Monday, February 4, 2019

Books: New Novels From Mary Adkins, Liz Lawler, & Roberto Bolano

There are three creative, thrilling, and thoughtful novels being released this week: When You Read This by Mary Adkins; Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler; and The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolano.

By Mary Adkins
Harper; hardcover, 376 pages; $26.99: available Tuesday, February 5

Mary Adkins's work has appeared in The New York Times and The Atlantic, is the author of the affecting, epistolary work, When You Read This, her debut novel.
This story is told through letters, or in this case, its modern form through e-mails, texts, and blog posts, and it hilariously and incisively explores the ties that can bind, and which sometimes undo us.
This dramatic romantic-comedy urns an age-old form on its head as it tackles some of the big questions, such as: What should we do with the time we have left?Can we ever really know what someone else "would have wanted"? Can love survive, or grow out of, crushing loss?
For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. When Iris passes away, taken by a terminal illness at just 33 years old, Smith is adrift without his friend and colleague. Smith discovers that, during her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with astute, often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled.
Iris leaves Smith with one final request: that he find a way to publish her posts as a book. With the help of his eager new intern Carl, Smith sets to making Iris' wish a reality.
However, before Smith can get started, he must secure the approval of Iris' older sister, Jade, an haute cuisine chef who has been knocked sideways by her loss.
With each carrying baggage of their own, Smith and Jade are on a collision course with pasts unresolved and with each other. Their story is told through letter-writing-of-yore for this era, with Adkins artfully mining the ways we choose to connect and communicate today.
When You Read This is one of the most creative and thought-provoking books you will read capturing how people live now, as well as the age-old question of how people deal with death.

Mary Adkins Will Be Appearing At:
Tuesday, February 5 at 7:00 p.m: Astoria Bookshop; 31-29 31st Street, Astoria, NY 11106; (718)278-2665
Wednesday February 6 at 7:00 p.m.: Barnes & Noble Upper East Side; 150 East 86th Street, New York, NY 10028; (212)369-2180
Thursday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m.: Books are Magic; 225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11231; (718)246-2665

By Liz Lawler
Harper Paperback Original; 368 pages; $16.99; available Tuesday, February 5

This gripping psychological thriller debut from Liz Lawler focuses on a woman who awakens after an assault with no physical proof of the attack and knowing that she must try to convince everyone of what really happened.
Lawler has created one of the most terrifying opening chapters you will ever read, and Don't Wake Up begins when Dr. Alex Taylor opens her eyes and discovers she is hooked up to an IV and bound to an operating table, with her legs raised in stirrups.
Alex is disoriented and alarmed, and at first, she assumes she has been anesthetized and brought to surgery after being in an accident. The man standing over her, his face concealed by a surgeon's mask while wielding instruments, is not a doctor recognizable to Alex from the hospital she works at as a successful and respected doctor.
This man is a stranger, and he's calmly and methodically telling her how he is going to attack her. Before Alex can even attempt to scream for help, she succumbs to another dose of anesthesia, which renders her unable to defend herself.
When Alex comes to on a gurney, she finds herself surrounded by her colleagues and immediately reports the attack and rape. The police are skeptical of her bizarre story, and after a physical exam reveals no proof of an attack, her boyfriend starts to have doubts. Despite Alex being adamant about what happened to her, nobody believes her, which leaves her doubting herself, and wonders if she has lost her mind. That is, until she meets the next victim.
Lawler, a former nurse who lives in London, draws on an insider's knowledge of hospital procedures for this debut novel, and she crafts a compelling portrait of a doctor navigating the tension between her roles as both a trusted expert and a discredited victim.
Don't Wake Up is a very timely work and an edge-of-your-seat thriller that is grounded in an exploration of victimhood, perception, and the very real horror of silencing those with the courage to speak out.

By Roberto Bolano
Penguin Press; 208 pages; hardcover, $24; available Tuesday, February 5

This early and previously unpublished novel from the beloved Chilean-born writer Roberto Bolano is an inspiring precursor to his 1998 masterpiece, The Savage Detectives, which told the story of young writers hungry for revolution, notoriety, and sexual adventure. The two fledgling writers worked to construct a reality out of the fragments of their dreams.
The Spirit of Science Fiction is an exhilarating story of dark humor, hallucinatory vision, and the initiation of bohemian youth into the underworld of Mexico City.
Two young poets, Jan and Remo, find themselves adrift, obsessed with poetry, and, above all else, with science fiction. They are eager to create a life in the literary world, or sacrifice themselves to it.
As close as these friends are, the city tugs them in opposite directions. Jan withdraws from the world, shutting himself in their shared rooftop apartment where he feverishly composes fan letters to the stars of science fiction and dreams of cosmonauts and Nazis.
Remo goes headfirst into the future, spending his days and nights with a circle of wild young writers, seeking pleasure in the city's streets, rundown cafes, and murky bathhouses.
Natasha Wimmer translated this into English, and this work of tender fiction is a fitting introduction for readers uninitiated into the magic of Roberto Bolano, who has been acclaimed as "by far the most exciting writer to come from south of the Rio Grande in a loing time" by the Los Angeles Times and as "the real thing and the rarest" by Susan Sontag.

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