a mythic figure named The Viking, who cultivates the root of eternal life on a stony northern island, where he has lived since the discovery of America.
Based on the colorful epic of Gilgamesh, THE OBSCENE HISTORY OF PAUL BUNYAN is a bold retelling of an ancient quest. It's more than that too. It's a story two buddies on the road. It's a story about looking into the abyss and facing one's death. It's a story about a journey into manhood. It's a story about the origins of America. It's a story about finding true love, too.
THE FECUNDITY is a brief spiritual and philosophical meditation on the nature of the world, our selves, and how to find satisfaction in troubling times.
The defining trait of mankind is its fertility. Inevitably mankind creates, through children, work, relationships, ideas. Even in failure, withdrawal, or setbacks, our direction is always to flower further.
Each one of us has The Gift to give. Life is a quest, first to create The Gift, then to share it. As we observe those who are successful in giving their own Gift, we find they tend to follow a code which blends energy and restraint, selfishness and generosity, solitude and community.
The book also explores two arresting new notions of the sublime, The Breaker and The Comforter. As we struggle to find our destiny, we often seek aid and comfort beyond ourselves. The descriptions of The Breaker and The Comforter bring fresh language to ancient dreams.
A prose poem in the tradition of Khalil Gibran and Paulo Coelho, THE FECUNDITY offers a mythic understanding of our place in the world, giving perspective to dark times and clarity in confusion.