The TNB Book Club

Available from Amazon Crossing

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An award-winning Haitian novel about silence, beauty, and the solidarity of tears.

Airports are distillations of the world. I like thinking of them that way. The hope of leaving and the desire to come home, existing side by side. Any voyage is possible. My mind flies off toward the blue province once again. I don’t know, anymore, why I always associate it with blue. It isn’t even my favorite color.

Traveling alone from Miami to Port-au-Prince, our narrator finds comfort at the airport. She feels free to ponder the silence that surrounds her homeland, her mother, her aunts, and her own inner thoughts. Between two places, she sees how living in poverty keeps women silent, forging their identities around practicality and resilience. From a distance, she is drawn inevitably homeward toward her family and the glittering blue Caribbean Sea.

Blue comes alive through vivid images crowding the page, just as memories do in real life, as if the author is trying to sort through them, to come to grips with her own emotional conflict. Balancing the pain and anger are spiritual bonds that connect the author to the women who have come before her, who have created her, and with Haiti itself, her motherland. No amount of glittering opportunity up north can prevent her from finding her way home.

Available from The Feminist Press

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“Queer dynamite.” —Kristin Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things

Meet Margaret. At age twelve, she was head detective of the mystery club Girls Can Solve Anything. Margaret and her three best friends led exciting lives solving crimes, having adventures, and laughing a lot. But now that she’s entered high school, the club has disbanded, and Margaret is unmoored—she doesn’t want to grow up, and she wishes her friends wouldn’t either. Instead, she opts out, developing an eating disorder that quickly takes over her life. When she lands in a treatment center, Margaret finds her path to recovery twisting sideways as she pursues a string of new mysteries involving a ghost, a hidden passage, disturbing desires, and her own vexed relationship with herself.

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body reimagines nineties adolescence—mashing up girl group series, choose-your-own-adventures, and chronicles of anorexia—in a queer and trans coming-of-age tale like no other. An interrogation of girlhood and nostalgia, dysmorphia and dysphoria, this debut novel puzzles through the weird, ever-evasive questions of growing up.

Available from Custom House Books

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“Hall’s writing is alchemical, magnificent, divine, bodily. Here are new ways to understand what it feels like to be human. Here are books to cherish. Burntcoat is a masterpiece. I lay myself at the altar of everything Hall writes.” —Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters

You were the last one here, before I closed the door of Burntcoat. Before we all closed our doors . . .

In an unnamed British city, the virus is spreading, and like everyone else, the celebrated sculptor Edith Harkness retreats inside. She isolates herself in her immense studio, Burntcoat, with Halit, the lover she barely knows. As life outside changes irreparably, inside Burntcoat, Edith and Halit find themselves changed as well: by the histories and responsibilities each carries and bears, by the fears and dangers of the world outside, and by the progressions of their new relationship. And Burntcoat will be transformed, too, into a new and feverish world, a place in which Edith comes to an understanding of how we survive the impossible—and what is left after we have.

A sharp and stunning novel of art and ambition, mortality and connection, Burntcoat is a major work from “one of our most influential short story writers” (The Guardian). It is an intimate and vital examination of how and why we create—make art, form relationships, build a life—and an urgent exploration of an unprecedented crisis, the repercussions of which are still years in the learning.

Available from Graywolf

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“With love, brilliance, humor, and weird wild energy, Lucy Corin has written a perfect story of death and rebirth, of sisters, mothers, lovers, of madness, of a broken, rocky modern world. No one writes like her. No one could. Every page of The Swank Hotel is hilarious, heartbreaking, strange. To follow Em and Ad, and the other radiant characters in this novel, is to follow Jane Bowles straight into the future.” —Deb Olin Unferth

A stunningly ambitious, prescient novel about madness, generational trauma, and cultural breakdown

At the outset of the 2008 financial crisis, Em has a dependable, dull marketing job generating reports of vague utility while she anxiously waits to hear news of her sister, Ad, who has gone missing―again. Em’s days pass drifting back and forth between her respectably cute starter house (bought with a “responsible, salary-backed, fixed-rate mortgage”) and her dreary office. Then something unthinkable, something impossible, happens and she begins to see how madness permeates everything around her while the mundane spaces she inhabits are transformed, through Lucy Corin’s idiosyncratic magic, into shimmering sites of the uncanny.

The story that swirls around Em moves through several perspectives and voices. There is Frank, the tart-tongued, failing manager at her office; Jack, the man with whom Frank has had a love affair for decades; Em and Ad’s eccentric parents, who live in a house that is perpetually being built; and Tasio, the young man from Chiapas who works for them and falls in love with Ad. Through them Corin portrays porousness and breakdown in individuals and families, in economies and political systems, in architecture, technology, and even in language itself.

The Swank Hotel is an acrobatic, unforgettable, surreal, and unexpectedly comic novel that interrogates the illusory dream of stability that pervaded early twenty-first-century America.

Available from Harper

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“Mad and wonderful. I thought I was reading one thing, then discovered—several times—that I was reading a different, even better thing.” —Roddy Doyle

One of Shondaland’s 5 Best Books of September and Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of the Month

An exquisitely talented young Irish writer makes her literary debut with this powerful and haunting novel—a tale of love and family, depression and joy, and coming of age in the twenty-first century.

Eighteen-year-old Debbie was raised on her family’s rural dairy farm, forty minutes and a world away from Dublin. She lives with her mother, Maeve, a skittish woman who takes to her bed for days on end, claims not to know who Debbie’s father is, and believes her dreams are prophecies. Rounding out their small family is Maeve’s brother Billy, who lives in a caravan behind their house, drinks too much, and likes to impersonate famous dead writers online. Though they may have their quirks, the Whites’ fierce love for one another is never in doubt.

But Debbie’s life is changing. Earning a place at Trinity College Dublin, she commutes to her classes a few days a week. Outside the sheltered bubble of her childhood for the first time, Debbie finds herself both overwhelmed and disappointed by her fellow students and the pace and anonymity of city life. While the familiarity of the farm offers comfort, Debbie still finds herself pulling away from it. Yet just as she begins to ponder the possibilities the future holds, a resurgence of strange dreams raises her fears that she may share Maeve’s fate. Then a tragic accident upends the family’s equilibrium, and Debbie discovers her next steps may no longer be hers to choose.

Gorgeous and beautifully wrought, Snowflake is an affecting coming-of-age story about a young woman learning to navigate a world that constantly challenges her sense of self.

Available from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

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Embassy Wife is such a swift and delicious novel that a reader can be forgiven for looking up halfway through the book with the slow-dawning realization that all along, underneath this mordant farce, Katie Crouch had some sharp, urgent and intricate things to say about colonization and race, privilege and power, and the often explosive intersection of all of these things in today’s Namibia. It is a fascinating novel, and beautifully told.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida

“A wickedly irresistible novel.”– Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar

In Katie Crouch’s thrilling novel Embassy Wife, two women abroad search for the truth about their husbands—and their country.

Meet Persephone Wilder, a displaced genius posing as the wife of an American diplomat in Namibia. Persephone takes her job as a representative of her country seriously, coming up with an intricate set of rules to survive the problems she encounters: how to dress in hundred-degree weather without showing too much skin, how not to look drunk at embassy functions, and how to eat roasted oryx with grace. She also suspects her husband is not actually the ambassador’s legal counsel, but a secret agent in the CIA. The consummate embassy wife, she takes the newest trailing spouse, Amanda Evans, under her wing.

Amanda arrives in Namibia mere weeks after giving up her Silicon Valley job so her husband, Mark, could have his family close as he works on his Fulbright project. But once they’re settled in the sub-Saharan desert, Amanda sees clearly that Mark, who lived in Namibia two decades earlier, had other reasons for returning. Their marriage seemed solid in the safety of their old home, but feels tenuous in the glaring heat of the Kalahari. And then Amanda’s daughter becomes involved in an actual international conflict and their own government won’t stand up for her.

How far will Amanda go to keep her family intact? How much corruption can Persephone ignore? And what, exactly, does it mean to be an American abroad when you’re not sure you understand your country anymore? Propulsive and provocative, Embassy Wife asks what it means to be a human in this world, even as it helps us laugh in the face of our own absurd, seemingly impossible states of affairs.

Available from Custom House

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“The reason you’ve never read a book like Appleseed is that there’s never been a book like Appleseed. The scary thing, though, is this is a world you might recognize. This premise, this content, this form, this language—only Matt Bell could have given us this novel.” —Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians

“Woven together out of the strands of myth, science fiction, and ecological warning, Matt Bell’s Appleseed is as urgent as it is audacious.” —Kelly Link, Get in Trouble

A “work of incandescent imagination” (Karen Russell) from Young Lions Fiction Award–finalist Matt Bell, a breakout book that explores climate change, manifest destiny, humanity’s unchecked exploitation of natural resources, and the small but powerful magic contained within every single apple.

In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken—and possibly healed.

Fifty years from now, in the second half of the twenty-first century, climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power—and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build.

A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier—and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization.

Hugely ambitious in scope and theme, Appleseed is the breakout novel from a writer “as self-assured as he is audacious” (NPR) who “may well have invented the pulse-pounding novel of ideas” (Jess Walter). Part speculative epic, part tech thriller, part reinvented fairy tale, Appleseed is an unforgettable meditation on climate change; corporate, civic, and familial responsibility; manifest destiny; and the myths and legends that sustain us all.

Available from Restless Books

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“The narrative reaches a greatly satisfying climax, built on themes of rediscovering the past, memories, women’s friendships, language, and identity. This unforgettable tour de force surprises at every turn.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Winner of the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature, Lana Bastašić’s powerful debut novel Catch the Rabbit is an emotionally rich excavation of the complicated friendship between two women in a fractured, post-war Bosnia as they venture into the treacherous terrain of the Balkan wonderlands and their own history.

It’s been twelve years since inseparable childhood friends Lejla and Sara have spoken, but an unexpected phone call thrusts Sara back into a world she left behind, a language she’s buried, and painful memories that rise unbidden to the surface. Lejla’s magnetic pull hasn’t lessened despite the distance between Dublin and Bosnia or the years of silence imposed by a youthful misunderstanding, and Sara finds herself returning home, driven by curiosity and guilt. Embarking on a road trip from Bosnia to Vienna in search of Lejla’s exiled brother Armin, the two travel down the rabbit hole of their shared past and question how they’ve arrived at their present, disparate realities.

As their journey takes them further from their homeland, Sara realizes that she can never truly escape her past or Lejla―the two are intrinsically linked, but perpetually on opposite sides of the looking glass. As they approach their final destination, Sara contends with the chaos of their relationship. Lejla’s conflicting memories of their past, further complicated by the divisions brought on by the dissolution of Yugoslavia during their childhoods, forces Sara to reckon with her own perceived reality. Like Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, Catch the Rabbit lays bare the intricacies of female friendship and all the ways in which two people can hurt, love, disappoint, and misunderstand one another.

Available from McSweeney’s

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“These bright, knowing essays spill over with intelligence and wit. Courtney Zoffness traces the dizzying conflict faced by parents―the daily ricochet between burden and joy―and, with a sharply lyric voice, discovers hidden connections between this domestic struggle and the larger cultural and political winds shifting around us.” —Ben Marcus, author of Notes from the Fog

Listed as a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Lit Hub, The Millions, Publisher’s Weekly, Paperback Paris, Alma Magazine, and Refinery29.

What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children? In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past—biologically, culturally, spiritually—and what we pass on to our children. Spilt Milk is an intimate, bracing, and beautiful exploration of vulnerability and culpability. Zoffness relives her childhood anxiety disorder as she witnesses it manifest in her firstborn; endures brazen sexual advances by a student in her class; grapples with the implications of her young son’s cop obsession; and challenges her Jewish faith. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become? These powerful, dynamic essays herald a vital new voice.

Available from Avid Reader

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“Patricia Engel is a wonder; her novels are marvels of exquisite control and profound and delicately evoked feeling. Infinite Country knocked me out with its elegant and lucid deconstruction of yearning, family, belonging, and sacrifice. This is a book that speaks into the present moment with an oracle’s devastating coolness and clarity.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 from Esquire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle, GMA, New York Post, Ms. Magazine, The Millions, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, AARP, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Autostraddle, She Reads, Alma, and more.

I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Available from Amazon Crossing

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The Ardent Swarm reminded me of my time in Tunisia in the years that followed the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. Drawing on real events that took place in the country, the author constructs a revealing allegory about the opposing political forces at work then. For readers who want to know more about the Arab Spring, The Ardent Swarm is a perfect place to begin their journey” —Jake Walles, former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

From an award-winning Tunisian author comes a stirring allegory about a country in the aftermath of revolution and the power of a single quest.

Winner of the Prix Comar d’Or and the Prix des Cinq Continents

Sidi lives a hermetic life as a bee whisperer, tending to his beloved “girls” on the outskirts of the desolate North African village of Nawa. He wakes one morning to find that something has attacked one of his beehives, brutally killing every inhabitant. Heartbroken, he soon learns that a mysterious swarm of vicious hornets committed the mass murder—but where did they come from, and how can he stop them? If he is going to unravel this mystery and save his bees from annihilation, Sidi must venture out into the village and then brave the big city and beyond in search of answers.

Along the way, he discovers a country and a people turned upside down by their new post–Arab Spring reality as Islamic fundamentalists seek to influence votes any way they can on the eve of the country’s first democratic elections. To succeed in his quest, and find a glimmer of hope to protect all that he holds dear, Sidi will have to look further than he ever imagined.

In this brilliantly accessible modern-day parable, Yamen Manai uses a masterful blend of humor and drama to reveal what happens in a country shaken by revolutionary change after the world stops watching.

Available from Dzanc Books

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“An incandescent addition to both Native American letters and the literature of the Iraq and Afghan wars.” —Kirkus (starred review)

A hypnotic, brutal, and unstoppable coming-of-age tale―told from inside the shockwaves set off by the Indian boarding schools, exacerbated by a decade and a half spent inside the Armed Forces―exposing a series of inescapable prisons and invisible scars of attempted erasure.

When he learns his father is dying, David Tromblay ponders what will become of the monster’s legacy and picks up a pen to set the story straight.

In sharp and unflinching prose, he recounts his childhood bouncing between his father, who wrestles with anger, alcoholism, and a traumatic brain injury; his grandmother, who survived Indian boarding schools but mistook the corporal punishment she endured for proper child-rearing; and his mother, a part-time waitress, dancer, and locksmith, who hides from David’s father in church basements and the folded-down back seat of her car until winter forces her to abandon her son on his grandmother’s doorstep.

For twelve years, he is beaten, burned, humiliated, locked in closets, lied to, molested, seen and not heard, until his talent for brutal violence meets and exceeds his father’s, granting him an escape.

Years later, David confronts the compounded traumas of his childhood, searching for the domino that fell and forced his family into the cycle of brutality and denial of their own identity.

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Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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“Gripping and illuminating . . . At the heart of Te-Ping Chen’s remarkable debut lies a question all too relevant in 21st Century America: What is freedom?” —Jennifer Egan

Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present.

Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.

With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.

Available from Rare Bird Books

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Following the shocking death of a teenage boy, Barrett and Amelia are moved to revisit the passing of their own daughter, Edi, which occurred in the same small town nearly a decade earlier. Amelia finds herself caring for the recently deceased boy’s “sort of” girlfriend, who faces constant harassment and accusations from the townsfolk, while Barrett combs through Edi’s self-published fantasy novels in an effort to connect with her. As he reads, an increasingly bizarre wave of incidents crashes down upon the town involving a talking goat, Bigfoot, and a G-Man with alien thought patterns, to name but a few. As the Missouri River slowly floods, and the thin line between fact and fiction is washed away, Barrett and Amelia struggle against the great unknown and search desperately for inner peace. Blending whimsy and wonder with a mix of mayhem and malevolence, Water, Wasted takes readers on a tour of loss, redemption, and the great unknown.

Available from Ig Publishing

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“What a smart, elegant, emotionally honest way to tell the story of a life – by giving us the stories that spiral from one tragic death. Lord the One You Love is Sick is entirely unafraid in its depiction of our most difficult and profound hurdles. A gripping and gorgeous exploration not only of small town connections, but the kind of loss whose wake refuses to subside.”―Nina de Gramont, author, The Last September

A Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview selection by The Millions

In the contemporary vein of writers like Emily Ruskovich and Stephen Markley, Lord the One You Love is Sick is an explosive debut collection that reveals the tragedies and unspeakable secrets hidden behind a veneer of normalcy in a small North Carolina town.

Gentry’s death from a heroin overdose sends shock waves through his hometown, affecting everyone in different ways. It triggers a mental breakdown in his best friend, Dale, a police officer, as his wife grapples with the burden of her vows in the face of her husband’s disturbing behavior. Meanwhile, Gentry’s bitter mother discovers an unexpected friendship as she struggles to place blame surrounding the death of her oldest son, while her younger son lives in agoraphobic solitude, cut off from the rest of the world. On the outskirts of town, an eight-year old girl and her older sister cope with horrific abuse from their well-respected father. All the while, the patriarchs of the community sit together gossiping at the local diner, certain that the Lord will heal everyone’s sins.

A novel in stories, Lord the One You Love is Sick is a gorgeously written and heartrending work of fiction from an important new voice in the literature of the American South.