Literary Fiction: Reimagining Literary Figures, Mar. 2024, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Famous figures seen anew.

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Cecil, Mark. Bunyan and Henry; Or, the Beautiful Destiny. Anchor. Mar. 2024. 352p. ISBN 9780593471166. $29. FOLK TALES

Not yet a legendary lumberjack, Paul Bunyan struggles with a mountain of debt while working in the bleak mines owned by grasping industrialist El Boffo. A quest prompted by his wife’s illness brings him to another soon-to-be legend, steel-driving John Henry, who’s escaped from wrongful conviction on a chain gang, and they join forces in a narrative probing race, class, and industrialization. A debut from Thoughtful Bro host Cecil.

Everett, Percival. James. Doubleday. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9780385550369. $28. lrg. prnt. LITERARY/HISTORICAL

The enslaved Jim still hides out on Jackson Island when he overhears news that he’s to be sold—and thus separated from his family—and Huck still encounters him while running away from an abusive father and faking his own death. But Pulitzer Prize finalist Everett’s reenvisioning of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn presents Jim in a whole new light.

Lyon, Rachel. Fruit of the Dead. Scribner. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781668020852. $28. LITERARY

In this retelling of the myth of Persephone and Demeter, disaffected 18-year-old camp counselor Cory Ansel is offered a childcare job (complete with a nondisclosure agreement) by the father of one of her campers, a wealthy CEO who’s besotted with her. Living on his private island, Cory tries to ignore her misgivings, but not so Cory’s mother, head of an agricultural NGO, who is determined to track her down. From the author of Self-Portrait with Boy, a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.

McNeal, Laura. The Swan’s Nest. Algonquin: Workman: Hachette. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781643753201. $29. Downloadable. LITERARY

In January 1846, struggling poet Robert Browning wrote to famed poet Elizabeth Barrett, chronically ill, expressing his love for both her and her verses. By September 1846, they married in secret (her family disapproved) and headed to the fresh airs of Italy. McNeal, a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, goes adult with this retake on a happy literary couple.

Morris, Joel H. All Our Yesterdays. Putnam. Mar. 2024. 368p. ISBN 9780593715383. $28. LITERARY

Born into a noble family in 11th-century Scotland and married off young to a sadistic husband, Morris’s protagonist just wants to protect her son from constant warfare. Then, freed of marital bonds by her husband’s downfall and growing more powerful in her own right, she falls in love with the thane Macbeth. Yes, debuter Morris revisits Shakespeare’s grimly brimming Scottish queen.

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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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