Literary Fiction Previews, Jan. 2024, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Literary glitter. 

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Bertino, Marie-Helene. Beautyland. Farrar. Jan. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780374109288. $28. LITERARY

As Voyager I is launched, a little girl named Adina Giorno is born in Philadelphia, the emissary of extraterrestrials seeking to understand humankind. The invention of the fax machine allows her to share directly with her home planets all the terrors and wonders of Earth. The O. Henry/Pushcart–winning Bertino (Parakeet) always reaches for the unusual. With a 25,000-copy first printing.

Cunningham, Michael. Day. Random. Nov. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780399591341. $28. LITERARY

In 2019, Dan and Isabel’s marriage is cracking under the weight of their obsession with Isabel’s free-spirited younger brother, Robbie, himself stumbling because his latest boyfriend has decamped. By 2020, COVID has descended, the couple’s Brooklyn brownstone is shuttered tight, and even as their children rebel, Robbie is stranded in Iceland. By 2021, as they emerge from lockdown, the entire family must reassess. From the Pulitzer Prize–winning Cunningham.

Enrigue, Alvaro. You Dreamed of Empires. Riverhead. Jan. 2024. 240p. tr. from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. ISBN 9780593544792. $28. LITERARY

In 1519, Hernán Cortés entered the city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, to meet the emperor Moctezuma and plan his conquest of a kingdom. But one of Cortés’s captains, Jazmín Caldera, is beginning to doubt that conquest is possible. Moctezuma’s use of hallucinogens frames the book’s shifting, feverish style. From the author of the Herralde/Barcelona–winning Sudden Death.

Gonzalez James, Elizabeth. The Bullet Swallower. S. & S. Jan. 2024. 272p. ISBN 9781668009321. $26.99. LITERARY

In 1895, when Antonio Sonoro crosses the U.S.-Mexico border from drought-ridden Dorado, Mexico, to rob a Houston-bound train, the younger brother who’s joined him is killed by Texas Rangers. In 1964, celebrated Mexican actor Jaime Sonoro discovers a book tracing his family’s misdeeds (it runs back to Cain and Abel) and realizes he may be the one to atone. And that means learning more about grandfather Antonio, the legendary bandido El Tragabalas (“the bullet swallower”). From the multi-Pushcart-nominated Gonzalez James (Mona at Sea).

Hummel, Maria. Goldenseal. Counterpoint. Jan. 2024. 240p. ISBN 9781640096066. $27. LITERARY

Once best friends, having met at summer camp and supported each other through public tumult and private pain with sparkling postwar Hollywood as backdrop, Lacey and Edith haven’t spoken in four decades. Now it’s 1990, Edith is waiting without warning in the lobby of reclusive Lucy’s luxury Los Angeles hotel, and the stories of both women unfold in this new work from the author of Still Lives, a Reese's Book Club X Hello Sunshine Selection.

Lefteri, Christy. The Book of Fire. Ballantine. Jan. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780593497272. $28. Downloadable. $28. LITERARY

Musician Irini lives in an ancient Greek forest with artist husband Tasso and their daughter, and all’s well until a land speculator starts at small fire meant to clear a plot for building that instead sets the whole forest ablaze. Their home gone and Tasso’s hands so badly burned that he can’t paint, a distraught Irini stumbles across the speculator’s body—what killed him is unclear—and makes a life-changing decision. From the author of the Aspen prize-winning, internationally best-selling The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

Louis, Édouard. Change: A Method. Farrar. Jan. 2024. 240p. tr. from French by John Lambert. ISBN 9780374606800. $27. LITERARY

From The End of Eddy to A Woman’s Battles and Transformations, internationally best-selling author Louis writes blistering autofiction addressing homophobia and French working-class poverty. Here he homes in on his youth to assess the people he admired and emulated, the jobs he took to get by when he rose to attend two of France’s most distinguished schools, and the pain he cannot forget. With a 15,000-copy first printing.

McCormack, Mike. This Plague of Souls. Soho. Jan. 2024. 192p. ISBN 9781641295789. $27. LITERARY

In an existential noir following the Goldsmiths/Dublin Literary award–winning Solar Bones, Nealon, just out of prison, returns home to find his wife and children gone, then gets a phone call from a stranger saying that he will explain everything if Nealon consents to a meeting. Their conversation, with a terrorist attack as backdrop, ultimately links Nealon’s fraught life in rural Ireland to a series of international crimes meant to avenge the cruelties of the world.

Matar, Hisham. My Friends. Random. Jan. 2024. 416p. ISBN 9780812994841. $28. LITERARY

Having left behind the constraints of his native Libya to study at the University of Edinburgh, Khaled joins a protest against Qaddafi’s regime in London shattered by violence, leaving him badly injured. He can’t risk contacting his parents for their own safety but finds comfort and insight in a friendship he forms with Hosam Zowa, an author who influenced him as a child. Matar was Booker short-listed for his novel In the Country of Men and a Pulitzer Prize winner for his memoir The Return.

Miller, Derek B. The Curse of Pietro Houdini. Avid Reader: S. & S. Jan. 2024. 352p. ISBN 9781668020883. $28. LITERARY

Fleeing World War II Rome after his parents die in a U.S. bombing, Massimo is rescued by Pietro Houdini, who proclaims himself an artist and confidante of the Vatican. They repair to a cliff-clinging monastery, but as the front line shifts forward, they flee again, spiriting away three priceless Titians with the help of a renegade nurse, a murderous café owner, a German soldier, and two lovers and their mule. A John Creasey Dagger–winning author, an historical framework, BISACed as literary: something for everyone.

Min, Katherine. The Fetishist. Putnam. Jan. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9780593713655. $28. LITERARY

Kyoko, a singer in a punk band, is finally visiting revenge upon Daniel, the unassuming violinist who charmed her mother when they played together in an orchestra and then dropped her, driving her to her death. Daniel’s kidnapping goes easily, but then nothing else happens as planned. The Pushcart Prize winner’s posthumously published novel.

Reid, Kiley. Come and Get It. Putnam. Jan. 2024. 400p. ISBN 9780593328200. $29. lrg. prnt. CD. LITERARY

In 2017, Agatha, a commanding 38-year-old white woman with several books to her credit, arrives at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, to study attitudes toward weddings, then switches her focus to campus culture. She’s helped by 24-year-old Black resident assistant Millie, with whom she becomes dangerously involved. A study of power, responsibility, and the bad choices we sometimes make; following the multi-best-booked Such a Fun Age.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; winner of ALA's Louis Shores Award for reviewing; and past president, awards chair, and treasurer of the National Book Critics Circle, which awarded her its inaugural Service Award in 2023.

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