Books to Look Out For Out for in March 2024: Part One

Cover image for Help Wanted by Adelle Waldman Spring’s finally on my horizon, optimist as I am. Quite a few goodies to tide us over until it properly arrives beginning with Adelle Waldman’s Help Wanted set in a superstore where the poorly managed, poorly paid logistics team start their day at 3.55 am, restocking the shelves. With a promotion in the offing, the team members stitch together an unlikely plot that might benefit them all. ‘Help Wanted is a darkly comic workplace drama that explores the aches and uses of solidarity, and most of all it is a deeply humane portrait of people trying, against increasingly long odds, to make a living’ says the blurb making me hopeful for a cheering read. Cover image for Grow Where They Fall by Michael Donker

Michael Donker’s Grow Where They Fall begins when Kwame is ten, always the good boy until his cousin turns up from Ghana. Twenty years later, he’s a popular secondary school teacher, apparently happy and confident but still living a cautious life until the arrival of a new headteacher forces him to face events from his childhood. ‘Grow Where They Fall is a beautifully written, spirited and deeply moving novel about a young man finding the courage to expand the limits of who he might become’ says the blurb, encouragingly.

Cover image for Martyr by Kaveh AkbarKaveh Akbar’s Martyr sees a young man trying to get to the bottom of his mother’s death in a plane shot down over the Persian Gulf when he was a baby. A dying artist points him towards clues which will lead to revelations overturning all that he thought he knew about her. ’Electrifying, funny, wholly original, and profound, Martyr! heralds the arrival of a blazing and essential new voice in contemporary fiction’ according to the blurb. Not entirely sure about this one but it sounds worth a look.

The setting of Rowan Beaird’s The Divorcées brought to mind Jane Rule’s 1960s lesbian classic Desert of the Heart, althoughCover image for The Divorcees by Rowan Beaird that’s where the resemblance ends. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, women went to Reno, Nevada to put an end to their marriages, fulfilling the state’s six-week residency requirement on ‘divorce ranches’. Lois Saunders finds herself falling under the spell of Greer Lange, spending their days riding in the desert and their nights flirting with cowboys. Greer, however, might not be as trustworthy as she seems. ‘Set in the glamourous, dizzying world of 1950s Reno, The Divorcees is a dark, riveting page-turner and a dazzling exploration of female friendship, desire, and freedom’ say the publishers. Not entirely sure about this one, either, but I’ve been seduced by that cover.

Cover image for Memory Piece by Lisa Ko Lisa Ko’s Memory Piece follows three American women of Chinese heritage who first meet in 1983, aged twelve, and maintain a connection into their seventies in a dystopian near future. Each of the friends has a lengthy narrative section following the very different directions their lives take. Giselle’s thread follows her career as an artist, Jackie guides us through the development of the internet and Ellen is the inveterate activist, always on the fringes of the others’ lives. Tough to keep these three narratives from diverging too far – there was a point when I wondered if Ko might be losing her way but she brings her characters satisfyingly back together with their final project. Her ambitious novel left me both impressed and with a great deal to think about. Review to follow…

Mary Costello’s Academy Street is one of my favourite books so I was delighted when a proof of her new short story collection, Barcelona, popped through my letter box. Cover image for Barcelona by Mary Costello Many of the characters in its nine stories find themselves facing revelatory moments of crisis: disappointments brought into stark relief; misunderstandings, incompatibilities and an awareness that habits and views are set and will not change come into sharp focus. Several characters are troubled by animal cruelty – more squeamish readers, like me, might find themselves skipping bits including a graphic description of an abattoir. Costello’s writing is as satisfyingly accomplished as ever but while I enjoyed most of the stories I wasn’t as thrilled as I’d expected to be. Review shortly…

That’s it for March’s first batch of new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take you fancy. Part two soon…

23 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in March 2024: Part One”

      1. I love his poetry, but I agree the synopsis for this sounds a bit mad. I was encouraged to hear that Lauren Groff eviscerated the manuscript and then helped him get a book out of it!

  1. These sound promising. Hats off for another intriguing roundup. I just managed to find a novel from a past review of yours in a charity shop for one pound! Victoria Park, by Gemma Reeves. Really looking forward to reading it, it is exactly up my alley right now!

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