Literary Fiction: Small-Town Worlds, Mar. 2024, Pt. 2 | Prepub Alert

Small-town but not always cozy. 

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Banks, Russell. American Spirits. Knopf. Mar. 2024. 224p. ISBN 9780593536773. $28. LITERARY

All is not well in the rural New York landscape visited by recently deceased two-time Pulitzer finalist Banks in three enmeshed stories. A man sells property to a mysterious stranger and subsequently questions the buyer’s character online, the children in the strange family that has just moved next door come begging for help, and kidnappers of an elderly couple demand that their grandson pay up what he owes.

Barrett, Colin. Wild Houses. Grove. Mar. 2024. 272p. ISBN 9780802160942. $27. LITERARY

Finally, the National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Barrett, author of several multi-award-winning story collections, turns up with a debut novel. In County Mayo, local enforcers Gabe and Sketch Ferdia arrive at the door of their quiet cousin Dev with the battered Doll English in tow and drag Dev into a revenge plot against Doll’s older brother Cillian, a small-time dealer.

Braunstein, Sarah. Bad Animals. Norton. Mar. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781324051046. $27.99. LITERARY

Laid off after being accused by a teenager of spying on her trysts in the mezzanine bathroom, Maine public librarian Maeve Cosgrove is struggling to clear her name when she learns that Harrison Riddles, an author she admires, has agreed to her request to speak at the library. He also wants her help in writing a novel about a a young Sudanese refugee who frequents the library. From the National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Braunstein, whose The Sweet Relief of Missing Children was short-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Waldman, Adelle. Help Wanted. Norton. Mar. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9781324020448. $28.99. LITERARY

In small-town upstate New York, Team Movement members arrive at work at 3:55 a.m., unloading merchandise and stocking shelves before the customers arrive. Then the possibility of a promotion presents itself, and the team bands together in a crazy plot that could help them all. From the author of the multi-best-booked The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

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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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