Best New Fiction: April 2014


Best New Fiction is a monthly segment dedicated to highlighting the most interesting and noteworthy releases that will be published over the next thirty days.

Off_CourseOff Course
By Michelle Huneven
Sarah Crichton Books
304 Pages
ISBN 9780374224479

Michelle Huneven (Blame) returns with a unique novel set in 1981 about a Ph.D. student who retreats to her parents mountain cabin to write her disertation. Growing increasingly unhappy with her chosen topic she allows herself to be sucked into the ways of the small, close community surrounding her…and that’s when the fun, and the trouble begin.

Hunevan’s a gifted writer with a knack for creating gritty, no nonsense, realistic characters, and Off Course sounds downright dangerous.  A young woman alone on a mountain surrounded by strangers?  And what’s up with that bear on the cover?  I need to know.  Count me in.

Release Date: April 1st (United States)

Worst_Person_EverWorst. Person. Ever.
By Douglas Coupland
Blue Rider Press
320 Pages
ISBN 9780399168437

Is it cheating I feature this one again since it’s finally seeing a stateside release (with a better cover)?  No one has his finger on the pulse of what makes society tick quite like Douglas Coupland (Player OneMarshall McLuhan) does.

Meet Raymond Gunt.  He’s a hack cameraman for a Survivor-like reality show.  He’s also a horrible human being with next to no social skills and little in the way of redeeming qualities.  He’s an anti-hero for our modern times, and he’s about to go on a journey of pain. Travel along with him as he navigates comas, imprisonment, nuclear war, and worst of all, his ex-wife.

Release Date: April 3rd (United States)

Talking_To_OurselvesTalking to Ourselves
By Andrés Neuman
Translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
160 Pages
ISBN 9780374167530

Let’s count the ways this one is exciting.  1. It’s a new novel from Andrés Neuman (Traveller of the Century), a man who was robbed of a much deserved spot in the Best Translated Book Award finals last year.  2. It’s translated by Nick Caistor (The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra) who’s nominated for the award this year and who also translated that beautiful aforementioned Neuman book in partnership with 3. Lorenza Garcia.  Ah, but what’s it about you ask…

A ten year old boy who believes he has the power to change the weather is taken on a road trip by his very sick father Mario in a truck named Pedro.  Meanwhile, coming to terms with her husband’s eventual death, his mom stays home and hides herself in the comfort of books.  Told through three narrative voices – father, mother, son – Talking to Ourselves investigates the different ways in which we communicate (or fail to) with one another.

Release Date: April 8th (United States)

The_Cold_SongThe Cold Song
By Linn Ullmann
Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J. Haveland
Other Press
352 Pages
ISBN 9781590516676

A Norwegian family drama/tragedy/murder mystery with a character named Siri (I bet you didn’t know that your iPhone assistant had a life of her own).

When Siri and John take their troubled marriage and their daughter on summer vacation to their mansion on the coast things take a turn for the worse. Their nanny (it should be noted that one of their daughters has serious mental issues) disappears suddenly, and uh-oh, turns up dead, leaving Siri, John, and their neighbors stunned by the tragedy and wondering what, if anything, they could have done to prevent it.

Release Date: April 8th (United States)

Cant_And_WontCan’t and Won’t: Stories
By Lydia Davis
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
304 Pages
ISBN 9780374118587

With all the attention being thrust on Canadian short story master Alice Munro, it can be difficult to remember that America has some pretty great ones as well.  Count Lydia Davis near the top of our list.

This 300+ page collection features ultra short pieces that last only a single sentence, and other, longer stories that take the form of letters and describe fascinating dream like landscapes. Either way, what you get is what you expect to get, a solid, moving collection.

Release Date: April 8th (United States)

Congratulations_By_The_WayCongratulations, By The Way: Some Thoughts On Kindness
By George Saunders
Random House
64 Pages
ISBN 9780812996272

And while we’re on the subject of excellent short stories writers, allow me to cheat and include something that isn’t fiction on this month’s Best New Fiction list.  I know, I know, but it’s my damn list, so I can bend the rules a little.

Congratulations is a copy of the convocation address that Saunders (Tenth of December) gave at Syracuse University.  It’s a little odd seeing it in published form since it’s been shared all over the internet thanks to the New York Times, but still, kindness is the key, and Saunders delivers a stunning, uplifting message that you need to check out (if you haven’t already).

Release Date: April 15th (United States)

In_The_Light_Of_What_We_KnowIn the Light of What We Know
By Zia Haider Rahman
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
512 Pages
ISBN 9780374175627

If all goes according to plan, this will be the debut novel folks across the land are buzzing about at the tail end of the month.  Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know is a globetrotting adventure of love and betrayal set against the backdrop of an all too familiar war.

A math genius, his strange friend, and 9/11.  512 pages never seemed so short.

Release Date: April 22nd (United States)

Do any of my picks look interesting to you? Which titles are you most looking forward to reading in April?

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.