TNB Landis coverThat day after school, she stops at the hardware store to explain about her door.

“You need a shim,” says the man, and shows her a thin, splintery wedge of wood. “Take it,” he says, pushing back her quarter. She can only get the tip in under her door. That night she goes to bed with the light on and stares at the doorknob. At around 1:00 A.M., the knob turns.

The door does not move.

The knob turns twice more. Then it stops.

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (2)In Matt Bell’s debut novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods (Soho Press), we are lured into familiar territory—the world of fables and tall tales, where our expectations of the surreal, the grotesque, and the magical are fulfilled in ever-expanding layers. But beyond the illusions, beyond the world building, darkness, and the unknown is an allegory—a harsh yet beautiful lesson on what it means to be a man, a father, and a husband; to be a woman, a mother, and a wife. Told in layers, fractured into sections, unfolding in a grand tapestry that weaves emotions and actions into a complex series of destinies and consequences, this novel is not an easy read. But the reward is dense prose, powerful psychoanalysis, and the unsettling feeling that our own actions today—many miles from the woods with its failing bear, and its lake with its undulating squid—might be bound by similar rules and outcomes.

Paula Bomer’s debut novel Nine Months (Soho Press, 2012) has had a long gestation period. On and off for the past 10 years, Bomer had sent Nine Months to agents and publishers, rewrote it, put it away for a long time, unwrote it, and then gave it one last shot, scoring with the rising Soho Press. Since its release in August, it’s has won accolades from The Atlantic, Library Journal, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When I caught up with Paula, she’d just finished the west coast part of her book tour, getting stuck in Los Angeles and then Chicago a few extra days to ride out Hurricane Sandy before heading back to her home in Brooklyn.

Don’t let the egg on the cover fool you—it’s riddled with cracks. Nine Months (Soho Press) by Paula Bomer is the opposite of every clichéd story about mothers, birth, children, marriage and identity. It is the raw, honest and brutal story of Sonia, a mother pregnant with her third child, and unhappy with every aspect of her life. She used to be a painter, she used to run wild and free, sleeping with whomever she wanted to, living for herself. Faced with the birth of her third child, she abandons her husband, Dick, and her two boys, and hits the highway, searching for something, open to whatever comes her way.