From Allende to Umrigar: Literary Fiction Previews, Jan. 2022, Pt. 3 | Prepub Alert

Worldwide literary perspectives. 

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Allende, Isabel. Violeta. Ballantine. Jan. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9780593496206. $28. lrg. prnt. CD. LITERARY

In this latest from Allende, winner of multiple lifetime achievement awards, Violeta iscover of Allende's Violeta born into a family boasting five boys just as the 1918 influenza hits her South American homeland. The narrative carries her through 100 years to a new pandemic, encompassing the Great Depression (with her capsized family forced to resettle in her country’s remotest reaches), the fight for women’s rights, and the rise of dictators, plus love, loss, poverty, wealth, and brimming-to-the-rim affairs. Formatted as a letter to someone for whom Violeta cared deeply.

Apostol, Gina. Bibliolepsy. Soho. Jan. 2022. 208p. ISBN 9781641292511. $26. LITERARY

Now available in the United States, the PEN Open Book Award–winning Apostol’s debut stars a woman seeking out books she loves and romantic connections to their authors during the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Primi Peregrino calls herself “a vagabond from history, a runaway from time,” but her commitment to love, sex, and reading helps topple the regime.

Assadi, Hannah Lillith. The Stars Are Not Yet Bells. Riverhead. Jan. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9780593084366. $25. Downloadable. LITERARY

During World War II, blue lights deck the skies above an island called Lyra off Georgia’s coast, and Elle Ranier’s new husband, Simon, is sent to Lyra by his industrialist father to discover their source. They could be generated by valuable minerals found offshore, and the business Simon establishes to find them employs many of the island’s inhabitants for 50 years but never succeeds in its goal. Here, Elle reflect on her long life on the island and a secret she has kept close. From National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree Assadi, whose debut novel, Sonora, was a PEN/Robert W. Bingham finalist.

Evison, Jonathan. Small World. Dutton. Jan. 2022. 480p. ISBN 9780593184127. $28. LITERARY

From the beloved author of West of Here, this inventive new work parallels train travelers in the early 1800s and their present-day descendants, with the narrative unfolding in the Pacific Northwest. Accented here: the immigrant experience and what it has meant for the United States.

Gala, Marcial. Call Me Cassandra. Farrar. Jan. 2022. 224p. tr. from Spanish by Anna Kushner. ISBN 9780374602017. $26. LITERARY

Author of the international award winner The Black Cathedral, published in the United States in 2020, Cuban novelist/poet Gala investigates the failures of Cuba’s revolution through visionary ten-year-old Rauli. Rauli doesn’t fit in at home or at school, perhaps with good reason. He knows that he was born in the wrong body, that he will die at age 18 as a soldier in Angola, and that he is the reincarnation of the Trojan princess and doomed seer Cassandra.

Guterson, David. The Final Case. Knopf. Jan. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780525521327. $27. Downloadable. LITERARY

In this latest from the author who launched his career with the popular Snow Falling on Cedars, an Ethiopian girl adopted by a white fundamentalist Christian family is found dead of hypothermia in her Seattle backyard and her adoptive mother put on trial for murder. She is defended by an octogenarian criminal attorney  whose son narrates the story as he chauffeurs his father around town. How did it feel for Abeba to find herself in an environment so far from—and so different from—her homeland?  Why did the lawyer take what will be his final case? And what does the town think of these events?

Jen, Gish. Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories from the Transformation. Knopf. Jan. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780593319895. $28. LITERARY/SHORT STORIES

Opening with a heartfelt letter written by a Chinese girl in heaven to “poor Mr. Nixon” in hell, this latest from the multi-honored Jen moves through 11 stories that reflect on a half-century of Chinese people in the larger world. A woman reunites with her sisters in China after four decades; a couple go to extraordinary lengths to reconnect with their daughter, who won’t answer her phone in New York; in Hong Kong, a woman raised with the admonition “no politics, just make money” struggles to understand the repressive new environment. Jen’s first collection since 1999’s Who’s Irish?

MacLaverty, Bernard. Blank Pages: And Other Stories. Norton. Jan. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780393881592. $26.95. LITERARY

Booker and International Dublin Literary Award short-listed for his novels, which have also been adapted for film, Irish author MacLaverty (currently based in Scotland) has also written a half-dozen short story collections. Here’s his latest, tinged with loss and death: a woman watches a World War II newsreel to discover what happened to her son, and artist Egon Schiele and his wife spend their final days together before they are taken by the 1918 influenza.

Maren, Mesha. Perpetual West. Algonquin. Jan. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781643750941. $26.95. CD. LITERARY

In this new work by Maren, author of the coruscating debut novel Sugar Run, newly married Alex and Elana move from small-town Virginia to El Paso. Mexican-born Alex was adopted by white American Pentecostal parents and regularly crosses over to Juárez. There he learns more about his heritage while continuing his graduate studies in sociology partly by learning about Mexican professional wrestling, “lucha libre.”  Meanwhile, Elana is less happy with her courses at the local university, and she doesn't know that Alex has fallen in love with a lucha libre fighter. And then Alex disappears. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Umrigar, Thrity. Honor. Algonquin. Jan. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781616209957. $26.95. CD. LITERARY

In India to cover the story of Meena, a Hindu woman whose marriage to a Muslim man shames her family and suggests the violence shaping women’s lives there, journalist Smita is forced to acknowledge her own family’s painful departure from the country and the benefits granted her simply by being American. From the best-selling Umrigar, whose The Space Between Us was a PEN/Beyond Margins finalist; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle.

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