It seems like May’s come and gone in a flash. From a new Hunger Games novel to plenty of beachy, feel-good reads, there’s been plenty to celebrate, but the last week of May keeps that streak of fine literature alive. This week we finally get to put our hands on the much-lauded Mikel Jollett memoir, a new Didion-esque novel, and a few hard-boiled procedurals…read on for more!
Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener, Tr. Jessica Powell
From the daring Peruvian essayist and provocateur behind Sexographies comes a fierce and funny exploration of sex, pregnancy, and motherhood that delves headlong into our fraught fascination with human reproduction.
Women play all the time with the great power that’s been conferred upon us: it’s fun to think about reproducing. Or not reproducing. Or walking around in a sweet little dress with a round belly underneath that will turn into a baby to cuddle and spoil. When you’re fifteen, the idea is fascinating, it attracts you like a piece of chocolate cake. When you’re thirty, the possibility attracts you like an abyss.
Gabriela Wiener is not one to shy away from unpleasant truths or to balk at a challenge. She began her writing career by infiltrating Peru’s most dangerous prison, going all in at swingers clubs, ingesting ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle. So at 30, when she gets unexpectedly pregnant, she looks forward to the experience the way a mountain climber approaches a precipitous peak.
With a scientist’s curiosity and a libertine’s unbridled imagination, Wiener hungrily devours every scrap of information and misinformation she encounters during the nine months of her pregnancy. She ponders how pleasure and pain always have something to do with things entering or exiting your body. She laments that manuals for pregnant women don’t prepare you for ambushes of lust or that morning sickness is like waking up with a hangover and a guilty conscience all at once. And she tries to navigate the infinity of choices and contradictory demands a pregnant woman confronts, each one amplified to a life-and-death decision.
While pregnant women are still placed on pedestals, or used as political battlegrounds, or made into passive objects of study, Gabriela Wiener defies definition. With unguarded humor and breathtaking directness, Nine Moons questions the dogmas, upends the stereotypes, and embraces all the terror, beauty, and paradoxes of the propagation of the species.
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
Hollywood Park is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.
We were never young. We were just too afraid of ourselves. No one told us who we were or what we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion. …
So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” When Mikel was five, his mother escaped the cult with both of her children. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.
In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.
Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal.
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
Twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause has dated and slept with plenty of women, but she’s never been really serious with anyone, despite the model of (nontraditional) domestic bliss her parents have provided—Peter, Maggie’s dad, was the stay at home parent, with Iris, her mom, bringing home the bacon. The idyll is shattered, though, when Iris dies in a car crash and Maggie discovers, along with Iris’s will, five sealed envelopes, addressed to five mysterious men—all of whom are strangers to Maggie and her brother Ariel.
In an effort to run from her own grief and discover the truth about Iris—who made no secret of disliking her daughter’s sexuality—Maggie embarks on a road trip. Her mission? Hand-deliver the letters and find out who these men are and what they meant to her mother. It quickly becomes apparent that Iris had a second life, completely hidden from the rest of the family.
Wrestling with what to tell her father and brother about what she’s learned, Maggie must come to terms with a new understanding of monogamy (and its alternatives), a new appreciation for family, and the realization that her mother was not only a mother, but a woman, a person, with desires and complexities Maggie never recognized. This story is a sweeping account of grief and growth, generational divides and assumptions, and a journey towards understanding not only how little we truly know our parents, but how trying to know them can lead us to know ourselves.
Worse Angels by Laird Barron
Ex-mob enforcer-turned-private investigator Isaiah Coleridge pits himself against a rich and powerful foe when he digs into a possible murder and a sketchy real-estate deal worth billions.
Ex-majordomo and bodyguard to an industrial tycoon-cum-U.S. senator, Badja Adeyemi is in hiding and shortly on his way to either a jail cell or a grave, depending on who finds him first. In his final days as a free man, he hires Isaiah Coleridge to tie up a loose end: the suspicious death of his nephew four years earlier. At the time police declared it an accident, and Adeyemi isn’t sure it wasn’t, but one final look may bring his sister peace.
So it is that Coleridge and his investigative partner, Lionel Robard, find themselves in the upper reaches of New York State, in a tiny town that is home to outsized secrets and an unnerving cabal of locals who are protecting them. At the epicenter of it all is the site of a stalled supercollider project, an immense subterranean construction that may have an even deeper, more insidious purpose….
If you’re a fan of Barron’s, you won’t want to miss his virtual event with us on Monday, June 22nd at 7PM CDT. He’ll be in conversation with MysteryPeople’s own Scott Montgomery — they’ll discuss Worse Angels and be taking all of your burning questions. Details on joining the conversation can be found here!
Fair Warning by Michael Connelly
Vagablonde by Anna Dorn
“It’s tempting to compare Vagablonde to Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays… But Dorn’s firecracker of a novel is all her own.—Michael Schaub
Prue is a 30-year-old attorney who wants two things, the first is to live without psychotropic medication, and the second is to experience success as a rap artist. Her life is good on paper: she has an easy government job and a nice girlfriend who gets her in to all the right shows, but she wants to truly thrive.
When Prue is introduced to music producer Jax Jameson, a human disco ball as manic and unpredictable as he is talented, they instantly vibe. Prue joins Jax’s “Kingdom,” a collective of musicians and artists who share Prue’s aesthetic sensibilities and lust for escapism. Soon, she’s off her meds, closing her law practice, and becoming entangled with a suspect crew of heavy drug users. The group they form, Shiny AF, quickly reaches cult status and using the stage name Vagablonde, Prue finds herself in a new reality dependent on self-commodification and her growing fandom’s approval.
An existential exploration of the toxicity of viral fame, Vagablonde is an exhilarating and tumultuous portrait of life in Los Angeles and announces Anna Dorn as a fierce new voice in contemporary fiction.
Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman
From the widely acclaimed author of Waiting for Eden: a stirring, timely new novel that unfolds over the course of a single day in Istanbul: the story of an American woman attempting to leave behind her life in Turkey—to leave without her husband.
Catherine has been married for many years to Murat, an influential Turkish real estate developer, and they have a young son together, William. But when she decides to leave her marriage and return home to the United States with William and her photographer lover, Murat determines to take a stand. He enlists the help of an American diplomat to prevent his wife and child from leaving the country—but, by inviting this scrutiny into their private lives, Murat becomes only further enmeshed in a web of deception and corruption. As the hidden architecture of these relationships is gradually exposed, we learn the true nature of a cast of struggling artists, wealthy businessmen, expats, spies, a child pulled in different directions by his parents, and, ultimately, a society in crisis. Riveting and unforgettably perceptive, Red Dress in Black and White is a novel of personal and political intrigue that casts light into the shadowy corners of a nation on the brink.
Something To Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.
Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time—threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.
As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.
With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?
And now out in paperback:
Inland by Téa Obreht! A bookseller favorite, Consuelo says: “Inland is a novel that you want to live inside of. Its landscape and characters will envelop you into their magic. Obreht proves her masterful storytelling once again with her exploration of the American West.”
The Second Mountain by David Brooks. Brooks’ latest is a “deeply moving, frequently eloquent, and extraordinarily incisive” (The Washington Post) exploration on what it takes to lead a meaningful life in a self-centered world.
You can shop these new releases and more at BookPeople, online, today!