New books to read in August

Entertainment

July 31, 2023



Notable new releases

compiled by Sally Brewster

Sun House by David James Duncan

A random bolt from a DC-8 falls from the sky, killing a child and throwing the faith of a young Jesuit into crisis. A boy’s mother dies on his fifth birthday, sparking a lifetime of repressed anger that he unleashes once a year in reckless duels with Fate, God or Power, who let the coincidence happen. A young woman on a run in Seattle experiences a shooting-star moment that pierces her with a love that will eventually help heal the Jesuit, the angry young man and innumerable others. The journeys of this unintentional menagerie carry them to the healing lands of Montana and a newly founded community, where nothing seems less likely than the soul-filling delight a troupe of spiritual refugees, urban sophisticates, road-weary musicians and local cowboys begin to find in each other’s company. This stunning novel, set amid the gorgeous landscapes of the American West, illuminates the contemporary world through the prisms of Eastern wisdom, cast-off ecstatic religious ideals, and the unpredictable, expansive yearnings of the human heart.

Tom Lakeby Ann Patchett

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.

Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love and the lives parents have led before their children were born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart. 

Western Alliances by Wilton Barnhardt

Wilton Barnhardt’s Western Alliances is a vivid portrait of a wealthy family set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis. This laugh-out-loud, darkly funny novel follows the Costa family — whose members are every bit as richly absurd as the characters in HBO’s Succession. Salvador Costa, the patriarch, runs one of Wall Street’s biggest banks the summer before everything collapses; Roberto and Rachel, his two children, have never worked a day in their lives; and Lena, his ex-wife, is a scheming hypochondriac. Part travelogue, part epic family drama, the novel follows Roberto and Rachel across Europe as the two dilettantes come to terms with their father’s choices and the repercussions of his actions.

Oozing with his signature satire and biting wit, Barnhardt invites readers on a literary romp from an elegant Paris apartment to a hilariously-inept London hotel, from ancient churches and crypts to gleaming Mediterranean coasts as two grown-up rich kids are forced to come of age at last. 

Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones

On a routine trip to the Piggly Wiggly in Albany, Ga., widower Fletcher Dukes smells a familiar perfume, then sees a tall woman the color of papershell pecans with a strawberry birthmark on the nape of her neck. He knows immediately that she is his lost love, Altovise Benson. Their bond, built on county fairs, sit-ins and marches, once seemed a sure and forever thing. But their marriage plans were disrupted when the police turned a peaceful protest violent. Before Altovise fled the South, Fletcher gave her a peach seed monkey with diamond eyes. As we learn via harrowing flashbacks, an enslaved ancestor on the coast of South Carolina carved the first peach seed, a talisman that, ever since, each father has gifted his son on his 13th birthday. Giving one to Altovise initiated a break in tradition, irrevocably shaping the lives of generations of Dukes. Recently, Fletcher has made do on his 7 acres with his daughter Florida’s check-ins, his drop biscuits, and his faithful dog. But as he begins to reckon with long-ago choices, he finds he isn’t the only one burdened with unspoken truths. 

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

Flor has a gift: She can predict, to the day, when someone will die. When she decides she wants a living wake — a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led — her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her three sisters. But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets: Her sisters are hiding things, too. And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own. Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo’s inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces — one family’s journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.  SP

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

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