Recent General Fiction Debuts

If You Follow Me: A Novel
by Malena Watrous
Harper Perennial
Trade Paperback – $14.99/$16.99 Can.
General Fiction

Hoping to outpace her grief in the wake of her father’s suicide, Marina, a recent college graduate, has come to the small, rural Japanese town of Shika to teach English for a year. But in Japan, as she soon discovers, you can never really throw away your past… or anything else, for that matter.

Alive with vibrant and unforgettable characters—from an ambitious town matchmaker to a high school student rap artist wannabe with an addiction to self-tanning lotion—it guides readers over cultural bridges even as it celebrates the awkward, unlikely triumph of the human spirit.

If You Follow Me is at once a coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water tale, a dark comedy of manners, and a strange kind of love story. It won a Michener-Copernicus award, and sections have been awarded a Glimmertrain Fiction Open award and runner-up in the Faulkner/Pirate’s Alley Contest.

Hmm. I know I’m supposed to give you guys my reaction, but I really don’t have one. I’m not convinced this was the best blurb I’ve ever read.  Way too vague. I dug deeper on the author’s website it looks to be feel-good, humorous coming-of-age novel. I do enjoy fish-out-of-water stories, and I know a lot of other people do as well.

Postcards from a Dead Girl: A Novel
by Kirk Farber
Harper Perennial
Trade Paperback – $13.99/$15.99 Can.
General Fiction

Sid is going crazy . . .

A telemarketer at a travel agency, Sid is becoming unhinged and superneurotic. Lately he’s been obsessed with car washes and mud baths. His hypochondria is driving his doctor sister mad. And it’s all because of his ex-girlfriend, Zoe, who’s sending him postcards from her European adventure, one that they were supposed to take together. It’s all quite upsetting.

A fact-finding tour of local post offices—and a new friendship with postman Gerald—followed by a solo European jaunt will do little to ease his anxiety. A long talk with his mother’s spirit in a wine bottle doesn’t help either. But what he really needs are a few more tentative dates with the chatty Candyce. Sid needs to get over Zoe and find love again—even though Zoe, apparently, has no inclination to be gotten over.

Gosh, I think the title give too much away, if poor Zoe really is dead. I hope I’m wrong. I can imagine that this will appeal to some of you.

Secret Daughter: A Novel
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
William Morrow
Hardcover – $23.99/$31.50 Can.
General Fiction
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to Asha. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of baby Asha from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion for her. Somer knows life will change with the adoption, but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, Secret Daughter poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

This is a strong hook for me. I’ve been to India, and I’ve seen the slums of Mumbai.  I’m less interested in an American couple raising the child, but the hook is still strong enough for me that I might seek it out. I’m going to need a fantasy break soon, anyway!

Balancing Acts: A Novel
by Zoe Fishman
Harper Paperbacks
Trade Paperback – $13.99/$17.99 Can.
General Fiction

Charlie seemed to have it all—beauty, brains and a high-paying Wall Street job far away from her simple Midwest upbringing. Then, in the middle of her “quarter life crisis,” she decides that the banker’s life isn’t what she wanted after all, quits her job and opens her own yoga studio in Brooklyn. But like any new business, finding customers is an uphill battle. When she hears about her college’s 10 year reunion, she straps on her best salesman smile and invades midtown—determined to drum up some business.

Unexpectedly, she reconnects with three college classmates—women who, like Charlie, haven’t ended up quite where they wanted to in life. Sabine, a romance book editor, still longs to write the novel brewing inside of her. Naomi, a child of the Upper East Side, was an up-and-coming photographer and social darling, but now is a single mom who hasn’t picked up her camera in years. Bess, a California girl trying to make it in New York, dreams of being the next Christiane Amanpour, but instead finds herself writing snarky captions for a gossip mag, which is neither satisfying nor rewarding. When Charlie, who has her own past to contend with, signs them up for a weekly beginner’s yoga class, they become all too aware of the lack of balance in their lives. Each has to dig deep and fight their inner demons to reconnect with what they truly want out of life.

With wit and sensitivity, debut author Zoe Fishman perfectly captures the poignancy, humor, and promise in these four women’s lives. Balancing Acts is a sincere look at what happens when you’re ten years out of college but feel 100 years from who you once were.

I read somewhere once that in novels that center on a group of women, there are always four of them. I can see why — with an even number, you can get two conflicting teams, or you could have a three against one. Ten years out of college means around 32, which was ten years out of the Air Force for me. I loved being 32. It’s like, the perfect age.

Apologize, Apologize! by Elizabeth Kelly
Twelve (Random House)
March 30, 2010
Trade Paperback – $13.99
Literary Fiction

Welcome to the world of the fantastic Flanagans; a wildly eccentric Massachusetts clan that is both blessed and afflicted with an inexhaustible reservoir of old money, unwavering subversive charm – and a veritable chorus of dogs. At the centre of this maelstrom is sensible Collie Flanagan, first-born son and heir to his grandfather’s publishing fortune, whose easy life is shattered by the outcome of a casual afternoon outing. Affecting, funny and wise, this is a rollicking story packed with characters that are a delight to get to know, and are impossible to forget.

No author website, which I find inexplicable in this day and age. Well, I did get to the cgi-bin of elizabethkelly.com. Not helpful. Neither is this blurb. However, this novel is getting a lot of attention. While Googling in vain for the author’s website (“elizabeth kelly author”), I found numerous interviews, articles and rave reviews, one which calls her an “overnight sensation”.

Most of you are, like me, readers of speculative fiction. Any of these blow your hair back?

7 thoughts on “Recent General Fiction Debuts”

  1. While some of these sound interesting, none of them make me say, “I have got to read that!” Postcards from a Dead Girl sounds the most appealing to me, mostly because of the voice in that blurb. Wonder if the voice in the book is anything like it. (And yes, I agree that the title should have been better thought-out.)

  2. If I absolutely had to pick one of these to read, I’d go for “If You Follow Me” because of the Japanese angle. None of the others float my boat.

  3. If You Follow Me and Secret Daughter sound like they both ought to have a good does of culture clash in them. That appeals to me, since culture clash is an integral part of life in Hawai’i. We have enough cultural groups here, it’s hard to avoid. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. The ones with culture clash are the only ones that appeal to me too. I’m just not interested in family dramas or groups of women unhappy with their lives… unless there’s a dragon attacking or something! 🙂

    So I guess the real issue is the stakes are too low in most of these, judging from the blurbs. In speculative fiction the stakes are more likely to be life and death, so it’s easier to get invested in the story and root for the characters to succeed.

    Also, being in one’s thirties is great. I wouldn’t go back. 🙂

  5. I kind of like the sound of the last one, APOLOGIZE! APOLOGIZE! I tend to like zany characters (my fav author in any genre is Jennifer Crusie). In fact, I may go look for that one…

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