Let’s get right to it—there’s a parade of riches coming to your local bookstore (and library) this May, led by Claire Messud’s brilliant new novel, This Strange Eventful History (Norton, May 14). From the beginning of her career, Messud has written about people who’ve been displaced: Her first novel, When the World Was Steady (1994), is about two sisters who know the world isn’t steady at all. One of them moves from Australia to Bali, where she discovers the concept of palang: “not to know where you are, not to know where the mountain is.” To Messud, this isn’t the disaster it might appear—after all, disorientation can be exhilarating.

More migrations followed: Messud’s second novel, The Last Life (1999), follows a family of French Algerians who move first to France and then to the U.S.; one of the novellas in her third book, The Hunters (2001), features a woman born in Ukraine who, after World War II, left a displaced persons camp for Canada. The story of Messud’s own family lay at the root of all these books, but her latest—though still fictional—is based more directly on that history; there’s even a photograph of her father on the cover. The book opens in Algeria in 1940, when the Cassare family is uprooted by the war, and ranges over three generations and several continents, observing relationships among the family members, who are beautifully alive. Our starred review says the author’s “quietly masterful way with words makes every character and incident gripping” and concludes that “Messud is one of contemporary literature’s best.”

The protagonists of Magdalena Zyzak’s zingy novel The Lady Waiting (Riverhead, May 7) have also wound up far from home—they’re two Polish women in Los Angeles, though their circumstances are very different. And then they get caught up in a caper involving a stolen Vermeer painting. Says our starred review: “Funny, original, worldly, and very cool.”

More to look forward to in May: Kaliane Bradley’s first novel, The Ministry of Time (Avid Reader, May 7), has something for everyone: spies, romance, time travel, Arctic exploration, bumbling bureaucrats, and an insightful exploration of “the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today,” according to our starred review.

Nicolás Medina Mora’s debut novel, América del Norte (Soho, May 7), plays with the concept of fiction; like the author, the protagonist is a young Mexican journalist who gets an MFA from the University of Iowa and then returns to Mexico City, building what our starred review calls “a steely-eyed but not unsympathetic portrait of the people he meets....Assured, darkly funny, and impeccably written.”

Another debut novel, Emma Copley Eisenberg’s Housemates (Hogarth, May 28), follows two recent college graduates—Bernie, a photographer “who looked like a thin girl,” and Leah, a writer “who looked like a fat boy”—on a road trip from Philadelphia through central Pennsylvania during the Trump presidency and Covid-19. “Eisenberg has a poet’s eye for truth,” according to our starred review, “and her prose is gorgeously precise and empathetic while remaining cleareyed.”

Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.