Madness, maps, and music; poetry, war, and climate change; family and love in Syria, Iran, South Korea, London, Liberia, and Boston—these elements are found in the finest first novels reviewed in Booklist from November 1, 2017, through October 15, 2018.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Contreras draws on her experiences growing up in violent 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, to tell the story of a powerful bond between two girls: one a teenager hired to serve as a maid in the other’s home.
If You Leave Me
by Crystal Hana Kim
Kim offers extraordinary insights into modern South Korea as she focuses on Haemi and Kyunghwan, childhood playmates during Japan’s brutal colonization who fall in love as hard-drinking refugee teens only to be separated as the country itself is cleaved in two.
The Map of Salt and Stars
by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
In Joukhadar’s imaginative yet all-too-real debut novel of loss and survival, Nour, who has synesthesia, flees war-torn Syria and becomes enthralled by the story of a girl who, 800 years ago, presented herself as a boy to study with a renowned mapmaker.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock
by Imogen Hermes Gowar
In 1785 London, merchant Jonah Hancock ends up with the shriveled remains of a “mermaid,” which leads him to a gorgeous courtesan, which sparks bawdy high jinks in Gowar’s deliciously witty and sumptuously descriptive novel about women’s freedom.
The Parking Lot Attendant
by Nafkote Tamirat
She Would Be King
by Wayétu Moore
Sarah Jessica Parker's fifth selection for Book Club Central!
Moore’s magic-realism tour de force takes readers on a journey through the beginnings of Liberia via the stories of a girl shunned as a witch, a man of extraordinary strength and almost supernatural origins, and a mixed-race man from Jamaica.
Song of a Captive Bird
by Jasmin Darznik
Darznik’s deeply knowledgeable, dramatic, and revelatory first novel is based on the audacious, courageous, and revolutionary life of the feminist Iranian poet and filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad (1935–67).
by Tommy Orange
Orange’s engrossing, suspenseful, and symphonic debut brings a dozen disparate characters together for the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow, each illuminating aspects of urban Native American life.
We Can Save Us All
by Adam Nemett
Donna Seaman is Adult Books Editor for Booklist, a recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, and a frequent presenter at literary events and programs. Seaman’s new book is Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.