Reba Leiding

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The Mercies

The latest from Hargrave (The Deathless Girls) is slow paced and deliberate, as if dreading its own unhappy denouement. It’s strength lies in the richly researched details of primitive Norwegian village life, which illustrate how the women scrape a livelihood from the barren subarctic. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/19.]

The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel

Despite its holes, this is a finely constructed work with a surprising and satisfying ending, like a fine meal leading up to a delicious dessert. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]

The Sacrament

Olafsson deftly braids present and past events as Sister Marie Joseph grapples with her recollections of Halla while ensnaring herself in the investigation. The sister’s first-person voice seems dry and dispassionate, but the novel confounds our expectations, sifting through memory, as it evolves into a low-simmering psychological thriller. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 6/10/19.]

The Shadow King

Mengiste’s (Beneath the Lion’s Gaze) tale of Ethiopian women warriors is fascinating and tension-filled. Her prose style is to show rather than tell, with short, cinematic chapters dense with imagery and sensory detail. Descriptions of the fog of battle are exquisite and horrific, all the more remarkable for being told from a woman’s point of view. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]

Mostly Dead Things

Taxidermy as a through-line may be off-putting for some, but it grabs the reader like a horror novel; it’s gruesome and yet civilized, resulting in a lifelike, if kitschy, work of art.


Dawson's Fall

NBCC finalist Robinson (Sparta) paints her characters as nuanced products of their time and avoids unrealistic heroics. A scattering of 19th-century newspaper articles, family letters, and data provides context and veracity for this work of fiction but also connects the Reconstruction era's racism, voter suppression, and violent gun culture to present-day societal divides. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/26/18.]

Walking on the Ceiling

A poetic yet intellectual novel; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 1015/18.]

Lost Children Archive

The shifting sensibility from observer to child to child migrant gradually pulls readers inside the migrants' nightmare journey to create a story that, if fragmented, feels both timely and intelligent. [See Prepub Alert, 8/27/18.]

The Water Cure

This image-laden and lyrical first novel, its short chapters interspersed with brief, disturbing messages from women from the mainland, imagines a societal breakdown that has inflicted most of its harm on women, which seems both frightening and inevitable, offering a dark, extended metaphor on toxic male/female relations. [See Prepub Alert, 7/9/18.]

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