Two She-Bears

Shalev, Meir

Trans. by Schoffman, Stuart

Israel: 2013 | Am Oved

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U.S.: Sept. 13, 2016 | Schocken

Shalev_imageRuta Tavori, a high school Hebrew teacher, reveals a bloody, tragic family history as the narrator of Two She-Bears,maintaining the suspense by continually keeping something back even as she confides. She jumps back and forth in time to tell of the one-eyed grandfather who committed a murder and covered it up as a suicide, of her two husbands who are in fact one and the same man, and of the young son she lost to a snakebite. Set in a small farming community, rural Israel is omnipresent in the wadi, the carob tree, the desert, and the mulberry tree that was planted in a wagon and pushed from place to place until it grew too big to move. Though her story stretches back to the wild-east era of British Palestine and carries frequent references to the Bible, it is modern in its intimate portrayal of relationships and offers humor to counter the gruesomeness.

 

Reputations

Vasquez, Juan Gabriel

Trans. by McLean, Anne

Latin America: July 10, 2013 | Alfaguara

U.K.: May 19, 2016 | Bloomsbury

U.S.: Sept. 20, 2016 | Riverhead

Repuations_coverA political cartoonist, Javier Mallarino, is embraced by the corrupt and hypocritical Colombian high society late in his career, both feared and admired after decades in which he has defied threats of violence by continuing to draw. At an event where he is to be honored for his lifetime’s work, a young woman posing as a journalist gains an invitation to his home. Once there, she reveals a story of past child abuse and her determination to find out more about the abuser, one of the many victims of Mallarino’s pen. Vasquez has worked as a columnist at a Colombian newspaper and has said he often received begging calls from politicians or was disinvited from family gatherings because of his work.

 

           

Serious Sweet

Kennedy, A.L.

U.K.: May 19, 2016 | Jonathan Cape

U.S.: Oct. 18, 2016 | Little A

Kennedy_bodyJon, a divorced, frustrated, disillusioned civil servant, and Meg, a recovering alcoholic who is working for an animal charity, have arranged a date in an unusual way: for a fee, Jon writes anonymous love letters to Meg, who has managed to track him down. Set over the course of just one day in London, the novel’s tension concerns whether the two will meet before midnight. Kennedy portrays a broken, corrupt, iniquitous city redeemed by moments of kindness between strangers. Much of the text consists of the two characters’ internal dialogue as they move around the city. While the Guardian found this at times “exhausting and repetitive,” the Financial Times described Kennedy’s prose as “pliant, fluid, vital and endlessly on the move.”

 

Addlands

Bullough, Tom

U.K.: June 2, 2016 | Granta

U.S.: Aug. 16, 2016 | Dial

Addlands_coverAddlands follows three generations of a Welsh border-region sheep-farming family and their relationship to the land as rural life changes and progress brings television, agricultural machinery, and owners of weekend homes. It opens in 1941, when Etty gives birth to a son, Oliver, who is clearly not the offspring of her husband, Idris. Oliver grows up as a violent type who engages in pub brawls but cannot tear himself away from the valley of his birth. Bullough uses Welsh dialect, a feature that ties the language of the novel to the place and its people but hampers clarity. This is his fourth novel and the first to be published in the U.S.

Catherine Hickley is a Berlin-based arts journalist. Her first book, The Munich Art Hoard: Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy, was published by Thames & Hudson (except in North America) on Sept. 21.