Hut's Place
 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

January 13, 2019

Two Distinctive Works of Fiction  Now in Paperback
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Author Halliday won a 2017 Whiting Award, presented annually to 10 emerging writers, and it appears to have been well earned. Her highly original debut novel received a slew of great reviews early last year when it first arrived in hardcover. By year's end, it was named a Top Ten Book of the Year by Time and The New York Times and one of 2018's Top Books by a wide media cross-section - including NPR, Elle, Bustle, Kirkus Reviews, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. The book is composed largely of two seemingly disparate novellas, each written in different style and tone, whose stories are artfully linked at the end. The first, "Folly," offers up a May-December love story between a young editor and a much older Pulitzer Prize winning author that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War. In stark contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained for 36 hours by immigration officers, spending the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in London's Heathrow Airport.    

These excerpts are from rave review by Lori Feathers in The Los Angeles Review of Books: "Asymmetry is not a mystery novel, at least not in the way that we typically think about that genre. But there is most certainly a mystery at the novel's core, one that arises from the book's structure - two seemingly unrelated novellas appended by a short coda - rather than its plot ... Significantly (and without giving away Asymmetry's secret), a common theme is present in Amar's and Alice's stories. In each, Halliday subtly examines whether fiction-writing has a purpose beyond art ...While Asymmetry impresses at the structural level, it is above all Halliday's superb storytelling that shines."   
The Power by Naomi Alderman. This provocative and intelligent piece of speculative fiction has been hailed for its imagining of a world where women  wield the power. More specifically, teenage girls are suddenly imbued with the ability to shoot electrical currents from their fingertips, causing agonizing pain or even de ath. Naturally, that power is not well received by many, and efforts are made to isolate girls and keep them from positions of influence. I'm not giving too much away to note that those efforts are ultimately futile, which affords Alderman the opportunity to speculate further on what could happen if power were now in the hands (literally, in this case) of women instead of men?
Many re viewers compared Alderman to Margaret Atwood (who herself said The Power "will knock your socks off"), including Ron Charles, book critic for the Washington Post, who said, "Alderman has written our era's Handmaid's Tale, and, like Margaret Atwood's classic, The Power is one of those essential feminist works that terrifies and illuminates, enrages and encourages."   
Tension-Filled Search for Missing Girls By Appealing New Sleuth 
Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna. Enigmatic young bounty hunter Alice Vega teams with disgraced former cop Max Caplan to find two young sisters who've disappeared from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town. That's the set-up for this gripping thriller from Luna, an author of teen novels whose adult debut is surprisingly accomplished. In addition to a fast-moving and twisting plot that builds the suspense nicely, readers are introduced to a tough, no-nonsense female protagonist who struggles to establish rapport with Caplan, whose help she needs in the clock-ticking search for the missing girls.  
Among the many review fans of the book was the Wall Street Journal, which wrote in part: "Sensational...One of the book's great pleasures is seeing Caplan and Vega's initially testy entanglement develop into a true partnership. But there are many other aspects in Ms. Luna's story to savor as well: a host of sharply sketched characters, from spaced-out dopers to distraught parents and grandparents; action sequences startling in their sudden violence; and quick psychological revelations that pierce the heart." 

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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

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