Reba Melinda 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.


Tales of the New World

Plenty of historical facts for those who love travel writing, but primarily readers of literary fiction will want to jump on board. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/11.]

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