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Fiction 5

These November new releases might help you with your holiday shopping list. There is something for almost everyone in my widely varied recommendations. Burntcoat is a powerful story about a pandemic’s impact on the culture and individuals. My next pick Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a charming and enlightening rom com. Five Tuesdays in Winter is a collection of short stories that explore desire, loss, jolting violence and love. Jung Yun’s O Beautiful presents an immersive portrait of a community rife with tensions and competing interests, and one woman’s attempts to reconcile her anger with her love of a beautiful, but troubled land. In the futuristic Noor the main character is part human and part machine who’s struggling in a world that sees her existence as wrong. Read on to learn more about November’s top new fiction.

1. Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

Book cover of BurnThe virus is spreading in an unnamed British city. Like everyone else, the celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness retreats inside. She isolates herself in her immense studio, Burntcoat, with Halit, the lover she barely knows. As life outside changes, inside Burntcoat Edith and Halit are also changing. Their individual histories and responsibilities, the fears and dangers of the world outside, and their new relationship are changing them. Burntcoat will also be transformed. It will become a place in which Edith comes to an understanding of how we survive the impossible and what is left after we have survived.

“A powerful story of art and love set during a global pandemic….Hall brings perfect harmony to the sweeping themes, such as a pandemic’s impact on culture and the difficulties faced by a woman in the art world, and the prose, rich in description, is never overdone. This will serve as a benchmark for pandemic fiction.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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2. Just Haven’t Met you Yet by Sophie Cousens

book cover of two people passing each other rolling suitcasesLaura is a hopeless romantic on a business trip that isn’t going well. When she arrives at the hotel she discovers she has the wrong suitcase. Laura grabbed the wrong suitcase at the airport after an embarrassing encounter with the most handsome man she’s ever seen. The intriguing the contents of this suitcase make her think the owner must be her dream man. Now, how is she going to find him?

She’s on one of the Channel Island to write an article about her parents romance that started here. While Laura travels around the island retracing her parents steps she tries to track down the mystery suitcase owner. As she uncovers her family secrets she starts to reimagine the life and love she thought she wanted.

“Just Haven’t Met You Yet is hilarious and bursting with heart. Laura’s quest for her perfect man will charm and enlighten you. What happens when you don’t give up on magic? This book has the answer.” Madeleine Henry, author of The Love Proof and Breathe In, Cash Out

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3. Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Abstract art on book coverThis book of 10 short stories is full of complex and endearing characters. These stories it explore desire, loss, jolting violence and love. A reclusive bookseller begins to feel the discomfort of love again. Two college roommates have a devastating middle-aged reunion. A proud old man rages powerlessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. A writer receives a visit from all the men who have tried to suppress her voice.

“These are stories of outsiders finding their people, of new perspectives, and they place King–already one of our most poignant and moving contemporary novelists–among Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, and Mary Gaitskill as one of our great short-story writers as well.” –Vogue, “Best Books to Read This Fall”

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4. O Beautiful by Jung Yun

Elinor Hanson, a forty-something former model, is struggling to reinvent herself as a freelance writer when she receives an unexpected assignment. Her mentor from grad school offers her a chance to write for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Elinor grew up near the Bakken, raised by an overbearing father and a distant Korean mother who met and married when he was stationed overseas. After decades away from home, Elinor returns to a landscape she hardly recognizes, overrun by tens of thousands of newcomers.

Surrounded by roughnecks seeking their fortunes in oil and long-time residents worried about their changing community, Elinor experiences a profound sense of alienation and grief. She rages at the unrelenting male gaze, the locals who still see her as a foreigner, and the memories of her family’s estrangement after her mother decided to escape her unhappy marriage, leaving Elinor and her sister behind. The longer she pursues this potentially career-altering assignment, the more her past intertwines with the story she’s trying to tell, revealing disturbing new realities that will forever change her and the way she looks at the world.

With spare and graceful prose, Jung Yun’s O Beautiful presents an immersive portrait of a community rife with tensions and competing interests, and one woman’s attempts to reconcile her anger with her love of a beautiful, but troubled land.

“Jung Yun’s powerful new novel O Beautiful asks provoking questions as it interrogates the meaning and burden of beauty, from individual to nation. The choices that women make–or have made for them–are a treacherous territory of decisions concerning power and privilege. O Beautiful will make you think and see anew the strangeness and complexity of race, class, and gender in this page-turning, tender novel that journeys into the heart of America.” –Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean

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5. Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

“Okorafor’s (Remote Control) latest is an Africanfuturist novel (a mode she describes as ‘specifically…rooted in African culture, history, mythology and point-of-view’ that doesn’t center the West), set in a near-future Nigeria. Protagonist AO knows that she is only partially human in society’s view: she was born disabled, then was injured a car accident, after which she augmented her body with biotech modifications that enhance her existence.

“When a shopping trip in a Nigerian market leads to her near death–then the deaths of others at her hands–AO flees to the desert, where she meets a lone Fulani herdsman with his own survival story. The two are forced to go on the run, seen as murderers by strangers and friends alike. Their survival depends on reaching the Red Eye, a place that few try to enter, with good reason.

“Okorafor’s novel takes on technology, streaming media manipulation, and the reach of governments and corporations. The timely themes will inspire readers to ask the same hard questions of themselves that the main characters do: who has ultimate control over individuals if we rely so much on what others create and provide for us?

“VERDICT Okorafor packs swift action and harsh emotions into this slim novella, showing her strengths once again as a speculative fiction writer.” –Kristi Chadwick, Library Journal

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I’m the library’s fiction selector and I’ve been suggesting new books to library and bookmobile customers for over 17 years. I keep up on all the new book reviews, and my favorite question is “What are you reading?” I love to talk about books and to read books. I like to tell library customers, “Try something new. If you don’t like it, at least the price is right!”