There are new thoughtful novels out this week that are full of mystery and will illuminate and educate, The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino, The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona, and The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.
The Parting Glass
By Gina Marie Guadagnino
Atria Books; hardcover; $26.00; available Tuesday, March 5
Will a brother and sister's steadfast vow withstand their wild devotion to the same woman? That is the question at the center of Gina Marie Guadagnino's debut novel The Parting Glass, about a tempestuous nineteenth century love triangle that threatens all that one secretive servant holds dear.
Maire O'Farren must tread carefully when she poses as a lady's maid in 1837 New York City. the upper echelons of society despise the Irish and Maire, known to her employers only as Mary Ballard, takes great care to conceal her native lilt and language.
The household would also not be pleased with a servant who aids her debutante's midnight assignations with a stable groom. It also would be a stretch for them to tolerate a maid who takes a stronger liking to her charge than would be deemed suitable for her sex.
Maire takes care of wealthy young heiress Charlotte Walden's every need and guards her every secret. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant's devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her past. Though it pains her, Maire delivers her brother Seanin to her beloved's bed each Thursday night.
The nighttime is also when Maire sheds her prim and proper persona to reveal her true self, and and finds release from her frustration in the gritty underworld around Washington Square, where she is a drinking companion of members of a dangerous secret society
Despite her grief, Maire soon attracts the attention of irreverent and industrious prostitute Liddie Lawrence, who soothes her body and distracts her burning heart.
Seanin, an English baron and a red-blooded American millionaire who is vying for Charlotte's affections, makes calculated moves of his own. He adopts the political aspirations of his drinking companions and grapples with the cruel boundaries of class and nationality.
As Seanin makes his ascent in rank in a secret society and the truth of both women's double lives begin to unravel, Charlotte' secrets soon grow so dangerous even Maire cannot keep them.
Maire is forced to choose between loyalty to her brother or to her lady, between respectable society or true freedom, and she finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.
The Parting Glass captures the delicate exuberance of nineteenth century high society, while examining sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. Deeply researched and finely rendered, Guadagnino's upstairs/downstairs historical fiction debut will have readers enthralled and wanting more.
Guadagnino holds a BA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School. Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction, Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader). She lives in New York City with her family.
Thursday March 7 at 6:30 p.m. : Shalespeare & Co., 939 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10065, shakeandco.com
Sunday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m., KGB Reading Series; 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003, kgbbar.com - in conversation with Raymond Strom, author of Northern Lights, with books available for sale.
The Volunteer: A Novel
By Salvatore Scibona
Penguin Press; hardcover, 432 pages; $28.00; available Tuesday, March 5
Salvatore Scibona's first novel, The End, was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award. His work has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, and a Whiting Award, and the New Yorker named him one of its "20 Under 40" fiction writers to watch. He directs the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
At the beginning of Scibona's new compelling novel, The Volunteer, we are introduced to a small boy speaking an unknown language who is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat.
In order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must go back decades to when a young man named Vollie Frade enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. This decision was made borderline on a whim, and Vollie breaks definitively from his rural Iowan parents and puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events.
Vollie goes to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp, going from the Cambodian jungle to a flophouse in Queens to a commune in New Mexico. In this journey, he traces a secret history of life on the margins of America that culminates with an inevitable and terrible reckoning.
Scibona tells this story with intense feeling, uncommon erudition, and bracing style. It is a pensive exploration of how we are capable of both inventing and discovering out true families and a lacerating interrogation of institutional power at its most compelling and terrifying.
The Volunteer is an odyssey of loss and salvation raging across four generations of fathers and sons, a triumph in the grandest traditions of American storytelling.
The Woman In The Window
By A.J. Finn
William Morrow; paperback, $16.99; available Tuesday, March 5
Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home who is unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine, maybe a little too much, watching old movies, recalling happier times , and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way, a father, a mother, their teenage son, seemingly the perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble, and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
This provocative story will leave you wondering: What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
The Woman in the Window is a twisty and powerful story, ingenious and moving. It is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Alfred Hitchcock.
Fox 2000 preempted rights for the movie, which is scheduled to hit the big screen on October 4, 2019. The movie will star Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Gary Oldman. It will be directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour), produced by Oscar winner and book-to-film specialist Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network), and the script will be written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts (August: Osage County).
When The Woman in the Window was originally released last year, it debuted at Number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the first novel to hit 1 since 2006. Through the first six months of 2018, it ranked as the biggest-selling adult novel of the year, including both hardback and paperback titles. It has sold more than a million copies in the United States.
The Woman In the Window has been sold in 43 territories worldwide and in 41 languages, setting advance records in numerous markets.