Australian novelist Richard Flanagan is generally considered to be one of the greatest fiction writers working, and his novel Gould's Book of Fish is one of my all-time favorites. So I'm eagerly anticipating getting my hands on his new The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which took him over 12 years to write. It's based on his father's experience as a Japanese POW forced to construct the Burma death railway (immortalized in The Bridge Over the River Kwai), transmuted into the character of Dorrigo, a doctor in a POW camp trying to help his men survive the brutality of forced labor and come to terms with his own loss of a woman he loves. Flanagan is a genius at detailing and describing suffering, and based on the many glowing reviews coming out of Australia, I'm sure this book won't disappoint.
Appearances: Hattery, 9/10
One of the buzziest books of the fall, Matthew Thomas' We Are Not Ourselves is the kind of lengthy and un-put-downable pageturner that readers crave. It tells the life story of Eileen, raised in a volatile Irish immigrant family in Queens in the 1940s. Seeking stability, she marries Ed, a scientist, but discovers he's less interested in getting the bigger house, nicer car, and better life she dreams of. As her family grows and ages, Eileen relentlessly tries to push her husband and son forward, until they're all tested by a heartbreaking change of fortune. The 600 pages fly by.
Dealing with the loss of your mother is hard enough, now imagine if she was one of the world's leading mathematicians, and may have taken the solution to one of the field's most challenging problems to her grave. That's the plot of Stuart Rojstaczer's debut novel The Mathematician's Shiva, in which a ragtag group of mathematicians crashes a shiva in search of the million-dollar solution—and won't leave until they've pried up every floorboard and interrogated the dead woman's parrot. It's a funny, warm book, written by a geophysicist with a loving, detailed eye towards the beauty of math and the incorrigibility of people.