The Best Fiction Reads of the Summer

 

JINWOO CHONG/THE HOYA

JINWOO CHONG/THE HOYA

‘Barkskins’ – Annie Proulx
From the author of the original 1997 short story “Brokeback Mountain” comes an epic 300-year narrative genealogy following two 17th-century Frenchmen and their descendants as they traverse land and time, across continents and through the turbulent world’s changing face. Balancing a conscious portrayal of history with Annie Proulx’s trademark imaginative voice, this 700-page marathon is sure to top bestseller lists this summer.

‘Before the Fall’ – Noah Hawley
This kaleidoscope view of the buildup and aftermath of a deadly private plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard speaks through myriad voices — dead and living. The plot reflects a depth and thoroughness that seems to come naturally from author Noah Hawley, who is best known as the creator and writer of the FX series “Fargo.” Springing soundly from the novel’s defining plane crash, Hawley juggles multiple storylines, not just of his dead passengers but of the disaster’s two survivors, a boy and a depressed painter, to bring together a thriller that takes full advantage of its atemporal narrative.

‘The Girls’ – Emma Cline
Based in Northern California at the end of the 1960s, “The Girls” follows teenager Evie Boyd, who meets and quickly falls in line with a group of hypnotically carefree young women living in an idyllic ranch hidden in the hills. Led by a charismatic man who stands on the precipice of infamy, the lifestyle transfixes Evie. Far removed from her own mundane life, she remains blissfully unaware as the cult she has joined slides ever closer to reverie-shattering violence.

‘Homegoing’ – Yaa Gyasi
Another generation-spanning work of historical fiction is Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing,” following two half sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born into radically different social circumstances in 18th-century Ghana. As Effia is married into African nobility while Esi is sold into the American slave trade, the narrative diverges, following their descendants along parallel journeys through the outbreak of bloody war in Ghana and the boom of British colonialism in the Americas. As Gyasi’s first book, “Homegoing” tackles important questions of identity shaped by circumstance, and just how far away time will take a person from home.

‘You Are Having a Good Time’ – Amie Barrodale
A collection of tightly packed short stories exploring a diverse group of dysfunctional, controversial, yet often endearing characters, “You Are Having a Good Time” is true writing for writers. Amie Barrodale, a former editor of Vice Magazine, brings together these refreshingly unorthodox pieces of fiction with touches of magical realism and relatable drama into a body of work that attempts to speak for the fragile stability of life and its components.

‘Multiple Choice’ – Alejandro Zambra
Following an industry-standard springboard OF debuting an excerpt in The New Yorker’s fiction section, Chilean poet and writer Alejandro Zambra is set to release “Multiple Choice.” A novel in 90 parts, it is modeled after the text comprehension section of the Chilean university entrance exam, multiple choice questions and painfully vapid directions included. Each sample text is a self-contained narrative in itself that explores love, family, life and death; the typical tropes of standardized reading samples that take on a nuanced originality in Zambra’s hands.

‘The Mother’ – Yvette Edwards
From author Yvette Edwards is a story of the trial and suffering of every mother’s worst fear, the inexplicable murder of her child. “The Mother” follows Marcia, whose son Ryan is killed at 16. Battling grief and depression, Marcia must also reconcile her dwindling relationship with her husband, Lloydie, who grows more distant as the trial of Ryan’s killer, Tyson Manley, progresses with brutal weight. A stunningly realistic portrayal of loss and the unthinkable damage it inflicts on family, “The Mother” promises no happy endings, but perhaps that is the point.

‘Night of the Animals’ – Bill Broun
Bill Broun’s debut novel, “Night of the Animals” takes place over a single night in 2052, following the deranged consciousness of homeless wanderer Cuthbert Handley as he plots to release all the animals of the London Zoo. Floating aimlessly, in and out of Cuthbert’s questionable rationale and disengaged touch with reality, Broun follows the adventures of one man who is both tormented and encouraged by ghosts of his past, and of a mysterious ideology surrounding the spirit of the imprisoned animals that seeks to be free.

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