Photograph by Josephine Schiele. Kate Spade Nicola Bicolor large tote, $ 498. (Katespade.com)
Vanishing earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf)
In the first chapter of Julia Phillips glamorous debut novel, Disappearing earth, a couple of young sisters, Alyona and Sophia, clamber in the car of a stranger who has offered to drive them home. They met him on the coast on a warm August day, he had fallen, he said, and turned his ankle. He needed help getting to the parking lot. By the time they have accepted his offer, and he has "missed" the exit to their home; by the time he knocked Alyona & # 39; s phone out of her hands and drove it out; by the time Alyona raises a smile for her little sister, it is clear that something is going very wrong, and so it is devastating but not surprising when the next chapter is opened about a teenager, Olya, who lives in Kamchatka, the Russian city of which a few sisters have missed for a month. The following chapters, which run chronologically over the course of a year, each dive into the life of another girl or woman who has a bond with Kamchatka. The mystery of the disappearance of the sisters ebbs and intensifies throughout the book, and the story reads like a page turn without relying on cheap narrative tricks to propel it – it's the power of Phillips & # 39; writing, her careful attention to character and tone, that will hold you to the last heartbreaking pages & # 39; s.
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Normal people by Sally Rooney (Hogarth)
Sally Rooney & # 39; s Conversations with friends was the literary shot heard around the world, a debut from a 26-year-old unknown who was universally announced, onironic, as the voice of her generation. Her second attempt Normal people, was published in the UK at the end of last year, promptly won the Costa Novel Award and achieved a long list for both the Man Booker and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Recently it was an option of the BBC, with Rooney himself adapting the scenario. Like conversations, Normal people is, in essence, a book about relationships – this time, between a girl, Marianne, who has a lot of money, but not many friends, and a boy, Connell, who has the opposite. The couple, who are teenagers at the start of the book, become friends and then more than friends during clandestine after-school meetings, and Rooney captures a pitch-perfect portrait of the raw, overwhelming obsession that can accompany early sexual explorations and first loves . The story follows the couple on their way to college, turning in and out of each other's jobs for alternating sweet and devastating effect. Again, so much Rooney's strength comes from its simplicity of form and economics of language, which serve as a powerful vehicle for great ideas: namely, an investigation into the way people are changed by those they love. "How strange to feel completely under the control of someone else, but also how ordinary", Rooney writes. "No one can be completely independent of other people, so why not give up the effort, she thought, run in the other direction, depending on people for everything, let them depend on you, why not."
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The altruists by Andrew Ridker (Viking)
In this satisfying, extended family epic, a poor, technical patriarch professor based in St. Louis calls on his adult children to go home – without their knowledge – to convince them to return parts of the generous legacy that they received when their mother died. At the start of the novel, Arthur Alter's daughter, Maggie, threw herself into jobs with different levels of public service, first with a clean water lobby group, most recently as a self-assured underpaid tutor for two Ukrainian-American boys. Meanwhile, son Ethan has left a lonely life of what should be leisure, full of Le Creuset cookware and Waterford candlesticks, where he was not so painfully alone, fell into debt, and also quite deliberately followed the line of full alcoholism . Maggie is surprised by the invitation, but is willing to go if only to show respect to her mother and collect some things from the house. However, after a disturbing coming-out experience, Andrew Ridker writes: "for Ethan, home and humiliation were inseparable." As the children go back to their father to confront individually and everything, the deep-seated pain that arises between so many parents and children, Ridker takes their individual attention away from histories, tracing Ethan & # 39; s solo grief back to a hurting relationship and betrayal of the university, and Arthur & # 39; s avarice to a youthful philanthropic project that had gone wrong. The characters are so truthful that it is almost coincidental that the book also raises interesting questions about morality and goodness, without becoming preaching or navel gazing.