With all the bad things happening in the world—police officers killing African-Americans, terrorists attacking European cities, refugees fleeing the chaos in Syria, the presidential election stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment, to name just a few—it can be hard to concentrate on fiction. Here are a few novels that speak to the events of the moment, with quotes from our reviews.
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam:“Orphaned by the Sri Lankan civil war, a young man hopes an arranged marriage might make his last days in a refugee camp more meaningful....When a desperate father approaches Dinesh with an offer of marriage to his only surviving daughter, Ganga, Dinesh accepts, hoping to ease the isolation caused by war and offer what little protection he can....An incisive glimpse into the brutality of war and the tender, human urge to connect in the face of death and destruction.”
The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies: “A four-part suite of astute, lyrical, and often poignant stories poses incisive questions about what changes—and what does not—when people from another culture become Americans....Davies’ nuanced contemplation of how America has affected the Chinese (and vice versa) forces the reader to confront what is both singular and similar about all cross-cultural transactions.”
After Disasters by Viet Dinh: “In his debut novel, Dinh explores the complicated world of aid workers and the many ways people can be drawn to work that is dangerous, demanding, and often thankless. When an earthquake destroys the city of Bhuj, India, the international aid community begins convening immediately. Among the many people trying to bring assistance to the region are four men with varying degrees of connection to each other....As the situation grows more and more chaotic and resources become scarce, all four men grapple with their pasts, the things that made them decide to pursue careers in disaster relief, and the true impact they are having on the people around them.” Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.