New books coming out in May

The Arts

April 27, 2023

Notable new releases

compiled by Sally Brewster

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on the south Indian coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: In every generation, at least one person dies by drowning — and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the turn of the century, a 12-year-old girl from Kerala’s long-existing Christian community, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her 40-year-old husband for the first time. The young girl — and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi — will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants. A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. 

Fourteen Days edited by Margaret Atwood

Set in a Lower East Side tenement in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdowns, Fourteen Days is a surprising and irresistibly propulsive novel with an unusual twist: Each character in this diverse, eccentric cast of New York neighbors has been secretly written by a different, major literary voice, from Margaret Atwood and Douglas Preston to Tommy Orange and Celeste Ng.

One week into the shutdown, tenants of the apartment building have begun to gather on the rooftop and tell stories. With each passing night, more and more neighbors gather, bringing chairs and milk crates and overturned pails. Gradually the tenants — some of whom have barely spoken to each other — become real neighbors. In this serial novel, general editor Margaret Atwood, Authors Guild president Douglas Preston, and a star-studded list of contributors create a beautiful ode to the people who couldn’t get away from the city when the pandemic hit. A dazzling, heartwarming and ultimately surprising narrative, Fourteen Days reveals how, beneath the horrible loss and suffering, some communities managed to become stronger.

A Line in the Sand by Kevin Powers

One early morning on a beach in Norfolk, Va., a dead body is discovered by a man taking his daily swim — Arman Bajalan, formerly an interpreter in Iraq. After narrowly surviving an assassination attempt that killed his wife and child, Arman has been given lonely sanctuary in the U.S. as a maintenance worker at the Sea Breeze Motel. Now, convinced that the body is connected to his past, he knows he is still not safe. Seasoned detective Catherine Wheel and her newly minted partner have little to go on beyond a bus ticket in the dead man’s pocket. It leads them to Sally Ewell, a local journalist as grief-stricken as Arman by the Iraq War, who is investigating a corporation on the cusp of landing a multibillion-dollar government defense contract. As victims mount around Arman, taking the team down wrong turns and toward startling evidence, they find themselves in a race, committed to unraveling the truth and keeping Arman alive — even if it costs them absolutely everything.

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: She steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I. So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song, complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree. But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.

Building: A Carpenter’s Notes on Life & the Art of Good Work by Mark Ellison

For 40 years, Mark Ellison has worked in the most beautiful homes you’ve never seen, specializing in rarefied, lavish and challenging projects for the most demanding of clients. He built a staircase that the architect Santiago Calatrava called a masterpiece. He constructed the sculpted core of Sky House, which Interior Design named “Apartment of the Decade.” His projects have included the homes of David Bowie, Robin Williams and others whose names he cannot reveal. He is regarded by many as the best carpenter in New York. Building tells the story of an unconventional education and how fulfillment can be found in doing something well for decades. Ellison takes us on a tour of the lofts, penthouses and townhomes of New York’s elite, before they’re camera-ready. In a singular voice, he offers a window into learning to live meaningfully along the way.  SP

Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books. 4139 Park Rd.,

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