Fall is when the publishers roll out the big names, hoping that the new Ian McEwan, Tom Wolfe or Zadie Smith will be embraced by gift-givers during the holiday season. But there are a few new faces popping up in September and October that just might steal a spot from those headliners.
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (Harper). Set in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th century, Coplin’s debut is at once a remarkable portrait of an America that no longer exists and a sympathetic portrayal of a lonely man who rediscovers the value of connecting with others. Orchardist Talmadge has only his peaches and apricots to talk to, until two young pregnant women show up seeking refuge. As he comes to know them—and earn their trust—their past, and his own, show up for a reckoning.
The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo (Morrow). Santo’s debut novel—which was a finalist for Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel contest—sold at auction in a big-money, two-book deal. It’s a multigenerational tale set in the Sacramento Valley, where five generations of the Keller family live together. But when a geneticist wants to study their longevity, 112-year-old matriarch Anna fears he’ll discover a secret she’s been keeping for nearly a century.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powell (Little, Brown). Buzz about this debut about the Iraq war by an actual veteran has been building since the novel’s sale in late 2011. Whether Powell is the next Hemingway or Karl Marlantes is yet to be seen, but the allure of the warrior poet (post-deployment, Powell is a Michener Fellow in poetry at UT) combined with a fictional perspective on Iraq from someone who’s actually been there give this book serious blockbuster potential.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Riverhead). Straub’s debut story collection, Other People We Married, got her plenty of literary attention earlier this year. Her first novel, a historical set in the 1920s, tells the story of a Midwesterner who runs away to Hollywood and gets discovered by a big-shot executive. Blending the glamor of studio-era Hollywood with a timeless story of a woman trying to have it all, this looks like another hit for the Brooklyn bookseller.
A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins (Penguin Press). When selective literary imprint mostly known for nonfiction buys a debut in a 10-way auction, the book business takes notice. It’s about a recently divorced man who moves back to San Francisco to take a job with an artificial intelligence company. The twist? His first duty is to use his father’s detailed journals to create a sentient computer. And once he does, it starts asking him uncomfortable questions about his childhood.
The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days by Ian Frazier (FSG). Nonfiction writer Frazier turns the tables on readers with this first novel. an entire book written in the voice of his popular “Shouts & Murmurs” character. Can the conceit carry a novel? We’ll find out in the fall. One thing’s for sure: It’ll be full of laughs.