May 2016: Dazzling Debuts
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by Antonia Hayes
Twelve-year-old Ethan is extraordinary: he’s always been bright and curious, idolizing Stephen Hawking and easily able to rattle off facts about the stars and planets. No one recognized the extent of his unusual genius, however, until the wake of an unexpected seizure, when he reveals to his neurologist the uncanny ability to accurately visualize various phenomena of physics, including redshift and black holes. This discovery coincides with the return to Sydney of Ethan’s dad, who’s been absent from the family since a tragic incident in Ethan’s infancy that nearly killed Ethan and resulted in the end of his parents’ marriage. That same incident, however, may have resulted in Ethan’s exceptional talents, leading Ethan’s parents to wonder whether this silver lining might hint at other opportunities for redemption and reconciliation. With its thoughtful consideration of family dynamics and its strong thematic currents, Hayes’s excellent debut will appeal to fans of JoJo Moyes. (Publishers Weekly)
Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.
I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh
Five-year-old Jacob and his mother, Jenna, are walking home from school when he breaks away and runs into the path of a speeding car. As Jacob lies bleeding in the street, his desperate mother watches the driver accelerate away. Bristol DI Ray Stevens and rookie detective Kate Evans are ensnared by the case, with Kate deeply affected by the driver’s callousness and Ray looking to avoid his new management duties. When the few clues from surveillance video and witness statements run dry, the chief orders them to move on, but Stevens and Kate continue to hunt the killer secretly, developing a rapport that turns dangerously romantic. Meanwhile, grieving Jenna flees Bristol and slowly starts to create a new life in a remote Welsh beach village, but the investigation threatens to rip her life apart again. A clever thriller that boasts fine writing, compelling characters, and mind-bending twists. (Booklist)
Mackintosh spent twelve years on the police force in England and has written for The Guardian, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. A columnist for Cotswold Life and Writing Magazine, she is the founder of Chipping Norton Literary Festival and lives in the Cotswolds with her family.
Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road
by Rob Schmitz
In a counterpart to New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino’s profile of one Paris street (The Only Street in Paris, 2015), Schmitz also looks at one thoroughfare, Shanghai’s Street of Eternal Happiness, which runs through the heart of that city and whose denizens share the perks and dislocations of modernity also found by their French opposites. But Schmitz—China correspondent for Marketplace, a business-news program aired on public radio—gives his portraits a financial underpinning, which reveals both the sparkle of a dynamic economy and the longtime corruption and ineptitude by China’s central government that have ruined so many millions of lives, whether it’s that of Old Kang, made homeless by a real-estate development that never was, or of the taciturn Uncle Feng, who sells deep-fried scallion pancakes from his shop window while his wife loses a small fortune investing in get-rich-quick scams. A brutally revealing, yet unexpectedly tender, slice of Shanghai life. (Booklist starred review)
Schmitz is the China correspondent for American Public Media's Marketplace, the largest business news program in the U.S. with more than 12 million listeners a week. He has won two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an award from the Education Writers Association for his reporting on China. Schmitz first arrived to the country in 1996 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Sichuan province.
by Sylvain Neuvel
An enormous hand glowing with strange symbols is found in South Dakota by young Rose Franklin, who years later becomes a scientist and heads the team studying the artifact. The hand is just the beginning as the researchers hunt for more pieces of what turns out to be an enormous alien robot-like construct. Through transcripts of interviews of those investigating the machine and a secretive man directing the work, we follow the discovery and assembly of the relic and the mystery of who left it and why. Great characters such as prickly pilot Kara Resnik keep the tale grounded, and readers gradually get a picture, complete with the anonymous interviewer as he pulls strings to keep the project afloat and world tensions under control. A remarkable debut. (Library Journal)
Neuvel is a linguist and translator based in Montreal. He is at work on an R2-D2 replica and his next novel.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
by Phaedra Patrick
Arthur Pepper lives a simple life, eventless since his beloved wife, Miriam, died: same food, same clothes, same daily routine. On the one-year anniversary of her death, something changes. While painfully sorting through her possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he never saw her wear. On the chain are an elephant, a tiger, a book, a heart, a palette, and other charms. Curious, Arthur begins a search for the origin of these trinkets that takes him from New York to London, Paris, and India. Not only is Arthur's life amazingly altered, but he learns much more about Miriam and the choice she made when she married him. Tender, insightful, and surprising, this wonderful debut novel is a stunning addition to the popular genre of transformative stories of otherwise uneventful lives. (Library Journal starred review)
Patrick studied art and marketing and has worked as a stained glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. She has won numerous prizes for her short stories, and now writes full time. She lives in the UK with her husband and son.