Irish author Roddy Doyle delivers a daring narrative about the power of the past with his 11th novel, Smile. After a breakup with his wife, Victor Forde leads a solitary life as a writer, and he begins frequenting a local pub, where he meets a man named Ed Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick claims to remember Victor from school and is familiar with his personal history. After this strange encounter, Victor goes home to his apartment, where he’s soon lost in the maze of memory, recalling his student years at Christian Brothers school. In the days to come, as Victor continues to encounter Fitzpatrick and to recall his youth, an alarming discovery regarding his past brings about the book’s unforgettable finish. Doyle, the Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, has written an electrifying novel that explores the importance—and imprecision—of memory. With its surprising conclusion, this haunting book will spur fascinating conversations.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
With the entrepreneurial culture of San Francisco as a backdrop, Robin Sloan’s second novel, Sourdough: or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, tells the story of Lois Clary, a young woman whose existence is transformed by (believe it or not) bread. Two immigrant brothers cook up a special type of sourdough that proves irresistible to their restaurant’s patrons, including Lois. When the brothers are deported, they leave her their sourdough starter, and Lois begins baking in earnest. A colleague at the robotics factory where Lois works suggests that she sell the bread at a farmers market, and—one thing leading to another—she is soon invited to participate in Marrow Fair, a clandestine market involved in food experimentation. Lois makes for a witty, intelligent commentator in this skillfully constructed novel. Sloan, author of the bestselling Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, reinforces his reputation as a writer to watch with this rewarding read.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Set in the early 2000s as the Iraq War amps up, Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday’s impressive debut novel, explores the complexities of relationships and the quest for creative fulfillment through three very different characters. In New York, Alice, an aspiring writer, gets involved with Ezra, an older, celebrated novelist. Living in the shadow of his literary fame proves difficult for Alice, and when health problems put Ezra in the hospital, she’s forced to come to terms with their relationship. The book’s second section focuses on Amar, an Iraqi-American economist who’s being interrogated at Heathrow Airport. Told in part through flashbacks, Amar’s narrative is dramatic and bleak. The novel’s third section unites the three characters, bringing their stories into penetrating focus. Halliday is a deft storyteller who provides remarkable insights into the human heart, and this book marks her arrival as an important new author.
This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.