All the titles in this second instalment of January paperbacks are new to me starting with Paula Saunders’ debut, The Distance Home, set in ‘60s America. Siblings Rene and Leon excel at dancing but while Rene is a confident over-achiever, her brother is plagued by shyness and a stutter. Each parent favours a different child leading them down widely divergent paths. ‘The Distance Home is the story of two children growing up side by side – the one given opportunities the other just misses – and the fall-out in their adult lives. It is a hugely moving story of devotion and neglect, impossible to put down’ say the publishers promisingly.
Jumping forward a decade but still in America, Tom Barbash’s The Dakota Winters, is set in 1979 New York where twenty-three-year-old Anton Winter returns home after a stint in the Peace Corps to be greeted by his father Buddy. ‘Before long Anton is swept up in an effort to reignite Buddy’s stalled career, a mission that takes him from the gritty streets of New York, to the slopes of the Lake Placid Olympics, to the Hollywood Hills, to the blue waters of the Bermuda Triangle, and brings him into close quarters with the likes of Johnny Carson, Ted and Joan Kennedy, and a seagoing John Lennon’ say the publishers, which sounds intriguing. This one comes garlanded with praise from all manner of writers, from Jennifer Egan to Michael Chabon.
I loved Nickolas Butler’s debut, Shotgun Lovesongs; The Hearts of Men, its follow-up, not so much. I’m a wee bit cautious, then, about Little Faith which tells the story of the family of a young woman and her involvement with a fundamentalist preacher who is convinced her five-year-old son has the power to heal the sick. ‘Set over the course of one year and beautifully evoking the change of seasons, Little Faith is a powerful and deeply affecting novel about family and community, the ways in which belief is both formed and shaken, and the lengths we go to protect our own’ say the publishers, setting us up for more gorgeous descriptions of Butler’s beloved Wisconsin
Elanor Dymott’s Silver and Salt was also a disappointment for me but that hasn’t stopped me casting an eye over her new novel, Slack-Tide. Elisabeth meets Robert four years after her marriage split up when she lost her child, and quickly falls in love with him. ‘Slack-tide tracks the ebbs and flows of the affair: passionate, coercive, intensely sexual. When you’ve known lasting love and lost it, what price will you pay to find it again?’ ask the publishers suggesting that all does not go well.
My last choice takes us away from the US to Berlin. Sophie Hardach’s Confessions with Blue Horses sees Ella and Tobi, now living in London, using the notebooks left to them by their mother to investigate the puzzle of their childhood in the old East Berlin, not least what happened to their little brother. ‘Devastating and beautifully written, funny and life-affirming, Confession with Blue Horses explores intimate family life and its strength in the most difficult of circumstances’ according to the publishers. I remember enjoying Of Love and Other Wars way back in the early days of this blog.
That’s it for January’s paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that have snagged your attention. If you’d like to catch up with the first batch, it’s here; new titles are here and here. See you in the New Year!