Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Voices! New Books!

Spring's here for good now, reminding that its time for a change. How about a great new book by a first time author?

Touch by Alexi Zentner (W.W. Norton, $19.96, 264 pgs.) -- Set in a wonderfully sleepy logging village somewhere in the remote and remorseless mountains of northern British Columbia, Touch is, in a few words, the story of a town, a boy, a family, and the mysteries of the woods. Part coming of age and part fairy tale, it's a solid debut by a great new author (whose previous short fiction won an O. Henry as well as a Narrative Prize in 2008!). Snow falls, golden caribou abound, sea fairies call you into the river's icy chunder -- it's really a fun, interesting, and beautifully casted novel. Try it out!

Moby Duck: The True story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalits, and Fools... by Donovan Hohn (Viking, $22.96, 416 pgs.) -- Hohn -- a former editor of Harper's -- clubs the duck right on the head in this wandering, sometimes elegiac debut. Coming across as something like an oceanographic journal that swam too close to New York Times Review of Books (without the pomp, of course), Moby Duck is both charming and intelligent as it carries the reader through Hohn's physical and metaphysical search for some 28,000 rubber duckies that fell off a cargo ship. Much more fun to read than that might sound, I promise!

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House, $20.00, 352 pgs.) -- It hurts me to admit that Obreht, one of the most acutely brilliant authors to write in the English language in recent memory, is a just dumb 25 years old. What wisdom can she have earned, we might ask? What galling force, what courage can she be writing from? Well, read The Tiger's Wife and you've got it. Such a beautiful, smart book comes around only every so often, so you'd better not miss it. (And by the way it's about a doctor in a Balkan country repairing itself from years of war; and about secrets; and about family; and about landscapes...) Best book I've read in a while!

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